Mission of God & the Old Testament
In just the last few days, I have finally received a copy of The Mission of God Study Bible. It is a project on which I have worked for the last two years as the general editor. Throughout the long, long process, the hope of the team was to assemble notes for a study Bible that would point first toward God and His mission. After establishing His heroic role in the Scriptures then we will be prepared to talk about how to live out our redemption and His mission.
One of the privileges of working on the study Bible was the interaction I had with the many contributors. They included Matt Chandler, Jack Hayford, R.C. Sproul, and Billy Graham. Also, we were able to include first-person stories from missionary personnel from around the world. All of this is for the simple reason – and it is included on the cover of the Bible. We want to get everyone “On Mission. With God. Wherever You Are.”
Over the next few weeks, I’ll post some of the essays from the study Bible. I hope they will encourage you and cause you to see the Scriptures through the lens of God’s great mission. So, first up is an essay from Mark D. Roberts on “The Mission of God in the Old Testament.” Mark is the Senior Advisor and Theologian-in-Residence for Foundations for Laity Renewal. Enjoy!
God created humans so we might have fellowship with Him and serve as faithful stewards of His creation (Gn 1–2). God the King reigns over all, and we were created to be His royal family through whom He would implement His reign.
Yet we sinned against God. We wanted to be kings and queens. Our sin was not some minor peccadillo God could ignore, but outright rebellion against His reign. The result of sin was pervasive brokenness in our relationship with God, with each other, and with creation (Gn 3).
From the moment of the first sin, we have tried to earn our way back into God’s favor. But no human effort works. Only God can mend what we have broken. That is His fundamental mission: to reconcile us to Himself and to one another, and to bring reconciliation to all creation. Though we have rebelled, God wants us to have fellowship with Him and to serve as stewards of His renewed creation.
God begins to fulfill His reconciling mission by forming a special people—Israel—with whom He will have covenant relationship and through whom He will bless all nations (Gn 12:1-3; Ex 19:3- 6). He reveals His gracious nature to the Israelites and rules over them as king (Ex 34:4-7; Jdg 8:23). But they repeatedly rebel, rejecting God and choosing idols instead (1Sm 10:19; Ezk 20:16).
What seems like an irreparable setback in God’s plan actually prepares the way for the crucial step in His mission. God uses the occasion of Israel’s rebellion to promise future reconciliation. Through the prophets, the Lord reveals that He will save His chosen people through a unique individual who will extend divine salvation to the ends of the earth (Is 49:6). This Savior will be the suffering Servant of God, who bears the sin of all humanity, offering His life for us so we might be reconciled to God (Is 53). Isaiah speaks words that would one day fill the mouth of God’s redeeming Messiah:
The Spirit of the Lord God is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor . . . (Is 61:1-2a).
In that time of favor, God will remove the rebellion of sin and restore His rightful reign upon earth. That which has been damaged by sin will be mended, as God reconciles people to Himself and to each other. It will be a day of great rejoicing:
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the herald who proclaims peace, who brings news of good things, who proclaims salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” The voices of your watchmen—they lift up their voices, shouting for joy together. (Is 52:7-8a)
Someday, God’s mission will be fulfilled and He will reign. God’s people will be reconciled to their Creator and restored to their created purpose.