'You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel. (Exodus 19:4-6)
When we consider how we as Christians, and as Christ's church, should relate to the world and respond to Gospel challenges such as secularism or Islam, we are in the practical realm of witness and mission(s), and the biblical realm of theology of mission(s).
While we often turn to the New Testament — especially Mt. 28:18-20 and the other Great Commission passages — to find our mission mandate and build our mission theology, there are hugely significant Old Testament passages that we must include in our biblical theology of mission(s), and of life, for that matter. One such passage is the one above, and I want to make two observations about it.
First, the Hebrew word that is translated "treasured possession" in verse five has a richer meaning than that, and many (most) scholars miss it or ignore it. Walter Kaiser is one of the few who doesn't. He is one of the foremost scholars who has sought to do justice to the Hebrew word, which is cegullah (you will also see it transliterated segullah).
What do I mean by "do justice"? The fuller, richer understanding of the word is "portable, treasured possession"! This concept of portability is huge! Let's use King Solomon as an example. The richest ruler of his day. When he went on diplomatic missions, do you think he took all of his riches with him? Of course not. It would have been hugely impractical, if not impossible. So what did he do? How did he impress the other kings and queens during his travels? Simple. He took his cegullah with him. He took his portable treasures. For example, it's easy to imagine him taking a beautiful gold, gem-encrusted wine chalice designed both for use (drinking his wine) and to impress everyone around him.
In the same way you can imagine God with His cegullah. Our God — our King — is on a mission and wherever He goes, He takes His cegullah. WE are His cegullah! We are His treasure, but we can't become enthralled with — and distracted by — that idea alone. Because we are not only treasured, we are portable! We go with God on His mission to impress the neighbors and the nations. It is, in fact, our job to help the neighbors and the nations be impressed by, and with, our King. We do this, as we will see below in 1 Pet. 2:9, by proclaiming His excellencies.
The second observation relates to being a kingdom of priests. Just as there was a specific priesthood — the Levites, who represented God to the people of Israel — there was also a general priesthood: all the people of God (the twelve tribes of Israel) who represented Him to the nations. Israel knew this well, because of passages like Moses' "eagles wings" speech above. After Jesus began building His church (Mt. 16:18), His people was no longer Israel, but the church. Peter demonstrated his knowledge of this reality, and his awareness that the mantle of "royal priesthood" had been transferred to the church, when he wrote
You [believers in Jesus] are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his [Christ's] own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Pet. 2:9)
Royal priests proclaim the excellencies of Christ in three ways:
1) When you proclaim Christ's excellencies to God, it is WORSHIP! It's the doxology motif. We often only think of "proclamation" as being evangelistic, but first and foremost we should be occupied with proclaiming the great things about God to God, "because great is the Lord and most worthy to be praised" (Ps. 96:4).
2) When you proclaim Christ's excellencies to your neighbors (evangelism)…
3) …and to the nations (missions), it's WITNESS.
It's this third category of proclamation — to the nations — that we, the church, are tasked to take much more seriously than we currently do. According to the Joshua Project, 42 percent of the world's peoples and people are as yet unreached with the Gospel, the glorious message of salvation through Jesus Christ alone. That's a job for ALL of us, not just "religious professionals" (i.e. missionaries). After all, we ALL are cegullah!
So let's be diligent about proclaiming Christ's excellencies to our God, the God of the Bible, the One True God. For He is worthy of nothing less than our deepest, most intense and most pure worship. And as an overflow of that, let's joyfully declare His glory to our neighbors, while at the same time redoubling our efforts to declare His glory to the nations, the unreached peoples of the world. In the words of Larry the Cable Guy, let's "git-r-done"!
Since meeting Christ at age 16, João (but you can call him John) has had one driving passion: to glorify God! He's a "Great Commission Entrepreneur", passionate about starting and leading anything — mission agencies, churches, businesses — that helps fulfill the Great Commission. He loves to speak, teach, preach and write about God's glory in all areas of life and among all peoples of the world. His work has appeared in Christianity Today and The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, among others. He holds degrees in sociology and practical theology, specializations in systematic theology and entrepreneurship, and doctorates in intercultural studies (D.Int.St.) and religious studies (Ph.D.). He lives in Curitiba, Brazil, with his wife and two teenage children. You can contact him at email@example.com; find out more at www.johnmordomo.com; link directly to this blog at www.llvd.net; and follow him on: