Declare His Glory, ch. 1

Declare His Glory Among the Nations

Chapter 1

FIRST THINGS FIRST

What is your part in telling the nations about God’s wonderful deeds?

While there are tens of passages in the Bible that could be used to develop this theme, here we will focus on one Old Testament passage – Psalm 96. This is one of the clearest and most amazing mission passages in the entire Bible. In fact, it has been called “the missionary psalm.” From this Psalm we will discover five major themes that will help us clarify our part in God’s plan to glorify his name among all peoples.

It is helpful to know that Psalm 96 is divided into two parts: verses 1-6 and 7-13. We will see that themes introduced in the first part of the Psalm are repeated and further explained in the second part. So let’s begin with the first theme, which is found in verses 1 and 2 and repeated in verses 7-9.[1]

Worship the LORD

Part 1: Psalm 96:1-2

Sing to the LORD a new song;
Sing to the LORD, all the earth
Sing to the LORD, bless His name…

Part 2: Psalm 96:7-9

Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory of His name;
Bring an offering and come into His courts.
Worship the LORD in holy attire;
Tremble before Him, all the earth.

What do we see in these verses? In the first part, we see that “Sing to the LORD” is repeated three times. In part two, “Ascribe to the LORD” is also mentioned three times. In addition, part one adds “bless his name” and part two continues:

Bring an offering and come into His courts.”
Worship the LORD in holy attire.”
Tremble before Him, all the earth.”

What do all these have in common? Worship. In all there are eleven commands involving seven different aspects of worship. Thus the first theme of Psalm 96 is worship.

Who is Called to Worship?

It would be tempting to stop here, being pleased with our discovery about worship. But by doing so we would miss the most significant part of the message. There is another important question that we need to answer, namely, who is called to worship the LORD?

Look closely. What more do we see about who is called to worship?

v. 1    Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
v. 7    Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
v. 9    Tremble before Him, all the earth.

So who is called to worship the LORD? “O families of the peoples.” “All the earth” (mentioned twice). Thus all people everywhere – all the inhabitants of the earth – are called to worship the Lord! Does it surprise you that all peoples, even in the Old Testament, are called to worship? It does me! Why is this so? Psalm 96 gives us a “clue” why the nations are called to worship.

“O Families of Peoples” – The Abraham Connection

Let’s take a closer look at the phrase “families of peoples” found in verse 7. Following this clue takes us to the first book of the Bible, Genesis. The phrase “families of peoples” is first found in Genesis chapter 10. After the tower of Babel, the peoples were divided into 70 “families” or nations. Then in Genesis 12:1-3, God called Abram. God made a covenant with Abram, giving him seven promises.

Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Especially note the last promise that through Abraham God would bless “all the families of the earth.” For those who lived in the Old Testament times, it was a great mystery how God would bless all the families of the earth. But even though how the promise would be fulfilled was a mystery, the psalmist confidently looked to the future when God would keep his promise and bless all the families of the earth. In anticipation, he calls the nations to worship.

For us today, however, this mystery has been made clear.[2] The New Testament reveals that through Jesus Christ God fulfilled his promise to Abraham to bless all the families of the earth. Peter first brings this mystery to light in Acts 3, where he highlights the fact that Jesus first of all fulfills God’s promise with regard to the Jewish people.

“It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.’ “For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” Acts 3:25,26

In Galatians the Apostle Paul points out how God’s promise to Abraham, fulfilled by Jesus, also applies to the Gentiles.

The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”– in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.   Galatians 3:8, 13-14

Thus we can follow how God’s promise to bless all families of peoples, first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles, is fulfilled through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

Something to Sing About

 Anticipating the time when God would fulfill his promise to Abraham to bless all peoples (Genesis 12:3), it is no wonder that the psalmist begins with “Sing to the LORD a new song.” He expects that God is going to do something so extraordinary that it must be celebrated by all peoples.

From our perspective, we know much better what the nations have to sing about: For example the last book of the Bible, Revelation, gives us a glimpse of heavenly worship.

