Mission is crossing boundaries in the name of Yahweh, the Triune God, to proclaim His salvation. It is the crossing of boundaries– geographical boundary, cultural boundary, language boundary, religious boundary.
Unlike Christians who are given the Great Commission to go out to the world to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in the Old Testament time God did not particularly instruct Israel to “go” into the gentile nations to make converts. Nonetheless, throughout the history of salvation, we saw God’s people moving across various boundaries from time to time, such as Abraham migrating from Ur to Canaan; Jacob and his family moved to Egypt and settled there; Israel departed from Egypt after 430 years and entered Canaan, and was in exile in Babylon about 700 years later.
In each crossing, the people of God went into an environment that was culturally foreign and religiously alluring. For Abraham, the land of Canaan was filled with violence and uncertainty. For example, when they saw a beautiful woman they would kill the husband and take the wife. When Jacob’s descendants came out of Egypt and entered Canaan, they had a cultural shock when they first saw giants in the land. Wherever they went, one hostility was constant: idolatry, which was accompanied by sexual immorality.
As Israel was called to be a testimony for Yahweh as stipulated in Deuteronomy 4:5-8, she was to set herself apart and preserve the distinctiveness as Yahweh’s people, and not to compromise on their loyalty towards Yahweh and His way. In doing so their uniqueness will be noticed by the surrounding nations. People would be amazed at the prosperity of the nation and would ask questions about the legislation that provided social justice, the economic policies that eliminated poverty completely, the education and ethical system that build up a coherent community, and the national defence that empowered them to conquer their invaders.
The missional intent of God for the electing of Israel was clearly demonstrated in God’s promise for Abraham,
“And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you…for I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”(Ge 12:3)
With this intent, all that God did in Israel, for Israel, and through Israel, is to be understood in relation to God’s purpose for the rest of humanity, not for Israel alone. God was creating a community of people who are committed to the way of Yahweh for righteousness and justice. Yahweh planted Israel amidst the nations, that they may be a model for justice and a light of Truth. In other words, Israel came into existence for the sake of the nations!
Is this not the call of the Church? “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Mat 5:14). Mission is not just one of the many ministries of the church. Mission is why the church is still on earth!