It may appear at first glance that missions is a last-minute add-on to the Gospel – something Jesus announced at the last minute in Matthew 28: 18-20 as a kind of “Oh, by the way”. But it only takes a little looking in the Old Testament to find the idea that the respect and love the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will spread all over and that peoples from all over will be included in those called God’s people. Psalm 87 is a rather striking example of the inclusive vision of the Old Testament.
Zion was built by the Lordon the holy mountain,and he loves that citymore than any other placein all of Israel.Zion, you are the city of God,and wonderful thingsare told about you.Egypt, Babylonia, Philistia,Phoenicia, and Ethiopiaare some of those nationsthat know you,and their people all say,“I was born in Zion.”God Most High will strengthenthe city of Zion.Then everyone will say,“We were born here too.”The Lord records as he registers the peoples,“This one was born there.”All who sing or dance will say,“I too am from Zion.”
It is obvious that the people of Egypt, Babylon, and the other places mentioned were not born in Jerusalem (called Zion in this Psalm). Yet they are claiming “I was born in Zion”, “We were born here too” and “I too am from Zion”. These people want to be identified with the God of Jerusalem – the God of the Bible.
But this is more than just a wild claim. God himself will put in his record book that they were indeed born in Jerusalem.
The Lord records as he registers the peoples,
“This one was born there.”
God writes the official record so that it shows that their birthplace is in Jerusalem.
Here we have the precursor to what the Apostle Paul was to write centuries later:
This makes Abraham the father of all who are acceptable to God because of their faith (Romans 4:11 CEV)
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, (Romans 4:16 CEV)
In Romans Paul says that those who are not biological descendants of Abraham, the man God chose to be the father of his people, are nevertheless counted as his descendants. That is very parallel to Psalm 87 which says that those not born in Jerusalem will nevertheless be able to claim it as their birthplace and God will write the birth records to reflect that.
The Old Testament casts an inclusive, worldwide vision for people knowing and honoring the God. That implies some kind of action (which we call missions) to make that a reality. When we all engage in missions by whatever means (praying, giving, going, encouraging….) we are not fulfilling some obscure command of Jesus, but fulfilling God’s vision for the world found throughout the Bible. I myself am a result of the Old Testament’s inclusive vision. I am not a descendant of Abraham nor is Jerusalem my birthplace, but I can sing, dance and say, “I too am a citizen”, plus I can invite others to become citizens too!