A Light to the Nations
This edition of Havurah celebrates the contributions of contemporary Jewish believers in Yeshua to the larger body of Messiah by focusing in on a few mishpochah:
- Meredith Feldstein DeRidder, who with her husband Aaron, ministers in a little village in Papua, New Guinea.
- Peter and Laura Gittlen, who live among the Mixtec people of Oaxaca, Mexico.
- Laurel Heiss, whose daughter, Adriel, served in the remote mountains of Ecuador. These and many others have taken the mandate to be a light to the nations as their personal calling.
In some reflections from Isaiah 49:6, Dr. Arthur Glasser, the former dean of the Fuller School of World Mission and steadfast friend and lover of the Jewish people, has this to say about what it means to be a light to the nations:
I would call attention to one sign that is becoming increasingly apparent in our day, but one must take time to grasp its full, empirical reality. It comes to mind when one reflects on Isaiah 49 and its portrayal of the Messiah (the embodiment of Israel), the Servant of Yahweh. The prophet projects himself into the situation facing Jewish exiles in Babylon toward the end of their 70-year captivity. Through him God tells the Servant that to confine His activities to returning the exiles to the land is too small a thing” (verse 6a). There is a larger task: “I will also make You a light to the nations, so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (verse 6b).
Often the phrase “Israel, a light to the nations” is removed from this context and made the rubric under which one lists significant and positive contributions Jewish people have made to world civilization. Indeed, we ought to be profoundly grateful for their positive contributions to the performing and visual arts, to the physical and behavioral sciences, to philosophy, government and literature. The world’s indebtedness to the Jewish people is incalculable. But the mandate of Isaiah 49 does not refer to cultural and social contributions. In this passage, being a light to the nations involves taking the good news of God and His salvation to the Gentile world.
Glasser goes on to point out that while the Jewish people as a whole have not seen being a light to the nations as their mandate, a remnant of Jews have not slacked off in this area.
Jesus called into being a band of Jewish disciples who submitted to His lordship and instruction. He gave them the task of proclaiming the “good news of the Kingdom of God” to every tribe, tongue and nation. He commissioned them by bestowing a foretaste of His new covenant with Israel predicted in Jeremiah 31:31- 34. He gave them the Holy Spirit to transform their lives and wrote His Law on their hearts. He particularly empowered them for worldwide witness (Acts 1:8). And they obeyed Him to such a degree that the world has never been the same since!
Those first thousands of Jewish believers in Jesus became Messiah’s “light to the Gentiles.” They spearheaded a movement of mission into the Middle East and India, North Africa, the Mediterranean world and Europe, and its outgoing momentum remains to this day.
We could go on and tell the stories of some of those “lights to the Gentiles” from centuries past as well, but we’ve begun a series in our newsletter in which researcher Rich Robinson is profiling some of these Messianic Jewish giants like Bishop Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky and Bernard Bettelheim. You can check them out by looking on our web site at www.jfjonline.org.
Meanwhile, sit back and rejoice over how God is working today in the lives of our brothers and sisters who recognize that reaching out to Gentiles is part and parcel of the calling of Israel.