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Missions in the Age of the Spirit

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Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global

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in the age of the


John V. York

Stanley M. Horton, Th.D.

General Editor

Springfield, Missouri

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®; NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

©2000 by Gospel Publishing House, 1445 N. Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65802. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission of the copyright owner, except brief quotations used in connection with reviews in magazines or newspapers.

Logion Press books are published by Gospel Publishing House.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

York, John V., 1944–

Missions in the age of the spirit / John V. York; Stanley M. Horton, general editor.

p. cm.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

1. Missions—Theory—Biblical teaching. 2. Missions—Biblical teaching. 3. Assemblies of God—Doctrines.

I. Horton, Stanley M. II. Title.

BV2073.Y67 2000



To my wife, Joy, in loving gratitude for her untiring assistance in helping this book to become a reality






Chapter 1: Missio Dei in the Pentateuch and Historical Books: God’s Plan Revealed



Image of God

Missio Dei as Blessing the Nations

Missio Dei: Further Development

Covenant Witness

A Kingdom of Priests


Tripartite Formula

Spirit of Prophecy

Kingdom Promises

Historical Books: The Kingdom in Missio Dei


Judges and Ruth

Davidic Kingdom

Chapter 2: Missio Dei in the Poetical Books and the Prophets: Celebration, Covenant Lawsuit, and New Beginnings

Poetical Books





Song of So; lomon


Covenant Lawsuit

Judgment Upon All Nations

The New Covenant

God’s Mission of Blessing As Seen in the Prophets

God’s Servant

The Holy Spirit To Be Outpoured on All People



Chapter 3: Missio Dei in the Gospels: Proclamation of a King

Royal Passages


Other Gentile References




Chapter 4: Missio Dei in Acts and the Pauline Epistles: the Church in Action


Gentile Tongues

All People

Another Prophet

Stephen: Missio Dei as a Defense

Paul: Promise as a Defense

The “Pauline Cycle”


Missionary Epistles

Image of God

Chapter 5: Missio Dei in the General Epistles and Revelation: Mission Accomplished

The General Epistles




Chapter 6: Approaching Missions History


Learning From the Paradigms

Chapter 7: The Apostolic Church and Mission

External Challenge

Internal Challenge

Chapter 8: De-emphasizing Missio Dei

Legalizing Christianity

Medieval Missions Paradigm

Changed Context

Individual Salvation

A Centralization of Power

Joint Effort of Church and State

“Missionary” Wars

Colonialism and Mission

The Paradigm of Monastic Missions


Chapter 9: Shifting Paradigms

Renewed Missions Emphases

The Effects of Rationalism


The Ecumenical Movement

Pentecostal Missions

Pentecostal Missiology

The Concept of the Indigenous Church

The Concept of Partnership





Chapter 10: Spiritual Formation in the Light of the Cross

The Centrality of the Cross

Proclaiming the Cross

Implications of the Cross

Transformational Discipleship

Chapter 11: Holy Spirit Baptism

Power for Service

Divine Enablement and Confidence

Further Concerns

Chapter 12: Devotional Habit

Benefits of the Devotional Habit

1. A Biblical Worldview

2. An Anchor

3. Growth in Worship

4. Effective Supplication and Intercession

5. Shared Vision

6. Something Significant to Teach

Insights on the Devotional Habit

1. Seeing Devotions as Loving God

2. Becoming an “Insider”

3. Realizing Devotional Objectives Despite Obstacles

4. Considering Study Bibles and Bible Versions

5. Considering Devotional Classics

6. Considering Electronic Access to Devotional Material

7. Maximizing Devotional Benefit Through Keeping a Journal

8. Noting Milestones

9. Study as the Stewardship of Revelation

10. Family Study and Worship as Spiritual Formation

11. Seeing Devotions as Receiving Direction for Each Day

12. The Apostles Valued Consistent Prayer and Study

Concluding Thoughts

Chapter 13: Missionary Call

How the Calling Comes

How Callings Function

Work Ethic and Perseverance

Work Ethic


Chapter 14: Personal and Social Formation

Accepting One’s “Birth Cultural Identity”

Achieving Interactive Levels Within Other Cultures

Language Learning as a Cultural Experience

Psychological Wholeness

Family, Extended Family, and the Family of God

Implications of Living as a Resident Alien

Healthy Evaluation and Redefinition of Norms Concerning Roles, Zones, and Use of Time

Handling Ethical Issues

Responding to Difficult Adjustments

Chapter 15: The Missionary Task

Church Planting

Ministry Training: Mobile Teaching, Higher Education, Missions, Extension

Children’s Ministries

Ministry to Major Religions

Literature and Media

Compassion and Human Need



Support Ministries

A Final Word

Selected Bibliography

Scripture Index

Subject Index


What missionary-scholar John York has preached and taught on the African continent for the past 25 years is finally in print. His passion, which has influenced countless thousands, has been set down in a volume of richness that may be mined at leisure.

Dr. York is clear about his conviction—that the Bible must be read missiologically. This conviction has been reinforced by 25 years of missionary experience, lived out in a disciplined and ever-sharpening focus on the biblical truth that motivates him. “God’s plan has always been a redemptive blessing of the nations.… [and] all of Scripture should be read with a view toward its development of the theme of God’s promise to bless the nations” (introduction to unit 1).

Missions in the Age of the Spirit is a wonderful model of Pentecostal scholarship. It has not been written while removed from the subject matter. Whether in academic settings in the West or in the Bible colleges of Africa, John York’s passion for the missio Dei is obvious. Because of his firm belief in the authority of Scripture, Dr. York, in unit 1 of this volume, surveys the mission theme present throughout Scripture, which, he affirms, is the lens of continuity which brings the Bible into focus. And what is the logical and proper response to the missio Dei so authoritatively described in the biblical text? Participation.

Not only has Dr. York “participated” in the missio Dei, he has made it his lifelong passion to challenge every Christian to respond in kind. This is truly scholarship done in Pentecostal fashion. Touched by God we look to the Bible for clarification of what has happened to us and how we must respond. We discover a mission that God has had since before the foundation of the world and an empowerment that compels us to join the missio Dei in God’s redemptive pursuit of the nations. Pentecostal biblical reflection done in the midst of ministry sharpens understanding of the Bible and emboldens further witness to the God who is for all nations.

As we enter the twenty-first century many church leaders and missions agencies across the Christian spectrum wrestle with their task’s shape for the future. At times the challenges of the future have stripped missions leaders of any sense of history, but ahistorical approaches to the future are doomed from the beginning. In unit 2 Dr. York affirms that God has been active in His redemptive mission between the era of the apostles and the era of modern missions. And his historical perspective testifies to the value of understanding the past in order to discern the future, particularly that of mission endeavor.

Unit 3 looks to the future as it describes the Pentecostal missionary ethos, including the personal call and life of the missionary. In these chapters you will glimpse the author himself, whose words are written from a life of missionary experience, a heart for the lost, and a bedrock belief in the necessity of Spirit baptism to empower candidates for the missio Dei. I pray that the passion of John York the missionary found on these pages will correspond to your heart.

Missions in the Age of the Spirit hazards a challenging journey. The biblical insights, the historical and missiological perspectives, and the passionate Pentecostal spirituality may call the reader to accountability. And the final words of this volume may very well echo and re-echo in the conscience: “Let all who contemplate Christ’s mission be filled with the Holy Spirit, be prepared to the fullest extent possible, be confident of divine blessing, and then run to the battle. And run to win!”

Byron D. Klaus, D. Min.


Assemblies of God Theological Seminary

Springfield, Missouri USA


I will never forget the excitement of missions convention time in my childhood: the films, the booths, and most of all the stirring missionary sermons followed by soul-searching prayer times.

Though a lot of missions work has taken place since then, Christ has not yet returned. Because Christ commissioned the Church to complete His mission to disciple all nations, the logical conclusion is that the missionary task of the Church is as yet incomplete and that its completion should remain the Church’s highest priority. But what is this task? How should it be approached? What contribution can Pentecostal believers make to an understanding of this task and to its accomplishment? These questions inform many discussions of missions, and these are the questions that drive this book.

My wife and I were privileged to work for many years within the training ministries of the Nigerian Assemblies of God. We would likely be happily serving there still had a call not come to direct a training ministry as part of the continental Decade of Harvest thrust. As part of this ministry, I began teaching missions, especially the biblical theology of missions, in graduate programs in both Africa and America. Though other forums began to open for this message, it came as a surprise to me when Loren Triplett, then executive director of the Assemblies of God Division of Foreign Missions, asked me to write this book.

Something should be said about the receptive environment within Africa, where much of this material has been presented to students, teachers, and church leaders. Throughout the last quarter of the twentieth century, the African church as a whole has expanded rapidly. Its almost insatiable urge to evangelize, however, has often been approached with an implicit understanding that missionary senders come primarily from the West while the receivers are those living elsewhere. When those from Africa’s expanding churches come to grips with the biblical foundations that undergird Christ’s teaching on worldwide mission, the sense of release approaches an emotion of liberation. The Pentecostal nature of the churches within my experience seems to have specially prepared them for the challenge of missions in much the same way it did the Pentecostal churches of the Apostolic Era.

