“All peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” ~Genesis 12:3
God calls his people and saves them and changes them in order to bless the whole world. He pulls them out of Egypt, he rescues them from slavery, and he gathers them to his presence on the mountain to commission them for his work on behalf of all the earth.
“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” ~Exodus 19:4-6
Israel belongs to God. And, yes, they are called out to be separate from the world. But they are not separate in that they live in isolation from the other nations. As holy and priestly, Israel’s purpose is to save and bless the entire world in a partnership with God. The covenant is international in scope. It’s global. Israel is saved, not just for Israel’s sake, but so God can work through them to save all of humanity.
When God’s people break the covenant, when they live their lives in ways that are not holy, yes, it has serious implications for their relationship with God. But, much bigger than that, it thwarts the salvation plans of heaven for everybody else. In the exile, when Israel felt the full weight of the consequences of her disobedience, the focus in Scripture is on how it’s impacting the salvation of the rest of the world.
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” ~Isaiah 49:6
Even in the darkest period of Israel’s history, when her own release from captivity was the most pressing concern, God reminds his people of the bigger picture. He reminds them that it’s not just about them. Why are they going to be released? Why are they going to be saved? For the sake of others, not themselves. To use God’s blessings to bring salvation to the rest of the world.
We are covenant partners with the God of Heaven and Earth.
Somehow, though, we have encouraged the question, “What can God do for me?” or “What can the Church do for me?” Somehow, we’ve nurtured a culture that’s concerned with, “What can I get out of believing in God? or “What can I get out of going to Church?” Somehow, we’ve fostered an attitude that being a Christian means not much more than going to church to ask God for what we need and to thank him for what he’s given us. And that’s all. No wonder strong, smart, healthy people are completely bored out of their minds with church! And Christianity!
We are not just creatures of God. We are creatures uniquely made in God’s image, equipped by God and empowered by God as God’s partners in and for the world. We are partners whom God has invited and commanded to join his business of preserving and caring for the world. Of doing justice and showing compassion in human society. Sharing the suffering of those who suffer and freeing those who are enslaved by their own sins and oppressed by the sins of others.
Being in covenant with God is not a passive thing. It’s not just hanging around the church building waiting for Jesus to come back. It’s not like just sitting in the dark, eating your popcorn and talking to your friend, while you wait for the movie to start. We’re in the movie! We’re in the play! By virtue of the covenant, we’ve all been given and have all accepted the holy responsibility to advance the salvation cause of our God.