Missions in the Bible
It is a drastic mistake to suppose that missionaries do their work simply by carrying light into dark places watching the darkness jump back as happens when you carry a candle into a dark room. No, the Bible speaks of darkness as an angry, active, antagonistic force. The Bible kind of darkness cloaks Satanic forces that reach out and try to tear the candle from your hand. This is why ancient readers were so surprised by John 1:5: 'the light came into the world and the darkness has riot overcome it."
However, we earthlings needed Jesus to come precisely because all through the Old Testament an evil darkness had in fact many times overcome the light! Let's see how that happened:
Week Fourteen APRIL 6, 1980
REVIEW Abraham and his descendants were clearly given the Great Commission that is, chosen as a special nation to "be a blessing to all the (other) families of the earth." But in all the following chapters, whenever (most of the time) their faith wavered and (like people today) their hearts were flooded by self concern and fear, they immediately recalled only the final part of their mandate that their own nation would be blessed.
Ah, how dangerous to seek to be blessed. The Bible makes clear that the only safe thing, paradoxically, is to seek, by faith, to be a blessing. As Jesus put it, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these material things will be added unto you (Matthew 6:33)."
Thus it is a dismaying scene as we page through the first 17 "story carrying" books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther. We discover very little sense of responsibility externally only a few glimmers of recollection.
Rather, we see this "missionary nation" seeking mostly to survive, denying God's desire for outreach, and often grumbling and complaining (or at least worrying) about whether they were to be
blessed or not. And perhaps precisely because they sought to be blessed they often failed to be blessed and almost always failed to be a blessing
Yet in our own personal lives today, in our families and our churches, I'm afraid it is still very difficult for us to concentrate on what God wants and let God take care of our wants. Yet THAT is the life of faith.
The chain of references for review are as follows: Gen. 12:1 3; 18:18; 22:17,18; 28:14; Ex. 9:16; 19:5,6; Num. 14: 21 13; Deut. 7:6 8. 13.14; 28:9.10; 32:20,21; Josh.4: 24; 1 Sarn. 2: 8, 10; 12:22; 17:46; II Sam.7:23,24; I Kings 8:60; 11: 4; 17:10 16; 11 Kings 5:15; 19:19.
Week Fifteen APRIL 13, 1980
I & II CHRONICLES. Many scholars believe that these two books were a new summary produced by Ezra at the time of the return from Babylon. The account begins clear back with Adam but skims very rapidly until it comes to David, and the primary intent is to provide the geneological base for the newly reestablished nation. Also, we note that unlike the books of Samuel and Kings, this account is confined to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The Northern Kingdom, Samaria, did not return and must now be called the "lost tribes". Furthermore, it is very significant that the former territory of the Northern Kingdom was actually repopulated by foreign nations.
Thus, 11 Kings is one of the most important passages in the Old Testament because 1) it records the severance and termination of a major section of God's chosen people because they had simply passed beyond retrieval (v.7 23) and 2) it shows that their land would be turned over to foreign nations (v. 24 28) If that was apparently necessary to allow the glory of God finally to be passed over to the other nations!
But the role of the chosen nation was carried on by the return from Babylon of a portion of the
people and leadership of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. This is how a whole generation died in captivity just as happened earlier when God allowed a generation reluctant to obey Him to expire in the wilderness.
Week Sixteen April 20, 1980
I & II CHRONICLES (cont.) Just as the first exodus from slavery in Egypt produced the "Books of Moses" Genesis, Deuteronomy, so the second "Exodus" from captivity in Babylon produced I & II Chronicles, which (like Genesis) reach back to Adam and portray the bright new ideals and sense of national purpose of a nation starting out afresh. Ezra inserts a beautiful hymn (I Chron.16:836) which has not appeared before. In verses 8,14,24,28,30,31, and 33 we see evidence of the Genesis 12:1 3 mandate, which is the Great Commission, "Tell the peoples of the world", "show His glory to the nations", "0 people of all nations of the earth, ascribe great strength and glory to His Name", etc. David obviously had this larger vision. So did Solomon. He speaks of foreigners coming... "all the peoples of the earth will hear of your fame and will reverence you." (II Ch.6:33).
Week Seventeen April 27, 1980
EZRA NEHEMIAH ESTHER These are the documents authored by the leaders of the "Second Exodus". God had forced His people into contact with other nations. Now, on return they have freedom again to give a good testimony, and they are now more than ever aware of their witness to the many onlookers. Some of course, as with Israel today, are much more concerned about survival than witness. Amazingly, God's own evaluation via His prophet Isaiah ('49:6) is that the restoration to their land was "a (relatively) light thing" compared to being "a light to the Gentiles" so that His salvation might go to "the ends of the earth." Will God take away American freedom until we are willing to be a blessing to others not just assure ourselves of a blessing for ourselves?