God has called Israel to be a light to the nations

Fredi Winkler

It’s a widely-held view that God has called Israel to be a light to the nations. This belief is based on Isaiah 49:6, in which the servant of the Lord is said to be the light to the nations. Who is meant by the “servant of the LORD”? We can draw the clear conclusion from verse 3 and other passages that Israel is meant, since it says, “Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”

But in verses 5 and 6, it is said that the servant will gather Israel to Him and raise up the tribes of Israel. This makes it clear that Israel itself cannot be meant by the servant, but someone else. Furthermore, it’s made clear in Isaiah 42 that the Messiah is meant. Verses 1, 4, and 6 particularly suggest this. Moreover, Isaiah 52:13-15 and chapter 53 demonstrate beyond all doubt who is meant by the term “servant of the LORD.”

These passages were originally considered messianic in Judaism. But in response to the spread of the Christian faith, these texts speaking of the Lord’s servant as the Messiah were later said to reference Israel. According to this interpretation, Judaism today regards Israel as the suffering servant of God, and thus also the light to the nations, or la’Goyim in Hebrew.

In Matthew 5:14, Jesus calls the ones who follow His Word and act accordingly “the light of the world.” However, it needs to be clear to us that we can never truly be light, but can only emanate the light He has given us (just as the moon itself cannot shine, but only reflects the sun’s rays).

God had chosen Abraham to bless all peoples through his seed. In Galatians 3:16, Paul explains that the term “seed” doesn’t mean all the people of Israel, but the Messiah: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.”

God made His promises come true in Jesus Christ, Abraham’s greatest descendant, and so the promised blessing came to all nations through the proclamation of the gospel.

In Israel, you repeatedly hear the view that they, the members of the Jewish people, actually have a calling to be a light for the nations. At the same time, however, the speaker always expresses disappointment that they are repeatedly, shamefully, failing in this supposed mission. This is unsurprising, since only the Messiah is the bearer of the true light of God.

Yet God will uphold what He has intended to do for the people of Israel. In the coming millennial kingdom, in which the Messiah will reign, the blessing that God promised Abraham will be completely fulfilled and will pervade all nations.

At Christmastime, when we commemorate the coming of Abraham’s promised seed—who has brought us God’s true light and blessing—this desire is repeatedly fulfilled in us: that it would soon be visible to the whole world by His coming again to establish His kingdom of light and blessing on earth.

In the joy that we can know the Prince of Peace and believe in Him, I send you my warmest regards with Shalom and best wishes for a blessed holiday season.

News from Israel - 12/2019

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