“But I said, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.” (Isa 49:4)
Poor Isaiah! I can just hear the utter frustration and despair that caused him to pen these words! Isaiah was a prophet called by God Himself: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’ He said, ‘Go and tell this people . . .'” (Isa 6:8-9). Throughout his life, he faithfully received messages from the Lord and delivered them God’s people. But to what purpose? Does he manage to change the hearts of the people? No. Can he stop their idolatry? No. Do they even take him seriously? No. No they don’t. And in the end, all Isaiah can say is this: “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing . . .” (Isaiah 49:4).
Can you relate to Isaiah? Does this cry of utter anguish touch you like it does me? How often have I said–or thought–the same thing??? Following God’s command, I organize small groups, but only a handful attend; I present messages God has given to me to those He tells me to present them to, but they seem to go over everyone’s head; God gives me firm direction to write devotionals, even spend years writing a book, but none of these will ever be published . . . Do I know how Isaiah feels? Yes! Yes I do!!!
But how does God respond? “He says: ‘It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept!'” (Isa 49:6a)
Right in the midst of apparent defeat, God says that what Isaiah is doing is too small to be for Israel alone! In addition to Israel, God says: “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring My Salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Isa 49:6b) Of course, we have an advantage Isaiah didn’t have! We live approximately 2500 years later. We live in a day when the Messianic prophecies have been fulfilled! These alone could be said to have brought God’s Salvation “to the ends of the Earth”! In addition to these, however, the book of Isaiah is RICH in just the right words we need for the problems we face on a daily basis. It is a REAL blessing to read. Quite literally, it was too small a thing for Isaiah’s mission to be only to restore the tribes of Jacob. Instead, his influence has, indeed, touched the world! And now, his faithful, though at the time seemingly useless, prophecies are even touching the hearts of of the people he thought he was writing them for in the first place: The Jews. Jewish people around the world are being brought to their awaited Messiah through Isaiah’s writings.
No, despite what circumstance dictated, Isaiah’s work was definitely NOT in vain! And neither is yours or mine, my friends! Remember these verses the next time you are tempted to think that your work for the Lord isn’t achieving its desired purpose! Remember, that maybe God will also say of you: ‘It is too small a thing for you to [whatever it is God has called you to do]. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring My Salvation to the ends of the earth”! Never give up, my friends! Do not give in to the deceitful lies of the enemy! Don’t forget the enemy has ulterior motives and that it is in his best interest that you do give up in despair. Because of this, he will never stop painting vivid picture of raw circumstance to bring you down. Always stay close to Jesus, so that you are always in the center of His will, and remember that you cannot judge the fruits of your work by what you see around you! It is always possible that the goal you think you are to accomplish is “too small for you”, and that God proposes that through you, Salvation is brought to the “Ends of the Earth”!
Dear Lord, as I strive to do Your will, may I keep my eyes closed to circumstantial evidence, but stay focused on You instead! May I remember that just as in Isaiah’s day, success is not always judged from the responses we see in the here and now. Instead of giving into the deceptions of the enemy, may I learn to take every thought captive in obedience to Jesus, ever placing my trust in the promises of Your Word, even if it means trusting in what I do not see!
In His love,