9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:9-10)
Through the Bible: Revelation 6-11
Just before the pandemic, I spent a week in South Asia, working alongside missionaries to the Muslims and Hindus in a mega city in India. The newest missionary on the field was still in language school, struggling to learn Tamil, the main language spoken by the people group they were serving. “I’ve been here almost a year,” he said, “And I’m still trying to learn the alphabet. There are 246 characters in the Tamil alphabet. I don’t know if I will ever get them all.” Why is he trying to learn Tamil in the first place? Because, if there are truly going to be people from every tribe and tongue and nation around the throne, that means there must be Tamil speakers.
I wrote this poem on the last night I was with these precious missionaries. Blessings.
Oh Lord, all praise is due Your Name, and English can’t begin to sing it all.
Something about you can only be said with an ¨.
Spanish has the ˜; you must need that as well.
The tenses of the Hebrew verbs; the voice and mood of Greek;
All will be pressed into service before Your throne, yet still fall short of what You’re due. Lord! You are worthy of every Swahili Bwana Asafiwe
Of every Imana Ishimwe from Rwanda.
And You say, “That’s a start. But I want more.
“I want the twenty-two Korean characters.
I want all thirty-five letters of the Russian alphabet.
Throw them in the song. They will be required.”
So, then, Lord, let me give You Tamil, too. All 246 letters.
And Urdu! Farsi! Hindu! Zulu! Pidgin! Polish! Arabic! Inuit!
Canuck! Cajun! Creole! Cantonese!
And the fifty thousand characters of Mandarin Chinese.
And it still won’t be enough.
A thousand thousand tongues will sing, and You are worthy of them all.
So, we must go and get them. We must bring them in.
And when they all are here, gathered before Your throne—
All black and brown and white and red; All blond and gingered and bald and dreadlocked;
All freckled and henna’d and tattooed and pierced;
All east and west and north and south marked ‘present,’
Then the song can truly begin.
Then we can give You the praise You are due.
And maybe, when we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Maybe we’ll know Tamil, too.