Proclaiming to every island of the sea

Howard Culbertson
Monday, April 1, 2013

     “Exalt the name of the Lord . . . in the islands of the sea” -- Isaiah 24:15

     “Give glory to the Lord and proclaim His praise in the islands” -- Isaiah 42:12

Isaiah’s 66 chapters contain approximately two dozen prophecies fulfilled in Jesus Christ. These include:

  • Born of a virgin
  • Ministry in Galilee
  • Healing miracles
  • Sacrificial death and role as Savior
  • Burial in a rich man’s tomb
  • Sought after by Gentiles

Mixed in with those prophecies is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ Great Commission. Twice, Isaiah talks about praising God in the most remote places imaginable.  Those two passages -- Isaiah 24:15 and Isaiah 42:12 -- do not appear in lists of Isaiah’s messianic prophecies. Perhaps they should, for Jesus was clearly echoing their words when He said Spirit-filled believers would be witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

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Today, “islands of the sea” may evoke images of cruise ships wandering around the Caribbean.  Not so with Isaiah’s fellow Jews.  Instead, they likely thought of islands as perilous and distant places.  Proclaiming the Lord’s name on such islands would have been way outside their comfort zones.

In spite of huge distances and dangers real and imagined, missionaries throughout Christian history have been motivated to proclaim the Gospel to unevangelized islanders.  In the late 1700s, British pastor William Carey read Captain Cook’s Voyages Around the World.  Cook’s accounts of visits to South Pacific islands included descriptions of indigeneous religious beliefs and rituals.  God used that material to call Carey to missionary service.

While Carey wound up serving in India rather than on a faraway island, stories about islands where the Gospel had not yet been preached did awaken him to the need.  Carey’s creation of a missionary-sending society, his mobilization efforts among Britsh believers and local churches to reach the unreached, and his years of holistic missionary service earned him the title “Father of the Modern Missionary Movement.”

In terms of we Nazarenes, islands have long figured in our history.  As the denomination was still forming in the USA, it sent missionaries to Cape Verde, an Atlantic island nation. Even before the landmark Pilot Point merger, Caribbean island Cuba tied with Canada as the fourth nation entered by the developing Nazarene movement.  Island nations Japan and the British Isles were the eighth and the tenth countries entered by the denomination.  On and on it went until, from Antigua to Zanzibar, there are now Nazarene congregations on islands all around the world.

Some people excuse non-involvement in world evangelism by arguing: “We have to reach those at home first.”  Isaiah’s two “islands of the sea” passages stand directly opposed to such inward-curved thinking.

Isaiah 24 and 42 should cause us to ask: “Is my local church truly burdened to fulfill the call to exalt and proclaim the Lord in distant islands?”  We must also ask: “Am I personally doing all I should to contribute to fulfilling this call to the most remote places?”