Why no missions in the OT?

Why didn’t the Israelites do missionary work?  Why do we only have evangelization by means of traveling throughout the world after the birth of the church?  Here are some thoughts that I have on the matter.

Jesus had His view of mission work in the OT.


I Kings 10:1 Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions.


Matthew 12:42 The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.


Jesus spoke of the queen of the South who came to hear the wisdom of Solomon.  Back in I Kings 10 you read about Solomon’s fame concerning the name of the LORD.  Apparently, Jesus placed the queen of the South (Sheba) in a place of judge over the contemporaries of Jesus because she responded to the fame of Solomon and the name of the LORD. 


Some conclusions:

– The name of the LORD was famous throughout the earth during the days of Solomon.

– Jesus placed an expectation from His generation to respond to His fame on the same level as the queen of Sheba’s response.

– Jesus did not go throughout the earth evangelizing and neither did Solomon.  Both ministries were solely focused on the nation of Israel.

– Despite the lack of "mission work", there is a responsibility on the part of those who hear of the name of the LORD to respond in some way.


The other example unfolds in much the same way.  Jesus pointed out to His hometown friends and family that many lepers were in Israel during the ministry of Elisha, but none of them were cleansed except for Naaman, a Syrian.  With the entire context, Jesus is making a radical statement concerning Israelite privilege, but once we get past that, there is something else in the text.


Luke 4:25 But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; 26 but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian."


Any leper could have gone to Elisha for cleansing and received it.  Many nations had heard of the ministry of Elijah and Elisha.  Between the two of them, they had changed the fate of nations, empires, and kings.  All of this was done in the name of the LORD, the God of Israel.  So what was the real "mission" in the Old Testament?  If it was to spread the fame of this great God, the mission was accomplished.


So is NT mission work really that different from OT mission work?  I would also point out the Apostle Paul’s quotation of Psalm 19:4 in the midst of a passage on evangelism in Romans 10.  Paul’s point was that in the OT, God’s voice was heard throughout the earth every single day and the gospel message is that same voice.


It obviously is different, but the common foundation of spreading the fame of the great God of Israel seems to bind it all together.  The difference as I see it is that in the OT the word went forth with the responsibility being for mankind to respond to the name of the LORD, the God of Israel.  In the NT, individuals with the word of God written on their hearts go forth with the responsibility being for mankind to repent and believe in the name of Jesus as Messiah, who is also the God of Israel incarnate.  As far as how this affects overall theology, I’d be open to reading some views.


Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13


-The Orange Mailman

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