Missions in the Bible
Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
This month we study the poetic books. In the historical books completed last time we covered the entire period of the Old Testament. Yet while all the events of Genesis through Esther were occurring, the people of God were rebelling and ignoring God or they were singing or praying, or crying out to God from their hearts. We caught glimpses of how some of them responded to crises, especially David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Nehemiah. But it is in the poetic books that we see their response to God as individuals in every kind of human situation.
And as before we wonder, do these people who are called through Abraham to be a blessing to all the families of the earth ever think of their mission?
Week 1 MAY 4, 1980
JOB ECCLESIASTES SONG OF SOLOMON
This sense of call to the foreigner is totally absent in Job, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. Job, of course, was in deep distress because of his personal pain and emotional turmoil. Not even his friends, so ready with all the "right" answers (to something they had never experienced!) were seemingly aware of God's concern for the whole world.In Song of Solomon, the king and his bride are likewise so caught up in their own perfectly normal and right human concerns that the other nations are totally forgotten. Yet in one sense the fact that the king chose someone the other girls would not have chosen the fact that she was a foreigner, in a sense should tell us something about the King's concern for those who are not the chosen nation.
What about Ecciesiastes? Here there is a preacher. Surely he will be concerned for God's concerns!
Yes, he is. He is full of dismay and despair as he surveys his society. It is easy for him to see the follies and foibles of his people. Yet again the emphasis is totally upon his own people. One looks in vain for some sense of call to the other nations, probably in even greater need of the love of God. But instead of this, the decadence of Israel deepens as the people become more and more interested in their money (Ecc 5:1017) and the "good life."
Unfortunately, all too many churches today are guilty of the same thing. The people are interested in money and the good life, and the preachers are so caught up in correcting local problems that even they say, "When our new sanctuary is built, then we will give a lot of money to reach the unreached" or "When we solve the problems at our own doorstep, only then is it right to reach out to the unreached overseas." Always those 'other sheep" upon whom Christ had his eyes are forgotten. Yet the preacher warns, "if you wait for perfect conditions, you will never get anything done." (Ecc 11:4)
Week Two MAY 11, 1980
After seeing practically no interest for the nations in the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon, it is indeed refreshing to come to the book of Psalms. From beginning to end it is full of an awareness of the nations round about starting with Psalm 2. Psalm 2 could be called a messianic psalm looking toward the second coming of Christ and the Day of Judgment. From verse 1 the nations are present, and in this psalm as in other psalms (Psalm 9:5,8,19,20) we see God rebuking the nations. We are made aware from the very beginning that God is in direct confrontation with the forces of evil, especially as they control the nations of the world which rightfully belong to Him (see also Psalm 46:6; Psalm 24:1; Psalm 82:8).
There is embodied in this psalm a strong sense of God's judgment on the peoples of the world, especially upon their leaders. This concept is repeated over and over again (see Psalm 9:19; 82:8; 98:9). In each of these cases it is God Himself who brings judgment. It is not the vengeful actions of Israel.
Today as we see ethnic groups slaughtered and thrust out as refugees across the world, we recognize that the great forces of evil, are still trying to claim control. From Africa to Cambodia to Afghanistan and Iran it seems satanic forces are in control. And yet "what fools the nations are to rage against God" Psalm 2:1. He watches their every movement (Psalm 66:7). All nations are in His hands(82:8) and He will judge the earth even yet.
Week Three MAY 18,1980
Psalms also speaks of God's ruling the earth. His attitude towards the nations is not simple judgment. It is also one of love. Again we see this hinted at in Psalm 2:11, "Serve the Lord with reverent fear; rejoice with trembling." Over
and over again the psalmist describes how His glory shall fill the earth (Psalm 8:1, 9; Psalm 59:13) and how His name will be honored in Christ by all people (Psalm 45:17b; 46:10; 86:9). To make it even more pointed, in Psalm 47:8,9"the gentile rulers of the world have joined with us in praising Him in praising the God of Abraham... Heis highly honored everywhere" (see also Psalm 118:4). There is no dichotomy here of some being left outside the mercy and love of God. They also belong to Him.
Week Four MAY 25,1980
Satan has marshalled His enemies against the Lord's plan. He has called a summit conference of the nations to try to outwit God (Psalm 2:1,2). God shall judge him and those that follow him, but He will also claim for His own people from all nations, and He shall reign in justice (Psalm 97:8,9)
But how is this to be? Is there a "Great Commission" in Psalms? Does all this just happen, or are God's servants somehow considered responsible, even in this book of poetry?
Yes' There are small hints here and there. Israel is told to sing of His praises throughout the earth (Psalm 96), to tell the world about his unforgettable deeds (Psalm 9:llb; 57:9; 98:2 3; 126:2). But Psalm 67 stands out above all others: "Send us around the world with the news of your, saving power and your eternal plan for all mankind. How everyone throughout the world will praise the Lord!" (see also Psalm 48:4,10).
This is not a painful submission to a weary task. This is a joyful response to a call from the King of Kings and Lord of Lords to join in bringing His people to His house.
It is easy for us today to bemoan world events and to feel Satan is in control. Instead we should be looking at God's final design He will reign! He is victorious! We need to see beyond the events in Iran, Afghanistan, Cambodia and see that Satan's designs will not prevail. God will have His harvest. More Cambodians have come to Christ in the last few months than in all of recent history put together. Afghan refugees coming into Pakistan, 20,000 each day, are more open to the gospel than they have ever been. Jesus said for us to lift up our eyes and see. We must look beyond Satan's designs and see God's purposes. The' gates of hell cannot withstand God's battering, and as we go with the word of His saving power for all mankind, His face will beam with joy as He looks down upon us (Psalm 67:1).