Two thoughts taken from Paul’s missionary epistle to the Colossians further explain the orientation of this book. First, Paul was not reluctant to mention his own calling to God’s mission (1:1, 23, 25).1 This sense of personal involvement, which I identify with, continues to be characteristic of much that is written about mission. Second, Paul identifies “the glorious riches of this mystery” as “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27). This verse is dealing with the gospel going to the Gentiles (including Paul’s Colossian readers), and the “you” is plural. The presence of Christ within all nations—Jew and Gentile—will ultimately lead to His receiving the glory He is entitled to (Eph. 1:6, 14). It is in an active quest for this glory that any church may find its mission.

A word may be in order concerning my use of a term frequently used in missions literature: missio Dei (Latin for “missions of God”). I am not attempting to follow any of the historic schools of thought of the last century.2 I simply attempt to demonstrate that God is indeed a God of mission, that the Scriptures give a diachronic unfolding of that mission, and that though the entire Bible is directly or indirectly a statement of God’s mission, the primary focus from Genesis to Revelation remains the proclamation of the gospel to all nations. This is what I call missio Dei.

Special thanks are in order to the many from within the Division of Foreign Missions and the African Theological Training Service network who have encouraged this book’s completion. I would also like to gratefully acknowledge the spiritual and practical contributions the African church has made to my understanding of how churches and individuals should respond to Christ’s call.

May these pages provide a helpful beacon to inquiring readers who would take seriously the challenge of missions in the age of the Spirit.

John York

Director, Africa Theological Training Service

In line with the usage of both the KJV and the NIV, “Lord” is used in capitals and small capitals where the Hebrew of the Old Testament has the personal, divine name of God, Yahweh (which was probably pronounced ‘ya-wa).3

In quoted Scripture, words the authors wish to emphasize are in italics.

For easier reading, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek words are all transliterated with English letters.

These abbreviations have been used:

KJV: King James Version

NASB: New American Standard Bible

NEB: The New English Bible

NIV: New International Version

TEV: Today’s English Version





Christians believe that God has chosen to reveal himself to humankind through His written Word, the Bible. As Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” The Bible in turn bears witness to Jesus Christ, the living Word. Jesus taught, “ ‘You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me’ ” (John 5:39).

The Scriptures further indicate that God has planned for this testimony about Jesus Christ to be given to the entire inhabited earth (Gen. 12:3; Matt. 24:14; 28:18–20). It is my position that this plan provides the overall theme the Bible is organized around. Some would see “kingdom of God,” “salvation,” or some other phrase or word as the theme of the Bible. While leaving this debate to others, I believe that the advance of the Kingdom through the preaching of the gospel (rather than “kingdom” in some abstract sense) is best seen as the theme. The Bible tells this story of an advancing Kingdom, the mission of the triune God: providing redemption, finding the lost, and then using them to mediate kingdom blessings to those yet lost. In the study of missions, the Latin term for mission of God, missio Dei, refers to God’s plan to bless the nations through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Unit 1 deals with the mission of God diachronically (dia = across, chronos = time). That is, the mission of God will be traced throughout successive time periods in order to demonstrate that God’s plan has always been a redemptive blessing of the nations. In its ultimate fulfillment, this blessing would come through Jesus Christ, the offspring (Heb. zera`, “seed”) promised first to Eve (Gen. 3:15), then to Abraham (Gen. 22:18), to Isaac (Gen. 26:4), and to Jacob (Gen. 28:14). I concur with Walter C. Kaiser in viewing this mission of God as a single promise plan uniting all Scripture.1

Since God has always had a mission, the Bible should be read missiologically. That is, all of Scripture should be read with a view toward its development of the theme of God’s promise to bless the nations through the promised seed. It is as Christian believers recognize God’s mission that they may purpose to participate in fulfilling that mission. The first task therefore is to trace missio Dei throughout the Scriptures.

Chapter 1:

Missio Dei in the Pentateuch and Historical Books: God’s Plan Revealed



The Genesis record reveals an intentional act of creation by a purposeful God. In broad, swift strokes, a portrait of creation is painted in which God is the uncreated Sovereign whose domain is universal, whose will is supreme, whose power is limitless, and whose design is perfect. The remainder of Scripture will repeatedly refer to creation as having established the right of God to rule as King over all peoples. Those willing to serve the Creator are invited into covenant participation in “the kingdom of light” (Col. 1:12). Those unwilling to serve the Creator are regarded as rebellious followers of “the dominion of darkness” (Col. 1:13). The crowning act of creation is humankind, male and female, who alone of all creation are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26–27).


There are two great missiological implications to the statement that humankind is made in God’s image: First, it demonstrates humankind’s capacity to fellowship with God. Though this account precedes the Fall (Gen. 3), it lays the groundwork for the reconciliation that will follow. Since human beings are made in God’s image, then fallen humankind may be restored to fellowship with Him. There can be no group of people who by reason of ethnicity or location are beyond God’s purview, incapable of responding to the overtures of divine grace.

This understanding of the image of God becomes a foundation for Christ’s Great Commission that will follow in the New Testament (Matt. 28:19–20). Since God has made everyone in His image, then His Son means to include everyone when He mandates making disciples “of all nations.” Though God is King over all creation, the drama of His kingdom is told primarily in terms of the extension of His rule over the world of human beings. Because all peoples are equally created in His image, all are necessarily to be subjects of His rule. Thus there must be a mission of God to proclaim redemption to all so that all may have the opportunity to participate as loyal subjects.

The second great implication is that people are created with the capability of representing their Creator. Once God created humankind in His image, He commissioned them, male and female, to rule the world of creation (Gen. 1:28). This rule is illustrated in Adam’s naming of the animals (Gen. 2:19–20). In this text, and still in most cultures, naming implies authority. When God brought the animals He had created for Adam to name, God was assigning the prerogatives of ownership to Adam as to a viceroy.1 Thus, Genesis 1:28 stands as an Old Testament antecedent to Paul’s New Testament teaching that Christian believers are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor. 5:20). In stating that all human beings are made in His image, God has stated that all are created equally qualified to be His representatives in accomplishing the objectives of His kingdom. Later, in the Book of Acts, both Jewish and Gentile believers are baptized in the Holy Spirit as evidence that all nations share the same Great Commission to serve as God’s agents in discipling the remaining nations.

To summarize, I would say that God’s creation of humankind in His image establishes both the scope and agency of God’s mission. God’s mission will be to all peoples, and it will be accomplished through the redeemed of all peoples. To expect less is to miss these two foundational implications of the creation of human beings in the image of God.


Three major events following creation serve as preparation for God’s declaration of mission. In each case, a seeming hindrance to the accomplishment of God’s mission is answered by a strong word of promise.

First comes the tragic fall of humankind into sin (Gen. 3:1–19), answered by a promised “seed” (KJV) of woman, who would crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). This promise becomes the foundation of God’s plan to bless the nations. Events following the Fall define the mission of God in terms of His redemption of humankind, still made in His image, from the depravity it had fallen to.2 The primary redemptive messenger will himself be human, a man (“seed”3). God’s object will be to reach all peoples, and His envoys will themselves be those made in His image.

Second comes the destruction of the world through a flood, followed by a blessing upon the house of Shem (Gen. 6 to 9). In 9:26, Yahweh is called the “ ‘God [Heb. Elohim] of Shem.’ ” The house of Shem is thus set off in a special sense as a people of God. This theme expands in 9:27, where it is stated that “God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant” (KJV). The NIV interprets the antecedent of the pronoun “he” to be Japheth, inferring that Japheth would share in the blessings already promised Shem.4 Walter C. Kaiser sees in Genesis 9:27 an identification of this blessing in terms of the presence of God dwelling within the tents of Shem. This view holds the antecedent of the pronoun to be God, not Japheth. It is this special dwelling of God that becomes the means of His blessing.5 In either view, God gives a blessing through the house of Shem as a projection of hope for all people following the judgment of the flood.

Third follows the judgment of human arrogance at Babel (Gen. 11:1–9), followed by God’s promise to bless all peoples on earth through Abraham: “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. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ ” (Gen. 12:1–3)

The table of seventy representative nations had previously been listed in Genesis 10 as background to this promise to bless all nations. In Genesis 11:4, the inhabitants of Babel said, “ ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’ ” Their desire to “ ‘make a name’ ” for themselves was opposed to the reign of God. The judgment that followed included the scattering of the peoples throughout the earth. This set the stage for the great declaration of Genesis 12:3 that through Abraham “ ‘all peoples’ ” (“ ‘nations,’ ” TEV) would be blessed.

Unveiling the promise to bless all nations, God clarifies His mission as being the fiery center for the rest of Scripture. God will move redemptively to establish His kingdom in which all nations will be blessed through the promised seed. Genesis 1 to 12, therefore, provides the foundational statement of the missio Dei, thereafter developed diachronically throughout the remainder of both Old and New Testaments.


The last line of the promise of blessing to Abraham (Gen. 12:3) should be regarded as the blessing’s apex and controlling motif: “ ‘And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’ ”6 The blessing is cumulative in the sense of adding provisions until the whole is great enough to accomplish the blessing of the nations. As Kaiser observes: “Indeed, world-wide blessing was the whole purpose of the very first statement of the promise in 12:3.”7 Subsequent promises, such as that of land (13:15) and an heir (15:4), are likewise the means through which the promise to bless the nations is to be achieved.

