Genesis 17:8 “The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
When I decided I was writing on this verse I thought I would be writing about God’s provision of the land to the descendants of Abraham, but as I typed in the verse in Japanese, the last line really struck me. Right now I am reading a book, sent to me by a dear friend, titled Cultural and Theological Reflections on the Japanese Quest for Divinity. Yes, it is just as academic as that sounds, but it is seeking to explain why Japan has been so resistant to the Gospel. It points out that the word that is used for “god” has different underlying meanings in Japanese culture than it does in Western culture. What struck me just now was that even in Abraham’s day, people had a very deficient concept of God/gods. God patiently taught Abraham and his descendants just who He was, but He met them where they were, and this verse illustrates that clearly. By saying, “I will be their God,” He was adapting to the idea, prevalent at the time, of localized, clan gods that were very different from how we see Him today. That is precisely what the author of the book I’m reading points to as to why Japan is so resistant to the Gospel. It wasn’t until Moses that God made it clear that He alone is God and there is no other. Actually, the Israelites struggled with that down through the centuries, but God didn’t abandon them for it, even when He had to discipline them severely. The thing is, none of our excuses for failed evangelism ultimately hold water, because no people group on earth has ever been perfectly prepared and perfectly receptive to the Gospel. There are a wide variety of challenges, but none of them stand before almighty God and the commission He has given us to make disciples.
This is me all over! Like my parents before me, I have committed my life to sharing the Gospel in Japan and have dealt with the extremely low “rate of return” on the investment of time, money, and emotional energy. That’s no excuse to give up! However few they might be, there are those who do commit themselves fully to the God I know, God the Father who loves them, Jesus Christ who saves them, and the Holy Spirit who fills and empowers them. I am to seek to understand where people are coming from, and so be more effective in presenting the Gospel to them, (and that book is helpful to that end) but I am not to think for a moment that the truth of the Gospel depends on how it is received. The speaker for this conference is Marc Estes, who is marvelously called and gifted as an evangelist, and has a “back story” that motivates him powerfully. I am not to feel condemned by his successes, but I am to remember that the same God who uses him can use me, and expect great things of Him.
Father, thank You for getting us here safely yesterday and for all the things You have done since we arrived. Thank You for all You are going to do today. Help me be quiet enough before You to hear what You are saying and receive it, allowing You to heal and energize me, and to use me to do the same for others, so that the Body of Christ may be built up, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!