Missions in the Old Testament
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All Nations in God’s Purpose
After our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead, He revealed God’s eternal purpose to His disciples.
“And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself... He said to them, ‘this is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His Name to all nations’” Luke 24:27,44-47. Most of us have closed minds and we need Jesus to open our eyes to see Him in all the books of the Old Testament, in the Law of Moses, in the writings of the Prophets and in the Psalms. Jesus broadened the vision of His disciples to see all nations in God’s purpose.
The Protoevangelium: Genesis 3:15
Salvation is initiated by and achieved by God – “I will...”
Salvation will destroy satan – “He will crush your head.””
Salvation will come through a Mediator who is related to mankind – “The Seed.”
Salvation will involve the suffering of the Redeemer – “The enemy will bruise His heel.”
God’s Missionary Call to Abraham
The first eleven chapters of Genesis are sweepingly universal. God created the whole world. He created all mankind. All mankind fell into sin and rebellion against God. God judges the sin of mankind. God deals with all the world as a whole. Then in chapter 12:“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and GO to the land I will show you, I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing... and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you’” Genesis 12:1-3
This principle of Divine election for universal service is stated and re-stated time and again in Genesis.
“Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.” Genesis 18:18
“And through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed Me.” Genesis 22:18
The Missionary Call to Isaac and His Sons
God re-stated this Divine call and commission to Abraham’s son, Isaac: “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.” Genesis 26:4
God also re-confirmed this missionary call to Isaac’s son, Jacob:
“All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring” Genesis 28:14
The Missionary Call of Israel
“Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now, if you obey Me fully and keep My covenant, then out of all nations you will be My treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for Me a Kingdom of priests and a Holy nation. These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.’” Exodus 19:3-6. Israel was being constituted as a nation of unique position among the nations. All the earth belonged to God. What made Israel unique was its missionary call, its priestly position, its mediatorial mission as God’s bridge to the nations.
Saved to Serve
Israel was not meant to be a storehouse of God’s blessings but a channel. God did not choose Israel so that she could be selfish. Israel was saved to serve. She had received God’s Word in order to proclaim it. The descendants of Abraham had been blessed only so that they could be a blessing to “all the families of the earth.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
To Bring Salvation to the Ends of the Earth
Israel was never meant to live for herself alone. Israel’s call was to be God’s chosen instrument to bring God’s Word to the nations. “I will also make you a light for the gentiles, that you may bring My salvation to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6
For Every Nation
Called to be God’s witnesses to the nations, Israel’s commission was both prophetic and missionary. They were to receive God’s Word and to proclaim that Word as God’s priests to the nations. The recorded messages of the prophets of Israel and the recorded history of the people of Israel continue to speak as God’s Word to us today. In this way the descendants of Abraham have been a “blessing to all nations on earth” - through the Bible.
But God has used Israel in an even greater way, for not only did God’s Word come through Israel but God Himself. Not only did He send His prophets through Israel, but He also sent His Son. Israel was the channel for God’s Word, God’s Son and God’s Salvation for the world!
Now, God’s Word comes to all God’s people everywhere:
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” 1 Peter 2:9
Missionaries in the Old Covenant
While Israel as a whole generally failed to fulfill this missionary calling she did produce some exceptional missionaries, including: Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Esther, Jonah and many others. More than this, through Israel, God spoke. He spoke through the prophets, He spoke through Israel’s history and, ultimately, He spoke in and through His Son - Jesus the Messiah.
Through Israel, God’s royal priesthood, the world has received the Bible, which is God’s Word, and Jesus Christ, who is God’s Son. “May Your ways be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations... May all the peoples praise You… all the ends of the earth will fear Him.” Psalm 67
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa
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