This passage is pivotal in the book of Exodus. It is the hinge between chapters 1-18, describing God’s gracious initiative of redemption from slavery in Egypt, and chapters 20-40, which describe the making of the covenant, the giving of the law, and the building of the tabernacle. It is a combination of imperative (how Israel must behave) and promise (what Israel will be among the rest of the nations).
Christopher Wright offers a unique perspective on the various aspects of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt:
- Redemption v. 4
- Political (injustice in Egypt)
- Economic (Exploited as state slaves for cheap labor- a minority ethnic group doing the dirty work for the majority population)
- Social (State sponsored genocide)
- Spiritual (abad – to serve, to worship. God was not only freeing slaves he was reclaiming worshipers)
- The uniqueness of Israel v. 5
- The universality of God v. 5
- The mission of Israel v. 6 (What Israel will be among the rest of the nations: Kings and Priests)
- The ethics of Israel v. 6 (How Israel must behave: A holy nation)1
Keeping God’s covenant was not a condition of their redemption. God did not say “if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, I will save you and you will be my people,” He already had and they already were. No, obedience to the covenant was not a condition of salvation but a condition of their mission.
Only through covenant obedience and community holiness could they claim or fulfill the identity and role here offered to them. The mission of priesthood among the nations is covenantal, and like the covenant itself, its fulfillment and enjoyment is inseparable from ethical obedience.
Application: It is not so much that God had a mission for Israel in the world, but that God elected Israel for his mission in the world. Let me bridge it closer: It is not so much the case that God has a mission for his church in the world, but that God has a church for his mission in the world. Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission.
The mission of God in history finds its deepest and most profound meaning in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The song in Revelation chapter 5 verses nine and ten gives us a sense of the climax of the mission of God in human history.
And they sang a new song:
You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
Because you were slain and with your blood you
Purchased men for God from every tribe and language
and people and nation.
You have made them to be a
Kingdom and priests to serve our God,
And they will reign on the earth.
(NIV Rev. 5:9-10)
The Mission of God:
- It is redemptive. People who were lost, defeated or enslaved in sin have been purchased for God. Humanity will not go down the drainpipe of history into the abyss.
- It is universal. Those who have been so redeemed will come from “every tribe and language and people and nation.”
- It is victorious. The Lamb wins! He and his redeemed people “will reign on the earth.”
Let us pray that we will be God’s church for his mission not only here in our city, but also to the whole world.
1 Christopher Wright, The Mission of God (Downers Grove: IVP, 2006), 268-269