All this year so far the focus of these devotionals has been the calling of God to bring people into relationship with him. So far this week, we have been looking at the calling of Israel to be used of God to reach the world with the message of God’s love from Psalm 67.
One thing that many folk miss when reading the Old Testament is the fact that the purpose of Israel was never meant to be an exclusive mutual admiration society. Rather, throughout the Old Testament we discover that the purpose of God’s people was to be a light to the Gentiles or unbelievers. In Isaiah, the prophet calls Israel a “light for the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6 and 49:6). In our text for today we discover that God set Israel apart, not for their own ends, but for his service to reach the world:
You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” (Exodus 19: 4-6)
Israel’s assignment from God involved intermediation. They were not to be a people unto themselves, enjoying their special relationship with God and paying no attention to the rest of the world. Rather, they were to represent him to the rest of the world and attempt to bring the rest of the world to him. (Stuart, D.K. 2006)
If this language of a kingdom of priests and a holy nation seems familiar to us as Christians, it is because we see time and again that this is the pattern of God’s calling from the Old Testament to the New. Some missiologists feel because Israel was to serve as a center to which other nations would come that there was an inward (centripetal) focus of mission in the OT. Old Testament scholar Kaiser believes that the focus was not inward, but outward. Israel was to go out and bring religious teaching to the nations. (Kaiser 2000) And it is the same with us today as Christians. A church that is inward focused is not a healthy church.
We see this example of outward focus over and over again. Abraham went to a new land. Moses led the people back to the land of mission, and Jonah went to preach repentance to the hated Assyrians in Nineveh. The big idea behind all of this for them and for us today is that as we obey God and go, He’s got our back. Let’s remember that as we obey the Lord today.