The heart of God: Among the nations

Howard Culbertson
Monday, January 27, 2014

“I will praise you among the nations” -- Psalm 18:49

On my Facebook “wall,” a friend jokingly wrote that I see world missions in every verse of Scripture.  Big exaggeration. The Bible has 32,000 verses, and only about 200 of them contain obvious references to world evangelism.

To be sure, there are people who think it’s stretching their imagination to see missions in some entries on my list of missions verses. That said, it should be no stretch at all to see world missions in “I will praise you among the nations” (Psalm 18:49).  World mission overtones in those words reverberate so clearly that Paul quoted that verse in Romans 15:9 to emphasize God’s desire that all people groups everywhere be welcomed into His Kingdom. 

Even so, ask people to list every missions Bible verse they can think of.  Rarely will they cite Psalm 18:49.  That’s an oversight, a major oversight.  With Paul placing Psalm 18:49 front and center, we ought to view it as a “Top Ten Missions Verse.”  For one thing, it’s echoed by the Nazarene denominational mission statement: “To make Christlike disciples in the nations.” 

Psalm 18:49 was also a key missions verse for German theologian Peter Beyerhaus who used it in formulating the Frankfurt Declaration on world missions (http://institut-diakrisis.bekenntnisbruderschaft.de/fd.pdf).

That declaration lays out “seven indispensable basic elements of mission.”  The second element asserts that “the first and supreme goal of mission is the glorification of the name of the one God throughout the entire world and the proclamation of the lordship of Jesus Christ.”  For biblical support, Beyerhaus pointed to Psalm 18:49 and Paul’s quotation of it in Romans.

Paul’s use of Psalm 18:49 makes clear the fact that Jesus’ Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is not the first time the Bible mentions world evangelization. Long before Jesus’ birth, sacred Scripture proclaimed God’s heart for the nations.  Indeed, Psalm 18:49 is just one of 120 Old Testament mission verses: http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/biblical.htm

In light of Old Testament missions-related passages like Psalm 18:49, Bob Sjogren likes to say that Jesus did not give the Great Commission.  Because the Old Testament clearly speaks often about world evangelism, Sjogren says Jesus was simply repeating the Great Commission!

From time to time I hear people say that we must win all those “at home” before doing anything to evangelize other parts of the world. Those who say that need to take a good look at the word “nations.” It is plural, not singular!  Their “our-kind-first,-then-eventually-other-people” thinking contradicts the spirit of Psalm 18:49. Furthermore, pitting near-neighbor evangelism against global outreach derails the fulfillment of God’s deep desire.

Through Psalm 18:49, God calls His people to proclaim Him “among the nations.”  Let’s embrace these Holy-Spirit-inspired words composed long ago by David. We all must be involved in this global proclamation through praying, giving, mobilizing and even going.