To claim the Bible is shaped by a missional concern, as Chris Wright does in The Mission of God, is to give oneself a challenge. Namely, to show that the God of the Bible is a missional God. Here’s how Wright does just that.
How do we frame a theology of mission if we give the Old Testament the first word? And how do we do this — a tough one — when Israel was anything but a missionary people? What do the big events of the Bible teach us about God that unfold into a missional God and a missional Bible? Here’s one: how does the exodus and how does the return from the exile inform us that God is missional?
And here’s the genius of this book: instead of hunting out references that a mission-minded person could build into a case, Wright lets the natural themes of the Bible unfold into a mission theology. The difference gives this book its special appeal.
The big issue behind this is “monotheism,” and Wright gently reminds many that the way this idea is framed determines if one is letting the Bible speak or the Enlightenment. The “monotheism” of the Old Testament is not “mono-Yahwism” (Yahweh is the one God) but a genuine transcendent uniqueness.
Today we look at this theme: knowing God through experiencing God’s grace.
The kinds of grace Wright speaks of are the exodus and the return from exile.
In the exodus, Israel learns:
1. That YHWH wills to be known (Exod 5:22-6:8), and God is incomparable, sovereign, and unique.
2. That YHWH is incomparable (Exod 15:11).
3. That YHWH is king (Exod 15:18). Here he admits to the use of Canaanite images that are taken in a new direction in Exodus. Significantly, the Bible teaches that this God creates a kingship on behalf of the weak and oppressed (Deut 10:14-19).
4. That YHWH is unique (Deut 4:32-39): esp “there is no other.”
In the return, Israel learns:
1. That YHWH is sovereign over history, a special theme in the Bible: in spite of Israel’s size and position in the ancient near east, and this God is God over all the universe. Isa 41:22-23; 46:9-10.
2. That YHWH exercises sovereignty through his word, and here he uses Ps 33:6, 9; 33:10-11.
3. That YHWH acts for the sake of his name: when asked why God does the exodus and why he lets Israel return, the point is that he does so to honor his name and reputation. Here the focus is Exekiel, and just read 36:22-23.
4. That YHWH’s sovereignty extends over all creation: Jer 10:10-12.
5. That YHWH entrusts his uniqueness and his universality to the witness of his people. Here we go to Isa 43:9-12.
So, the God of these two events is the one and only God, sovereign over history, who wants to reign over all the earth, summons Israel to be his people, and calls them to be God’s witnesses to the nations.