The certainty of God’s promise plan is emphasized in Genesis 15:9–21. When Abraham wondered how he could be sure of the promises of an heir and land, God responded by making8 a covenant with Abraham (v. 18). In this theophany, “a smoking firepot with a blazing torch” passed between the pieces of slaughtered animals arranged by Abraham (v. 17). Symbolically, God was pledging His life as a guarantee of His word. Though seed and land are the immediate context of this covenant, the wider context is the entire promise given to Abraham, especially the promise to bless all nations (12:3). In the words of Walter Kaiser, “Such a material or temporal blessing was not to be torn apart from the spiritual aspect of God’s great promise.”9 The promise to bless all nations is emphasized both by its position as the final and therefore summary promise in 12:2–3 and by its repetition, first to Abraham (Gen. 18:18, 22:18) and then to both Isaac (26:4) and Jacob (28:14). It is noteworthy that in 22:18, 26:4, and 28:14, the promise is accompanied by the specific proviso that the blessing of the nations is to be accomplished through Abraham’s seed.

The promise of the seed of the woman (3:15) thus anticipates the promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob of a seed through whom all nations will be blessed. It is in this framework of a promised seed of blessing that the house of Judah is assigned the leading role (49:10) and later David, from the house of Judah, is promised an eternal Kingdom (2 Sam. 7, especially v. 16).

The New Testament begins by pointing out that Jesus is “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1), identifying Him both as the heir of the promised eternal Kingdom and as the promised seed of blessing to the nations. This is the historical clarification necessary for understanding the dual Great Commission themes of kingdom authority and all nations (Matt. 28:18–20).

Since God’s mission has always been to all nations, it is not surprising to find numerous other direct and indirect references to God’s love for the nations within the history of Israel. A few examples follow.


One function of the Law given through Moses is to favorably demonstrate life in the fear of the Lord (more fully discussed in chapter 2). This distinctive way of life was a means of instructing the nations. The entire covenant at Sinai should be understood as a treaty deliberately enacted according to the prevailing treaty format of the day: a sovereign king entering into a covenant with a vassal. This format included (1) an identification of parties to the covenant, (2) a review of the history leading to the covenant, (3) statements of general and specific covenant provisions, (4) a public reading and depositing of the terms of the covenant, (5) the presence of witnesses (typically witnessing “deities”), and (6) a statement of blessings for covenant compliance and cursings for covenant noncompliance.10 These six features are all given in Exodus 20:1 to 23:33. Besides satisfying the need for a formal statement of greater (Exod. 20:3–17) and lesser commands (Exod. 20:22 to 23:13), the Law was given to describe the lifestyle of a people bound by covenant to Yahweh. The reasonableness, justice, and protection offered under this law were intended to recommend and invite participation by the nations not yet in covenant.


This witnessing aspect of the covenant is shown in Exodus 19:5–6 with a statement that echoes throughout the rest of Scripture. God affirms that, though the whole world is His, Israel through obedience could become His “ ‘treasured possession,’ ” “ ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ ” God’s intention to bless the nations had long been known. Priestly service involves serving as an intermediary both through proclamation and intercession. Since holiness necessarily involves separation to the purpose of God, it follows that God was revealing His will that Israel bless the nations by both proclaiming His covenant to them and interceding on their behalf.

Centuries later, the echoes of this verse are found in the New Testament writings of Paul, Peter, and John. Paul referred to the grace God gave him “to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:16). Similarly, Peter saw the new people of God, primarily Gentile, as “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that [they might] declare the praises of him who called [them] out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet. 2:9). This separated life, Peter assured his readers, would mean that others will “see [their] good deeds and glorify God” (1 Pet. 2:12). John also wrote to the churches of his day using the words of Exodus 19:6: “[Christ] made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father” (Rev. 1:6). Similar verses occur in Revelation 5:10 and 20:6.


The famed Shema text (Deut. 6:4–5) insists upon the unity of God. “Hear, O Israel. The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (v. 4). This is entirely consistent with the self-revelation of God in the creation chapters of Genesis and, like those chapters, implies a future mission to all nations. God, having the character that He does and being the only God, can never rest until all His creation is made to recognize and submit to His kingship.


By “tripartite formula” I mean the phrase “I will be your God, you will be my people, and I will dwell in the midst of you.” The beginnings of this phrase first appear in Genesis 17:7–8; and it appears repeatedly, in whole or in part, throughout first the Old and then the New Testament. Walter Kaiser states: “This formula became the great hallmark of all biblical theology in both testaments.”11 The desire of God to have a people who serve him in covenant faithfulness is at the heart of missio Dei. That the divine objective is finally achieved is seen in Revelation 21:3: “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.’ ”


In an interesting historical note recorded in Numbers 11:26–29, two elders, Eldad and Medad, prophesied as the Spirit rested upon them “in the camp” (v. 26) rather than around the Tent of Meeting with the rest of the seventy, where the Spirit had come upon them for that purpose (v. 16). But Moses refused to rebuke the prophetic manifestation of the two. Instead, seemingly anticipating the great day later prophesied by Joel, Moses said, “ ‘I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit on them’ ” (11:29). Later this would take place as God’s chosen means for accomplishing His mission.


God made significant promises when He changed Abram’s name to Abraham in Genesis 17:1–8, including the promise that kings would come from him. Though these kings would include the leaders of the “ ‘nations’ ” coming from Abraham, they would also include the line of kings ordained by God to rule over Israel. John H. Sailhamer explains the phrase “ ‘kings will come from you’ ” (17:6b) as follows: “It provides a link between the general promise of blessing through the seed of Abraham and the author’s subsequent focus of that blessing in the royal house of Judah (Gen. 49:8–12; Num. 24:7–9).… At work here is the same theological planning as that lying behind the structure of the genealogy of Matthew 1: ‘A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham.’ Keeping in mind the close association of the term ‘messiah’ (christos) with the kingship elsewhere in biblical literature (e.g., 1 Sam. 24:6, 10), it is not too far from the truth to speak of a ‘Christology’ of Genesis in such passages.”12

God later gave Jacob a similar revelation, specifically including the provision that he would be a father of kings (Gen. 35:11).

That God’s promise plan to bless the nations would involve a kingdom is explicitly stated in at least three other passages within the Pentateuch. The first of such passages is Genesis 49:10: “ ‘The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.’ ” It is particularly significant in the light of later Scriptures that this verse both anticipates Judah as the ruling tribe and the Kingdom as encompassing the nations. Though the “bless the nations” theme was well known by this time, the reader should see as an addition to the promise plan the specification of Judah as the ruling tribe through whom the blessing would be mediated.

The second is the account of Balaam (Num. 22 to 24), which gives a further prophetic explanation of Israel’s role as a theocracy and of the Lord’s kingly function. Though Balaam was a pagan soothsayer (Josh. 13:22), the Lord’s self-disclosure to him and the oracles he delivered are remarkable for their insight into God’s blessing upon Israel. This is especially significant in the light of the function of the blessing and cursing provisions of the Abrahamic covenant. As has been seen above, Abraham was blessed that he might bless all nations. Had Balaam succeeded in cursing Israel, the nations would not have had the blessing of revelation even then being mediated to them through Israel, nor would they have had the hope of sharing in the blessing promised through the seed of Abraham, the Messiah. So in the attempt to hire Balaam, Balak king of Moab was challenging, albeit unwittingly, the entire promise plan of God.

The issue at stake was God’s role as Sovereign of both Israel and the rest of the nations. Though God had said He had the power to bless and curse (Gen. 12:3), Balak attributed this power to Balaam (Num. 22:6). Balaam’s reputation as a soothsayer depended upon his skill in manipulating the spirits. However, when he came face-to-face with the Sovereign Creator, he had far more than met his match. His inability to manipulate God is so complete and so elaborately developed as to be almost comic. Early on, God forbade Balaam to go with the first delegation from Moab, since Israel had been blessed and could not be cursed (Num. 22:12). When Balaam was later allowed to accompany a second delegation, that his real purpose was in keeping with Balak’s request seems shown by the Lord’s opposition along the road.13 After the Lord “opened Balaam’s eyes” (22:31), his journey took on a tone far different from that desired by Balak: Balaam consistently spoke words of blessing concerning Israel’s future on behalf of the Lord, whose sovereignty is in focus throughout the entire passage.

Several points emerge from Balaam’s oracles that advance the theme of the Sovereign Lord’s choice of Israel as a people of promise. In the first oracle, the blessing upon Israel is reaffirmed (Num. 23:8), Israel’s unique destiny among the nations is mentioned (23:9), and Balaam’s exclamation that he wanted a death “ ‘like theirs’ ” hints of the extension of grace to the nations (23:10). The second oracle focuses upon God, who is not a man that he should lie (23:19), who will fulfill His promises (23:19), who has pronounced blessing upon Israel (23:20), and who is personally the King dwelling among Israel (23:21). And, as Ronald B. Allen observes, “Since Yahweh the King is in their midst, they are invincible from outside attack.”14 Finally, Israel will devour its enemies because there is no sorcery against a people thus blessed by God (23:23–24).

The third oracle (Num. 23:27 to 24:14) once again refers to the general blessing upon Israel (24:5–7a) and the greatness of Israel’s King (24:7b), especially with reference to hostile nations (24:8–9), including a citation from Genesis 12:3 of the results of blessing or cursing Israel.15 The fourth oracle contains a remarkably clear messianic prophecy of a future star coming from Jacob, a scepter from Israel, and a ruler from Jacob—One who will completely defeat all enemies (24:15–19). The fifth, sixth, and seventh oracles prophesy ruin to those nations that would be hostile to Israel (24:20–24).

