I am reading through Kings right now, and I was really struck this morning by Solomon’s prayer during the dedication of the temple in chapter 8. Among many things that could be commented on, his prayer in verses 41-43 is very interesting:
“Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.”
Not only does Solomon assume that people from “a far country” will hear about God through Israel, and not only does He petition God to hear the prayers of such people, but the purpose of God’s hearing such a prayer is stated to be “in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel.” In other words, already in the Old Testament, the knowledge of God that Israel enjoyed was supposed to spread through Israel to the whole world. Israel’s election was for the sake of the rest of the world.
A lot of times we think of the Old Testament as narrowly concerned with Israel, and God’s concern for the other nations of the world originating in the Great Commission. Or at best, we leap from Genesis 12:1-3 to Matthew 28:18-20, as if nothing in between had anything to do with this. This is one of those passages (Deuteronomy 4:5-8 is another) which shows that not only has the God of Israel always cared about all the nations, but his election of Israel was the very means by which He intended to show this care.
Beginning in Gen. 1:1 & the use of Elohim (The universal, creator, living and transcendent God; the God of all peoples) for God. Then on through the Abrahamic & Mosaic covenants, Solomon’s dedication, Psalm 67 (ref. Numbers 6:24 where God commands His leaders to bless His people),Jonah, Malachi 1:11 (My name shall be great among the Gentiles”) … the OT is permeated with the idea of our missionary God. Good stuff.