One of the things we’ve started doing on our facebook page is featuring Joshua Project’s people group of the day on Wednesdays and this is a quick blog post to go along with that. There really is so much to learn about praying for the nations that I’m finding it hard to get it into one post. So, once and a while, we can learn more back here on the blog that can help us relate God’s heart to the world.
This is meant to be a place where hope is shared for nations and where God’s heart for blessing the nations can be made known! Sometimes this will stray into hard stories to hear, but despair is the opposite of hope – in our world we need to be able to see and sort out both in order to champion what is hopeful.
So, here we go!
A couple Wednesday’s ago, on the People Group of the Day App, we prayed for the Jat people group, and then, we prayed for the Jat people group again the next day.
Well, Joshua Project and many other research teams that count people groups take different factors into account when researching; in this case, the Jat people who were prayed for on Wednesday were from Hindu Traditions in India, where as the Jat people who were prayed for on Thursday were from Muslim Traditions in Pakistan. These research teams often break up a group into subsets based on where the live or what religious traditions they practice.
Our distinctions are imperfect in most cases (maybe we get something right here or there), but here are several points in scripture that are good places to start thinking about praying for the nations.
In Genesis, God spoke to Abraham, saying that all the families of the earth would be blessed through the work that He was doing through him. This promise immediately follows the story of the Tower of Babel, where we see 70 families becoming different nations through their languages being changed.
Later, in Mathew, Jesus shares with His disciples that the gospel (or good news) will be communicated to all nations, then continues to say ‘go and do so’ after He is risen from the dead.
In Luke and Acts we are taken on a whirlwind of stories which describe Jesus’ willingness and the Holy Spirit’s effort to reach out to the nations within and surrounding the middle east – many miracles blessing people from different nations.
And again, John shares his vision in Revelation of every nation surrounding the throne of Jesus in worship.
The emphasis here is on reaching out and praying for these nations or families of the earth in order that they may be blessed and bless Jesus in return. This doesn’t come as a human idea, but God’s idea for us. In our history, as we have pursued this mission, we have often failed and chose to see this blessing as something to be kept or help onto instead of giving it to others.
It is easy for us to think in terms of our agenda, our vision, our work, our nation, our life, our abilities, our rights, and our culture; however, this business of blessing others wasn’t our idea, but God’s. His ideas, His values, His priorities, His ambitions, and His ways are more pure than our own. As we pray we could inherit more of our own ideas than God’s, thinking that we have the right way of thinking about or doing something, but where our “right way” come from?
Our Response to Culture
A point not to be missed is that our world is made up of many different groups of people and while we all have the same human needs we also create vastly different cultures that address those shared needs.
Jesus isn’t blind to this, on one occasion He and His disciples met a group of Greek men and in answering them Jesus didn’t use a Hebrew parable, but a Greek riddle. Another early point to think about is the tower of Babel in Genesis. It is often shared that many languages came from that place after God changed the languages of the people, but what had God told them to do in the beginning of that story?
Spread out, subdue the world – a wild command after the flood which precedes this story.
A natural consequence of distance is new culture.
As we create new ways of doing things in response to the same human needs we all have we create culture. For example, as people we need to eat and what we eat varies greatly all over the world, though, it is a response to the same common human need to eat. Now, some of the ways that we have developed this culture of eating is not actually good for us and can be quite harmful. This is true in every area of human culture, though, it doesn’t negate our common need or authority to create culture as we meet those needs.
The example of food is an easy one to grasp – we can see bread, roti, tortilla, pasta, potatoes (are those a main dish, side, or a vegetable), and more. We can see different responses to what we should put on food – lamb, venison, beef, pork, vegetables (more potatoes), chicken, sauces, yogurt, spices (more than salt and pepper), eggs, and more. And what comes after for desert? Cake and pie? Sweet milk? Something fried?
I once saw a recipe from northern Alaska about whipped seal fat and berries… and I didn’t grow up with that and my mind doesn’t know what do with that information.
The story of Babel and the confusion of languages was set in our human rebellion to remain the same. We didn’t want to spread out, but to build only on what we had and who we believed ourselves to be.
Are we really so different today?
In the midst of our brokenness and rebellion, the story of Abraham begins. God says that He will bless all the families of the world and He delivers on that promise through Jesus.
We still have a history of brokenness and rebellion, with new pages added to that book every day.
Some have said that our humanity is what binds us together and in some sense this is true, but the bond is stronger with Jesus. He was God and chose to take on human flesh to better reach out and serve us – to seek a blessing on our behalf – what we would only do for a great price He did freely, what we would imagine as romantic He did in practice, what we would imagine as impossible He did in reality. He reached out and honored those who were different in nature and culture – all for their best from within His heart.
While it is binding, our humanity also struggles to stay unique and independent in a crowd – this can preserve something truly beautiful and special, but may also cause great evil as we press that on others. Our history is littered with each of these moments and it can be hard to tell the good from the bad at times. Sometimes we just don’t know, even though it may seem plain as day to us in the moment.
We are understood by Jesus – both in our uniqueness and in our togetherness.
As we follow Jesus, we can seek the blessing of different peoples as well.