In an essay cobbled together from the introduction and conclusion of his book The Mission of God, Christopher Wright shows how “mission” is one way of viewing what the whole of Scripture is about. When we see how important and how central God’s mission is, he writes, it turns a lot of things in our lives upside down (or maybe better: right-side-up):
An understanding of the mission of God as the very heartbeat of all reality, all creation, and all history generates a distinctive worldview that is radically and transformingly God-centred. It turns inside out and upside down some of the common ways in which we are accustomed to think about the Christian life. It is certainly a very healthy corrective to the egocentric obsession of much Western culture — including, sadly, even Western Christian culture. It constantly forces us to open our eyes to the big picture, rather than shelter in the cosy narcissism of our own small worlds.
* We ask, ‘Where does God fit into the story of my life?’ when the real question is where does my little life fit into this great story of God’s mission.
* We want to be driven by a purpose that has been tailored just right for our own individual lives, when we should be seeing the purpose of all life, including our own, wrapped up in the great mission of God for the whole of creation.
* We talk about ‘applying the Bible to our lives’. What would it mean to apply our lives to the Bible instead, assuming the Bible to be the reality — the real story — to which we are called to conform ourselves?
* We wrestle with ‘making the gospel relevant to the world’. But in this story, God is about the business of transforming the world to fit the shape of the gospel.
* We argue about what can legitimately be included in the mission that God expects from the church, when we should ask what kind of church God wants for the whole range of his mission.
* I may wonder what kind of mission God has for me, when I should be asking what kind of me God wants for his mission.
In Genesis 24, Abraham’s servant has traveled to Mesopotamia to bring back a bride for Isaac. At the end of the chapter, Rebekah, traveling with the servant, sees Isaac walking in the field and asks the servant who he is. On hearing the answer, Rebekah then veils herself. Why?
It’s certainly not the case that women in that day wore veils at all times, or even at times when they were around men. After all, Rebekah has been traveling unveiled with Abraham’s servant up till now. It is only when she sees her future husband that she covers herself with the veil. She is veiled with regard to him, and that seems to symbolize that they are not yet one flesh. There is a barrier between them; they cannot yet be face to face.
But why does Rebekah veil herself at this particular point in time?
In the story of Jacob and Leah and Rachel, though the text doesn’t mention it, it seems as if Leah must have been veiled on the wedding day or else Jacob would have recognized that she wasn’t Rachel. But surely we aren’t to think that for the entire seven years that Jacob served for Rachel leading up to this wedding day, she was veiled. Sure, she was his future wife. But there’s no reason to think he didn’t see her face to face. Rather, it makes sense that she wore the veil — or rather, Leah-pretending-to-be-Rachel, wore the veil — only on the wedding day, only during the hours leading up to the wedding.
If so, that would suggest that when Rebekah veils herself on seeing Isaac in the distance, she is doing so, not only in anticipation of the wedding, but in anticipation that the wedding is going to happen that very day. She is not planning to veil herself for the next few weeks until some future wedding day. She is not anticipating a period of courtship, of “getting to know one another.” Just as she was willing to leave her home for the promised land the morning after Abraham’s servant arrived, so she is ready to get married instantly, without delay to the promised seed. She has agreed to marry Isaac and she is ready for the wedding today. That’s faith.