God of the Nations

Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Genesis 10:1-32 | December 13 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
December 13
God of the Nations | Genesis 10:1-32
Dr. Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor

Let’s ask for God’s help as we come to His Word. Come thou, long expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free, from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art, dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart. May it be so, O Lord, that we have in this room and wherever we are watching this right now, that we are people of longing hearts, for we know that if we hunger and thirst after righteousness, we will be blessed and we will be filled. And may it be true across this earth that people look today to You for hope. And may it be true in this country that the only truest desire we would have as a people would not center on elections or politics or even vaccines, but on You, and You would be our dearest desire. Speak to us, we pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

We come this morning in our study of Genesis to Genesis chapter 10, that famous Christmas story in Genesis chapter 10. Well, as we have found throughout Genesis, there are more connections and more things to see than you might think, and any passage that connects to Jesus can be a Christmas passage, this one as well.

Follow along as I read from Genesis chapter 10. As we start a new toledoth section, a new one of these 10 generational markers in the book.

“These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Sons were born to them after the flood. The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. From these the coastland peoples spread in their lands, each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations.”

“The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.’ The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. Egypt fathered Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came), and Caphtorim.”

“Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward the clans of the Canaanites dispersed. And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon in the direction of Gerar as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.”

“To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born. The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. The sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. Arpachshad fathered Shelah; and Shelah fathered Eber. To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan. Joktan fathered Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan. The territory in which they lived extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephar to the hill country of the east. These are the sons of Shem, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations. These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.”

This genealogy, if we can call it that, is unique not only to the Old Testament, but is unique in the ancient world. Other ancient Near Eastern literature had genealogies for kings or for famous rulers, but they had nothing like an account of the peoples of the earth like we find here in Genesis chapter 10, and that’s all the more striking because there are other parallels with ancient Near Eastern sources. There are flood stories, creation stories, tower stories… Not because the Bible was drawing from those, but because those things happened and so peoples had stories about them. But none of them had anything like this, an accounting of the people spread across the earth.

And if you think about it, it may seem a little strange. If you were telling the history of Charlotte and you began in one of the very first paragraphs to talk about the great dynasties of China, people might figure, well, what’s this got to do with that? What’s the connection here?

And so you understand that most people figured what we need to tell is the story about us and about our people and about our gods and how everything is related to us. Why do we give an accounting for these nations scattered around the world?

So this is unique among sources in the ancient world. Here we have a list of descendants from Noah through his three sons that covers the globe. Why we have this here we’ll come back to at the end.

Here’s our outline. I want to make four observations about this text in an effort to try to orient us to what’s going on here, and see the structure in it. Four observations, and then we’ll conclude with three themes or lessons from this chapter. So four plus three equals seven, see, I’m getting better at this. Seven, seven, very biblical.

So first, then, four observations about this text to help us understand what’s going on.

First observation: This list is different from the genealogies we have seen so far in Genesis. It’s different. It’s not a strict recounting of individuals, whether from the cursed line of Cain we saw in Genesis 4, or from the chosen line through Seth in chapter 5, and remember chapter 5 in particular was a detailed genealogy, it said how many years the man lived and then he had this son and then he lived this many more years and then he died and had more sons and daughters. It gives us all sorts of information about these individuals.

But that’s not what we have here. We have persons, peoples, and places in this list, this table of nations, so we do have persons. Some of these are named descendants. We start with three individuals: Japheth, Ham, and Shem. There are different individuals pointed along the way, so we have persons, but we have peoples.

Many of these names here are not so much individuals, but the nations, or the tribes, that came from individuals. You can often see this in Hebrew with the ending “-im, “Kittim, Dodanim. The suffix “im” in Hebrew is how you make something plural. Or you see it with the ending the “-ites,” that also designates people, Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, etc.

So we have persons, but we have a list more than that of peoples and we also have a list of places. So don’t get confused that some of these are places, like Babel, Erech, Accad, Calneh, in the land of Shinar in verse 10; Assyria and Nineveh verse 11; Gerar, Gaza, Sodom, Gomorrah, Zeboiim, verse 19.

So the point in chapter 10 is not so much as we’ve seen earlier to trace out here’s the line of the woman and here’s the line of the serpent and here’s how they are falling out, but it is rather to account for the nations spread abroad after the flood. You see this in verse 32, the summation: These are the clans of the sons of Noah according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood.

