October 15, 2004

Prov. 25:25  Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far

“The believer will be greatly enriched in his missionary thinking by reading
through the Psalms and underlining all references to the nations of the earth.
Indeed, the Psalter is one of the greatest missionary books in the world,
though seldom seen from that point of view” (George Peters: A Biblical Theology
of Missions, p. 116).

Already in Psalm 2 we hear God the Father saying to His Son, the Messiah: “Ask
of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of
the earth for Your possession.”  The same Lord who died for the sins of the
world on Calvary is in control of all the nations of the world.  All authority
has been given to Him in heaven and on earth.  Therefore we are to go and make
disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:18-19).

Psalm 8 begins and ends with the same refrain: “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent
is Your name in all the earth!”  The LORD’S name is excellent because His is
the only name that saves.  Many are the false gods that are worshipped by
the peoples of the earth, but, as Peter said (Acts 4: 10-12): “There is no other
name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  Jesus Christ,
crucified and risen, is the One with the excellent name; Jesus Christ is the Lord,

King David, ancestor of the Messiah Jesus, praised his God for delivering him
from all of his enemies in Psalm 18.  David was not satisfied to have only the
nation of Israel hear his testimony. He said: “I will give thanks to You, O
LORD, among the Gentiles, and sing praises to Your name” (Ps. 18:49).  How
thankful we Gentiles should be, whether we live in North America or Asia or
Africa, that we are enabled to hear David’s thanksgiving and join  in praising
the name of our Savior God!

Psalm 22 is King David’s advance description of the Messiah’s extreme agony on
the cross, when He was ridiculed by men and forsaken by God as our Substitute.
There on that cross He was the Lamb of God, bearing and removing the sin of the
world.  But this psalm does more than foretell His suffering.  It foretells
also His mighty victory over sin and death, and the fruits of that victory.
Listen to verses 27-28:  “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to
the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You.”  The
message of Christ’s victory needs to get out into the world, for how can they
worship Him, if they have not heard who He is and what He has done for us all?

It is true that we cannot see the glory of the Messiah in a world that often
treats His Church on earth the same way it treated Him: with derision and
persecution and sometimes even death.  The forces of evil very often seem to
control what is going on in the world, both in countries that have long known
the name of the Messiah and those who have only more recently been introduced
to Him.  Yet our God wants us to believe with all our heart what He declares
to us in Psalm 46: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among
the nation, I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; the
God of Jacob is our refuge” (Ps. 46:10-11).

These words remind us of the time that the Israelites under Moses were in grave
danger.  The Red Sea was in front of them and the forces of the mighty Pharaoh
of Egypt were pursuing them.  “Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid.
Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you
today'” (Ex, 14:13).  The Israelites crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, and the
pursuing Egyptians were drowned as the waters of the Red Sea swallowed them up.

Psalm 66 recalls the time God “turned the sea into dry land” for the people of
Israel (Ps. 66:6). But the same psalm calls on all the nations of the earth to
praise His name.  Why should the history of the Israelites interest other nations?
Simply because it was Israel who had the promise of the Messiah.  It was Israel
from whom the Messiah would arise.  This Messiah was and is the Messiah for all
peoples and nations.  “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! Sing out the
honor of His name; make His praise glorious. …All the earth shall worship You
and sing praises to You; they shall sing praises to Your name. …Oh, bless our
God, you peoples! And make the voice of His praise to be heard” (Ps. 66:1-2,4,8).

What is mission work other than telling others of what our God has done in Jesus
Christ?  We speak God’s holy Law to let people know how far short of God’s
standard they have come and how much they need a Savior from sin.  And then we
tell them the Good News of Jesus, which centers on Christ crucified and risen
for the forgiveness of sins of the whole world, including our own.

Some have claimed that Martin Luther was not interested in world missions. But
this is not true.  Martin Luther wrote a mission hymn based on Psalm 67, which
begins with the prayer; “God be merciful to us and bless us and cause His face
to shine upon us, that Your way be known on earth, Your salvation among all
nations” (Ps. 67:1-2).

The editor of Volume 53 of Luther’s Works calls this hymn “the first missionary
hymn of Protestantism.” It was written in 1523.  It is our prayer today as it
was Luther’s prayer then.

‘May God bestow on us His grace,
With blessings rich provide us,
And may the brightness of His face
To life eternal guide us
That we His saving health may know,
His gracious will and pleasure,
And also to the heathen show
Christ’s riches without measure
And unto God convert them.”

To this we say: Amen!

Professor David Lau of Immanual Lutheran College, CLC,
Eau Claire, WI.  U.S.A.