‘There before me was a great multitude..from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.’
In all of Genesis 1-11 this chapter is probably the least read! The names are foreign to our ears and experience, and seem only of antiquarian interest. My interest in family history means often scanning parish registers, shipping lists and census records. I persevere because I am interested in just one family, hardly noticing other names. So what am I to do with this part of God’s word with over one hundred separate names? Many have been identified with locations ranging throughout today’s nations of Crete, Turkey and Iran, and to Libya and Sudan. Even if we were to focus on shem; and again, the names are still many and region large. The list is ‘unique in world literature paints a basically positive, or at least neutral, picture of the relationships between the nations. Tomorrow’s reading will provide a less favorable perspective, but both demonstrate fulfillment of God’s command to ‘fill the earth and subdue it’. God’s blessing of ongoing life continues to expand.
Why mention all these names? Cane we see an outworking of God’s involvement in and concern for all the diversity of nations, clans and languages? Their very number and naming challenge all divisions of people into ‘us and others’. Pentecost there is another listing of peoples, each hearing the gospel proclamation ‘in our own tongues’. There is God’s heart. Recent decades have seen Christians active in exploring all the rich variety of the world’s spoken languages and translating Scripture. Moving beyond broad political nations, there has been detailed investigation of the diversity of people groups: they are being named, and Christ being made known. God knows the names of all. No one is anonymous. All will be represented in the worship that is to come.
In prayer, name several of today’s nations, clans and languages, including your own, Thank God for his work in their midst.