Here’s the second observation: This list is sequentially before but chronologically after the tower of Babel in chapter 11. Now you can all see chapter 10 comes before chapter 11, but chapter 10 gives us the dispersal of the nations in one sense and then chapter 11 in another. It’s not that the Bible makes a mistake; we all have read books or we’ve seen movies where there’s a flashback or there’s one scene and there’s, meanwhile, while that was happening, this is happening, and that’s sort of what we have here in chapter 10 and 11.

Don’t us to be confused when we come to the Tower of Babel and as a punishment people have many languages and they’re dispersed across the globe and you think, now wait a minute, I thought we already saw that in chapter 10?

Well, chapter 10 is literally the global macro look at the planet. You can think of it as sort of the ethno-geographic explanation for the peoples of the earth, and then chapter 11 is the theological rationale. Why did we get to the way that we are, and the Tower of Babel tells us why. So that’s the second observation.

Third: We should not read our modern categories back into this list. And in particular I’m thinking of two modern categories, nation and race, which we must be careful not to read back in to chapter 10.

You notice at the end of each of these three sons they conclude with the same language, sometimes in a different order.

Look at verse 5: “From these the coastland peoples spread.” And then here’s four demarcations: Lands, each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations.

So peoples, lands, language, clans, nations. That’s describing how these coastlands peoples spread in those four terms.

Now we find the same thing in the different order. Look at verse 20: The sons of Ham, by their clans, languages, lands, nations.

Again verse 31: The sons of Shem, by their clans, languages, lands, nations.

So Shem and Ham have the same order but the same four words that we found in Japheth. Now we’ve talked a lot about numbers in Genesis, again not because this is a secret Bible code and you’re meant to find secret hidden messages, but numbers have certain themes, and they come to represent certain understandings of things, and so four is one of those numbers that represents the totality of the globe, the four corners of the earth, the four winds of heaven.

And so it’s no surprise that we have these peoples scattered across the globe described as lands, languages, clans, and nations, with four different terms. And you’ll remember in the book of Revelation, what do we find gathered around the throne? But we have people from every tribe and language and people and nation. There again is a four-fold designation, representing these people all over the globe.

The best way to probably think about these peoples, maybe the closest thing is our word “tribe.” Some of these are small, localized tribes, and some of them grew to be powerful, almost empires in their own rights. But they have their own cultural, geographic tribal identity. A very homely analogy might be sort of like a school district that butts up against another school district. Now they probably don’t have a different language, but you have a, you know, “Go Wildcats, Go Tigers, Go Rams, Go Bears,” whatever your team is, and you have your own little identity and that’s your team and that’s sort of your tribe, and then next door neighbors are similar, and the farther out you go, the more different they are.

We must be careful that we don’t assume anything like our modern understanding of a nation-state. The idea of a nation-state where a people are held together by a broader ideal than their religious affiliation or their cultural ethnic background, is relatively recent in history, several hundred years.

And so we don’t want to hear the word “nations” and think organized government, clear boundaries, allegiance to a national identity.

It’s important, too, when we come to the New Testament: Make disciples of all nations, “ta ethne.” We might even translate it “ethnicities,” not identical, but that’s a better idea than what we might think of as nation-states. If you take the Great Commission to mean go make disciples of every nation-state, then the Great Commission’s completed; there’s a Christian in every nation-state. But is there a functioning, fledgling church among all the nations, that is, among all of the unique ethno-linguistic cultural peoples of the earth?

So the idea of “ta ethne” has more in common with what we see here in Genesis 10, lands, language, clans, nations, that what we might understand as a nation-state.

Also we should not confuse chapter 10 to be a list of races. Most scholars on race today, whether they come from the left or from the right, agree that race as we use it is not a category defined by any biological essentialism. That is to say, cannot look in the DNA or the physiology of someone that we call “black” or “white” or “Asian” and see that there is a biologically essential difference. When we talk about race, in particular “black” and “white,” we’re talking about shared physical, maybe societal characteristics, and so race is a different category, a somewhat recent category as we use it, and we should not read in and think, “Ah, ha, this is a list of all the different races.”

Well, most of these people, especially in the immediate generations after the flood, would have looked the same. After all, they came from the same three brothers. So we’d be wrong to think that they represent races as we understand races.

