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Toothpaste or Champagne?

 
Tim Chester | November 16th 2021

Whenever I get to the end of a tube of toothpaste, I carefully roll up the tube to squeeze out the last bit of toothpaste. And that’s how my evangelism so often feels. I wrap myself up in guilt until a tiny bit of Jesus squeezes out.

What I would like to be like is a champagne bottle which has just gone off with a bang and champagne is pouring out, down the bottle, up someone’s arm, into a glass, onto the floor—fizzing and bubbling out.

I wonder which you are—toothpaste or champagne?

In Isaiah 9 – 11, Isaiah is seeing such a wonderful vision of God’s coming salvation that he is left fizzing with praise to God—praise that bubbles out to the nations.

We see in the ministry of Jesus a glimpse of the coming reign that Isaiah promises. What will the kingdom of Jesus be like when he returns? It will be a kingdom of peace, the restoration of humanity and the renewal of creation.

A New Exodus

In Isaiah 11:10-16 Isaiah describes who it is who will enjoy this glorious reign. In verses 15 and 16 he describes a new exodus—a key theme that recurs throughout Isaiah’s ministry:

“The Lord will dry up

the gulf of the Egyptian sea;

with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand over the River Euphrates.

He will break it up into seven streams

so that anyone can cross over in sandals.

There will be a highway for the remnant of his people that is left from Assyria,

as there was for Israel

when they came up from Egypt.”

Here is a clear reference back to the exodus from Egypt under Moses. After Pharaoh had been forced by the ten plagues to let the Israelites go free from their slavery, he changed his mind and sent his army to recapture them. The Israelites found themselves caught between the oncoming army and the waters of the Red Sea. But Exodus 14 describes how God sent a miraculous wind.

What will the kingdom of Jesus be like when he returns? It will be a kingdom of peace, the restoration of humanity and the renewal of creation.

The word “wind” is the same word as “Spirit” in Hebrew, suggesting that God himself in the person of his Spirit came to rescue his people. This Spirit-wind parted the sea so that God’s people could walk through it. When the Egyptian army tried to follow them, the waters folded back over and they were all drowned, leaving God’s people safe on the other side.

Now Isaiah promises that God will do it again. Just as he parted the Red Sea, so he will again send his Spirit-wind to create a highway through the sea. Except this time he is going to create a highway through both the Egyptian sea and the Euphrates River. These were the two great bodies of water to the south and to the north of Israel (Isaiah 11:11). We need these routes because God’s people are going to come home from every direction—“from the four quarters of the earth” (Isaiah 11:12).

The Root of Jesse

This gathering is not just of Israel. Isaiah 11:10 says, “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.” In the next verse, Isaiah lists the nations from every direction—the extent of his known world.

“He will raise a banner from the nations” (Isaiah 11:12). Think of a tour guide holding up a brightly coloured umbrella so everyone can follow her. Jesus has raised a banner so everyone can rally to him. And that banner is us! That is what we are doing in the mission of the church. We hold up the gospel so all Christ’s people can see their way home through the chaos of life.

Toothpaste or champagne?

Passages like this change the way we think about mission. Notice how Isaiah aligns the commands in Isaiah 12:4-6: “Give praise,” “proclaim,” “make known,” “proclaim,” “sing," “let this be known,” “shout aloud,” “sing for joy."

Our evangelism is so often done out of a sense of guilt. You can make any Christian feel guilty by asking whether they do enough evangelism. But there is no sign of guilt here. Indeed, the guilt was all taken away in Isaiah 12:1. Instead, Isaiah’s call to mission is fuelled by joy (Isaiah 12:6). Is it worship or is it evangelism? The two have merged!

We hold up the gospel so all Christ’s people can see their way home through the chaos of life.

Perhaps some of us need to spend less time thinking about evangelism and more time thinking about Jesus. Perhaps we need to spend more time together drawing water from the wells of salvation (Isaiah 12:3). We need to rediscover our enthusiasm for Jesus. Then perhaps, instead of being like empty toothpaste tubes, we will be like bottles of champagne, fizzing with excitement about Jesus. When the opportunity comes... Psssh!

This article is adapted from Isaiah For You, which is part of our God’s Word For You Series—expository guides by trusted Bible teachers that walk you through books of the Bible verse-by-verse in an accessible and applied way. These flexible resources can be read cover-to-cover, used in personal devotions, used to lead small group studies, or used for sermon preparation.

Tim Chester

Tim Chester is a pastor, author and teacher. Tim is a faculty member of Crosslands Training and has written and contributed to over 40 books. He has a PhD in theology and was previously Research and Policy Director for Tearfund UK. Tim is a trustee of Keswick Ministries, and lectures and teaches widely on Missiology and Christian spirituality. Tim lives with his wife Helen in rural Derbyshire and loves to walk. He has two adult daughters.

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