The third specific kingdom passage is the “law of the king” found in Deuteronomy 17:14–20. This passage so dramatically anticipates the future king that some have concluded it is from a much later period.16 There is, however, no compelling reason to suspect this text, especially in the light of the missio Dei that we have been tracing. It was already known that the blessing of the nations would be associated with a ruler’s scepter from Judah. Here God circumscribes the agency of kingdom in accomplishing His plan to ensure that the sovereign/vassal nature of His covenant would remain fixed—in contrast to the patterns of kingship common in Canaan.

Historical Books: The Kingdom in Missio Dei


Within the book of Joshua, the people in covenant with God move from a nomadic to a settled lifestyle in the Promised Land. This book demonstrates three major principles for a people in covenant with the God of mission.

The first is that God’s manifest presence accompanies those who advance toward His kingdom according to His will. Within the book of Joshua, God’s will is seen as possessing the Promised Land. This, in turn, is progress toward the establishment of the Kingdom already anticipated within the Pentateuch. In Deuteronomy 31, Moses had assured Joshua of the Lord’s presence: “ ‘Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.… The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’ ” (vv. 6, 8). After Moses’ death, the Lord himself reaffirmed the promise: “ ‘No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.… Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go’ ” (Josh. 1:5, 9).

Under Joshua, God’s covenant people advanced boldly to accomplish the mission of their God and King; they moved in assurance that the manifest presence of God was among them. God’s promise to Joshua would later provide the basic wording for Jesus’ assurance to His disciples when He sent them on His mission: “ ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ ” (Matt. 28:19–20).

In the same spirit Jesus had earlier assured his disciples: “ ‘I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you’ ” (John 14:18). In any age, those called by God to accomplish His purpose are assured of His manifest presence.

The second principle illustrated in Joshua is that all true victories in the kingdom of God are done with the blessing of the nations in view. Twice in Joshua 3, God is referred to as “the Lord of all the earth”: “See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you.… And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap” (vv. 11, 13).

At first glance, it may seem ironic that a mission designed to bless the nations should begin with military conquest. But to accomplish this worldwide blessing, Israel needed a base of operation.

“Specifically, the conquest of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership grew out of the Abrahamic Covenant. God, having dealt with all nations, made Abraham the center of His purposes and determined to reach the lost world through Abraham’s seed.”17

Since God made the world and is the “Lord of all the earth,” the text assumes His right to allocate the land as He chooses. It should be further noted that the conquest of Canaan is portrayed in Scripture as a punishment of societies that had become ripe for judgment; the land had been spoken of as having “ ‘vomited out’ ” its inhabitants (Lev. 18:28). Israel’s conquests were undertaken with inferior equipment, most notably the lack of chariots, yet they won due to the Lord’s presence. Further, Israel was warned that if they did not remain obedient to the covenant with Yahweh, they too would be vomited out—a fate later fulfilled through the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities (Lev. 18:28; 20:22).

Joshua 3:11–13 announces that the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth would go into the Jordan River ahead of them. These verses should be viewed as setting a spiritual foundation for the conquest that follows and for the later development of the theme of God’s lordship over all the earth. It is as the nations submit to God’s lordship that they will be blessed. Later references to “the Lord of all the earth” or parallel references include the following:

• The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it (Ps. 24:1).

• “For your Maker is your husband—the Lord Almighty is his name—the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth” (Isa. 54:5).

• Who should not revere you, O King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you (Jer. 10:7).

• “Rise and thresh, O Daughter of Zion, for I will give you horns of iron; I will give you hoofs of bronze and you will break to pieces many nations.” You will devote their ill-gotten gains to the LORD, their wealth to the Lord of all the earth (Mic. 4:13).

• The Lord will be awesome to them when he destroys all the gods of the land. The nations on every shore will worship him, every one in its own land (Zeph. 2:11).

• So he said, “These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth” (Zech. 4:14).

• The angel answered me, “These are the four spirits of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world” (Zech. 6:5).

• The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name (Zech. 14:9).

It is thus not surprising that the Book of Joshua affirms the following reason for the miraculous crossing of Israel over Jordan: “ ‘He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful’ ” (Josh. 4:24).

The third great principle relating to God’s mission taught by Joshua is allocation. This concept is demonstrated in Joshua through the systematic apportionment of Canaan to the tribes of Israel. After the initial victories in the Central, Southern, and Northern campaigns (Josh. 6 to 12), there remained great areas to be taken over (Josh. 13:1). The general plan of allocation is stated in Joshua 13:6: “ ‘As for all the inhabitants of the mountain regions from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim, that is, all the Sidonians, I myself will drive them out before the Israelites. Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you.’ ” This instruction is, in turn, consistent with what Moses had commanded Joshua: “Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance’ ” (Deut. 31:7).

After the text deals with Judah and the two Joseph tribes in Joshua 13 to 17, a more detailed instruction is given for the allocation procedure for the remaining tribes:

So Joshua said to the Israelites: “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you? Appoint three men from each tribe. I will send them out to make a survey of the land and to write a description of it, according to the inheritance of each. Then they will return to me. You are to divide the land into seven parts. Judah is to remain in its territory on the south and the house of Joseph in its territory on the north. After you have written descriptions of the seven parts of the land, bring them here to me and I will cast lots for you in the presence of the Lord our God.” …

As the men started on their way to map out the land, Joshua instructed them, “Go and make a survey of the land and write a description of it. Then return to me, and I will cast lots for you here at Shiloh in the presence of the Lord.” So the men left and went through the land. They wrote its description on a scroll, town by town, in seven parts, and returned to Joshua in the camp at Shiloh (Josh. 18:3–6, 8–9).

With each statement of what had to be done came the directive that the task was to be divided into subtasks and allocated according to tribal division. It follows that when God specifies a task to be done by His people, He expects their leadership to identify the total task, divide it into components, and allocate them to identifiable systems and subsystems. Responsibility for its accomplishment may then be determined with reports to different levels of leadership. This principle is consistent with the foundational understanding that people are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and are therefore capable of representing God. It is God’s nature to entrust human beings, those He has created, with specified missions as means toward the accomplishment of His grand design for history.

The Lord had previously determined the nature and extent of the task, that is, the land to be taken. It was understood that membership in the people of God required participation in completing the assigned task. Full victory was expected regardless of the obstacles (Josh. 17:14–18). Though the present-day Church lacks the central authority of Israel at the time of the conquest of Canaan, groups of like-minded believers throughout the world have nonetheless committed themselves to an application of the principle of allocation with respect to reaching unreached peoples.

Though Western nations have often followed up their unreached people group research with appeals for volunteers to “adopt a people,” other parts of the world are sometimes more open to simply assign responsibility for such unreached peoples, Joshua-style. In Nigeria, for example, the Assemblies of God have assigned unreached people groups to districts and churches with successful church planting then following.


In the books of Judges and Ruth, God’s Kingdom is anticipated in such a way as to open it up for the Gentiles. The key line of Judges, “ ‘The Lord will rule over you’ ” (8:23), is central to its ascending and descending literary structure.18 The plan of God is contrasted with the futility of life outside His Kingdom, serving to prepare the people for the divinely appointed Davidic vice-regents who will soon rule on behalf of the Lord. The power of the Holy Spirit is effective in maintaining a consciousness of God’s Kingdom even through the most difficult times (Judg. 6:34).

In Ruth, the narrative looks toward the Davidic kingdom through the historical lens of a kinsman-redeemer acting on behalf of a Gentile woman. In a significant genealogy, the Book of Ruth ends by linking Perez the son of Judah with David (4:18–22). In this way, Judges and Ruth are connected to both their Genesis antecedents and the Davidic kingdom that follows.


In a dramatic conversation between the Lord and David through Nathan, David offers to build a house (i.e., a temple) for God. After initially welcoming the idea, Nathan returns to David with a message from the Lord: David will not build a house for God, but rather God will build a house (i.e., a dynasty) for David (2 Sam. 7:11). Remarkably, God further states, “ ‘ “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” ’ ” (2 Sam. 7:16).

David’s response to this revelation is noteworthy: “ ‘Is this your usual way of dealing with man?’ ” (7:19). The key word in this passage, “ ‘usual way’ ” (Heb. torah), literally means “teaching” and is most often used in the sense of God’s instruction or laws. In this case, David seems to use torah in the sense of a charter.19 He links the new revelation of an eternal kingdom to God’s previously revealed plan for the nations and concludes that such a Kingdom must indeed be the charter (torah) for all humankind (Heb. ‘adam). This eternal Kingdom conferred upon the house of David (2 Sam. 7:1–17, 1 Chron. 17:1–15) thus becomes the means of fulfilling the earlier prophetic expectations of the Pentateuch. God’s kingdom, of necessity both eternal and universal, would henceforth be identified with the house of David.

Davidic kings were, therefore, vice-regents representing the great Sovereign Creator who had ordained that through Abraham would come both a seed and a kingdom of priests destined to bless all nations. Any attempt by Jews or their leaders to utilize the Kingdom for personal benefit was therefore unfaithfulness to the great King and His purpose for the nations. This understanding of a kingdom of priests was the foundational concept to the subsequent historical books and was joyously celebrated in the Psalms. Life in the Kingdom was described in the Wisdom Literature, and the prophets held both king and people accountable for their compliance with the covenant.


