Savior of the World: Judge of Nations and Peoples

How are the peoples of the world to be distinguished in the eyes of the Lord? Who are those blessed of the Lord? Who are those left without the Lord’s blessings? The scriptures, that vast repository of ancient wisdom, offer many clues. The great Hebrew Prophet Jeremiah, who preached repentance to the inhabitants of the Hebrew city of Jerusalem before its destruction, sought to leave us a marker.

Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord. Jeremiah 9:23-24

The travails of the Hebrew Prophet Jonah, albeit very reluctantly and at times by a negative example, teaches us more. The Lord commanded Jonah to go to preach repentance to the people of the city of Nineveh. Jonah did not want to go to Nineveh, which was not a Hebrew city, so Jonah fled on a ship.

As Jonah fled on board the ship the Lord caused a great storm on the water. All the other men on the ship, who were not Hebrews, determined that Jonah was the reason that the Lord was angry and had raised up the storm, in part because Jonah told them he was fleeing the Lord. And they asked Jonah, “Why has thou done this?”

Jonah, seemingly sorrowful for what he had done, that he had put the lives of the other men on the boat at risk, told the other men on the boat to throw him overboard to pacify the Lord. These men then tried to spare Jonah his fate and rowed hard to bring the boat to land through the storm but could not. Reluctantly, the men threw Jonah into the sea “and the sea ceased from her raging.”

Once in the water the Lord had a whale swallow Jonah and hold him in the whale’s belly for three days. While in the belly of the whale Jonah sank into the depths of despair and prayed to the Lord to save him. Jonah pleaded, “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord.” With those words of Jonah, the Lord had the whale spit out Jonah onto the shore.

Once again, the Lord commanded Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach repentance, and this time Jonah obeyed. Jonah, a Hebrew, told the people of the great city of Nineveh, which was not a Hebrew city, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” And the people of Nineveh believed, “from the greatest of them even to the least of them,” even the King of Nineveh and all his nobles, and the whole city put on sackcloth and began a fast. The Lord saw that the people of Nineveh “turned from their evil way,” and the city of Nineveh was saved.

Jonah, though, was quite angry, perhaps because the Lord spared Nineveh but did not spare Jerusalem, the great city of the Hebrews. The Lord asked Jonah, “Doest thou well to be angry?… And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?”

Jesus of Nazareth in Matthew, Chapter 25, points us once more towards how a people can be amongst the Lord’s most blessed. To those the Lord and King shall bless and who shall inherit his kingdom, the Lord says the following.

“For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”

To which the blessed of the Lord replied, “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?”

And the Lord answered, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

By contrast, to those who the Lord withheld his blessings, the Lord said:

“For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.”

To which those without the Lord’s blessing replied, “Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?”

The Lord answered, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.”

So how does the Lord distinguish nations and peoples, the good from the bad? Does the Lord judge nations and peoples based upon the greatness of their cities, the cut and fit of their clothes, the splendor of their temples, the richness of their offerings? Does the Lord judge the nations based upon the chastity of their people, the purity of their palates, their wisdom, their learning, and might? For what does the Lord bless a people?