TODAY’S READING: Exodus 19–21
I don’t believe we can improve on Walter C. Kaiser’s explanation of Exodus 19:4–6:
The election of Israel, far from meaning the rejection of the other nations of the world, was the very means of salvation of the nations. Election was not a call to privilege, but a choosing for service. As such, the priestly character of the nation of Israel came into view almost from the beginning of her existence as a nation. The people were to be God’s ministers, his preachers, his prophets to their own nation as well as to the other nations.
“If you will obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exo. 19:5–6).
[In this text, “possession” is translated from the Hebrew word segulla which] …referred to property that could be moved as opposed to real estate that could not be moved. Accordingly, Israel was to be God’s “jewels” (as noted in Malachi 3:17), his special treasure above all his other possessions. But they were to be treasures that he could move around and disperse as he pleased.
…A second role that Israel was to play was that of been a “kingdom of priests” to God. This phrase is best translated as “kings and priests” or royal priest to God. Here is where Israel’s role and function on behalf of the kingdom of God is made explicit if it was ambiguous previously. Her role as a nation was a mediatorial role as they related to the nations and people groups around them. It was this passage that became the basis for the famous New Testament doctrine of the priesthood of believers (1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 1:6, 5:10). Unfortunately for Israel, when this ministry for all the believers was opened to them…they turned back from so awesome a task…. But what was rejected at this moment was never disposed of, but simply delayed in his fullest expression until New Testament times. It was not scrapped: it remained God’s plan for believers.
A third function was preferred to the nation: they were to be a “holy nation”. This meant they were to be “wholly” the Lord’s…. The truth is that the Old Testament word “holy” meant “set apart wholly for God’s use.” This nation was to be set apart not only in their lives but also in their service. Through them all the families of the earth were to receive the blessing God had in store for all who believed.
As God’s special movable treasure, his royal priests, and a nation wholly dedicated to him, Israel was to assume two relations: one side toward God, their King and the other side toward the nations and people groups on earth. They were to be a nation for all times and for all peoples—distinctly marked and challenged to serve. Alas, however, Israel missed the prize of her high calling and acted selfishly on her own behalf only. Thus, while carrying a portfolio of the coming Man of Promise and the Seed by which all the world would be blessed, she myopically declined, for the most part, to carry out her high calling as the channel through which the grace of God could come to all the nations.
We now in our age are God’s movable treasure. If He should transfer us to Somalia, it is our delight to go. We are His royal priests—we are to represent God to Somalis and all the nations of the world through proclamation and to represent Somalis and the nations of the world to God through prayer. We are to be wholly His—every part of us aligned with His passion to be glorified by Somalis and all peoples. God forgive our myopia. God grant we rise to the privilege He offers us. God send someone reading these words to Somalia, and let them go with joy.
 Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. Mission in the Old Testament: Israel As a Light to the Nations. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2000. 22–23.