Principles for Service
Although this section applies to a specific period in Israel's history when the Kingdom was being offered to them (v9,11) there are underlying principles that are cross-dispensational and apply to us today.
“the Lord appointed 70 others also” (v1, DBY)
When the Lord Jesus appointed 70 additional disciples to serve him, this would have been a vivid lesson to the 12 that service was not all about them. The work of God was far greater than a small group of 12 men. Previously the 12 had returned from their own mission trip with a bit of an ego boost (Lk. 9:10) which continued into a protracted debate about who was the greatest (Lk. 9:46). This should not have been; let us learn this lesson in Christian service – it is not all about us. We are slaves to the master of the Universe and are common clay pots that carry a divine message (2Cor. 4:7). We are nothing, Christ is everything.
"The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest." (v2)
The Lord's first words to the 70 were not about clever marketing or professional programmes but rather about the sovereignty of God in service. This is the foundation for all fruitful service. He is the God of the spirits of all flesh (Num. 16:22), he sends the preacher (Rom. 10:15) and he saves souls (Jonah 2:9) – we can rest in his strength and not our own. Just as God set apart Paul for salvation and service (Gal. 1:15) we should supplicate his throne, asking that he would do the same today. Our prayer moves the hand of the sovereign. Let us look up in dependence as we serve the Lord, and in a day when the fields are white to harvest, may we pray that the Lord will revive his work and send labourers into the field.
"Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves” (v3)
On the horizon of every disciple there is difficulty, enmity and hostility. The Lord does not send out his own with rose tinted spectacles, but a clear map of what lies ahead. Let us remember we live in “this present evil world’ (Gal. 1:4), that first rejected Christ and will also reject us. It behoves us to be realistic about the reaction that our message will generally receive. Just as the Lord was led as a lamb to the slaughter (Is. 53:7) his followers are sent out as lambs among wolves.
“Salute no man by the way … and in the same house remain” (v4, v7)
As the 70 went out they were to be undistracted in their service. As they travelled, they were not to enter into long, protracted greetings that often typified ancient eastern culture. Instead with single mindedness, urgency and determination they were to carry out the work given to them. Metaphorically they were to put their heads down and not allow social activity to hinder the progress of the gospel. ‘Millennial’s’ and ‘Gen Z’ today are drowning in distraction – may the Lord help us to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).
They were also to settle down in a specific house when they reached their area of service. This reminds us that every servant of the Lord should be a contented servant. Often we become restless in our service for the Lord and seek far-off fields that look green. We run after novelties, big gatherings and popular trends instead of the less glamorous task of consistent labour in our local area. May the Lord help us all to be content with the work that he has given us to do – “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1Tim. 6:6).
“Woe unto thee Chorazin! Woe unto thee Bethseida!” (v13)
Looking back in service often has negative connotations, especially since the Lord said “no man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk. 9:62). However, the context of the mission here is that they were leaving Galilee and entering into a region known as Perea. Galilee had mostly rejected Christ, and now with grief and sorrow he pronounced their condemnation. Although the sun was rising on Perea, it was setting in Galilee. At the backs of these 70 men was the solemn pronouncement of judgement – no fire fell from heaven that day, but doubtless the 70 felt the searing heat of the Lord’s words. They learnt that eternal judgement and wrath was real. This would have solemnised their work as they understood that eternal destinies were at stake. In a day and age when we have lost every sense of eternity and weighty matters, may we have a burden for lost and perishing souls.