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Every Tribe

Revelation 5:9



On Memorial Day we remember heroes.  All gave some…some gave all!  Let’s not forget the heroes known as missionaries, who give their lives to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Revelation 5:9
9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;

"Kindred" = tribe


What is holding back the Lord's return?  Not much!  But here in our text we find one possibility.  The gospel has not been preached to every tribe yet, though we are getting very close.  The 144,000 Jewish evangelists during the tribulation will reach some from every tribe for sure even if we don't!


Mission agencies like New Tribes Mission and Baptist Missions to Forgotten Peoples are sending missionaries into the darkest, most remote jungles of the earth, fulfilling the Great Commission "...to the uttermost part of the earth." 


We don't often think about such peoples, but I was twice privileged to go to just such a people, cut off from the world completely.  We circled the island by air, and saw their seclusion.  When our puddle jumper plane landed on a small dirt strip we are not there yet...we took canoes several miles to an island with no power, no communications, and no Dr. Pepper!  Huts and hammocks awaited us…but don’t drink the water! 


This was our bathroom:  the walk of shame.  Here’s a member of our team modeling its use.  The island has a king.  It was a big to-do getting to meet his highness.  Lots of fanfare and rules for how we were to address him.  I guess what ruined it for me was the morning I looked out the window and saw him make the walk of shame with a magazine.  His royalty dropped anchor in the same Caribbean waters as did I!


Hundreds of wonderful kids were part of our VBS.  They were happy with their toys, which included sticks and rocks.  No phones, TV, or internet.  I got to preach with two translators…so it went from English to Spanish to Kuna Indian.  I had fun making the local pastor say nice things about himself!


We saw hundreds get saved, and it took hours for us to baptize them all.  It was truly life-changing, and just a small taste of the excitement of missions work.  Real missionaries know the real work.  A short-term missions trip gives a taste of the excitement, but it’s a job.  It’s a sacrifice.  It’s a life, given to the Lord.  Maybe YOU will take a missions trip?  I would be privileged to take you.


God cares about every tribe.  I want to begin by simply letting God tell you, in His own words about His priorities.


First there are Old Testament promises:

Psalm 22:27
27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.


Then there are Old Testament prayers:

Psalm 67:3
3 Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee.


Then there are Old Testament commands:

Psalm 96:3
3 Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people.
Psalm 96:10
10 Say among the heathen that the Lord reigneth:


Then there is the great New Testament Commission from the risen Christ:

Matthew 28:19-20
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

The 'end of the world' is not just a timeframe, it is also a place! 


Then there is the apostle Paul's great life of utter dedication to this mission:

Romans 15:20-21
20 Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation:
21 But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.

Then there is the magnificent picture of the final outcome of God's purposes in history:

Revelation 5:9
9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;


This is the big picture. This is what Christianity is about. This is God's design in world history—that people from all nations and tribes and languages come to worship God through Jesus Christ.


You might say, "But isn't the gospel about finding forgiveness of my sins and getting the hope of eternal life, and being filled with the Spirit of holiness and being changed into the image of Jesus so that I am a better mom or dad or son or daughter or friend or employee or citizen?" And the answer is, yes. But if that is all you dwell on in your walk with God, you miss the big picture. You miss the bigger point of it all. You're like a bat boy who thinks the great point of the World Series is to hand the players their bat.


So I urge you this morning in the name of Jesus to wake up and to enlarge your heart and to stretch your mind and to spread your wings. Mount up above it all and see the great and thrilling big picture of God's global purposes for the history of the world which cannot fail.

Isaiah 46:10
10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:


And as God gives us wings to rise up with a new worldview and we see the world the way He sees it, many of us, I pray, will be loosened from our present situation – job, neighborhood, nation – and called to an engagement in this great historic, global purpose of God called missions, to pray, then give, and for some that they will surrender to be a “goer” and not just a sender.


And to that end I give you 2 Timothy 4:17 as a great encouragement, and great incentive, a great hope for what it will be like to venture something new and radical on Jesus.

2 Timothy 4:17
17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.


So here Paul is at the end of his life – this is his last letter. He has been left alone in Rome before the great authorities of the world – abandoned by man it seems, but not by Jesus. You see this in verse 16:

2 Timothy 4:16
16 At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.

 But then in verse 17 he says four great things:

  1. "The Lord stood with me," just as He promised all His missionaries He would do: "I will be with you to the end."

2. "...and strengthened me". He is the Risen King, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, and all authority belongs to Him over all nations. This Lord stood with him and strengthened him.

3. This strength was for the proclamation of the gospel, not just to be comfortable and secure. "The Lord stood with me and strengthened me, that by me the preaching might be fully known." "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you," Jesus said in Acts 1:8, "and you will be my witnesses." The power and the strength of the risen, authoritative Christ is for witness to the gospel that Christ died for sinners and rose again and is gathering His people from all nations.

