Isaiah 42:10 Sing to the Lord a new song,
his praise from the ends of the earth,
you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it,
you islands, and all who live in them.
Along with the last line of verse four (“In His law the islands will put their hope”) I have always taken this (along with verse 12) as applying to Japan, though certainly not exclusively. It’s interesting to me that where the NIV has, “down to the sea, and all that is in it,” the Japanese has, “down to the sea, and all who cross it.” Telling sea creatures to sing praise to God would go along with telling islands to do so, but I like the idea of telling travelers to do so. After all, it was as the believers were scattered from Jerusalem by persecution that the Gospel spread across the whole Roman world. (Acts 8:4) I’m not entirely sure why God had Isaiah specify islands like this, except that island people can tend to be isolated by geography, and no one is to be left out. The Japanese have an expression, “island nation gut feeling,” that they use as an explanation/excuse for their isolationism. To me that doesn’t really wash, because the British Isles are very similarly located, but were never as isolationist as Japan has been in the past. Granted, Japan wasn’t repeatedly invaded, as Britain was by Vikings and Normans, but the physical distances aren’t so different. In any case, Isaiah is insisting that everyone on earth sing praise to God, with no exceptions. This of course is echoed by Paul: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11) Jesus Christ is Lord of everything and everyone, whether they acknowledge Him at this point or not.
This is of course an abiding comfort and encouragement to me as I minister in the islands of Japan, however small the current “rate of return” might be. I am never to give up, but remember that if God said it, that settles it. I cannot bring God’s kingdom by my own wisdom and strength (which are nonexistent) but I can be useful to Him as His instrument as He brings it about. I am never to forget to praise Him myself as I seek to draw others to praise Him. It is a danger for preachers everywhere to think the Word they proclaim is just for those around them, somehow leaving themselves out of the equation. I’ve got to be faithful to the truth God speaks through me before I can expect others to receive it as well. I’m in the middle of a message series on thanks, praise, and worship, seeking to teach people to draw close to God in genuine spiritual intimacy, but if I’m worried about my delivery and how I will look and sound to my audience, I won’t be worshiping in spirit and in truth myself. (John 4:23-24)
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You that You do love and care about the people of Japan, far more than I do, even. Help me fully trust You with them, walking in close step with You so that I may be fully useful to You for However You want to use me in drawing them to Yourself, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!