And so this chapter here becomes formative and instructive for later biblical history and geography. These names, these peoples, will show up again, often in these groupings or in certain pairs, that this became an authoritative accounting of how we mark out the peoples of the earth.

Here’s the fourth observation. It should be the most obvious. This list is structured around the three sons of Noah.

So let’s look at those. You see the first, in verse 2, the sons of Japheth. Now this is the shortest list because Japheth was the farthest out in relationship to Israel, and was of the least concerned. These are the people that spread out to the north and to the west. You might think of them roughly as people who would go to Asia and to Europe. We have a list here of seven sons of Japheth, and then seven grandsons, for 14 total descendants from Japheth, and there isn’t much about them because they were at a distance from them and so they were of less concern. They were out there, far away rather than close at hand.

Then we come, verse 6, to the sons of Ham. And these people settled in Egypt, Mesopotamia, parts of Arabia and North Africa, and these were Israel’s near neighbors. These were the people that caused them problems for centuries.

You notice in Ham we have a list of the most famous, or infamous, people and places, the ones that will be in conflict with Israel for centuries: Egypt, Assyria, Babel, Nineveh, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Jebusites who had control of Jerusalem, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Philistines, though it’s possible that this is a different branch of the Philistines than the ones who came later in 1 and 2 Samuel.

Look at verse 14 for a moment, that parenthetical note, “from who the Philistines came.” Most of the commentaries agree, and I agree with them, that the Philistines here really does belong in a parentheses and it’s really not one of the counting of the nations, but is a remark inserted here to explain where this important people later in Israel’s history came from, and we’ll see why later why it’s significant that the Philistines are probably not counted in the number of the nations here, but is given as an aside.

So you have here with Ham four initial sons; Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan; and then seven sons and grandsons from Cush. Later there are seven descendants listed from Egypt, and lest you think it’s all sevens, it’s not. There are after that 11 descendants of Canaan. So add that up and it makes 29 descendants in the line of Ham, plus one individual who’s singled out for mention, and you add him and it makes an even 30, 30 descendants from Ham.

Well, who is this one man who’s singled out? You see it in verse 8: “Cush fathered Nimrod.”

I think I mentioned before that when I took Hebrew in undergraduate, we had to come up with your Hebrew name, which is easier when you’re taking French or Spanish or something defined. There’s really nothing really like “Kevin” so it’s just make up what Hebrew name, so I was Even-ha Ezer, Ebenezer, and my friend and cousin in the class decided to give himself the name Nimrod. So he was Nimrod for the whole class. I’m not sure for the reasons here in this text or for reasons associated with Nimrod as we use the word today, but he is quite a Nimrod.

Nimrod, you see here, was the first on the earth to be a mighty man. Now we don’t know exactly who he was. You can read lots of scholars who have their educated guesses. One educated guess is that he was King Sargon of Akkad. I could have probably said King Sargon of the Klingons and would have well, maybe, I don’t know, so we can’t be sure, but there’s different guesses that people have.

Whoever he was, he was an impressive man. We don’t know was he a good guy or a bad guy. One possible translation for “Nimrod” is “we shall rebel,” which would make him to be a bad guy. We do see that from him come some of the most impressive cities and civilizations to come; Babel, Assyria, Nineveh. So he was a mighty man. Twice it’s said that he was a mighty hunter, so much was a mighty hunter that it became a proverbial saying, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.” So certainly to call someone “Nimrod” was to speak of their strength and their valor and their power.

Why has it come to us that to call someone a “nimrod” usually means they’re a moron or they’re dimwitted? Well, just a little by the way here, you can thank Bugs Bunny for that. You can look it up. It does seem that Bugs Bunny is the origination of this, in a Looney Tunes from the 40s where he would call Elmer Fudd a “poor little nimrod.” Think about it. What was Elmer Fudd? He was a hunter, and Bugs Bunny called him a “poor little nimrod.” Well, not probably understanding any biblical reference there, it just became nimrod was taken as an insult, to mean someone who doesn’t have much in the way of brains, who’s dimwitted. You’re a nimrod.

But originally, it referred to this mighty man, this mighty hunter on the earth.