1. What is the meaning of the term “diachronic”?

2. Within this study, what does the term missio Dei mean?

3. In what ways does the account of creation serve as the basis for a theology of missions?

4. Explain the two great missiological implications of the statement that humankind is made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26–27).

5. Explain the progression of thought from Genesis 1 to 11 leading to the promise to bless all nations in Genesis 12:3.

6. In what sense were the covenant and law given in Exodus missiological?

7. Explain the missional signification of the following: A kingdom of priests, Shema, tripartite formula, Spirit of prophecy, kingdom promises.

8. From the Book of Joshua, explain the significance of three foundational principles of a people bound by covenant to the God of mission.

9. In 2 Samuel 7, God promises David an eternal kingdom. What function does this promise have within the Old Testament? How is it foundational to the New Testament?

Chapter 2:

Missio Dei in the Poetical Books and the Prophets: Celebration, Covenant Lawsuit, and New Beginnings

Poetical Books

The theme of missio Dei is strongly evident throughout the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament. A variety of covenant terms, key words, and literary forms celebrate the idealized relationship between the Creator and His creation. It is this “life in the Kingdom” that was intended to draw the nations irresistibly into the covenant relationship with the one God of all the earth.


The presence of Job within the Jewish canon of Holy Scripture should be recognized as being missiologically significant. (1) There is a notable absence of reference to the Mosaic legal system, indicating a pre-Mosaic era. (2) The setting of Job is patriarchal, shown by such practices as the father’s role as spiritual head of the family.1

During this pre-Mosaic period, God maintained a close relationship with those from families that were not ancestors of the nation of Israel. Key concepts from Job consistent with the rest of the Old Testament include a strong emphasis upon God as the universal Creator and Controller of history who holds human beings morally accountable both during their lifetime and at the future time of resurrection. This message is consistent with the later Jewish prophets who often indicated that the Creator God would once again be worshiped throughout the entire earth.


In the Psalms, the universal rule of God is a strong theme—confirming that Israel understood the Pentateuch as teaching an inclusion of all nations in the blessing plan of God. It should be noted that royal psalms generally go beyond the reign of the ruling Davidic king to envision the glories of the messianic King. This association naturally leads to a consideration of the nations, which must of necessity be a part of the messianic kingdom. There is therefore a strong connection between royal psalms and the repeated references to the nations throughout the psalms.

Psalms with a specific theme of salvation for the nations include Psalms 2, 9, 18, 22, 33, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 57, 65, 67, 68, 72, 76, 77, 79, 82, 83, 86, 87, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 102, 103, 105, 108, 114, 117, 118, 126, 138, 139, 144, 145, 146, 150. Selections from this list are treated below.

Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him (Ps. 2:1–12).

Psalm 2 is typical of many royal psalms in that it celebrates the rule of a divinely appointed King over the whole earth. It is a coronation psalm, in which the newly crowned king is invited to request the nations as his inheritance, the ends of the earth as his possession. That this psalm is messianic is shown by the contrast between the magnitude of the Kingdom it celebrates (the whole world) and the divine limitations placed upon the size of the nation of Israel (Gen. 15:18–21; Deut. 1:7; 11:24; 34:1–4; Josh. 1:4).

It may possibly have been an inclination to ignore this territorial restriction which led to David’s punishment in the matter of numbering the people (2 Sam. 24:11–17). The taking of a census usually indicated an impending military campaign involving conscription and additional taxation. If, as appears to be the case, the extent of David’s rule had been already realized, then his census-taking could indicate an unauthorized intent to expand beyond God’s boundaries—an offense of extreme gravity. It is also possible to see David’s offense as taking pride in the size to which the kingdom had grown.

In either case, what sense can be made of Psalm 2 and the many like it that celebrate a worldwide extension of the kingdom? Some simply dismiss these psalms as the hyperbole of exuberant nationalists. But interpreting them in the light of the antecedent theology of the Pentateuch is much preferred. Far from sharing in an unholy pride or ethnic nationalism, the Psalmists were prophets who foresaw the day already announced when all nations would be blessed through the promised seed of Abraham. Further, the Psalmists were also aware of the eternal nature of David’s kingdom. This is shown by Psalm 89, in which the Psalmist held the apparent demise of the Davidic kingdom during the Babylonian exile as being inconsistent with the promise to David of an eternal kingdom.

While we may be puzzled by the seeming conflict between the geographical limitations placed upon the kingdom in the Pentateuch and the worldwide kingdom envisioned in the Psalms, the Psalmists do not seem to be overly concerned about any such supposed problem. In the grip of the same prophetic Spirit who had spoken to Abraham, they celebrated a kingdom that was both eternal and universal.

Of course, when we come to the New Testament, the problem is easily solved. The “Son” (Ps. 2:7) is neither David nor any of his immediate successors. Rather, the Son is Jesus, whose eternal sonship is declared through His resurrection from the dead (Acts 13:33). It is important to note that Jesus’ sonship did not begin at the Incarnation, as some have supposed from reading these verses. Rather, the quotation of Psalm 2:7 in Acts 13:33 would indicate that the Resurrection was equivalent to an inauguration. The public proclamation to all nations of Jesus’ eternal sonship begins with His resurrection from the dead. Derek Kidner writes of Psalm 2:7–9: “Our Lord’s post-resurrection charges to the apostles emphasized the nations and the ends of the earth, pointedly taking up this promise to the newly authenticated king. It has continued to launch missionary ventures whenever its force has come home to the church.”2

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Ps. 46:4–7).

Then comes the admonition of Psalm 46:10, “ ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ ” This psalm shows God to be in control despite uncertainties that seem to have included a serious threat to the security and peace of Jerusalem. Verse 7 was the basis of Martin Luther’s famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress.” The key thought is that the security of Jerusalem leads to the exaltation of God among the nations of the earth. Given the antecedent Scriptures, that exaltation among the nations is to be equated with their being blessed and includes every sense in which God rules them. The fact that Jerusalem was the God-ordained center of worship for God’s covenant people was not to imply that He ruled only Israel. To the contrary, through both peaceful and hostile contact with the nations, Israel’s world-view was to be expanded so that they would understand God’s kingdom to be over all the earth. The phrase “ ‘Be still’ ” could be translated “Stop” or “Enough.” The people’s vision for a secure Jerusalem was too small. Rather, God’s fatherly protection of Israel was to showcase the fear of the Lord as living within Israel until the Lord’s exaltation in all the earth.

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth! He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet. He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved. God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise. God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne. The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted (Ps. 47:1–9).

Psalm 47 celebrates the crowning of a Davidic king by boldly including all the nations in the blessing implied by the Abrahamic covenant (vv. 7–9). As noted earlier, this twin theme of kingdom and nations is carried into the New Testament. Matthew links Jesus with David (kingdom) and Abraham (nations) in the beginning of his Gospel (1:1) to foreshadow the climax of his Gospel, where kingdom (i.e., “ ‘authority’ ”) is once again linked with “ ‘nations’ ” (28:18–19).

Derek Kidner’s comments on this psalm are especially helpful:

Now, with a single word, the real end in view comes into sight. The innumerable princes and peoples are to become one people; and they will no longer be outsiders but within the covenant; this is implied in their being called the people of the God of Abraham. It is the abundant fulfillment of the promise of Genesis 12:3; it anticipates what Paul expounds of the inclusion of the Gentiles as Abraham’s sons (Rom. 4:11; Gal. 3:7–9).

But characteristically the psalm relates this to its theme, the kingly glory of God. Its comment is not “the nations will be at peace”, true though it would be, but instead, he is highly exalted.… Meanwhile the gospel will reveal the unexpected kind of “exaltation” which will begin the process of “gathering” the peoples: “I, when I am lifted up …, will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32).3

Psalm 67 interprets the Aaronic benediction of Numbers 6:24–26 as being for the salvation of the nations. Israel was blessed to be a blessing to the nations who, in their own turn, join Israel in joyful celebration of praise to God.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth. May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him (Ps. 67:1–7).

It should be noted that psalms such as this one serve as a window on the intent of the Pentateuch. God’s plans known in the Pentateuch were interpreted and celebrated through the Psalms within the liturgical calendar of Israel. As is shown by this psalm, God’s plan was understood to be the blessing of the nations through Israel.

It was as Israel violated the first three commandments by having other gods, making images for worship, and misusing the name of the Lord that it abandoned the worldview of the Pentateuch and adopted the limited worldview of its pagan neighbors. In both Psalm 115:8 and 135:18 the heathen are blamed for becoming like the idols they served. Hosea 4:7 speaks of Israel exchanging “ ‘their Glory for something disgraceful,’ ” meaning an idol. In Hosea 9:10, the sin of Israel in the time of Numbers is spoken of as their becoming “ ‘as vile as the thing they loved.’ ” Only as Israel held a high view of God, such as is taught in the Pentateuch and Psalms, did it maintain any sense of its destiny, as portrayed in Psalm 67, of radiating God’s glory among the nations. Psalm 67 is one of the primary references in specifying the focus upon the nations that was foundational to Israel’s faith.

