God Desires Multiplication
“When he was but one I called him, then I blessed him and multiplied him.” (Isa 51:2)
by John Wilson
The early beginnings did not seem hopeful; but following their redemption from Egypt, a blessing is pronounced again over Abraham’s descendants: “The LORD bless you and keep you.” This commentary is added to the blessing: “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:27)
This purpose—God’s glory on display in humanity—is iterated throughout Scripture until the second Adam comes to create in himself “one new man” whom he blesses with every spiritual blessing for the “praise of his glory”. This “new humanity” is sent out to multiply by making disciples among the nations.
However, Abraham’s descendants failed to be the people God intended them to be, and he looked for one man in whom multiplication could be sparked again—a prophet, perhaps, or a priest or a king—one, unique man to stand between God and sinful humanity. The absence of such a man was Isaiah’s burden: “There is none to guide her among all the sons she has borne, nor is there one to take her by the hand among all the sons she has reared” (Isa 50:2; 51:18; 59:16).
Into that vacuum of representative leadership steps the Suffering Servant—a unique individual who listens to God, mediates a word of redemption and hope; suffers on behalf of and intercedes for his people; and who makes “the many” righteous. Through him God revitalizes Israel towards the multiplication of a growing family of God’s people.
But the question is asked, “Where do these come from?” (Isa 49:2-3, 21; 50:4-9; 53:4-12).
The answer of course is: “From God.” There is always a divine initiative just as there was with the father of the nation—Abraham: “When he was but one I called him, then I blessed him and multi-plied him” (Isa 51:2).
There was no inherent potential in that solitary old man with an infertile wife! Yet this one man became “many” through the blessing of Yahweh.
Let us take both hope and guiding principles from these reflections.
God desires multiplication! If God desires it, he will do it. It flows out of his creative and redemptive blessings to us through Christ. Multiplication is the inevitable consequence of his lavish grace through “spiritual blessings” on those who like Abraham, believe that God can and will do what he says he will do.
It is not our strategies or methodologies which guarantee multiplication. Isaiah was concerned about Israel’s dependence on “horses and chariots”—their own self-generated schemes and stratagems to build military strength and to form political alliances. A spirit independent of God, self-confident or dependent on external resources, is one of the greatest hindrances to
God’s blessing. Perverse persistence in seeking solutions to life’s problems and salve for sick hearts anywhere other than in God is idolatry (Isa 40:18ff; 44:9ff; 46:1-7).
It is popular to talk about church multiplication these days; but let us not forget that what God desires is faith-full, worshipping people; disciples. Strong churches come when we model and not merely teach how children of God must live.
Let us exemplify patient Abrahamic-like trust in God as we disciple new believers. Then God will bless us and multiply his disciples. That’s his business. It is his goal and his delight. He loves multiplication.
John is a 3rd generation missionary. He and his wife, Gloria, served twenty years as missionaries in Papua (Irian Jaya), Indonesia, and currently is the Asia Training Coordinator for World Team. They have 3 adult sons. Along with elders of the “stone age” Yali people in Papua, John & Gloria helped to translate the entire Bible — the first completed translation in any language in Papua.
Article extract from Asian Mission 2008 March Issue.