So we have Japheth, Ham, and then Shem. People of the Shem-ites spread out to northern Mesopotamia, Syria, parts of Arabia, and as we would expect, Moses saves the chosen line for last. First we get Japheth, they’re far off; then we get Ham, they’re close by; and then we have the line of the Shem-ites, or as we would know them, the Semites.

There are five sons: Elam, Asshur, Arpachsad, Lud, and Aram; and then four mentioned through the line of Aram, then two through the line of Arpachsad, Shelah and Eber; and then Eber splits into two. You see this in verse 25, Joktan, and the Peleg. Just as Nimrod was singled out for mention in the line of Ham, so we have Peleg who’s singled out here in the line of Shem. Verse 25, you can see the little footnote, his name means “division,” for in his days the earth was divided. Some scholars think that refers to a literal physical division, that there was a great earthquake in his day. I think it’s much more likely that this is a reference to what happened with the Tower of Babel, that it was during the days of Peleg that the people were divided and were dispersed on the earth, to mark out this monumental occurrence on the earth where peoples’ languages were scattered and then they were forced to move out to the uttermost parts.

So we have then, if you add these up, in the line of Shem you have 26. So 14 for Japheth, 30 for Ham, 26 for Shem. You have a total of 70, assuming that the parentheses about the Philistines does not count in the list. So you have 70.

If you were to look in the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, and Jesus and the apostles would have been familiar with the Septuagint, they have 72. We’ll see at the end why that may be significant.

But we have a table of nations here with 70 nations accounted for on the earth.

So what’s the point? Let me finish with three lessons for us.

First, we see here the peoples of the earth are diverse and they are dispersed. On the one hand, the many-ness is a sign of blessing. Be fruitful and multiply. They’ve done it. God’s blessed them. They’ve been fruitful, they’ve multiplied, there’s many of them. That’s good.

But it’s also a sign of punishment. They are divided because of sin, as we’ll see in chapter 11. Their dispersal and their diversity is a punishment and a restraint.

We don’t have time to do a theology of diversity in the Bible, diversity’s a very important theme in our day, but diversity is never the end goal in its own sake and for itself in the Bible. Hell is bound to be just as diverse as heaven is.

The point, rather, is when there is a diversity moving forward in unity to some greater goal. Here we see there’s a good kind of multiplication that takes place, a good kind of many-ness, but on the other hand its dispersal and its diversity of language is also a punishment for sin.

The history of the world, from the time after the flood to the present, is a history of conflict among peoples, tribes, clans, and nations. You cannot go to any time, any place, among any people or any nation, and say, “well, those are the people who are always at peace,” you know, “The Americans have always gotten it right,” or “The Americans have always gotten it wrong.” You can go anywhere, you can look at the history of many conflicts and oppression and hurts and pain between say, Japan and Korea and China. Or you can trace out the different movements of history. At one time, the Moorish people, Muslims, were in control of Spain. Later, Spain would be in control of the Netherlands. Later Netherlands had its independence and would have its own empire, part of which was Indonesia, over Muslims. So it works in all sorts of different directions.

Oppression does not belong to one people or one part of the earth, but it’s indicative of the human heart. We saw Cain and Abel. We saw wicked Lamech. We saw the marker of humanity before the flood, all the thoughts and intentions of their heart was only evil all the time, and even after the flood wiped clean, you would think, of sin, but you have sin right there in Noah and his family.

So there has always been, since sin entered the world, this inherent conflict and division among the peoples of the earth.

So when we find times of peace or prosperity, the question ought to be, “What unique factors led to that?” rather than “What unique factors led to war and conflict?” We know where war and conflict comes from; it comes from the human heart, writ large in systems of nations and the world.

And where we come to find grace with one another is in either God’s common grace or His special grace blessings to us.

So the peoples of the earth are diverse and dispersed.

Second lesson: The diverse and dispersed peoples of the earth are nevertheless united in a common ancestor. This could be a whole different sermon unto itself, so I’ll just spend a moment here. One way that we might move towards some harmony in our day, where there is so much division among peoples and so much conflict in this country between races, is to emphasize what we have in common rather than to make as a first step to break down people into smaller and smaller groups identified by greater and greater difference.

After all, these peoples spread across the earth come from three brothers who come from one man. We have one ancestor. At times, an emphasis on race can make it sound as if we are almost different species of human beings, or that fundamentally we are so different, so distinct, that we cannot possibly understand anything about one another.

