Theme for the Year

Lord of All Nations

Scripture affirms the sovereignty of the Lord over all.

God is Lord of creation, of all people, and of all nations. Paul proclaims to the Athenians, “From one human God made all nations to inhabit the whole earth and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live . . .” (Acts 17:26). This theme of divine lordship is seen even more clearly in the enthronement psalms, the theological heart of the Psalter (Psalms 93-99). These psalms make the fundamental pronouncement: the Lord reigns! They call on the whole earth to worship and praise God as Lord. With one voice all of creation and all of the earth sing to the Lord a new song (Psalm 96).

That is obviously, however, not the reality of our world. The nations do not sing praises to God. Instead they rebel (Psalm 2). Injustice, violence, and greed rip apart our world (Hosea 4:2). Nations commit atrocities against other people and sometimes even their own (Amos 1:3, 6, 9, 13; 2:6-8). Such violence and greed also lead to the destruction of creation (Hosea 4:3; Jeremiah 4:23-28; Romans 8:19-23).

After the Genesis flood and after the nations once again rebelled against God (Genesis 11:1-9), God chose a special people, Israel, to serve as priests (Exodus 19:4-6) and to bring light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; 51:4; 60:3). Disastrously, Israel misunderstood its role and its relationship to God. When the Lord declares to Israel, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2a), Israel came to believe not only that Yahweh alone is God, but also that Israel alone is God’s people. Israel’s growing understanding of monotheism led to the perpetuation of the false doctrine of mono-ethnism within her.1 They developed a sense of entitlement, which led to self-indulgence and ultimately abuse (Isaiah 5:8; Micah 2:1-2; Amos 6:4-8).

While Scripture robustly proclaims Yahweh’s election of Israel as his chosen people, it hastens to underline that Israel never held nor would ever hold a monopoly on the knowledge of God (Isaiah 2:1-5 = Micah 4:1-4; Isaiah 11:1-9). Yahweh is both the Lord of Israel as well as the Lord of all nations (Amos 9:7; Isaiah 19:23-25; Psalm 96:1-3). As their overlord, Yahweh requires an accounting from all the nations of the earth (Deuteronomy 2:5-6, 9-10, 19-22; Amos 1-2; Isaiah 13-23; Jeremiah 46-51; Ezekiel 25-32; Psalms 2, 82). He even uses other nations to punish Israel for their rebellion!

The church is founded upon the revealed truth that Jesus Christ is the longed-for Messiah of Israel through whom the covenants, promises, and commissions given to Israel are now to reach their fulfillment (Luke 4:14-21; 24:25-27; Matthew 5:17-20; 16:13-20). Upon the community of the Messiah (the church) fall the privilege and responsibility of fulfilling Yahweh’s commission to Israel. God calls the church to serve as a light to the nations (Matthew 5:14-16); it is “a royal priesthood” called to proclaim the mighty acts of God to the whole world (1 Peter 2:9).

This year at HST, we invite you and your congregations to join us as we probe the implications of this theme for the world, the church, and for individual Christians. Visit us in chapel and for special events hosted throughout the school year.

Dr. Dave Bland

1 Walter Brueggemann. Texts that Linger, Words that Explode: Listening to Prophetic Voices (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Press, 2000), 89 ff.