Do you remember the old television show “Different Strokes?” You know the show. . . Gary Coleman, “What you talkin’ about Willis?,” Mr. Drummond, Mrs. Garrett . . . you remember this show right? Well in case you don’t, let me fill in the necessary details for the sake of this post.
Mr. Drummond was a rich businessman who lived in a Manhattan high rise. Mr. D had a housekeeper who passed away leaving two small boys, Willis and Arnold, orphaned. Willis and Arnold were adopted and joined their new family– moving from the projects to the penthouse. Though not born into the wealth and status of the Drummond family, Willis and Arnold had the full benefit of being sons because of the gracious and loving decision of Mr. Drummond. While the show often was a bit campy in its story lines, the basic premise was very heart warming and allowed the show to run 8 years from 1978-1986.
I was thinking of Willis and Arnold’s turn of fortunes today as I read Isaiah 49:1-13. In these verses (the second of Isaiah’s “Servant Songs” foretelling the role of the Messiah), Isaiah records a conversation between God the Father and God the Son regarding Jesus’ work on the earth. 700 years before His Bethlehem birth, Jesus heard from God the Father as recorded in Isaiah 49:6, “You (Jesus) will do more than restore the people of Israel to Me (God the Father). I will make You a light to the Gentiles, and You will bring My salvation to the ends of the earth.” This was a huge statement to bacon eaters everywhere. God’s plan in Christ was to save more than just a faithful Jewish remnant . . . the plan was to save people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.
At times, when we read the Old Testament and we see the emphasis God had on the Jewish nation as God’s chosen people, we are tempted to think that God only speaks Hebrew. We are tempted to think that we non-Jewish followers of Christ are merely an afterthought to God’s actual plan. Nothing could be further from the truth. God’s relationship with Israel was always to serve as an object lesson so that the world might know the goodness of our God. The plan all along was for both Gentiles and Jews to be saved. Isaiah 49 tells us as much.
Personally, this truth means that a person of non-Jewish ethnicity (like myself) gets to be like Arnold or Willis . . . spiritually orphaned by sin and death but chosen by God to be adopted as a son into His family. All who call on the name of Christ for salvation move from the manger to a mansion because of His gracious and loving choice. We were a part of His plan all along. That is why Isaiah says in Isaiah 49:13, “Sing for joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains! for the Lord has comforted His people and will have compassion on them in their sorrow.”
This Christmas there is joy in the world because the Lord has come for Moses AND you and me. It was no accident that by the different strokes Christ received on the cross, Jew and Gentile could both receive salvation.