“A House of Prayer for All Nations?”

As Jesus reached Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, he entered the temple area and called out the misuse of the building designed as a place of worship and prayer. Knowing the Scriptures, the standard for faith and practice, he cited Isaiah 56:7 ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.’

All nations?  Brett King, in his Sunday night sermon at Calvary, preached from the book of Jonah.  Hadn’t Jonah set boundaries on God’s love? Certainly God would not show mercy on His and Israel’s enemies, would he? ‘Nahum, LORD, let me put my prophetic ministry on hold and later deliver the message from Nahum,’ a message of judgement and destruction of a rebellious Nineveh, but preaching mercy???

I’m been thinking ‘nations,’ ethnic groups, languages and cultures, as I’ve left the comfort of my ‘home and native land’ and headed to Bangkok where leaders from many nations have gathered in a congress of pastoral trainers.  Though the occupants were weary, our shuttle bus from the airport was a fascinating sight.  Within moments of being introduced, we were speaking of Jesus Christ, our one Saviour, and the joy of serving Him despite the challenges!

In Isaiah 56, the passage quoted by Jesus, the LORD is speaking to His people. He is promising blessing to outsiders, to foreigners who have bound themselves to the LORD.  And why have these foreigners done this?

I pick up with the text of Isaiah 56:6

“And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to SERVE HIM, to LOVE the name of the LORD, and TO WORSHIP HIM,…”  And what does the LORD promise to those who do this, who observe His standards and hold fast to His covenant? He will ‘bring to His holy mountain and give them joy in His house of prayer.” He will “accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices,” because He has a purpose for all nations.  The temple – ‘His house’ will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

And so I ask you today, should churches be built around just one culture?  Languages may be challenging, cultures diverse, but is God’s plan not to reconcile diverse people to Himself and to each other as they assemble for worship?  I’m praying that the Global Proclamation Congress will call us back to biblical basics.  I want to recapture God’s vision for His people, as we look forward to The Day when ‘some from every tribe and nation will be there!’

P.S. I still have a one-track mind. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation, to everyone who believes….” What greater joy is there than to bear Christ’s name before the peoples of the earth? On one of the legs of my flight here, I wrote out Psalm 117

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.  Amen!

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