Is Missions in the Old Testament?



The concept of missions is not only present in the Old Testament it is a prevalent motif woven throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, arguably the single most important motif. God on mission restoring His fallen creation and sovereignly working to redeem His purchased people in the Messiah. A redemption that culminates in the New Creation where God will once again dwell among His children in perfect fellowship with Christ reigning in the New Jerusalem is the mission of the Bible from start to finish. From the onset in Genesis 1 God is commanding Adam and Eve to multiply and fill the earth with His image bearers, a created people that will cover the earth as reflections of Himself glorifying God through worship and obedience. Following the Fall of Genesis 3 a shift occurs where God autonomously goes on mission to restore His fallen creation through the work of Christ. As the redemptive mission of God unfolds throughout the Old Testament a student of the Word clearly sees that God is active in pursuing a people for Himself, a redeemed people who will also be on mission for Him.

There are multiple examples that illustrate the concept of missions in the Old Testament, both God on mission and God’s chosen people on mission. The punishment for sin at the Tower of Babel shows God creating a multilinguistic and eventually multicultural and multiethnic people that will now be scattered, so that God will one day will be able to redeem a more diverse people who will inhabit the eternal Kingdom for His glory (Gen 11:9). God elected Israel to be a light to the pagan nations in order that His power would be made known. God was on mission when He delivered Israel out of Egyptian bondage and established His dwelling place among them in the Tabernacle and Temple, both of which serve to reflect God’s mission to eventually restore His creation as a dwelling place among a people. Originally, God sought to make the nation of Israel a priesthood and a holy nation (Exod 19:6).

The objective is clear; God desired to graciously manifest Himself through His dealings with Israel in order to shine a light among the nations.

Essentially, Israel was to have one hand on the heartbeat of God and the other hand on the nations. The grafting in of Rehab and her family into Israel portray a future inclusion of all nations into the people of God (Josh 7:25). Jonah leaves no doubt that God is sovereignly on mission to accomplish a redemptive plan beyond the geographical boarders of Palestine.

Therefore, the above examples and others prove it would be a hermeneutical disaster to deny the concept of missions in the Old Testament. To suggest that the modern reader is reading into the Old Testament text the idea of missions is false. Instead of the New Testament believer reading into the Old Testament the concept of missions it is more appropriate to suggest that the missional content and the development of the missions motif in the Old Testament is seen with greater clarity because of Christ and the New Testament.