Many of us grew up thinking of the gospel as the message of the New Testament. We knew Israel was chosen by God (Gen. 12), that they struggled to remain faithful to Him and that, eventually, Christ came, and the Good News became available to other nations (Eph. 3). But I’m afraid that this simplified, “before and after” gospel understanding stops so short of capturing God’s heart for our world.
While in Bible college, I discovered that God’s plan had always been to reach and reconcile all nations. Once I saw that the purpose of Israel’s special status was to bless the whole earth, I started seeing this theme of “for all nations” all over the place. Isaiah 19 portrays a startling vision:
In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance” (vv. 23-25, NIV).
What an astounding prophecy! Isaiah described bitter enemies of Israel as God’s handiwork and His people. These verses were written long before the ministry of Jesus on Earth and long before Paul told us that the gospel is also for the Gentiles. Reconciling every nation to Himself has always been God’s plan, and I believe it’s important to note that the three nations will not worship God separately. Notice the highway that will allow free travel (v. 23).
The gospel is for every nation on Earth! We must become adept at ministering in a diverse context, and we must begin to diversify our leadership. My pastor often says to our beautifully diverse congregation: “If you don’t like all these different colors, then you’re not going to like heaven!” I love John’s description of worship in heaven: “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 he Lamb” (Rev. 7:9, NIV).
These scriptures don’t tell us how to diversify our leadership in order to reach every nation, but I think that living in diversity is a good start. As I sit in my home with the windows open, I hear Korean kids in the church out back, and I hear Spanish being spoken in our neighbors’ home; I see an Indian restaurant owner out for a walk.
My husband and I believe we are “blessed to be a blessing” in this little microcosm of heaven’s diversity. We want to love our neighbors and live out God’s Word. When we returned from our honeymoon, we went door to door, sharing our wedding cake. It seems that any language or culture barrier can be overcome with a chocolate-and-caramel-filled confection!
I pray for all leaders, that we will have the courage to step out of—and, perhaps, stay out of—our comfort zones in order to be a part of that great multitude, in which every people and language will be represented. What a worship service that will be!
How You Can Pray
As God desires to reconcile all nations, pray for boldness and for openings to invite outsiders into our churches, beginning with Back to Church Sunday on Sept. 21.
Praying with us? Include what you are praying for in a comment below.