Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. This is episode 169 of Missions on Point. Today we're going to begin a new series on missions insights from the Old Testament. This is actually a huge topic and I don't believe that I will be able to give justice to it. I just want to give some personal insights into missions from the Old Testament.
Technically, missions as we know it in the New Testament and beyond, is not a large subject in the Old Testament. However, the overarching purpose of God, to see His glory proclaimed to all nations and to draw men and women from all nations to himself, to worship him and give him glory, is a huge topic in the Old Testament, and it is very pervasive, woven into many stories in many ways that we might not immediately recognize, and that's the kind of thing that I want to draw your attention to.
Today we're going to talk about Genesis 12 and how it is woven into the fabric of scripture, leading all the way up to the coming of Christ and His salvation for the nations. There are many books and resources that deal with this kind of material, the thread of redemption through all of scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. There are entire books that go digging for evidences of God's heart for the nations in the Old Testament.
One resource that is very popular and people probably don't realize that there are a bunch of articles in the back of the ESV Study Bible that many of us use, and one of those articles is about God's plan of salvation, which deals with evidences of God very intentionally marking out people for salvation from all tongues, tribes, peoples and nations, even through the Old Testament.
And then there is another article called The History of Salvation in the Old Testament: Preparing the Way for Christ, and it deals with evidences of Christ and the predictions of the Messiah, God's son, the future king, the leader, all of those things that cumulatively give an amazing backdrop picture of Christ's life and ministry, his crucifixion and resurrection on earth. So it is notable that Christ himself told his disciples when he was with them that the Old Testament throughout the law, the prophets, the Psalms, spoke of him and pointed to him.
There is another study Bible, which also happens to be published by Crossway, that in the introduction of this Gospel Transformation Bible says, "The goal of the Gospel Transformation Bible is twofold. One, to enable readers to understand that the whole Bible is a unified message of the gospel of God's grace culminating in Christ Jesus. And two, to help believers apply this good news to their everyday lives in a heart-transforming way. So the notes throughout this study, Bible give interpretation of those things that point to Christ and the gospel and God's saving grace through all of history."
I want to spend a little time today just pointing out the significance of those first three verses of Genesis chapter 12.
So we see from Genesis chapter one, the creation, the fall of man in sin, the flood, the dispersal of nations and languages around the earth, and we come to this moment where it focuses on Abram. There is a sense in which all of Genesis 1 through 11 is the introduction to the rest of the Bible. Then we drill down and see God's special relationship in calling and choosing Abram and his descendants in a special way, leading up to that promised offspring that would bring salvation to mankind. Here are those familiar verses of Genesis 12:1-3.
Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you, and I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you, I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
We see that God promises Abram a land, a nation, and a blessing. Together, these promises start with the individual, Abram, and that he would be personally blessed and be given territory, given a land. It also means that his progeny, all those that come from him, would be blessed in a special way as a selected nation of God, but it extends out to all the families of the earth, all the nations of the earth. And so this particular point in history is incredibly important. It clearly indicates that God's plan is to extend blessing to all the nations of the earth. How important is this? It is so important that God emphasizes it five times in the Book of Genesis.
When something is repeated in the Bible, it's important. When it's repeated two or three times, it's very important. This particular promise is repeated precisely to Abraham and his son and grandson five times. The next one we see in chapter 18, verse 18, when God is actually walking with Abraham and he says, "All the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. Why wouldn't I talk to him about my plan to destroy the nation of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sin?" Abraham actually intercedes for them and tries to save some of them.
We see this promise again in chapter 22, verse 18, in the scene of Abraham going to sacrifice his son per the instructions of the Lord to test his faith. Starting in verse 15, it says, "And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, "By myself, I have sworn, declares the Lord. Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore, and your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed because you have obeyed my voice."
It's so significant to see that God again nails that truth home, that he has a plan to bless all the nations of the earth through Abraham. God reiterates this promise to Isaac the next generation in chapter 26, verse 4. I'll pick up at reading in verse 3.
God is speaking to Isaac, "Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and to your offspring, I will give all these lands and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham, your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and I will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed."
God repeats his promise again to Jacob and says this in chapter 28, verse 14, "Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north, and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed."
Paul makes it very clear in his writings to the church at Rome and to the church at Galatia that his understanding was the promise made to Abraham was not just for the physical descendants, but those who were descendants by faith. That is those who had the kind of faith that Abraham had in God. Those were the true descendants and inheritors of the promise of blessing. He says in Galatians 3:16, "Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, and to offsprings, referring to many, but referring to one and to your offspring who is Christ."
So Paul understood the promise to Abraham was for a particular offspring, a particular descendant who was going to bring blessing to all the nations, and that descendant was Christ. We see this thought confirmed by Jesus Christ himself after his resurrection when he was meeting with his disciples in two different instances.
In Luke 24, he says, "Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted them in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself." Then he says later in verse 45 of chapter 24, "He opened their minds to understand the scriptures and said to them, "Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."
We see the fulfillment of this great promise to Abraham from Genesis chapter 12 in the Book of Revelation where it says in chapter 5, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain and by your blood you ransom people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation."
Then in Revelation chapter 7, a very similar scene, John says, "After 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 and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb."
In my imagination, I can just picture Abraham looking down from heaven and just shaking his head and going, "Wow. I never understood how wonderful and extensive was God's promise to me that my descendant would bring blessing to all the nations like I'm seeing on earth now."
And as recorded in Revelation, we will all see one day before the throne. While we don't see in the Old Testament God's people being thrust out to go to all the nations to proclaim his greatness, we do see people attracted to the worship of the one true God through the ministry and proclamation and lives of God's people following him and coming into relationship with him.
Sprinkled all through the Old Testament are wonderful stories of people from other nations coming to worship God and understand God and follow the Lord. I hope that this series will give you a vision for reading your Old Testament just a little bit better, with eyes wide open to see those hints of God's faithfulness to bring blessing and redemption to people from all nations through the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.
Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point. We trust that you'll find more help and resources on our websites at propempo.com and missioserve.org. We are so thankful for those who support us, enabling us to produce this podcast. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.
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