 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God, with Your blood, men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. Revelation 5:9

 What is the theme of this new song? The redemption of all peoples. So what the Old Testament anticipates is fulfilled in the New. God has provided salvation for all peoples through the sacrifice of his son Jesus Christ on the cross. God has fulfilled his promise to Abraham to bless all families of peoples. Now that is something to sing about!

Worship: The Culmination of History

History is moving toward the point where all peoples will come and worship the Lord.

The Psalms prophetically anticipate this. For example:

 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will worship before You. For the kingdom is the LORD’S. And He rules over the nations. Psalm 22:27-28

All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and they shall glorify Your name. Psalm 86:9

 The Old Testament prophets also give witness to this same theme.[3]

 I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. They will say of Me, “Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.” Isaiah 45:23,24

 “All mankind will come to bow down before Me,” says the LORD. Isaiah 66:23

 There before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. Daniel 7:13,14 NIV

 And it will come about in the last days that the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains. It will be raised above the hills, and the peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD and to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us about His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” For from Zion will go forth the law, even the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Micah 4:1-2

 Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them. Zechariah 14:16-17

 “For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 1:11

 Again in Revelation we see how what is anticipated in the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New.

 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9-10

 Note who is present worshiping: people from every tribe, every nation, every people, every language! History culminates in all peoples worshiping the Lord!

 How Many People Are Worshiping the Lord Today?

Let us consider to what extent people are worshiping the Lord today. Since about one-third of the world’s population claims to be Christian, this means that at least two-thirds of the world’s population does not worship the Lord.[4]

worshippers bw

According to the Joshua Project, approximately four out of ten people in the world live in areas without viable churches and have virtually no access to the Good News.[5] They probably have never heard of Jesus and most likely don’t even know a Christian.

Percentage Xn BW

The majority of people who are not worshipers of the Lord have very little opportunity to know of his excellent greatness. On an average 86% of Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus worldwide do not even know a Christian; 82% of atheists or agnostics do not know a Christian. Of course in some countries the situation is worse, for example in Afghanistan, only 3% of the population might know a Christian; in Algeria, 6%; in Turkey, Iran, North Korea or Somalia just 7% of the population might know a true believer.[6] God has blessed these peoples abundantly. But they don’t know it. God merits their worship. But they have never heard of him. In fact, the way things stand now, they have very little chance to know the true God because very few message bearers[7] live among these peoples.

The Message Bearer’s Mandate

In order for people everywhere to worship the Lord, they first need to know about him. And for them to know about the Lord, someone needs to take the message of his salvation to them. As we look at the world today, we see that the majority of people who are not worshiping the Lord live in areas where there is very little opportunity to know the true God. Looking at the world today through this lens, we can conclude that where true worship is the least, the need for message bearers is the greatest. Following the simple logic of the command for all peoples to worship the Lord leads us to the Message Bearer’s Mandate: the imperative for true believers to go, live and serve among the least reached peoples of the earth, so that they too can know the true God and joyfully worship him. This command for all peoples to worship the Lord gives message bearers a sufficient mandate to go everywhere spreading the glad tidings of God’s greatness.

What can you do to see that those who have the least opportunity to hear of God’s wonderful deeds might come to know God? What can your church do? What steps are you taking to align yourself with God’s purpose to be worshiped by all peoples? Would you be willing, if God so wills, to go and live among the least reached peoples for at least two years?

 Putting First Things First

 As we begin to consider our personal involvement in God’s plan to bless the nations, it is important to keep first things first. Worshiping God – loving him with all of our heart, soul and strength – is our first response. Being a message bearer, we will see, is second. Our love for God, which first expresses itself in worship, also motivates our personal involvement in God’s mission. Where love and passion for God and his glory are great, there will also be a burning passion to tell others about his greatness. But where there is little love for God, there will also be little motivation to declare the glad tidings of his salvation. So our first response as message bearers is to become passionate worshipers of Almighty God.