4. And the fourth thing Paul said was that this proclamation of the gospel was that he got this strength and spoke this gospel "that all the Gentiles might hear."


"Let every kindred every tribe on this terrestrial ball,

to Him all majesty ascribe and crown Him Lord of all!"


What's that sound in Rev. 5:9? 


It's the song of the redeemed
Rising from the African plain
It's the song of the forgiven
Drowning out the Amazon rain


The song of Asian believers
Filled with God's holy fire
It's every tribe, every tongue, every nation
A love song born of a grateful choir


It's all God's children singin'
"Glory, glory, hallelujah"
"He reigns, he reigns"
It's all God's children singin'
"Glory, glory, hallelujah"
"He reigns"


Let it rise above the four winds
Caught up in the heavenly sound
Let praises echo from the towers of cathedrals
To the faithful gathered underground

Of all the songs sung from the dawn of creation
Some were meant to persist
Of all the bells rung from a thousand steeples
None rings truer than this


It's all God's children singin'
"Glory, glory, hallelujah"
"He reigns"


And all the powers of darkness
Tremble at what they've just heard
'Cause all their powers of darkness
Can't drown out a single word


This was Paul's passion to the end. Spread, spread, spread the gospel. Even when Paul died he prayed, "O Lord, let my dying magnify Christ among the peoples of the earth!" (Philippians 1:20-21).

Philippians 1:20-21
20 ... that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.


The Lord stood with me; the Lord gave me strength, with that strength the gospel was preached; and the aim was the Gentiles - all the nations. And it has been the case with thousands of missionaries in all nations. And it will be your experience when you follow Jesus where He leads.


A hundred years ago John Paton, from Scotland, took the gospel to the New Hebrides in the South Pacific, today's Vanuatu. Within months his wife and son died. But Paton spent the rest of his life, until he was an old man, planting a church on the Islands. He quoted Jesus' words, "Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world," then said, "Precious promise! How often I adore Jesus for it, and rejoice in it! Blessed be his name" (John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides, An Autobiography Edited by His Brother, p. 154).


Once he was surrounded by a mob seeking his life. He hid in a tree above them and spent a terrifying night there. He wrote later,

"Yet I sat there among the branches, as safe in the arms of Jesus. Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul . . . as I told all my heart to Jesus . . . I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Savior's spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship." (Autobiography p. 200).


This is the promise of Christ to you when you venture your life on a mission for Him.


Alexander Duff, who was born in Scotland in 1806 and went to India when he was 24 with two shipwrecks on the way, and spent almost 40 years there for Christ, wrote to his daughter later in life,

"Why should I, who have been the child of so many mercies, be faithless or doubting? If any man living should trust in the Lord absolutely, and cast upon him the burden of all his cares . . . I am that man. All my days I have been a child of Providence, the Lord leading me and guiding me in ways unknown to me – in ways of His own, and for the accomplishment of his own heavenly ends." (William Paton, Alexander Duff: Pioneer of Missionary Education, p. 232).


The Lord stood by him, guiding him all his life. He will do that for you too as you offer yourself up to Him for his use and His mission.  But it doesn't mean that we will be spared terrible losses. It means Christ is there and governs all things and helps us and sustains us and turns all losses into gain as we trust Him.


William Carey, the father of modern missions left for India from England in 1793 and never came home. He labored 40 years without a furlough. He lost two wives in death. When he had a fever they attached 110 leeches to his thigh. And on March 11, 1812—after almost 20 years of hard work—a fire broke out and destroyed years of irreplaceable work:  the draft of the great polyglot dictionary. The Sikh and Telugu grammars. Ten prints of the Bible that had been going through the press. The translation of the Ramayana which he and his partners had been working on for six years.

Carey was out of town in Calcutta. When he was told tears filled his eyes, and later he said,

"In one short evening the labours of years are consumed. How unsearchable are the ways of God! …The Lord has laid me low, that I may look more simply to him." (Mary Drewry, William Carey: A Biography, p. 154).


Carey learned painfully that the mission of Christ goes forward by looking more simply to Him. "I will be with you, I will help you." In all his losses, the Lord stood with him. He never forsook him. Never could he have endured as he did without him. And though there were setbacks, the church of God grew mightily in regions beyond because of him. 


His watchword was "Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God." In that order! First trust him. Trust his promise. He will stand with you. He will give you strength. Then . . . THEN . . . "attempt great things for God." You will open your mouth. The nations will hear and be glad.

That is my challenge to you this morning. Put your life in His hands and trust him to be there as you venture something new for Him.

 [with helps from John Piper]

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