O Come, Desire of nations, bind
All peoples in one heart and mind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.
Emmanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel.
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.
O King of the Gentiles, and their Desire,
The Corner-stone, Who madest both one:
Come and save man,
Whom You have formed out of the dust of the earth.
LSB ”O Antiphons” under Hymn 357 and in Treasury of Daily Prayer p. 1042:
O King of the nations, the ruler
they long for, the cornerstone
uniting all | people: *
Come and save us all,
whom You formed | out of clay.
Rex Gentium means King of Nations, based primarily on Isaiah 10:11, though the title for Christ is used in many other passages. This antiphon is a confession that the Christ is the Savior of all nations. The petition is based on the fact that all humanity is descended from Adam, whom God formed out of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). Their fall into sin was the fall of all nations from God. The Promise of in the curse on Satan is the Promise to all nations. All nations were driven from the garden. All nations were protected from eating of the Tree of Life and living forever apart from God.
All mankind fell in Adam’s fall,
One common sin infects them all;
From sire to son the bane descends,
And over all the curse impends.
Study on O Rex Gentium
O Rex Gentium is based primarily on the wording of Isaiah 11:10.
“And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious.”
Here the royal authority of the Christ is emphasized both with the reference to Christ being the source of the royal line of Jesse and to Christ as a banner: that is, a royal banner. The gentiles will flow to Him.
He owns the title as King of the Nations simply by virtue of creation. He is the only true God of all Nations. For He is the Creator of humanity. He is the One who gave the commission to our first parents to have children, populate the world, and rule it with Him.
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28)
But All Nations fell into sin when Adam and Eve fell into sin. Before the fall into sin God dwelt with humanity. But Adam and Eve had broken away from loving God above all things. They hid from Him. They were ashamed. All nations would descend from them. And because of their sin, all nations would be born into this world estranged from God. (Genesis 3)
“This hereditary sin is such a deep corruption of nature that no reason can understand it. Rather, it must be believed from the revelation of Scripture. (See Psalm 51:5; Romans 6:12-13; Exodus 33:3; Genesis 3:7-19)”
Smalcald Articles III:I:3
But even before God sent them out of His presence He made a declaration to Satan that stands as the Promise to All Nations.
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
The Promise is that Satan and his work would be conquered.
Satan tempted Adam and Eve away from the Word of God and brought separation between God and Man. This is described in Scripture as Sin: actual sins in the former case, and inherited (or Original) sin in the later case. The result is separation from God and death: Spiritual death and physical death.
Satan would be conquered by the Seed of the woman. The conqueror would be fully human. But the promise is not made to Adam that he would be the father. This coming child would not be of natural conception.
The Promise that God would conquer Satan and his works of sin and death itself is the Promise to All Nations. This includes all sinners who were begotten before the Flood, and all conceived in sin after the Flood even to the end of the world.
If this were the only time God had recorded His Promise, it would have been enough. But we are stiff-necked and hard of head and dead in our hearts. This Promise reverberates throughout Scripture.
By Abraham’s time this Promise had become a refrain. The Promise was made to the Gentiles that through Abraham’s Seed all the nations of the world would be blessed. At the destruction of the unbelieving Gentiles of Sodom and Gomorrah God repeated the refrain that even with the destruction of these nations ALL nations would still be blessed through Abraham’s Seed:
17 And the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, 18 since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? (Genesis 18:18)
God sang the refrain of the Promise again when He demonstrated the nature and cost of the sacrifice by which He would atone for the sin of the world. Isaac, the only and beloved son of Isaac, was spared. The only and beloved Son of God would not be spared:
15 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Genesis 22:18)
The refrain of this Promise of salvation for All Nations through the Seed of Abraham was repeated to Isaac (Genesis 26:21). And when God brought the people out of Egypt to settle in the Land where He would accomplish this the refrain was sung again as the final verse of Moses’ last song.
43 “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people;
For He will avenge the blood of His servants,
And render vengeance to His adversaries;
He will provide atonement for His land and His people.” (Deut 32:43)
The Lord used events of the Kingship of David, the words of David, and his royal line in singing this Promise for All Nations again and again. At David’s deliverance from Saul:
44 “You have also delivered me from the strivings of my people;
You have kept me as the head of the nations.
A people I have not known shall serve me.
45 The foreigners submit to me;
As soon as they hear, they obey me.
46 The foreigners fade away,
And come frightened from their hideouts.
47 “The Lord lives!
Blessed be my Rock!
Let God be exalted,
The Rock of my salvation!
48 It is God who avenges me,
And subdues the peoples under me;
49 He delivers me from my enemies.
You also lift me up above those who rise against me;
You have delivered me from the violent man.
50 Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the Gentiles,
And sing praises to Your name.
51 “He is the tower of salvation to His king,
And shows mercy to His anointed,
To David and his Seed forevermore.” (2 Sam 22, esp. 50-51 Compare Psalm 18)
The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, refers to verses 50-51 writing in Romans 15:9. For this reason the word Seed is translated literally in this study rather than as with reference to generic descendants.
The Promise to All Nations is a refrain the echoes throughout the Psalms as God is declared the King and Savior of the Nations (see for example: Psalm 18, Psalm 47, Psalm 113, Psalm 117)
As King of Nations God used the Gentile Nations to discipline the Church for the purpose of Keeping the Promise. All the while the Promise of forgiveness was held out by God through the very captives the Gentile Kings conquered and took into their own courts. The predictions, events, songs, and histories of the destruction of the Northern Kingdom and the exile of the Southern Kingdom bear witness to this (See for example, Isaiah 45 about Cyrus, who was predicted 200 year before his birth and the fulfillment in Ezra and Nehemiah).
And the Promise of the King of Nations is sung again through the generations until it was fulfilled:
42 “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.