He has set his foundation on the holy mountain; the Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are said of you, O city of God: Selah “I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me—Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush—and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’ ” Indeed, of Zion it will be said, “This one and that one were born in her, and the Most High himself will establish her.” The Lord will write in the register of the peoples: “This one was born in Zion.” Selah As they make music they will sing, “All my fountains are in you” (Ps. 87:1–7).

In the light of antecedent Scripture, it would be difficult to differ from the traditional Christian interpretation of these verses such as that given by Derek Kidner: “A representative sample of the Gentile world is being enrolled in God’s city.… Towards God, they are counted as those who know me, an even higher designation than ‘those who fear me’ (cf. Jer. 31:34). Towards the people of God they are not mere proselytes: they can avow, as Paul said of his Roman status, ‘But I was born a citizen’ (cf. Acts 22:28). This is the gospel age, no less.… Here [v. 6] is His ‘book of life’, written with His own hand (cf. The right of entry into the city, into which the kings of the earth bring their glory, in Rev. 21:24–27).”4

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations (Ps. 100:1–5).

Psalms 93 to 100 are grouped by the common theme of God’s righteous rule over the nations. Though the language of Psalm 100 describes the worship of Israel, the call to worship extends to “all the earth” (v. 1). It is all the earth that is to shout for joy and worship the Lord with gladness in recognition that the Lord is God, their creator (Ps. 24:1). It is this shout of acknowledgement of the kingship of the Lord that stands as the single requirement to enter into the worship of Yahweh, an anticipation of the New Testament teaching of justification by faith.

“The joyful noise is not the special contribution of the tone-deaf, still less of the convivial, but the equivalent in worship to the homage-shout or fanfare (Ps. 98:6) for a king, as in 95:1 or the almost identical 66:1. This word claims the world for God.”5

In Psalm 100, all the earth is under divine summons to worship, since worship is associated with creation (v. 3). The major verbs are parallel (“shout,” “worship,” “come,” “know,” “enter,” “give thanks,” and “praise”). It is all the worshiping earth, therefore, who are called the sheep of His pasture, who are invited to enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise, and who will enjoy the goodness of the Lord’s eternal love. Of verse 4, Kidner comments: “The simplicity of this invitation may conceal the wonder of it, for the courts are truly his, not ours (as Is. 1:12 had to remind the triflers), and His gates are shut to the unclean (Rev. 21:27). Yet not only His outer courts but the Holy of Holies itself are thrown open ‘by the new and living way’, and we are welcome.”6

Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord (Ps. 117:1–2).

Psalm 117 is of special significance, for the nations (Heb. goyim) are commanded to praise Yahweh, the covenant name that Israel used for God. In this brief Psalm, “us” must either refer to all the nations who are urged to praise the Lord or to the people of Israel whose life under the covenant serves to invite others to covenant fellowship. In either case, the psalm is clearly nations-oriented. In Romans 15:8–11, Paul chooses Psalm 117 as one of the Old Testament texts that most clearly summarizes the promise that the Gentiles (or nations) will be blessed through Israel: “For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: ‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name.’ … And again, ‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples.’ ”

The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. O Lord, save us; O Lord, grant us success. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you. The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever (Ps. 118:22–29).

Psalm 118:22–29 is a unit serving as an announcement and celebration of a future day the Lord will make for the accomplishment of His redemptive purposes. While this psalm’s liturgical usage celebrated the blessing known through ruling Davidic kings, the focus is clearly future and messianic. That this was not missed by New Testament writers is shown by such references as Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10–11; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; Ephesians 2:20; and 1 Peter 2:7.

The organizing verse of this section is verse 24, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” This “day” begins with the rejection of Christ (“the stone the builders rejected,” v. 22). Then the day moves to the cry hosanna (“O Lord, save us,” v. 25), which literally means “save please!” or “save now!” and is followed by a prayer for success. Finally, the day concludes with the declaration of victory inherent in the words “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” (v. 26). Though these words were used at the triumphal entry (Matt. 21:9), Christ later identified their fuller meaning as referring to the time of His second coming (Matt. 23:39). The day the Lord made, therefore, includes the cross, the time for success in the proclamation of redemption, and the return of the triumphant Lord.

It is especially significant that the cry hosanna is followed by the intercessory appeal, “O Lord, grant us success” (v. 25). Throughout the day the Lord made, from crucifixion to Second Coming, the praising covenant community announces salvation as it intercedes for success in fulfilling the mission of God.

Indeed, the Psalms celebrate the completion of missio Dei, God’s mission to have a redeemed people from among all nations.


The function of proverbs within the society of the ancients, as well as their content, cause them to stand out as beacons so that those from among all nations might find the pathway of wisdom. The account of Solomon demonstrates how wise men were sought out and their wisdom tested by visitors from afar. This common feature of ancient society took on a new dimension when those sharing wisdom walked in the fear of the Lord. In this case, the wisdom they shared contained the quality of witness appropriate to the divinely given destiny of the covenant people. In fact, the exchange of wisdom was one of the most acceptable ways for Israel to interact with the nations they were to bless.

The life of wisdom lived in the fear of the Lord provided a universal offer of instruction; by its very nature, wisdom is transcultural. Since the Israelites believed they served the Creator of all things, their truth claims were exclusive. Other religions served worthless idols. The Wisdom Literature provided at once the message of life, the invitation to that message, and the common cultural form whereby that message might be communicated.

The concept of the fear of the Lord might well be considered as the essential aspect of Israel’s faith most characteristic of their life and witness. It is a recurrent theme in the Book of Proverbs, addressing respect for the name of the Lord, for the law (“instruction”) of the Lord, and for the manner of life pleasing to the Lord. Each of the subjects treated within Proverbs in one way or another contributes to an understanding of how to live life in the fear of the Lord.


The significance of Ecclesiastes to missio Dei is found both in its contrast between the meaninglessness of life on one hand and the fear of the Lord on the other, and also in its form as Wisdom Literature. The book is set as the instruction of Koheleth, the teacher (master) of the assembly. It is by nature that type of instruction offered to all peoples: Those near and far are invited to consider the futility of life, however nobly lived, apart from the fear of the Lord. A remarkable concept is expressed in 3:11, 14: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.… I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.”

These verses contrast with the well-known words opening the chapter, that there is “a time for everything” (3:1). As the Full Life Study Bible comments, “God has placed within the human heart an inherent desire for more than just the earthly.… Consequently, material things, secular activities, and the pleasures of this earth will never fully satisfy.”7 This sense of eternity is to be equated with the image of God in which humanity is created, thus making it an inborn concept common to all.


There are at least three ways the Song of Solomon may be viewed as contributing to missio Dei. First, it offers the protection of God’s blessing within the marriage relationships of the covenant community, eliminating the sense of void that leads to sexual temptation. Second, it offers a statement of witness to the outside world of the strength and beauty of married love within God’s covenant so as to demonstrate the inferiority of the pseudo-love typical of such traditions as those of Baal worship. Third, since from the most ancient of times this book has been interpreted allegorically, its idealized statement of human love may be said to bear witness to the nations by describing the love relationship between the Lord and His covenant people.

The God who created life offers a sacred glimpse into the most intimate of relationships so as to provide a sense of God-blessed mutual commitment that would safeguard the covenant community against illicit sexual conduct, bear witness to their neighbors of what it means to be blessed by God, and demonstrate God’s love for His covenant people.


The Old Testament prophets advanced the theme of missio Dei in three major ways: First, they brought something of a covenant lawsuit against the people of God. In doing this, they often looked beyond the immediate warning of judgment to see a time of restoration. This time of restoration often specifically included the blessing of the nations.

Second, the Old Testament prophets viewed the rule of God as encompassing all the earth. The nations are accountable to the moral Judge of the universe even though they had not participated in the historic covenants of the people of Israel. The prophets make repeated references to the judgment of God upon all nations, Gentile as well as Jewish.

Third, the prophets foretold the day of a new covenant. Under this new covenant, the blessings of restoration (spoken of above) would take place. In this new day, God’s gracious Spirit would be poured out upon all peoples, resulting in salvation and leading to the eschatological day when all would live in harmony under the kingdom rule of God.


A major function of the prophets was to hold the Israelites—royalty, religious leaders, everyone—accountable before God for their covenant responsibilities. Each covenant had its obligations before God. But the major point of reference for the prophets was the written law (Heb. torah), stating the responsibilities of the people under terms of the Sinaitic covenant. One of the means for stating God’s case against Israel is in the form of a covenant lawsuit (Heb. riv). The Book of Micah is a specific example. Consider especially 6:1–2, in which the Lord brings His case against Israel before the mountains: “Listen to what the Lord says: ‘Stand up, plead your case before the mountains; let the hills hear what you have to say. Hear, O mountains, the Lord’s accusation; listen, you everlasting foundations of the earth. For the Lord has a case against his people; he is lodging a charge against Israel.’ ”

A summary of Israel’s history is then presented to establish guilt, and Israel is required to remember specific events. With guilt established, Israel is pictured as offering various appeasements, only to hear that God’s interest is in their doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with Him (6:1–16).


God judged Israel because they violated specific obligations of His covenant. Did all other nations’ lack of such a covenantal history exclude them from God’s moral rule and hence His judgment? Not according to the prophets. To the contrary, every nation was held accountable for its own violations of God’s moral rule. That God’s prophetic word would judge all the nations was explained to Jeremiah as follows:

This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them.”

