Psalm 96:3–5 (ESV)3 Declare his glory among the nations,his marvelous works among all the peoples!4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;he is to be feared above all gods.5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,but the Lord made the heavens.
A question we get a lot these days is, “Why are you going to Papua New Guinea?” To some, it doesn’t make sense; to others, it sounds like an adventure and a fun family activity; and to still others, it’s just foolish to leave the “American dream”.The other morning as I read the Bible, there were three verses (seen above) which I think very accurately and succinctly describe what we are trying to do in going to Papua New Guinea–they describe why are going, why are we selling everything, and why we’re saying goodbye to our family and friends, and leaving our home. Verse 3 in Psalm 96 says to “Declare His glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” Ultimately, we want to go to a tribe in the jungles and declare the glory of God. In other words, we want to tell them who God is and what he’s done! The passage says to “declare his glory among the nations” and then it gives two reasons for declaring His glory. First in verse 4, “For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised”. Why should we declare God’s glory among the nations? Because He is great! There is nothing greater that we can tell anyone than who God is and what he’s done. When you go to the Grand Canyon or see something spectacular, you tell people about how amazing it is. You tell others about the beauty of the Grand Canyon, how unfathomably big it is. It’s like this with God. God is glorious–far more glorious than the Grand Canyon or anything else in this world since He is the Creator of everything in this world. He is marked by steadfast love that endures forever and infinite mercy. His wisdom is unsearchable. He is glorious in majesty and beauty. There is no greater thing that we can talk about than the One who created all things! God is great and so all these things lead us to declare His glory and praise Him. There is a second reason given in verse 5 to “declare his glory among the nations”. It’s because: “All the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens”. It’s not as though we are going into a situation where the people of PNG will have nothing to compare God to. Oh no, they already have their own gods. But they are worthless! The people of Papua New Guinea, and indeed all over the world, are spending their time and their energy worshiping, serving, and fearing idols they make with thier own hands which are nothing. To paint a picture of what it’s like, consider the following quote by John G. Patton describing those in the New Hebrides in the early 1800s:
“The Tannese had hosts of stone idols, charms, and sacred objects, which they abjectly feared, and in which they devoutly believed. They were given up to countless superstitions, and firmly glued to their dark heathen practices. Their worship was entirely a service of fear, its aim being to propitiate this or that Evil Spirit, to prevent calamity or to secure revenge. They defied their chiefs, like the Romans of old, so that almost every village or tribe had its own Sacred Man, and some of them had many. They exercised an extraordinary influence for evil, these village or tribal priests, and were believed to have the disposal of life and death through their sacred ceremonies, not only in their own tribe, but over all the Islands. Sacred men and women, wizards and witches, received presents regularly to influence the gods, and to remove sickness, or to cause it by the Nahak, i.e., incantation over remains of food, or the skin of fruit, such as banana, which the person has eaten on whom they wish to operate. They also worshipped the spirits of departed ancestors and heroes, through their material idols of wood and stone, but chiefly of stone. They feared these spirits and sought their aid; especially seeking to propitiate those who presided over war and peace, famine and plenty, health and sickness, destruction and prosperity, life and death. Their whole worship was one of slavish fear; and so far as ever I could learn, they had no idea of a God of mercy or grace.” – John G. Paton, D.D., Missionary to the New Hebrides pg. 72
So, why are we going to Papua New Guinea?To tell them of the One who created all things. To tell them of this matchless King. To tell them of the glory of God. But also because they worship and serve worthless things. The goal is that they would turn from worthless idols to serve the One true God (1 Thess 1:9). If they never turn, then they will “suffer the punishment of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord”. We want to tell them of His glory and His marvelous works, namely His work to save sinful man from His wrath and be in a right relationship with Him. The only way to see the glories of this Great God, are through belief and trust in Jesus Christ. This news is good, this God is great, and idols are nothing. That’s why we want to go!