Answering Elijah (Part 5)

If you’re just tuning in, Elijah is a seminarian (and blogger) at Fuller who’s asked me (for an assignment of his) what biblical foundation I have for my understanding of “mission.”

So far my answer’s covered love, Eden, flood and fame, and Abraham. Now, summaries of books Exodus through Ruth.

I’m summarizing because these books repeat the concepts previously covered in more detail:

  • God’s people sin and are exiled from order, peace, intimacy with God and each other.
  • God delivers people of faithful obedience from exile back into order, peace and relationship where they enjoy His protection and provision.
  • People sin and the pattern of exile (wrath) and deliverance (grace) continues.

The following books do add some new features to this pattern:

  • Deliverance of those set apart or exiled by poverty, sickness, oppression or other inequalities – into God’s community where they are provided for and protected.
  • Deliverance of various gentiles as partial fulfillment of God’s promise to bless “all nations” through Abraham.
  • Man is shown to be not just an object of God’s mission but a participant – willing and unwilling at times.


God’s nation settled in Goshen, part of Egypt, and eventually became slaves of pharaoh. God delivered them from bondage through His prophet Moses and added to their number some Gentiles who believed in God after witnessing His power over the gods of Egypt and their king. Pharaoh unknowingly participated in God’s mission to 1)foster dependency on God among God’s people and 2)to expand God’s blessing to Egyptian Gentiles.

God led his people with cloud and fire, provided for their physical needs (Exodus 16), met with Moses personally to give him Law written on stone with God’s own hand (Exodus 20). Obeying the Law required faith and set the nation apart as God’s peculiar people, communicating to the nations around them (through their lives)  what God was like.  He staked his reputation among the nations on them. And the nation understood this role it played in God’s mission and unanimously submitted to it (Exodus 19:5-8).


God’s people were given access to God and forgiveness of sin through faith expressed in obedience to the sacrificial laws (Leviticus 1-10). A royal priesthood was setup so that communication between the nation and God could take place through mediaries in the ways ordained by God.


God’s people moved from Mt. Sanai, where the Law was given, to the land of Canaan. The pattern of rebellion met by God’s wrath and grace continued on the journey, as did God’s supply of protection and both physical and spiritual provisions. The people were reminded again that God made a covenant with Abraham’s descendants that He was incapable of breaking (Numbers 23:19).


Moses wrote this pleading letter to the nation of Israel, begging them to continue in their relationship with God, to continue to participate in God’s mission by expressing their faith through love for God and each other by obeying the laws of the nation: included statutes for the deliverance of foreigners, widows, orphans, the sick and poor (Deuteronomy 10:18, 14:28-29, 15:7-8, 11. He repeated those laws to them. Moses reminded the nation that they were not chosen by God for relationship and to be his representative on earth because they were great but because they were not. God loved them and by accomplishing His mission through them He would show His own greatness to the nations (Deuteronomy 7:1-10).


After Moses died, Joshua was appointed the nation’s human leader and primary mediator between God’s people and God. God fulfilled an earlier promise to give the nation land of its own. God’s wrath was poured out on rebellious people within the nation (Joshua 7) and in war against nations worshiping false gods or attempting to harm God’s people (Joshua 5:14). God’s relationship with Man and hatred for evil continued as God moved His nation to a new home in Canaan where many nations would see what He was like through the faithful obedience of His people. Gentile believers like Rahab the prostitute were able to have a relationship with God by joining God’s nation and submitting to the will of God as lived out by His people (Joshua 2 & 6).


After great victories under Joshua’s leadership, the nation rebelled and pulled away from God. For three hundred years God judged it repeatedly for abandoning relationship with Him, for lacking the faith to obey, for breaking their end of the covenant. He poured out wrath on the rebellious (Judges 2:11-15) and grace (Judges 2:16-18) through select human beings called “judges” – participants in God’s mission of deliverance.


Boaz was a financially blessed bachelor in God’s blessed nation who blessed (and fell in love with) an impoverished foreign widow named Ruth. The social dimension of God’s mission was illustrated clearly in the book of Ruth. God blessed the widow, the poor, the hungry and the foreigner through Boaz, a descendant of Abraham. These social concerns are merely parts of the greater story being told of God’s provision and protection not only for the descendants of Abraham but also for the nations. She and Naomi were accepted into the community of God’s people, rescued from poverty and life alone. God’s reputation for loving deliverance spread (Ruth 4:14).