Every Tribe Tongue and Nation

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God’s Heart for the Nations

My journey at U of I has been 4 years (and counting) of learning that I have more to learn.  When I entered as a freshman, I thought I had everything figured out. I knew that I was going to graduate with a degree in computer engineering. I would then either get a job with a top company like Google or Apple or something, or I would start my own company to create an industry-changing product.

As far as my faith was concerned, I knew Jesus died to take away my sins so that I wouldn’t have to spend eternity apart from Him, and I knew that as a result, I was supposed to live according to the Bible and follow Him. Unfortunately, I had no idea what that really meant. I pretty much reduced my relationship with Him to, “How well have I been avoiding sin recently?” This narrow view of what following Jesus truly is made it really hard for me to understand why missionaries would devote their lives to taking the gospel overseas to unreached people. Sure, great for them, I thought, but that was too radical for me. Surely God doesn’t expect every Christian to lay down their lives to follow His call to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

Thankfully, God totally wrecked my old beliefs about going to the nations. He has used my time in Cru, my summer at the IT Project with the Traveling Team, and, most importantly, His Word, to show me that He isn’t looking for a few so-called “Super Christians” to go out and reach the world. Reaching the world is something that every Christians can do and should want to do. So why should Christians care about going to the nations anyway?


The Great Commission

When talking about missions, many pastors, evangelists, etc., tend to focus a lot on the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

A similar command can be found in Mark 6:15.

“And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”

And again, the book of Acts starts with Jesus commissioning the Apostles to be His witnesses in “Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the Earth” (Acts 1:8). These verses are great because they are direct words of Jesus, and they are pretty clear instructions for what Christians are supposed to do. Scriptures are pretty clear that it isn’t enough to just hear His words, we have to actually do it!

This should be enough to motivate us to reach the nations, but I know some people, myself included, need more proof and more of a push to get us to set aside whatever is keeping us from obeying. Therefore, a few individual verses might not seem like enough of a reason to sacrifice our comforts/plans/lives for the sake of the gospel. Fortunately, the idea that God wants to reach the world through missions is not at all limited to a half dozen verses in the New Testament. In fact, God’s plan to send people to reach the world is evident all the way through the Old Testament.


The Nations in the Old Testament

I could probably write the equivalent of an epic novel about how God’s heart for the nations is shown in the OT. Instead, I would like to point how God was made known to the nations in one of the most well-known Bible stories. Did you know that the story of David and Goliath is in large part a story about God’s name and the knowledge of His power spreading among the nations? I didn’t either until this summer. Check out what David says in 1 Samuel 17:45-47.

45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, 47 and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand.”

David knew that God was in control of this battle, and that once He had handed David victory, news of the Israelite victory would spread the fear of the LORD among the surrounding nations. After all, how else could a shepherd boy strike down probably the greatest champion of that era?

There are numerous other stories that share similar themes. In the book of Psalms, there are literally dozens of verses and passages that talk about God being known in, worshipped by, or ruling over the nations! In the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar attempted to throw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into a furnace for not worshipping a statue, King Darius threw Daniel into the lion’s den for not worshipping him, and God humbled Nebuchadnezzar to prove He alone is sovereign over all nations. After God intervened in each situation, the ruler of the day proclaimed the greatness of the God of Israel to the nations.


The Nations Around The Throne

So if you’ve made it this far, you might have accepted that maybe God wants to reach the nations, but you are thinking that such a task is impossible. There is simply no way to reach the entire world! Well friends, let me assure you, not only is it possible to complete this task, but we have a guarantee that it will be completed!

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” Revelation 7:9-10

God revealed to John that there will be believers around the throne from every nation, tribe and tongue! This means that someday, potentially very soon, there will be believers among all peoples, from every remote tribe of the Amazon rainforest and the African jungle to every people group in the Middle East. Every people will be represented in heaven, and together we will all worship the Lamb of God! Going to the nations is absolutely a difficult undertaking, but it will be a successful one!

With this in mind, we should be excited about being a part of the greatest mission in history! Not only does God want us to participate in accomplishing His plans, but He also promises that He will always be with us. So we can boldly go with confidence, not because we are super-spiritual saints, but because we love God and want to obey His call. So what are you waiting for? Go! Go on a summer mission. Go to the IT Project with the Traveling Team. Go get connected to a missions agency and go longterm. Go to the international student down the hall and welcome them into your life. Whatever you do, pray and honestly ask how God wants to use you. Then go!

Dylan Kenshalo, University of Illinois Cru Senior


A note, the word “nation” here and in other New Testament passages I’ve quoted, does not refer to political nations. The greek word is ethne, and it more precisely refers to people groups, or ethnic groups. Just because every country might have a church, this does not mean every people is reached. For a much better explanation of what this means and of God’s heart for the nations in general, check out The Abrahamic Revolution by Todd Ahrend.