God's Glory Among the Nations
The command in Psalm 96 not only tells us what and how to declare in evangelism, but also where.
Is your preaching and teaching ministry doing enough to prepare your church for the task of evangelism? In this series, Andy Paterson offers biblical encouragement that every Christian has a role to play, free from false guilt.
This is part 4 in the series.
In the previous two articles, we saw that the glory of God is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, and that to declare him requires knowledge and experience of his grace in our own hearts before ever we can point others to him.
But this text helps us with more than the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of evangelism - it also answers the ‘where’?
The simple and straight forward answer is “among the nations”, but that would fail to communicate the impact that this verse had upon the original readers of the Chronicler’s account.
The exiles among the nations
It would appear that the Chronicler worked sometime between 450-400BC. Now, we’re not sure who the Chronicler was; some suggest it could have been Ezra the Scribe, although most scholarship now suggests it may have been another priest or Levite who was working in the temple around that time.
But what we do know for sure, is that the primary audience for this book was that small, rag-tag bunch of exiles who had returned to Israel from Babylon. Remember: most stayed behind and didn’t make the journey. There was little enthusiasm for two to three generations of Israelites to leave the homes they had comfortably established in Babylonia.
So just for one moment, put yourself in the place of those first listeners. Imagine what life was like for them. Picture the thoughts that ran through their minds.
They’d probably returned to Israel full of hope and expectation. Jeremiah had spoken about a new covenant and a new king. Haggai and Zechariah had prophesied that God would overthrow kingdoms and that once again Jerusalem would be the economic, political, and spiritual centre of the world. This was exciting! It seemed a bright future lay ahead.
But their hopes were soon shattered. The political superpowers of Persia and Greece dominated the scene. Palestine was just an insignificant cultural backwater, politically impotent. Other religions loomed large, including the Samaritans with their temple on Mount Gerizim, the Persians with their great cult religions, and the Greeks with their mystery religions and stories of the gods who lived on top of Mount Olympus.
As for the Jews, all they had to show for it was the temple they’d just built - and that didn’t compare with the magnificent building that Solomon had erected centuries before. And they didn’t even have the Ark of the Covenant anymore. It had been lost or destroyed and isn’t mentioned again.
So sad. So depressing. Just give up hope and keep your head down?
Nothing of the sort! Just notice how the Chronicler encouraged his readers.
He looked back to ‘the good old days’ when David was king, Israel was dominant, and temple worship was glorious. In effect, he says this: “It might not look or feel like it now, but what was true then is still true today. Therefore, we’ll make his truth known to all the people who live so proudly around us.”
“Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all people.”
Hope in an age of despair
God rules absolutely. And he does so now. These are great times to be alive and serving him.
What a privilege to be in a land where God has allowed sin to show its hand so that the wonder of Christ might be seen all the more clearly. What a privilege to be people of hope and confidence in an age of despair and confusion. What a joy to be safe in the arms of our loving God.
God’s intention was never to limit this salvation to just one people group. He did indeed raise up the Jews to make his character and ways known, but his salvation was never to be confined to them.
Have a listen to God’s great covenant promise to Abram:
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3)
And the Psalmist certainly understood this. Just listen to the references we find in Psalm 96:
“Sing to the LORD, all the earth.” (v1)
"Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all peoples.” (v3)
"Ascribe to the LORD, all you families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.” (v7)
“…tremble before him, all the earth.” (v9)
“Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.”” (v10)
The nations today
That message continues to circle the globe. Yet, even though so much of the face of this planet has been covered by the Christian message, the task still remains great.
As I write, of the 17,442 people groups in our world, 7,414 have still to be reached with the gospel. Of the 7.75 billion people on earth, 3.23 billion live within these unreached people groups.
God’s great purpose is to save representatives from every one of these people groups - and the wonder of heaven is that we’ll find ourselves standing with them.
“And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)
“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”” (Revelation 7:9-10)
This evangelism we’re talking about is no new invention. It’s what God’s people have been doing all the time. We’re just trying to work out how we fit into this continuing story.
Next time part 5: we’re all evangelists – aren’t we?