When we watch the news and see stories of “ethnic cleansing,” or hundreds of people in a sweatshop being drastically underpaid for their labor; or when we look at a history book and see that once upon a time the U.S. government allowed the enslavement of a group of people based on their African heritage, we cannot forget that the root of these events is spiritual. Psalms 2:1 asks, “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?” The quick answer is because they are in sinful rebellion. But that is not God’s desire. We see His desire in Genesis 12:2-3 in His promise to Abram (Abraham):
I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. God’s desire is a unified people, bringing blessing to all. Yet to receive the promise of God, Abraham must immigrate from Haran to Canaan. It was God’s idea.
The tangible blessing does not come overnight. After Genesis, the story expands beyond individuals to the complete sum of Abraham’s offspring, which eventually become known as the nation of Israel. Eventually the Israelites themselves immigrate to Egypt. In Exodus we see the pitting of nation against nation as a contest between gods. For example, the famous plagues of Exodus 1-12 were each a contest between the God of Israel and one of Egypt’s gods. When God rescued the Israelites, He delivered the message that the God of Israel is the sovereign God over all, regardless of your cultural family.
Israelite immigration led to switched spiritual allegiances. Consider Joshua 2 and the story of Rahab; read the story of Naomi and Ruth in the Book of Ruth; ponder God’s message to the Israelite captives in Babylon found in Jeremiah 29:4-7. Throughout the Old Testament the message to the Israelites was clear: Through your lives you will declare the glory of the one true God to those who don’t know Me; and through this declaration, they will come to Me.
In the New Testament the apostle Paul makes clear to the Galatians that they began their relationship with God the same way Abraham did: by faith, not ethnic lineage (Galatians 3:6-9). Abraham’s real offspring are those who have faith in his God. The redemption of Christ permits all to enjoy the blessing of Abraham (Galatians 3:14). If people want to know God, they need not seek out Israelites and convert to Judaism. That was the old paradigm. We are now told to receive the promise of the Spirit and form communities of Spirit-filled people. These ministry communities are the primary vehicles for the nations to know God.
The stress of the New Testament is toward a community of people making their presence known by living differently as the people of God in their geographic region. As they do this, the people (both native and immigrant) of their region will know where to look for God. You can find an example of these ethical encouragements in all of Paul’s writings to churches.