So I took the cup from the Lord’s hand and made all the nations to whom he sent me drink it: Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a ruin and an object of horror and scorn and cursing, as they are today; Pharaoh king of Egypt, his attendants, his officials and all his people, and all the foreign people there; all the kings of Uz; all the kings of the Philistines (those of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and the people left at Ashdod); Edom, Moab and Ammon; all the kings of Tyre and Sidon; the kings of the coastlands across the sea; Dedan, Tema, Buz and all who are in distant places; all the kings of Arabia and all the kings of the foreign people who live in the desert; all the kings of Zimri, Elam and Media; and all the kings of the north, near and far, one after the other—all the kingdoms on the face of the earth. And after all of them, the king of Sheshach will drink it too.


“Now prophesy all these words against them and say to them: ‘The Lord will roar from on high; he will thunder from his holy dwelling and roar mightily against his land. He will shout like those who tread the grapes, shout against all who live on the earth. The tumult will resound to the ends of the earth, for the Lord will bring charges against the nations; he will bring judgment on all mankind and put the wicked to the sword,’ ” declares the Lord (Jer. 25:15–26, 30–31).

Since no court may rule beyond its jurisdiction, these legal indictments are first a statement of God’s universal rule and then an appeal to His covenant people to warn these nations of their impending doom so as to give them opportunity to repent. Isaiah’s prophecies of judgment against the nations include 10:5–19; 13; 14:4–32; 16:6 to 21:17; 23; 24; 31; and 34. With a mounting cadence, Isaiah 24:1–6 explains the fact of international accountability to the justice of God as follows:

See, the Lord is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants—it will be the same for priest as for people, for master as for servant, for mistress as for maid, for seller as for buyer, for borrower as for lender, for debtor as for creditor. The earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered. The Lord has spoken this word. The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the exalted of the earth languish. The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.

Other references to international judgment include Ezekiel 25 to 30; 32; 35; 38 to 39; Amos 1:3 to 2:5; the entire books of Obadiah and Jonah; and Zephaniah 2:4–15.


Among the most significant prophecies revealing God’s mission to the Gentiles are those about the new covenant and the future outpouring of God’s Spirit.

“ ‘The time is coming,’declares the LORD,‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the LORD. ‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people’ ” (Jer. 31:31–33).

The new covenant, though given in the context of Israel and Judah, will in fact be the basis for the Gentiles’ entrance into salvation seen elsewhere by the prophets.


The prophets also contain remarkable prophecies of restoration, including a future day in which the nations will be among the redeemed. There are numerous specific references to Gentile inclusion in the new covenant. Consider the following:

So that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord, and there is no other (Isa. 45:6).

“Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other”(Isa. 45:22).

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth”(Isa. 49:6).

“The law will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations.… My salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations”(Isa. 51:4–5).

The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God (Isa. 52:10).

“These I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations”(Isa. 56:7).

“In that day I will restore David’s fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name,” declares the Lord, who will do these things (Amos 9:11–12).

The Lord will be awesome to them when he destroys all the gods of the land. The nations on every shore will worship him, every one in its own land (Zeph. 2:11).

“Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,”declares the Lord.“Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. The Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem. Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling”(Zech. 2:10–13).

The prophecy of Amos 9:11–12 is especially significant because of its prominence at the Jerusalem council; James, the Lord’s brother, uses it in connection with the inclusion of Gentiles among God’s people after the restoration of David’s throne. James sees Jesus’ resurrection as a public declaration of the renewed kingdom and the correct time to welcome Gentiles into the community of faith (Acts 15:15–19). It is especially significant that the Jerusalem council did not settle a doctrinal dispute on the basis of testimony, not even the united testimony of Peter and Paul. Rather, James appealed to Amos 9:11–12 to settle it, not as a proof text but as a text representative of a wide body of relevant Old Testament texts.


In the four servant songs of Isaiah, the focus moves between the nation as servant and the future Messiah as servant. In both cases, one focus of the ministry of the servant is to be to the nations (42:6; 49:6; 51:4).8 That Christ ideally fulfilled the Messiah’s servant role is well illustrated in the Gospels and cogently summarized in Philippians 2:5–11.


The prophet Joel saw the outpouring of the Spirit as being for all people, sons and daughters, old and young, resulting in the salvation of all who call upon the Lord: “ ‘And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.… And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the survivors whom the Lord calls’ ” (Joel 2:28–29, 32).

This prophecy of Joel is significant for its connection to the overall promise plan of the Old Testament. Richard D. Patterson summarizes this connection as follows:

It must also be noted that the outpouring of the Spirit is an accompanying feature of that underlying basic divine promise given to Abraham and the patriarchs, ratified through David, reaffirmed in the terms of the new covenant, and guaranteed in the person and work of Jesus the Messiah (cf. Gen. 12:1–3; 15; 17; 2 Sam. 7:11–29; Ps. 89:3–4, 27–29 [4–5, 28–30 MT]; Jer. 31:31–34; Acts 2:29–36; 26:6–7; Gal. 3:5–14; Eph. 1:10–14; Heb. 6:13–20; 9:15).

At Pentecost, then, two tributary streams of prophecy met and blended together: Christ’s prophetic promise was directly fulfilled; Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled but not consummated. It awaits its ultimate fulfillment but was provisionally applicable to Pentecost and the ages of the Spirit as the initial step in those last days that will culminate in the prophesied miraculous signs heralding the Day of the Lord and the events distinctive to the nation of Israel.9

The “ ‘all people’ ” of Joel 2:28 is often viewed as meaning “all Israel” because of the words “ ‘your sons and your daughters’ ” that immediately follow.10 While these words must be considered in the interpretation of this passage, they are by no means the whole story. The intent of the passage is to expand, not delimit, the Spirit’s presence. Instead of the Spirit coming on selected individuals for specific acts, the Spirit would now be poured out upon all classes and groups. In subsequent fact, the fulfillment did indeed begin with the sons and daughters of Israel, but it quickly grew toward a wider public. The future age of the Spirit would move toward all peoples, not away from them.

A somewhat parallel concept may be found in the “ ‘new covenant’ ” of Jeremiah 31:31. There, the new covenant was said to be for the house of Israel. But the prophetic stream had already swept Jeremiah into a calling as a “ ‘prophet to the nations’ ” (1:5). In point of fact, the new covenant was subsequently shown to be the means for full Gentile participation as the people of God. So, in this passage (Joel 2:28–29), while the prophetic focus may initially have been on Israel’s sons and daughters, ultimately it extended to the world.

As Patterson suggested above, the significance of this revelation is that it shows a future age of the Spirit to be in God’s plan of blessing the nations through the promised seed of Abraham (Gen. 12:3 et al.). This outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Joel said, would be without respect to ethnicity (if “ ‘all people’ ” is allowed to mean more than “all Israel”), gender, societal level, or age (vv. 28–29) and would result in the salvation of everyone who would call upon the name of the Lord (v. 32). Since Israel had long known that it was to mediate God’s blessing to the nations, the provision that all who called upon the name of the Lord would be saved must have suggested inclusion of the Gentiles: Such a great day as Joel prophesied would certainly attract their attention—and those who called upon the Lord would be saved. All that waited was an announcement that this great day had dawned. The stage was thus set for Peter who served as God’s chosen spokesman for this announcement on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2).

These words do a great deal to “demarginalize” modern-day Pentecostalism. Joel identified the New Testament Pentecostal outpouring and subsequent ingathering from among all nations as the mainstream of the prophetic river. While every revival movement is subject to human weakness and may stand in need of correction, the extent to which modern Pentecostalism is the continuation of the Acts fulfillment of Joel’s words is the extent to which it is at the center of missio Dei.


The book of Jonah holds a unique place in the Old Testament development of missio Dei, both for God’s requirement of a prophet to a Gentile people and for that people’s subsequent response to His message.

While the mission of God had long been known (Jonah ministered in the eighth century B.C., well over a thousand years after Abraham), several factors are significant. First, he was sent on a redemptive mission to a Gentile city, Nineveh. Rather than his being allowed some vague notion of how Israel was to bless the nations or of blessing being centripetal (coming toward Jerusalem), Jonah was ordered to reach Nineveh. Second, the kingdom of God’s universal nature is shown in several ways: Jonah cannot escape God’s dominion by running away. The very truth of Jonah’s message negated his fleeing from it. Next, the experiences onboard ship demonstrated God’s power over nature, over Gentile sailors, and over Jewish reluctance to bless the nations. Finally, Jonah’s problem was clearly demonstrated as a failure to act upon knowledge, rather than a failure to have that knowledge. From his prayer in the belly of the fish, Jonah shows he knew both the futility of idol worship by the Gentiles as well as the possibility of grace to the Gentiles (Jon. 2:8).

The city of Nineveh is shown to be under God’s rule in several ways. Jonah was sent there, indicating that the city was held morally accountable by the Sovereign God. God accepted their repentance and judgment was averted. Even the animals are mentioned as objects of God’s concern (4:11).