Now, lest you sit and you think, “yeah, that’s right, we just don’t talk about race anymore,” we need to be honest and realize that it was white people who infused the idea of race with great meaning and significance in ways that were detrimental to those who were not white.

May it be possible that one small step toward healing divisions that exist in our country, and particularly in the Church, is to emphasize from the beginning that we have the same ancestry, we have the same image of God, we are born into the world with the same sin nature, we have the same spiritual need for the same Savior, and if we belong to Christ, we are going to live forever in the same place.

With that as our common heritage, and in Christ our common destiny, then you can begin to think about what does this mean for how we love one another and learn from one another and forgive and be forgiven by one another.

The peoples of the earth are diverse and dispersed, they are united in a common ancestor, and then here’s the third lesson, and this is what’s most front and center in Genesis 10: The divided and dispersed peoples of the earth are all a part of God’s singular divine plan. There is over-arching this dispersion and this diversity a single divine plan.

And the plan is never to leave diversity in its place for its own sake, but that from diversity there would be a unity which leads to greater doxology, praise to God.

What we see here, unlike any other document in the ancient world, is that this God, Yahweh, is the Lord and God of all the nations.

It’s very likely that Paul had this text in mind when he said, in Acts 17, “from one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth, and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” This is God’s doing, and He is Lord over all.

Remember in 1 Kings 20 when the Israelites were fighting the Arameans, and the Arameans thought, “Aha, we can defeat the Israelites because their God is a God of the hills and not a God of the valleys.” And the Lord said, “I’m going to give them into your hand because they said that about me and I’m going to show them that I am the Lord and God over everything.” They were thinking, as they would in the ancient world, “Well, you’ve got a god of the trees and you’ve got a god of mountains and you’ve got a god of valleys and you’ve got a god of water.” No, no, no… This God is God over all.

Which is why it was such a mistake when Naamaan and Gehazhi thought, “Let’s bring back some of this dirt.” Remember Naamaan gets healed in the Jordan River from his leprosy, “Let’s bring some of this dirt back to Assyria because this is special dirt here in this land, and if we want the power of this god, we better take some of his special dirt here and we’ll bring it back, because he’s a localized deity.”

But everywhere in the Bible, starting here in Genesis 10, actually starting in Genesis 1, but here in Genesis 10 we see that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is no localized deity, not confined to one place or even people, or to one sliver of land.

Deuteronomy 32:8: “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He divided all mankind,” thinking there of Babel, “He set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel.”

According to the numbers of the sons of Israel. How many sons of Israel were there that went into Egypt? You can look it up in Genesis 46: There were 70 sons of Jacob who went into Egypt. And Deuteronomy says that 70 there were corresponding also to these 70 nations on the earth. Seventy. Seven, biblical number of fullness, perfection, completion, and ten, another one of those numbers of completion, multiplied together, seventy, to represent the totality or the completion or the fullness of a thing.

And so the 70 nations in Genesis 10… Now, it’s not every nook and cranny of the earth. Didn’t say about what peoples might have been on the planet or how they spread to North American or to the Far East, but it is, in this representative fashion, 70 nations representative of all peoples. The nations as they understood them.

And Israel, 70 persons, went into Egypt is representative of a microcosm of the nations. Seventy representing their fullness to correspond with the 70 and the fullness of the nations, because one is going to have a mission to the other.

Now, it’s really remarkable. Did you notice the one nation, the one people, not mentioned among the 70, the one you would think would be most central, nowhere is there mention of Israel. Why? Well, you say, “Well, Israel didn’t exist yet. Jacob hadn’t been born.” Well, yeah, some of these people hadn’t been born yet. Why is Israel not mentioned? Because what chapter 10 is making way for is chapter 11, which is leading us right into chapter 12, and the promise to Abraham, which is what? That he will be a father of many nations.

And that through Abraham’s faith, and through faith in the promised seed of Abraham, the nations will be able to share in the blessing of Abraham.

See, as you would have first encountered this text, you’re meant to listen to this list of nations and you imagine some Jewish schoolboy hearing this read or memorizing it, and saying, “Mommy, Daddy, where’s Israel?” And thinking out loud, well, what is God going to do with all of these nations of the earth? “Well, you know what, son? He has a plan to bless these nations of the earth.” “How?” “Through you. Through me. Through us. Through our God and His promises to us.”

