When God created the man and woman, He gave them the command to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). After the flood, when Noah and his family stepped off the Ark, God gave the command “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” (Gen. 9:1). From the very beginning, God’s plan has been to have the earth full of people worshiping Him.
Genesis 12 records God’s promise that guides the rest of scripture and our lives.
Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’
God repeated this same promise to Abraham’s son, Isaac, and grandson, Jacob, a promise that “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.” (Genesis 28:14)
God desires all people to know and worship Him and makes a promise to bless all the people of the earth. In the Old Testament, Israel was God’s method of fulfilling his promise. God blessed the nation of Israel and did great things for them and through them so the surrounding nations would know the God of Israel. A few examples are:
God gave the Ten Commandments to the people with a purpose for the world.
Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations.
God gave Solomon great wisdom, but for a larger purpose.
1 Kings 4:34:
Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom
Psalm 67 shows God’s heart for the worship of the nations.
Psalm 67:1-2, 6-7:
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!
God blesses us so that his name might be great among the earth and his saving power among all nations. Just like God’s promise to Abraham, we are blessed to be a blessing.
The Old Testament prophets were spokesmen for God. While many of them spoke primarily to the people of Israel, others spoke to Gentile nations as well. God used his prophets to address many peoples for different reasons, but you can’t miss God showing his glory among the nations.
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.
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
'My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,' says the Lord Almighty.
The Old Testament is filled with hundreds of other verses, stories (e.g. Jonah), and psalms showing God’s heart for the nations. When we move from the Old Testament to the New, we find God’s heart hasn’t changed: He still wants to redeem all the nations, so he sends his Son to do just that. In our next post we will look at God's heart for the world in the New Testament.