What's not to like about the leaders of the United States and North Korea sitting down to dinner together, in of all places the century-old French hotel Metropole in Hanoi, Vietnam? Leaving the political optics out of the picture, shouldn't the followers of Jesus find reason to rejoice in the amazing gospel potential represented by these news-making photos seen globally?
What are the gospel optics? Thinking broadly, here are three Asian communist nations (North Korea, Vietnam and China) tacitly sitting together at the table of dialogue in Hanoi with the de facto political leader of the "free world" in order to explore the profound possibilities of a new openness with the Hermit Kingdom and the surrounding region. But it makes you wonder—could this precipitate a divinely engineered opening for the gospel in ways heretofore not possible, not imagined?
Psalm 67 opens with the stunning prayer: "May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us—so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations" (vv 1-2). Robert Alter, in his new translation The Hebrew Bible, comments: "The shining of the face is a sign of favor just as the hiding of the face is its opposite" (3:160). Thus this prayer calls upon the Creator God of the universe to show favor to His people by opening the door for His way and His salvation "among all nations."
The American writer Ellen White quotes this line from Psalms with this question: "Are you using all your powers in an effort to bring the lost sheep back to the fold? There are thousands upon thousands in ignorance who might be warned. Pray as you have never prayed before for the power of Christ. Pray for the inspiration of His Spirit, that you may be filled with a desire to save those who are perishing. Let the prayer ascend to heaven, 'God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations' (Psalm 67:1, 2)" (In Heavenly Places 338).
"Thousands upon thousands"—think of what could happen were the gospel door to open to North Korea! Already in Vietnam, and in China to an even greater degree, that door is opening (and in some instances closing again). But "thousands upon thousands" is reason enough to intercede before God on behalf of all nations, on behalf of these three nations catapulted to our attention this week.
"May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine on us—so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations."
Let's agree to let this prayer from our lips ascend to heaven—so that the distance from Hanoi to Heaven, from Pyongyang to Heaven, from Beijing to Heaven, from Washington to Heaven might be radically reduced—so that thousands upon thousands might yet hear the very good news of Jesus' salvation and soon return.
"Let Your face shine upon us, O God—and send us to these millions who must know Jesus, too. Amen."