Mission is at the Heart, not the Fringes, of the Old Testament

I’ve been reading through the book of Kings in the mornings, inspired by my reading of Goldsworthy. I keep noticing the purpose clause at the climax of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple: “that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other” (I Kings 8:60). My thought: mission is not at the fringes of the Old Testament story, but at its heart. God’s election of the particular nation of Israel did not sideline his plan to bring salvation to all peoples on the planet – it was the very means by which He moved that plan forward. And this is revealed not simply in passages which predict the future reign of the Messiah over all people, like Genesis 49:10, Psalm 72:17, Isaiah 49:6, Zechariah 9:10, etc. No, this is revealed in precisely those passages which are most important for the establishing the purpose of Israel in the world from the outset, like Genesis 12:1-3, and I Kings 8. I also think of Deuteronomy 4:6: “Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'” In other words, the mission of Israel was not limited to bringing a future Messiah, but was bound up with her law (Deuteronomy 4:6), temple (I Kings 8:60), and covenant (Genesis 12:3) from the very beginning.

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