Author: Mr. Kenneth Frank | Faculty in Theology, Living Education
Estimated reading time: 7 min., 48 sec.
Did you know that God appointed the nation of Israel to be His witnesses to all other nations?
Of all the nations around the globe, God chose a slave people in Egypt, set them free by a series of miracles, guided them on a perilous journey through the Sinai wilderness, and delivered them to the Promised Land. They were a privileged but obligated people. With privilege comes responsibility. This Digging Deeper explores Israel’s God-appointed task to represent Him to the world. We will learn that even though they failed in that task, God did not abandon them and will yet employ them as His witnesses in the future. Additionally, there is a lesson for Christian witness today.
Our central passage for this study is: “Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God (Isaiah 43:10-12 KJV)”. Another companion verse is: “Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any (Isaiah 44:8 KJV).”
Witnesses in the future
These verses are part of the second major section of the Book of Isaiah. Is it merely coincidence (or design?) that this book has 66 chapters, corresponding to the 66 books of our English Bible. Another parallel is that chapters 1-39 equal the number of Old Testament books (39) and chapters 40-66 equal the number of New Testament books (27). Even the themes of each section parallel those of the corresponding testament. The Book of Isaiah is heavily Messianic, especially in the second section. Our three primary verses referring to Israel as God’s witnesses all come from this second section. This informs us that God still has a plan for Israel to represent Him in the Millennium and beyond.
The scene portrayed in Isaiah 43 is a courtroom in which God challenges the nations to gather and present their gods to compete with the Almighty in prophesying the future (Isaiah 43:9). Verses 10-12 then notify Israel that they are to witness to the truth about the one true God: there is no other. Webster’s 1913 Unabridged Dictionary defines a witness in law as: “One who testifies in a cause, or gives evidence before a judicial tribunal; as, the witness in court agreed in all essential facts” (e-Sword 12.1). God chose Israel for this holy task to testify that there is one God, that He is supreme, that He is good, that He can be trusted, that He has our best interests at heart, and that someday we may join Him in eternity.
The Ideal Example
The Dake Annotated Reference Bible presents four reasons God chose Israel as His witnesses:
- That you may know Me (Isaiah 43:10).
- That you may believe Me.
- That you may understand that I am He.
- That you may witness that I am God (Isaiah 43:12). (Bible Analyzer 126.96.36.199)
Israel will need to know God intellectually and relationally to teach other nations about Him. Jeremiah informs people how to know God: “And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart (Jeremiah 24:7 KJV).” This new heart requires faith and understanding to prepare witnesses to testify that the God described in Scripture is the only true God.
The Dake Annotated Reference Bible then describes eight things Israel was to bear witness to:
- That I am He (43:10; note b, 41:4).
- That before Me there was no God formed.
- That after Me there will be no God formed.
- That I am Jehovah (Isaiah 43:11).
- That beside Me there is no Savior.
- That I have declared former things which have already come to pass (Isaiah 43:12; 41:21-24; 41:26; 42:8-9; 43:9).
- That I have saved you (Isaiah 43:12).
- That I have showed you things when no strange god among you could reveal them to you. (Bible Analyzer 188.8.131.52)
Only when Israel is cured of its idolatry is it capable of witnessing to polytheistic nations that the many gods they serve are vain, fiendish, and non-existent in reality. In the world to come, all nations will serve only one God. Pagan worship will not be tolerated and all icons will be removed and destroyed. God will not share His worship with other deities. There is no other Savior.
A Witness for Repentance
Solomon’s dedicatory speech for the magnificent Temple declared that one reason for its existence (among others) was to attract the Gentile nations to repent of their idolatry and serve the Creator. Notice what he said: “Moreover concerning the stranger, which is not of thy people Israel, but is come from a far country for thy great name’s sake, and thy mighty hand, and thy stretched out arm; if they come and pray in this house; Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for; that all people of the earth may know thy name, and fear thee, as doth thy people Israel, and may know that this house which I have built is called by thy name (2 Chronicles 6:32-33 KJV).”
During Israel’s heyday, no doubt many Gentiles did take advantage of this golden opportunity to convert. For example, the Queen of Sheba visited Solomon to learn more about Israel’s faith. Regrettably, it was not long afterward that Solomon compromised with idolatry by accepting the gods of his foreign wives into his kingdom. This leaven eventually so corrupted the nation Israel that God was left with no choice but to punish His people because they rejected the prophets He sent for hundreds of years to call the nation to repent.
Ancient Israel failed in its responsibility to represent the Almighty (Amos 3:9-11; Jeremiah 2:9-13; 18:13). However, in the Millennium when it is cured of idolatry, it will finally fulfill its assigned duty. In the meantime, God’s church today has the same mission: to witness to the one true God and Savior. Numerous verses in our New Testament describe how the early church did just that: Luke 1:2; 24:48; Acts 1:22; 5:32; 10:39; 13:31; 1 Peter 5:1; 2 Peter 1:16. For example, notice what Paul wrote: “For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him (1 Corinthians 8:5-6 KJV).
Joseph S. Exell in his The Preacher’s Complete Homiletical Commentary enumerates qualities required of Christians to witness to God today: “1. Knowledge. 2. Veracity. 3. Consistency. 4. Patience. 5. Boldness, firmness. (H. E. I. 3922–3976) (e-Sword 12.1).” Christians need to study Holy Scripture to understand the true God since He has revealed His mind through it. They need to be reliable witnesses who affirm that what the Bible says is correct. They need to live consistently holy lives that effectively declare the truth. Patience and endurance are required to present this consistent message over and over if need be. In a world of opposition, they will require boldness and firmness. Strong convictions will fortify Christians that despite the opposition they will continue to represent a Holy God. The New Testament records how God’s early church did just that against all odds.
The lesson for Christians today is that the world is watching us, examining whether we live consistently holy lives that represent our only Savior, creating an attractive alternative to the hopelessness and futility of the gods of other world religions. In this time of world history with increasing danger and chaos, people need truth and hope. God calls upon His church to present this saving message to unbelievers by challenging us with this mission: “Ye are my witnesses.”
Kenneth Frank was born and raised in New Jersey, USA and attended Ambassador College, graduating in 1973. He served in the Canadian ministry from 1973-1999, after which he returned to the USA to pastor churches in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for 15 years. Having earned a BA degree from Ambassador College he later earned a MA degree from Grand Canyon University before being assigned to the Charlotte office to teach at Living University, now Living Education. Currently, he teaches the Survey of the Bible course to the on-campus students and writes the Digging Deeper column for our online Bible study program. He is married, has four children, and seven grandchildren.