I am fascinated by maps. Looking at maps and globes causes me to wonder and ask questions. Who lives there? How did they get there? What are they like? What are their lives like?
More than mere curiosity fuels my questions. Thinking, learning, and praying about the various peoples in the world helps me ponder and praise God’s providence.
When God created mankind, He gave them a mission. They were to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). When we look at the various places around the world and consider the peoples who live there, we are getting a glimpse of God’s providence in seeing to the fulfillment of that mission.
People have spread over much of the surface of the earth—from the harsh deserts of North Africa to the lush jungles of Brazil, from the arid steppes of Central Asia to the unforgiving Arctic tundra. They have ventured out in handmade boats across thousands of miles of open ocean to populate the South Pacific islands, have followed herds of animals across vast inland regions, and have crossed land and ice bridges to fill new lands.
While we can celebrate the ingenuity and courage of people as they have made their way around the world, there is a sad aspect to the fulfillment of Genesis 1:28. Pondering the various peoples around the world can move us to exult in the ways that the mandate has been fulfilled but also to mourn over the multitudes of people around the world who do not know Christ.
In the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far East are a people called the Koryaks, who are in bondage to paganism. On North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal are the Sentinelese, a remote tribe who react violently to all attempts at contact (and who famously killed a young American missionary named John Allen Chau in November 2018). In the Qinghai province of China are a people called the Salar, a Turkic Muslim group who have no written language (and thus no Bible in their language) and no known Christian converts.
Even closer to home, there are of course many in the United States who reject Christ. But there are many places where churches are plentiful but the gospel is not being preached and people do not truly, savingly know the Savior whom they profess.
This is a call for trust in the Lord. He has, in His providence, governed the spread of mankind throughout His creation, and He is governing the spread of His gospel as well. The call for us is to be faithful and to carry out both the mission of Genesis 1:28 and the mission of Matthew 28:18–20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
“The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof” (Ps. 24:1). He has called for His gospel to go to the ends of the earth. He calls people from every tribe, tongue, and nation (Rev. 7:9). And He is well able to do what He has purposed.