Diversity, Cultures, and God’s Love for the Nations
Two Worship Scenes
A few weeks ago, I caught a tiny glimpse of what worship will be like in heaven. The ending song for the praise and worship time was “Behold our God.” The chorus states, “Behold our God, seated on His throne, Come let us adore Him. Behold our King, nothing can compare. Come let us adore Him” (Sovereign Grace Music). As soon as our church started singing this song, I could tell by the immediate increase in volume that this was a favorite song for many of the people attending. As we all stood together and sang those words, I looked around the room and saw people from China, Columbia, Mexico, India, Japan, Guatemala, and various states across the US, all united in praise to God. It was beautiful.
Later, as I reflected on that time of singing, I thought of Revelation 7:9-10 in which the Apostle John describes the following future scene: “After these things, I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (NKJV). When I remember how much joy I felt looking around the group of fifty people from six or seven countries worshipping together, I eagerly anticipate the day when all people groups will all be gathered in the presence of God each person giving glory to God in their own tongue. It will be beautiful.
Genesis to Revelation
When God first called Abraham to be the father of the nation of Israel, God declared that Abraham would become great and that he “shall be a blessing… and in [Abraham] all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:1,2). God was not referring here to mere financial blessings. Instead, He was pointing forward to the coming Messiah who would come through the line of Abraham, thereby bringing salvation – the blessing –to the whole world. Despite the ethnocentric thought of the Jewish people, God’s plan was to make them a special people for the sole purpose of redeeming the entire world from sin and the effects of the Fall in Genesis 3.
Throughout the account of the children of Israel and the message from the prophets, God’s plan of blessing the nations can be seen numerous times. The Queen of Sheba came to visit Solomon because she had heard of his fame which had spread throughout the world at that time (2 Chronicles 9:1). When she saw the temple, she gave glory to God, saying, “Blessed be the LORD your God, who delighted in you, setting you on His throne to be king to the LORD your God” (2 Chronicles 9:8). The prophet Isaiah records God’s promise which says that the Lord will bring “the sons of the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord” to His holy mountain and accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices. God goes on to say that His house “shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:6-8). God’s eternal plan was always to use the children of Israel as a blessing to the nations.
When the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, came down to mankind, He brought the means to achieve that plan. Through His life as an example, death as payment for the sins of humanity, and resurrection as proof of victory over Satan, Jesus continued to reveal God’s plan of salvation. When He departed into heaven, Jesus left His disciples with a command for His followers to continue that plan – “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:19). Even though God could have chosen whatever means to bring salvation to the entire world, He chose to anoint His followers, including you and me, with the responsibility to carry out this task. We are currently in this stage of sharing the gospel with all people groups, with those who have never heard the name of Jesus. However, Scripture gives us a beautiful picture of what that achieved goal will look like.
Once again, Revelation 7:9-10 reveals to us what the throne room in heaven will look like at the end of time. People from all over the world, throughout all of history, of all ages, sizes, colors, and languages will be gathered together and will worship God with all their heart. The thought of that worship time should thrill all followers of Christ. To stand beside our brothers and sisters from Cambodia, Congo, Columbia, and the Czech Republic and lift our voices to our Savior in English, Khmer, French, Spanish and Czech will be a moment worth all the suffering in this life.
The Effect on our Lives
With a view of God’s plan for all mankind, how are we to live our lives right now? We have seen God’s love for every group of people – are we still content to simply stay within our own circles? Or are we demonstrating a love for all cultures and people just like God does? All believers of Christ have been given the responsibility and power to spread the gospel, and our priority should be those who have never heard the story of Jesus before in their lives. Despite the enormity of this task, we have a promise from the One who gave us this command – “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Are we holding to this promise and following the promptings of the Holy Spirit to reach out to the people in our communities?
As we reach out to other people, do we open our homes to our neighbors and use hospitality as a way to demonstrate our love for Christ and for people? Rosaria Butterfield describes “radically, ordinary hospitality” as “using your home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God” (Butterfield, 31). Is our aim to have the most fashionably decorated home or to hear people say, “I feel at home here at your house”? Are we taking the time to listen to the stories of the hopeless and homeless? How are you living out the command in Hebrews 13:2 that says to entertain the stranger?
Just like Abraham, God has redeemed each follower of Jesus to be jars of clay that allow God’s love to shine through (1 Corinthians 4:4-7). Our purpose in life is not to hoard the blessing of salvation to ourselves, but to go out of our communities and to share the good news with others. Humans tend to cluster together in their own people groups and to gravitate toward those who share a common language, background, and culture with them. When I walk around in my neighborhood, I pass one block with rows of Spanish shops and walk onto another block with rows of Chinese shops. We Anabaptists often do the same, often staying within our own communities and rarely interacting with those from outside our circles. But God’s plan is for the whole world, not just certain groups of people. We have this blessing, responsibility and promise – will you and I obey God and live it out?
The Holy Bible, New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2016.
Butterfield, Rosaria. The Gospel Comes with a House Key. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018.
“Behold our God.” Sovereign Grace Music. Web 27 November 2019. https://sovereigngracemusic.org/music/songs/behold-our-god-who-has-held-the-oceans/