October 20, 2021 | View All Stories

Many Countries — One People

I will proclaim the LORD’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father.
Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.”
Psalm 2:7–8

In 2005 I visited the Kurdish region of northern Iraq as part of a teaching team sent by a mission organization near my hometown in Virginia. We had come to the relatively peaceful city of Erbil to provide spiritual encouragement to over 50 Iraqi Christian leaders from an Arabic-speaking church in Baghdad pastored by a partner of the mission. 

That trip was my first significant exposure to Arabic and Kurdish culture. One of my most vivid memories from that first trip was the cascading calls to early morning prayer from multiple mosques in Erbil.

Because the Iraqi Christians from Baghdad were Arabs, the Kurdish border security refused them entry out of a concern for possibly importing the insurgent violence so prevalent in the rest of Iraq into their region. A well-respected Kurdish pastor was asked to travel to the border crossing and vouch for his Arab brothers and sisters before they were allowed entry. 

Erbil is the de-facto capital of the three northern Kurdish provinces in Iraq. 

The Kurdish people are predominantly Muslim and occupy significant regions of southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northwestern Iran, and northern Syria. Nevertheless, there is no official state of Kurdistan.

*The Kurds, an ethnic group numbering around 30 million people, are widely recognized to be the largest stateless national group in the world. While Kurdistan is known for its strong cultural unity, Kurdistan is home to numerous languages, religions and political factions. – thekurdishproject.org

The Kurds’ political reality clearly illustrates that a single “nation” or ethnicity, biblically defined, may be spread over many countries. 

Why Should Christians Care About The Nations?

The second Psalm is a beautiful and powerful example of Messianic prophecy. In its immediate context, David is described as the anointed king of Israel and, as such, the one who will possess the plotting nations. As Messianic prophecy, the Father is speaking to Jesus and decreeing that as the Son (see Acts 13:32–33; Hebrews 1:5, 5:5), Jesus must ask the Father for the nations as His royal heritage. As followers of Jesus, we join Jesus in asking for this global, multi-ethnic inheritance. When we do, and when we pray for the salvation of any specific group, such as the Kurds, we pray with the authority given to Jesus as the true inheritor of all nations. 

Fulfilling the Promise of the Second Psalm

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world
as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 24:14

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
Matthew 28:18–20

The mandate of Psalm 2 to us as believers goes beyond praying for the nations. Jesus clearly has the promise of the second Psalm in His mind and heart when He spoke to His disciples about their mission at the end of Matthew’s Gospel. God the Father had given Jesus the authority to inherit the nations. In both of these passages, Jesus is sending His followers in that same authority to preach the gospel and make more disciples from every people group on earth. 

One last thing. Just as a single people group may be spread across multiple countries, so an individual political state may contain many people groups or nations. When I visited the Kurdish region of northern Iraq in 2005 (and again in 2008), I witnessed the gospel transforming the lives of two people groups, the Kurds and the Arabs. But Iraq is populated by 35 distinct ethnicities, twenty-five of which are unreached with the gospel. Only 1.3% of Iraqi citizens identify with any form of Christianity. 

As we have seen, countries and nations are very different entities, and this difference should inform both our prayers and our church-planting strategies. Native missionaries who know their people and region are most often the keys to fruitful church planting among such a diversity of people groups.    

Our responsibility then is to pray, give, and partner with native missionaries to spread the story of Jesus to every people group, especially to the approximately 7,000 ethnicities like the Kurds who are still unreached with the gospel.  

*Click the link to see a map of the Kurdish region.

Header image: Stock photo.

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Eric Vess

Eric is ANM's International Communications Director.

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