The Bible tells the true story of God’s mission to rescue and restore the whole world. The missio Dei (Latin for “mission of God” or “sending of God”) involves God setting out on a long journey to restore His good creation from the ravages of humanity’s sin. In love, God promised to make a new world and to gather a people who would embody His work of healing in the midst of human history. This story is nothing less than the true story of the whole world. It begins with the origin of all things and moves toward the goal of all history. It is a story of God’s active mission to heal and liberate His creation, bringing restoration to all of human life and all of the non-human creation. In Genesis 1-2, we see God’s original design for creation. Genesis 3-11 tells the devastating story of man’s rebellion against God and the tragic effect man’s sin has on all creation. In the midst of this darkness, God chooses Abraham to be a light to the nations around him. God promises Abraham that He will make him into a great nation and restore to them the blessing of God’s good creation. He also promises to bless that nation so that they would be a blessing to the world around them (Genesis 12:2-3).
From the beginning, God’s mission is carried out through His chosen community—a people called to show the world what God is like, giving the world a foretaste of what God had originally intended for His creation and what He will ultimately bring about at the end of history. As we have been studying the book of Exodus, we’ve seen that the people of Israel were called to be this community. God delivers and redeems Israel from slavery and idolatry in Egypt and brings them to Mount Sinai in the wilderness. At Mount Sinai, God calls them to be a holy nation and a priestly kingdom (Exodus 19:3-6). This call upon Israel to be a priestly kingdom will involve a life of mediating God’s blessing to the nations around them. They will be a a people on display, proclaiming and demonstrating what God is like and what it means to live in God’s ways.
Exodus 20-23 tells of God giving Israel His decrees and laws—the Torah—which is intended to lead Israel to the abundant life God intended for all humanity in creation. God’s law is to govern all of Israel’s life as they learn to live as a holy a nation. As we learned at the beginning of our Exodus series, Israel’s life was to face in three directions at once: backward, embodying God’s original design and intention for human life; forward, as a sign and preview of God’s final purpose for history; and outward, confronting the idolatry of the nations they were to encounter. God’s law would direct Israel in this orientation of life, forming them to be His missional people who would reject the destruction of idolatry and walk in the paths of righteousness. As Israel lived in this way, they would be an attractive community of God’s love and blessing, drawing others to God.
Over the next several weeks we’ll be looking at how well Israel carries out the missio Dei. We’ll dig into the story of God a bit more and see why it was necessary for Jesus to step onto the stage of history. We’ll also see how the church in the New Testament—as well as today!—is to be a preview and sign of the coming kingdom of God, participating in the missio Dei for the sake of the world.