"All over the earth people praise you" is the way The Expanded Bible renders the key phrase of Psalm 48:10. When the sons of Korah wrote those words, they were a vision about the future. Today, however, Psalm 48:10 has become a prophecy on its way to fulfillment. To the extent to which that statement reflects the reality of today's global Church, we can rejoice that world evangelism efforts across the years have borne good fruit.
More than two hundred years ago, Adam Clarke, author of a classic Bible commentary, saw Psalm 48:10 not as a simple statement of fact, but rather as a declaration of God's will. The words of that verse, wrote Clarke, "outline the duty of God's people to praise and honor Him" and that would mean, according to the verse itself, doing that "to the ends of the earth."
Some time ago, Baptist pastor John Piper wrote a book called Let the Nations Be Glad. People immediately began quoting one sentence from that book: "Missions exist because worship doesn't." What Piper meant is that the divine plan was and is for God to be worshiped by people everywhere on the face of the earth. Sadly, that is not yet happening and therefore the Church is under an obligation to carry the Good News to wherever it is that Yahweh is not being worshiped.
While praise to God does resound today from locations around the world, there are still places totally devoid of praise to Him. Two-thirds of the world's population still adhere to religions other than Christianity. More than five thousand distinct cultural groups lack a viable church planting movement in their midst.
If we are to fulfill Psalm 48:10, we must work to see that God and His great grace and mighty deeds are proclaimed in all the cultural groups where that is not yet happening. We must help fellow believers understand that the world mission enterprise is necessary today so that God's praise will reach to the ends of the earth.
If people praising God is a key goal of world evangelism efforts, then our task is not that of trying to convince people we're right and they're wrong. Although right belief is important (because it fosters healthy relationships with God), we believers are not simply promoting a belief system. We achieve very little if all we do is get people to change their stated religious affiliation to "Christian" from "Muslim" or "Buddhist" or "Atheist."
We need to lift up the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who came in Jesus Christ to reconcile the world to Himself. We must call people everywhere to fall on their faces in worship to Him. We must do that so that God will be praised and worshiped all over the earth.
-- Howard Culbertson,
This mini-essay on a world missions Bible passage is one of more than three dozen articles in the "Heart of God" series published in Engage, a monthly online magazine. That series explores what the Bible says about missions.
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