This past weekend was Unity Sunday at Calvary Church. As a community, we took time to reflect on what the Bible says about the importance of unity and ethnic diversity in the body of Christ. From its inception, the church’s inertia has always leaned toward the nations. And so, understanding the nations from a biblical perspective is essential if we are to truly understand the biblical storyline. There are two key themes I have been reflecting on from this past weekend: 1) Abraham/Israel is to be a blessing to the nations, and 2) Israel is to rule the nations.
A Blessing for the Nations
We must ground our exploration of the nations in Genesis 12:1-2. After God disperses the people who congregated at Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), he makes a promise to one man and his family. God would bless Abram so that he (God) could bless the nations (Genesis 12:2-3). Clearly, the blessing has global implications. From the earliest chapters in the Bible God has a rich plan for “all the families of the earth” (Genesis 12:3 ESV). God called one to bless the many.
From the earliest chapters in the Bible God has a rich plan for "all the families of the earth." God called one to bless the many.
A Ruler Over the Nations
With the establishment of the monarchy, the specifics of the promise made to Abraham come into sharper focus. Israel would be a blessing to the nations by ruling the nations. Psalm 2 describes this worldwide vision for Israel’s king; “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Ps 2:8 ESV). The promise to the king was that he would acquire the nations.
But instead of acquiring the nations, the resounding pattern in the Old Testament is the opposite. Not only did the king fail to acquire the nations, Israel was crushed by Assyria and the Babylonians led Judah into exile. But all hope was not lost. Isaiah, echoing the promise to Abraham, anticipated a time when a “servant” figure would restore the “tribes of Jacob” and make them a “light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Is 49:6 ESV).
Jesus—The Blessing for the Nations
When we put on our Old Testament spectacles, the relationship between Jesus and the nations in the New Testament comes into sharp relief. Right away in Matthew 1, Jesus’ genealogy includes Gentiles and outcasts. The first people who visit Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel are gentiles from the east (Matthew 2). Jesus is amazed by the faith of a Gentile centurion and a “Canaanite” woman (Matthew 8:8; 15:21-28). In the Gospel of Luke, Simeon declares Jesus to be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 2:32 ESV). Jesus’ sermon in his hometown in Nazareth uses examples of Gentile faith. At the end of the Gospel of Luke, a Gentile centurion worships God at the cross (Luke 23:47). This is just a sampling of verses, but there are already indications throughout the Gospels that the ministry of Jesus would bless the nations.
Jesus—The Ruler of the Nations
In Matthew 28:18 Jesus says he has received “all authority.” When understood with the backdrop of God’s heart for the nations, Jesus’ authority is stunning. Because Jesus has acquired the nations (Psalm 2:8) he can send us out to make disciples of all people groups. When we herald the gospel, we announce the good news that the long-awaited ruler of the nations has come, and he has come with the blessing of salvation in hand.
Revelation 21:3 gives us a big vision of the future. It shows us that the nations will one day be united under king Jesus. The blessing of Abraham will finally be complete, the mission of discipleship will be fulfilled, and the nations will be gathered to magnify the name of Jesus. What a glorious future we await.
Tucker Anderson has served at Calvary Church since 2015. He is a graduate of Bethel Seminary and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His passion is helping people develop a biblical worldview by understanding the relationship between the Old Testament and New Testament.