Our primary motive to become involved in God’s plan to bless all nations is not because the peoples are lost, without hope and without God, but because God merits the worship of all peoples. In the Old Testament, God’s promise to bless “all families of peoples” provides a sufficient reason to call the peoples to worship. How much better reason do we have to call all peoples to come and worship our great and awesome God! Mission activity is not an end in itself. Mission is a temporary activity; but worship is forever. When people truly understand who God is and what he has done for them, they want to worship him. So our primary motive for involving ourselves in God’s plan to bless all nations is that God might be worshiped by all peoples, receiving the glory due his name.[8]

We began with the question, “What is your part in telling the nations about God’s wonderful deeds?” What have we discovered so far? Our first response is to worship the Lord with whole-hearted devotion. So let’s stop here and put first things first: Let us worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness, ascribing to him glory and strength.

GROWTH POINT

FIRST THINGS FIRST

What impressed you most about what you just read?

What further questions do you have about this material? About what would you like to find out more?

What sort of changes do you think you would need to make in your life to align yourself with the vision presented here? What about your church or small group?

  

What will you do?

Who will you tell about what you discovered?

 

 A prayer to pray: What do you want to tell God about what you have discovered about Him, yourself or the world?


[1] All biblical passages are from the New American Standard Bible® unless otherwise mentioned.

[2] Specifically see Ephesians 1:3-14 and 3:1-12 for how God has revealed the mystery of his eternal plan to include the Gentiles among his people.

[3]Just a few passages are listed as examples. Other prophetic passages having universal worship in view are: Isaiah 2:1-4; 12:4-5;42:10-12; 43:10-11; 66:18-23; Jeremiah 3:17; 17:19-21; Zephaniah 2:11; 3:9 and Zechariah 8:20-23.

[4] “Status of Global Mission, 2011 in Context of 20th and 21st Centuries.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 35, No. 1, page 29.

[6] International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Vol. 34, No. 1 January 2010. “Personal Contact Between Christians and Non-Christians,” pages 34-35.

[7] “Message bearer” is an alternative term for “missionary” that is promoted by the Student Volunteer Movement. Based on their research, many young people are turned off by the idea of being a “missionary.” However they quite open to the challenge of being a “message bearer.” Also believers in India use “Gospel Carrier” as an alternative for “missionary.”

[8] John Piper’s excellent book, Let the Nations Be Glad!, first drew my attention to the connection between worship and missions. Those who want to dig deeper will profit by reading this book. John Piper, Let the Nations be Glad! The Supremacy of God in Missions, Baker Books: Grand Rapids, Mich., 1993

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Os Guinness presents stirring address at Taylor University

GuinnessDr. Os Guinness received an honorary doctorate at Taylor University today. His speech was one of the most engaging that I’ve ever heard.  So I’m sharing the link for his address at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUBWwVURjY4

Dr. Guinness began by focusing out attention on some of the great questions of our age:

  1. Will Islam modernize peacefully?
  2. What faith (world view) will replace Marxism in China?
  3. Will the West sever or recover its roots?

Then he challenged us to play our part in addressing the challenges of the 21st century. He spoke briefly about three:

  1. Preparing the Global South where the Church is growing at an unprecedented pace.
  2. Wining back the western world.
  3. Contribute to the future of humanity at this transitional time of major shifts.
    • The shift from pyro (fire based) technology to biotechnology
    • The shift from the industrial era to the information era
    • The shift from a supernatural to a secular perception of reality

He also encouraged us to wrestle with some of the grand distortions of faith such as:

  • The shift from authority to preference (and the resulting lack of commitment)
  • The shift from integration to fragmentation.

Guinness pointed out that progress in these areas will depend upon our

  • Practice Supernatural warfare
  • Having a deep grasp of the history of ideas
  • Engaging in cultural analysis

Can the church be revived again? Guinness firmly believes that the future of humanity depends on the answer.

I was struck by how many of the questions Dr. Guinness raised and the trends that he identified relate to the discipling of nations.  His address brings to mind the Old Testament words about the Sons of Issachar, “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.”  Unless we understand the times in which we live, we will be ill prepared to deal with the challenges before us.  May Dr. Guinness’ address also  inspire you to critically contemplate what is happening in our world today and your response.

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