You see, there was a world of people before Abraham and it is through Abraham that God is going to save these peoples. So this is one of the great missionary texts in the Bible. Seventy sons of Israel, 70 persons from the house of Jacob who came into Egypt. How many elders were there in Israel that went up on the mountain and received the Holy Spirit’s filling with Moses? 70 elders. How long was their captivity in Babylon? 70 years, representing the totality, the fullness of it.

Most importantly, in Luke chapter 10, how many disciples did Jesus send out on that early mission trip to cast out demons, heal the sick, and preach the Gospel? Well, it’s a bit of a trick question, because there are some manuscripts that say 70, and there’s some manuscripts that say 72.

Which is why I think there’s something significant, and I said a few moments ago that in the Septuagint it counts 72 nations, I think because the early Church as they were copying manuscripts and you can do your research if you think 70 or 72 is most accurate, the ESV has 72, I think it might be 70, but clearly there was an effort to connect that sending out of the 70 with the 70 nations in Genesis chapter 10. That’s why some would have 70 and some would have 72, because depending on if you had your Hebrew or you had your Greek Old Testament, it was 70 or it was 72.

Which tells us that the Church understood that in Jesus’ sending out those 70 disciples, He wasn’t just, “Mmm, how many? 70.” There was a method to the presumed madness. There was a connection to be made, that you disciples going out with the message of the Gospel are to preach not just to the lost tribes of Israel, that may be true in this moment in history, but ultimately to reclaim and re-gather the 70 nations of the earth.

Here’s what I want us to think, as we close. You know, one of the things that COVID can do to us is it makes our vision small, it makes our focus narrow, and that’s understandable. We’re not traveling, we’re hardly leaving our homes. Now you’re not supposed to be out past 10 o’clock. Your focus gets narrow. You’re just thinking I’m going to make it to a vaccine and try not to get sick and just try to make it, or I’m trying to make it through all of these onerous regulations with masks and everything, and you just, our focus becomes narrowed. That’s understandable.

But brothers and sisters, Lord willing, we’re going to be on the other side of this. And whenever that is, and even now when we aren’t, God has given us such a grand vision. Don’t let your dreams and your hopes be too small.

This text shows us a God who could not be bigger, with a plan for the world that could not be bigger. How much of the world does God want to redeem? All of it. It doesn’t mean every person will be saved, but it means there will be some from every tribe and language and tongue and nation who will be saved.

Don’t let your vision be too small. Would you pray that perhaps in our lifetime we would finally see the Church flourish and grow in the Muslim world? Just like now we can look and as can you imagine 60 years ago there was almost no church in China? And now there may be 100 million Christians in China. Would you pray for that in the Muslim world?

Or in the 10/40 Window across Arabia and into India and the people of Hinduism, would you pray that there would be a great breakthrough for the Gospel? Or pray that for the first time in Japan the Christian witness there would be above 1%? Or pray for the re-Christianization of Europe? By some accounts, Scotland is an unreached people, fewer than 2% are worshiping in an evangelical church this day.

Give thanks to God for the Reformation taking root in new ways in Latin America, and for what God has done in the last 100 years beyond anyone’s wildest imagination in sub-Sahara in Africa.

Or to make Brazil and Korea, two of the largest Presbyterian countries on the earth, great mission-sending ventures?

Brothers and sisters, our vision must be bigger than this church, bigger than Charlotte, bigger than the PCA, bigger than this country. The God who made all peoples and dispersed all peoples has always had a plan to redeem all peoples. We cannot have a bigger God or a bigger plan.

And as we are here in chapter 10, moving in to 11 and 12 to enter the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the story of Israel, remember Israel’s story was always just one part of God’s bigger story for the world, and we are an indication of that part, and by God’s grace we, too, have our part to play.

Let’s pray. Father in heaven, we give thanks for Your Word, for all that we have to learn, from lists of names and places. Give us a vision, Lord, for the nations. May it be someone here listening to this message, in person, online, perhaps would be able to trace back to today to the moment when they came to believe in You, God of the nations. Or perhaps someone or some family or some couple would trace back to today as when You put on their hearts or You convinced them that they would spend their lives in mission to the uttermost parts of the earth. O Lord, there is a great task before us, and You are a great God, more than equal to it, and we thank You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.