The Creator of the universe is the God of all nations, not just of Christians and Jews. He is God of all people whether or not they acknowledge Him, whether or not they know Him personally. Human belief does not establish His existence. Reality itself acknowledges the ultimate truth of God. He identifies himself, in Exodus 3:14, ‘ehyeh ‘asher ‘ehyeh, “I AM WHO I AM,” uncreated, eternally existing. Our faith effectuates a relationship with Him who has always been.
Long before God raised up Abraham to bless the nations, and the church to disciple the nations, Scripture reveals Yahweh as the God of all nations. Following the flood, Noah’s sons became the fathers of nations. Genesis 10:1 reveals the roots of the nations being established: “These are the generations of the sons of Noah ….” This, the first registry, has become known as The Table of Nations.
Genesis 10 affirms Yahweh as the God of all nations. Approximately 350 years after the flood God called out Abraham to be a blessing to all nations. He raised up Jacob and changed his name to Israel, who became the father of the Jewish people about 700 years after the flood. The God of the Bible is the God of the world, not just the God of Jews and Christians.
Dr. Robert Alter, professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, writes of the significance of this Table of Nations:
In keeping with the universalist perspective of Genesis, the Table of Nations is a serious attempt, unprecedented in the ancient Near East, to sketch a panorama of all known human cultures—from Greece and Crete in the west through Asia Minor and Iran and down through Mesopotamia and the Arabian Peninsula to northwestern Africa.”*
All from one blood
Similarly, Dr. Bruce K. Waltke, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, has written of the significance of the Table of Nations found in the scriptures:
The “Table of Nations” represents the nations as of one blood, multiplying under God’s blessing as distinct tribes and nations. The Table represents God’s broad concern for all peoples, not just the Israelites, which is understood by the omission of Israel from this Table.
“Thus, the sovereign God has laid a firm foundation for making this microcosm of the nations [Abraham’s seed] into a nation [Israel] able to bless the earth (cf. Gen. 46:27; Ex. 1:5).”*
Long before the creation of God’s chosen people, the Jews, God was the Lord of the universe and God of all nations. In this moment of growing chaotic tribalism, it is important to realize that the God of all creation is the God of all people and nations. The table of nations clearly shows this on a macro level. And the same is true on a micro level, for an individual human being. Genesis 16 records the story of Abraham’s wife Sarah and her Egyptian slave, Hagar. This account demonstrates God’s care of Hagar, a foreigner, a slave and a woman. No other deity would have noticed her.
“You are the God who sees me!”
As the story unfolds, Sarah is unable to conceive. Per the custom of the day, Sarah gives Hagar to Abraham to conceive a child in Sarah’s place. When Hagar conceived, Sarah drove Hagar into the desert. Now we pick up this remarkable story:
The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” And the angel of the Lord said to her,
“Behold, you are pregnant
and shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
because the Lord has listened to your affliction.
He shall be a wild donkey of a man,
his hand against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”
So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”
Note the intimate way the God of all creation takes care of Hagar. His care extends to the poorest, a disenfranchised slave girl. He sends an angel to minister to her. He addresses her by name, something unheard of in ancient history. God made a promise that through her offspring a mighty nation would be born. Hagar’s child was to be named Ishmael because “the Lord has listened to your affliction.”
An ingathering of all nations is coming
This slave woman gave God a name! Who has heard of such a thing in the annals of history? She named God El-Roi, “the God of seeing.” Why? Because the Creator of the universe is mindful of all nations and of every human being, even those the world may call deplorable. He looked after Hagar.
So, we have discovered that God’s interest in humankind is not limited to Christians and Jews only. Before the Jews became a people, God was interested in all nations.
This understanding is found in both testaments. In Acts 17 we see this boldly proclaimed by the Apostle Paul on Mars Hill in Athens. In the midst of pagan Rome, Paul announces: “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation,” (Acts 17: 26). From one blood all nations have come. At the end of history there will be the great ingathering of the nations. This is recorded, among other places, in Psa. 22:7-8, 86:9; Isa. 5:9, 60:3f; Rev. 5:9, 21:24.
We have written a series of six blogs, from Psalms 87, on the future ingathering of the nations here.
God’s interest is in nations. His mission is to bless them and bring transforming discipleship to all nations. In Genesis 12:2-3, the Jews were chosen and blessed by God to be a blessing to all nations. In Matthew 28:18-20, the church was sent to disciple nations. The calling of God for Christians and Jews is for an external purpose toward all nations. God’s intention is to see nations transformed to be all He intends them to be.
God calls us to live counter culturally
What does this mean for us? Too often throughout history, Jews and Christians have become focused on their own rituals and communities. They have forgotten the reason God called them into existence. We are not immune from this narcissistic focus today.
In a time in history where there is such a propensity of self-focus and immediate gratification, how do we live counter culturally? How can you and your church have an external focus on the larger community? How can you act within an inter-generational time frame?
The Table of Nations is a reminder for us to be focused on God’s calling to the nations.
Take a moment and reflect on your own life. If you tend to be self-focused, how can you begin to have God’s vision for the nations? How might you, in a more intentional way, begin to connect your life to God’s mission to bring a blessing to the nations?
- Darrow Miller
*Prager, Dennis. The Rational Bible: Genesis . Regnery Faith. Kindle Edition