The story of the vine in chapter 4 demonstrates the extent of God’s concern for Nineveh. When Jonah exhibited more compassion for the withered vine than for the people of Nineveh, God asked him if he had a right to be angry (v. 9). Jonah replied that he had a right to be angry enough to die. However, he had no claim to the land the vine grew on. He had not purchased the seed, planted the seed, cultivated the land, nor defended the land. Yet, because the plant pleased him, he felt angry over its dying to the point of dying himself. God, by contrast, had invested heavily in the Ninevites whom Jonah despised. God had created them in His own image, brought them rain and sunshine for their crops, placed the concept of eternity in their hearts, had not left himself without a witness to them, and He had just gone to a great deal of trouble to send them a reluctant prophet. In fact, God had invested more in Nineveh’s cattle than Jonah had in the vine (4:11). Thus, the love of God for Gentile peoples outside the covenant is strongly stated in this book. No wonder Jesus appealed to Jonah as the sign for His sufferings and subsequent resurrection (Matt. 12:39–41).


Since God commissioned His prophets to remind the people of their covenant obligations, the prophets not only repeated those obligations but enlarged upon them. Their message contains a strong affirmation of the same missio Dei developed earlier in Scripture.

Indeed, the uniform testimony throughout the Old Testament of God’s plan to redeem the Gentiles is a strong testimonial to the unity of the Old Testament and the inspiration of Scripture.


1. Compare Psalm 2:7 with Acts 13:33. Why is it said that the Resurrection was equivalent to an inauguration? How does this Psalm provide a theological foundation for New Testament missions?

2. Explain the key thought of Psalm 46:10, “ ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ ”

3. Describe the key missiological thoughts of Psalms 47; 67; and 87. Locate at least five psalms not treated in the text that express corresponding thoughts.

4. Explain the missiological significance of Psalm 100:1.

5. What is the theological surprise of Psalm 117? How is this surprising element consistent with the missio Dei of the historical books? How is it foundational to New Testament revelation concerning the place of the nations in God’s kingdom?

6. Describe the day the Lord has made (Ps. 118:24) within its context. How does this Psalm anticipate New Testament missions?

7. Within Proverbs and other poetic literature, how does “the fear of the Lord” function as a theme with missiological implications?

8. Describe the significance of the concept of a covenant lawsuit within the message of the prophets. How had Israel’s failure to keep the covenant adversely affected the nations? Give evidence that the nations, though not under God’s covenant with Israel, were nonetheless morally accountable to God.

9. Explain the missiological significance of Isaiah’s servant passages, Jeremiah’s prophecy of a new covenant, Joel’s prophecy of the outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh, and the experiences of Jonah.

10. The prophets are replete with references to the blessing of God upon all nations. Explain this diachronically. How had God’s previous revelation prepared the way for such prophetic vision?

Chapter 3:

Missio Dei in the Gospels: Proclamation of a King

In the Gospels, we glimpse the King himself modeling the character of His reign by living among His subjects on earth. The missio Dei motif developed in the Old Testament is now personified in the Messiah, Jesus, explained by His teaching, and further prophesied, in both direct statement and oblique parable.

Royal Passages

From the Old Testament, we learned that the mission of God was defined by the eternal kingdom promised to David (2 Sam. 7:16; 1 Chron. 17:12–14; Ps. 89:36–37). Further, a promised seed of Abraham was to bless all nations (Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; see also 26:4 and 28:14).

Therefore, it is highly significant that Matthew opens his Gospel with the statement, “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1). With this brief statement, Matthew invokes the memory of the eternal kingdom promised to David through which will be fulfilled the blessing of the nations promised to Abraham.

The rest of Matthew, and indeed the rest of the Gospels, builds upon this dual anticipation. First, the long-awaited kingdom has come in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of David. Second, the long-awaited blessing of the nations is about to be realized through the authority and power of Jesus the Davidic King.

Understanding this is the key to reading the Gospels as disclosures of the mission of God. Without “advance organizers” in the text such as Matthew 1:1, we would be left to our own devices in arranging what might appear to be something of a random accumulation of Jesus’ sayings and deeds.


A major function of the parables is to throw light upon this twin theme of kingdom and nations. Indeed, the usual introductory phrase of a parable is “ ‘The kingdom of heaven is like’ ” (Matt. 13:24). The parable then typically moves toward some expression of harvest or expansion. So what is the kingdom like? Let us look at a few examples.

It is like a farmer who sowed seed in several kinds of soil (Matt. 13:1–15, 18–23; Mark 4:3–20; Luke 8:4–15). Jesus’ interpretation of this parable begins with the statement, “ ‘The farmer sows the word’ ” (Mark 4:14). This statement connects the Testaments: Throughout the Old Testament period God had been known by His word. All who came into contact with the Lord in the Old Testament, whether Israelite or non-Israelite, did so through His word. The Old Testament narratives, law, wisdom literature, and prophetic discourse are all referred to in the New Testament as Scripture, or God’s Word (2 Tim. 3:16). As I have tried to show, that word had as its purpose statement the words spoken to Abraham: “ ‘All peoples on earth will be blessed through you’ ” (Gen. 12:3). The organizing principle of the Old Testament is the promise of a Seed through whom will come the eternal kingdom of God and the blessing of the nations.1

The unceasing activity of the sower results in a thorough distribution of the seed upon all types of soil.2 So when this message of Christ and the plan He represents is made known to humanity, the responses vary according to the types of soil mentioned in the parable. This parable is central to Jesus’ teaching and hence to understanding the kingdom of God. It is placed at the beginning of three major parables in all three Synoptic Gospels. And Jesus asks: “ ‘Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?’ ” (Mark 4:13).3

Two conclusions may be reached about the Parable of the Sower. First, harvest is central to the teaching of Jesus and to the kingdom of God. Far from being an accidental metaphor suggested by a rural environment, harvest is rather the heart of the nature of God. In the light of the entire teaching of the Old Testament, this harvest must include the spread of the gospel to all nations. The sowing of the seed represents a divine initiative breaking in upon the soil. The seed will be sown so that all may have the opportunity to be blessed regardless of their condition of receptivity. Second, the Word of God will always divide humanity into differing groups depending upon their reception of the message. It was so in Jesus’ day, and it has remained so.

With this parable serving as a key, the parable of the weeds may be unlocked (Matt. 13:24–30, 36–43). In stating that “ ‘the field is the world’ ” (Matt. 13:38), Jesus is once again laying claim to all He created. False teaching is the result of illegal trespassers, and He will eventually gather its weeds and burn them, leaving His universal rule unchallenged. In this way, the ancient promise of a seed to bless all nations is finally and fully realized.

Or, the kingdom of heaven is known through the parable of the eleventh-hour laborers (Matt. 19:30 to 20:16). This parable is bracketed by the statement, “ ‘The last will be first, and the first will be last’ ” (20:16; cf. 19:30). With the other parables already interpreted by Christ, the landowner is quickly seen to be Christ himself. He is the hero of the parable, diligently returning time and again throughout the day to call workers who will labor on the basis of trusting Him. After the entry of yet one more group of workers, who sadly had been idle all the day, the day finishes with a one-hour grand finale of work.

It is the Master’s question to this last group of workers that links the parable to Matthew 1:1 and missio Dei: “ ‘ “Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?” ’ ” (20:6). Jesus Christ is indeed the son of both David and Abraham, and the time to extend His royal rule throughout all the nations has come. In such an atmosphere, failing to work for lack of a formal labor contract is petty, even unthinkable, thus the question, “Why?” Even more appalling is the attitude of the earlier laborers who ignore the glorious unfolding of missio Dei, choosing instead to regard the progress of divine grace throughout the world to be little more than a social experience and a meal ticket. Their attitude naturally gives rise to jealousy over the inclusion of “nonunion” workers when those workers are generously paid.

Several features of this parable should be noted. The first-hour workers are the only ones with a formal contract, the standard denarius per day. The return of the owner for more workers throughout the day is noteworthy and is consistent with his preoccupation with harvest and with the request for the disciples to pray for more laborers (Matt. 9:38). When Jesus promised to pay the later workers what was “ ‘right’ ” (Gk. dikaion, 20:4), He may have been suggesting His own righteousness.

That the last hour was the most successful seems required by several factors at the conclusion of the story. First, the payment of a denarius for only one hour of work shows a change of the owner’s demeanor. From the time the first workers were sent out until this point, the owner had refused to waste time discussing such mundane matters as finance. His whole preoccupation was on harvest with the understanding that his righteousness guaranteed fair treatment, and therefore there was neither time nor energy to be spent going over contracts. Now with harvest over, for the first time he relaxes and shows his pleasure by the generous payment of the later workers. The pleasure may have been brought about by the quantity they were able to harvest, by their ability to harvest where others had not succeeded, or perhaps by their sacrificial service in bringing about closure to the harvest process. In any case, the generous payment is deliberately highlighted by their being paid first.

When objections come from the earlier workers, Jesus uses a word for friend (Gk. hetaire, v. 13) used only here, of the guest without a wedding garment (Matt. 22:12), and of Judas Iscariot (Matt. 26:50). Like the older brother in another parable (Luke 15:11–32), they refused to join in the general rejoicing of that occasion, choosing rather to sulk in their supposed mistreatment. They were not really mistreated though, since they were paid all they had been promised. Rather, they simply identified themselves as being interested in their own welfare or in maintaining the status quo rather than in the interests of the owner or his harvest. In asking, “ ‘Are you envious because I am generous?’ ” (Matt. 20:15), the words of the owner are, literally, “I … I am” (Gk. ego eimi). This is the