Peoples

“Peoples” is word Bible uses for “nations.”
We Americans are a nation and we are a people. These terms carry similar bonds but also some different bonds unique to each one.

We are a nation because we live in the same geographical location and under the same set of laws. We are a people because we live with the same ideals, or at least with enough of the same ideals to give us

  • a shared character—the American Spirit,
  • a consolidated hope—the American Dream, and
  • an agreed upon ideal—American Freedom.

Guest Teaching at Continental Seminary in Brussels, Belgium, I visited the American Cemetery in Luxembourg, pictured here. This was my first missions trip to Europe and I was full of the missionary spirit. I am also a Baby-Boomer, the son of a WWII veteran, so I have always had an interest in the war. Inside the beautiful chapel I found an inscription that brought the missionary spirit and the American Character together for me. Beneath a cross it says:

GRANT US GRACE FEARLESSLY
TO CONTEND AGAINST EVIL
AND TO MAKE NO PEACE
WITH OPPRESSION

In that beautiful chapel the extraordinary truth of the American Spirit enveloped me—Who else goes across the seas to fight for the freedom of others? My father did, and my father-in-law, my pastor, and all my friends’ dads went. They are the greatest generation of a great nation and a great people. General Patton’s grave stands a lonely guard in front of the chapel facing row upon row of crosses and Stars of David.

On the grounds of a rural Catholic church in Belgium I also visited a memorial to Rev. J. W. Tucker among the names of missionaries from all branches of the church killed in the Belgian Congo in the early 1960’s. Heroes one and all, named and nameless, they sprang from a great nation and a great people to die in behalf of others on foreign soil.

Could they speak to us today, they would blush at our faint praise, and quickly remind us that the job isn’t finished.

  • There is still evil abroad in the world that someone must oppose.
  • There is oppression behind the high civilized walls of nations and violence walks randomly among the cities of the peoples of this earth.
  • We cannot make peace with wrong by calling it right.
  • There are nations and peoples bound in chains and in darkness. They sing empty songs, tell elaborate, meaningless stories, and trudge from day to night in hopelessness.

Our heroes would remind us that the nations and the peoples of need Jesus.
If there are seas to cross, let us set sail. If there are nations in bondage let us cry out as the prophet did, “Let these people go!” If there is darkness let us go there to shine our light.

Let this resolve be our pledge to our children and to their children and our prayer to God:

Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil
And to make no peace with oppression!
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scriptures:
Psalm 2
Why are the nations in an uproar? Why do the peoples mutter empty threats? Why do the kings of the earth rise up in revolt, and the princes plot together, against the Lord and against his Anointed? “Let us break their yoke,” they say; “let us cast off their bonds from us.” He whose throne is in heaven is laughing; the Lord has them in derision. Then he speaks to them in his wrath, and his rage fills them with terror. “I myself have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.” Let me announce the decree of the Lord: he said to me, “You are my Son; this day have I begotten you. Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance and the ends of the earth for your possession. You shall crush them with an iron rod and shatter them like a piece of pottery.” And now, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Submit to the Lord with fear, and with trembling bow before him; Lest he be angry and you perish; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Happy are they all who take refuge in him!
Isaiah 60:1-3; 62:10 NIV
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. …Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people. Build up, build up the highway! Remove the stones. Raise a banner for the nations.
Psalm 117 NIV
Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord.
Psalm 102:18-22 NIV
Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.” So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord.
Mark 11:17; 13:10-11 NIV
And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: “‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'”
And the gospel must first be preached to all nations.
Luke 24:45-49 NIV
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I will judge my life and work today, not by standards of success or wealth or influence but by the benefit of my being here on this earth. I do not serve you to the point of my comfort for you meet all my needs. I do not accumulate the acclaim of people for Your pleasure in me is my goal. Save me from a diffused life that accomplishing little. I temper my passions to focus them on Your plan for me, the steps You have laid out for me since before the foundation of the world. Help my solitary life to somehow bless the nations. Just as You multiplied the little boy’s lunch there in the wilderness, multiply my words and my songs and my deeds to bless the peoples of the earth. In Your holy name. Amen.

Song:
America the Beautiful
Words: Katherine Lee Bates; Music: Samuel A. Ward

1. O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!

2. O beautiful for pilgrim feet Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!

3. O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness And every gain divine!

4. O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood  From sea to shining sea!

Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

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