2 He will not cry out, nor raise His voice,
Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.
3 A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench;
He will bring forth justice for truth.
4 He will not fail nor be discouraged,
Till He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands shall wait for His law.” (Isaiah 42)
Even to the last book of the Old Testament:
11 For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down,
My name shall be great among the Gentiles;
In every place incense shall be offered to My name,
And a pure offering;
For My name shall be great among the nations,”
Says the Lord of hosts. (Malachi 1:11)
The Gospels bear witness to the fulfillment that Christ’s birth was not only for the people of the Mosaic Covenant but for all the Nations.
Mary’s Magnificat recalls the words of Promise to Abraham and to his Seed (Luke 1:55)
Matthew 2 records the visit and worship of foreign wise men.
Simeon holds the Son of God in his arms and sings the refrain:
29 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation
31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2)
It was not just for the biological descendants of Abraham that Jesus preached. Gentiles from Tyre, Sidon (Mark 3:8), Sychar (John 4). Roman officials (Matthew 8), etc.
The Promise that He would redeem the World from sin (Genesis 3:15) was restated by John
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3)
For this reason Christ stated that He would be crucified before Jews, Gentiles, and the Father
18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again.” (Matthew 20:19, Mark 10:33, Luke 18:32)
And as Isaiah foretold:
13 Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently;
He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
14 Just as many were astonished at you,
So His visage was marred more than any man,
And His form more than the sons of men;
15 So shall He sprinkle many nations.
Kings shall shut their mouths at Him;
For what had not been told them they shall see,
And what they had not heard they shall consider.
Not only kings, but the gentiles at the cross confessed Jesus as God (Mark 15:38).
Christ commanded that His Word be preached to the Gentiles. The disciples went out by Christ’s commission in Matthew 28:18-20 to build the Church through Word and Sacrament. The testimony went to the Gentiles (Acts 4:27, Acts 9:15, Acts 10, etc.).
All are now equal under the Law and the Gospel. The civil and ceremonial law have been completed. The moral is fulfilled. Sin atoned for. Is there now any real difference between the descendants of Abraham and the rest of the nations?
9 What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.
10 As it is written:
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
11 There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
12 They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”[b]
13 “Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”; [c]
“The poison of asps is under their lips”; [d]
14 “Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”[e]
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 Destruction and misery are in their ways;
17 And the way of peace they have not known.”[f]
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”[g]
19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
8 Now I say that Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers, 9 and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy, as it is written:
“For this reason I will confess to You among the Gentiles,
And sing to Your name.”
10 And again he says:
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people!”
11 And again:
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles!
Laud Him, all you peoples!”
12 And again, Isaiah says:
“There shall be a root of Jesse;
And He who shall rise to reign over the Gentiles,
In Him the Gentiles shall hope.”
13 Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 2:14, 20
11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— 12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Christ’s title as “Cornerstone” comes from Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 28:16, and Matthew 21:42 (among many other passages). The picture God draws with this is that the Church is built of the individuals who are united with Christ through faith. Christ Himself is the foundation block, or Cornerstone. That is to say, the Person and Nature of Christ and of His saving work as revealed in His Scripture is the foundation for true faith. When sinful humans build try to build without the Biblical faith they reject the Cornerstone, making a false church. In false churches there is no true unity between God and mankind so there can be no true unity between on human and another. But where Christ is the foundation there is real unity between God and humans and, as a consequence of this, there is also true unity between humans. The earthly tabernacle/Temple would be destroyed (Mark 13). But the new Tabernacle not made with hands would take its place. Made of saints from all nations.
9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom,
Thanksgiving and honor and power and might,
Be to our God forever and ever.
13 Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?”
14 And I said to him, “Sir,you know.”
So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. 16 They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; 17 for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
6 Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth—to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people— 7 saying with a loud voice, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water.”
22 But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. 24 And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. 25 Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there). 26 And they shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it. 27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
O Lord Jesus Christ, for Whom all peoples yearn, even though they do not know whom they seek; You made of one blood all nations to dwell on the face of the whole earth; and You bind together Jew and Gentile in the one body of Your Holy Christian Church:
Come, we pray You, and by Your truth and grace raise man whom You made out of the dust of the earth, from his low condition of alienation from You by reason of sin, and set him in Your Holy Church with the princes, even with the princes of Your people.
Savior of the Nations, Come
1 Savior of the nations, come,
Virgin’s son, make here Thy home!
Marvel now, O heav’n and earth,
That the Lord chose such a birth.
2 Not by human flesh and blood
By the Spirit of our God
Was the Word of God made flesh–
Woman’s Offspring, pure and fresh.
3 Wondrous birth! O wondrous Child
Of the Virgin undefiled!
Though by all the world disowned,
Still to be in heav’n enthroned.
4 From the Father forth He came
And returneth to the same,
Captive leading death and hell–
High the song of triumph swell!
4 Christ laid down his majesty,
passed through dark Gethsemane.
Though he left his Father’s home,
Christ now sits on God’s own throne.
5 Thou the Father’s only Son,
Hast o’er sin the vict’ry won.
Boundless shall Thy kingdom be;
When shall we its glories see?
6 Brightly doth Thy manger shine,
Glorious is its light divine.
Let not sin o’ercloud this light;
Ever be our faith thus bright.
7 Praise to God the Father sing,
Praise to God the Son, our King,
Praise to God the Spirit be
Ever and eternally.
Savior of the Nations, Come
Veni, Redemptor gentium
Ambrose of Milan, 340-386
M. Luther, 1483-1546
W. M. Reynolds, 1812-76
NUN KOMM, DER HEIDEN HEILAND
J. Walther, 1496-1570
Geistliche Gesangbüchlein, 1524