TODAY’S READING: Isaiah 1–4
John York writes that the Old Testament prophets advance the missionary theme of the Bible in three major ways: “First, they brought something of a covenantal lawsuit against the people of God. In doing this, they often looked beyond the immediate warning of judgment to see a time of restoration. This time of restoration often specifically included the blessings of the nations. Second, the Old Testament prophets viewed the rule of God as encompassing all the earth. The nations are accountable to the moral Judge of the universe even though they had not participated in the historic covenants of the people of Israel… Third, the prophets foretold the day of a new covenant… In this new day, God’s gracious Spirit would be poured out upon all peoples, resulting in salvation and leading to the eschatological day when all would live in harmony under the kingdom rule of God.”
The period of Isaiah’s ministry coincided with polytheistic nations (whose theology taught that a god was tied to one place and people) surrounded Israel. The prophets refused to put Jehovah in this category claiming that He ruled over all peoples everywhere. Thus, while pagan, polytheistic thought maintained that certain gods ruled certain lands,
Isaiah anticipated the complaint that the coming Babylonian exile would be regarded as the defeat of Yahweh. But this view would be misguided, taught Isaiah, for the defeat of Judah by Babylon and the subsequent exile of the nation was an expression of Yahweh’s judgment on a renegade people who refused to obey their God… Simply to explain why the nation would suffer such a devastating defeat did not go far enough in vindicating the sovereignty and majesty of Yahweh before all the other nations, much less one’s own people. The gods of the nations and their peoples had to face up to the fact that Israel’s God should be their God as well.
In this sense Isaiah insisted on a universal application of both condemnation and salvation: All the nations have sinned, rebelled against Jehovah; all the nations must repent; and all the nations will be represented around Jehovah’s eternal throne.
The first chapters of Isaiah include prophetic missionary and universal themes:
Covenantal lawsuit that includes universal redemption: God’s children have rebelled against Him and forsaken the Lord, but God would redeem a remnant that would include Sodom and Gomorrah. Thus, the sins of the nations could be made white as snow along with those of Israel (Isa. 1:3 –4, 9–11, 18).
God’s global rule: The day of the Lord will come on all: everything and everyone proud and lofty, whether over Jacob, the Philistines, Lebanon, or Spain. No one will escape the terror of the Lord when He arises to shake the whole earth (2:6, 12–13, 16, 19).
The inclusive new covenant: It will come to pass in the latter days that all the nations will flow to Jehovah. The Lord will purge by the spirit of judgment and burning, and there will be a covering, place of refuge, and shelter from storm and rain (2:2, 4:4–6).
 John V. York. Missions in the Age of the Spirit. Springfield, MO: Logion Press, 2001. 53–54.
 Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. Mission in the Old Testament: Israel As a Light to the Nations. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2000. 52.
 “Universal” as in available to all nations and peoples, not as in a liberal soteriological sense where someone can be saved outside of faith in Jesus Christ.