Exodus 22-24

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In reading these laws we can, I think, get a glimpse into what God sees as important. Maybe they do not all apply, and they are certainly not binding on us in the same way, but in these laws I think we can get a fair measure of applicable proverbs. Things we can voluntarily put into practice in our lives.

It might be interesting to go law by law. But that would also take a bit of time, so I’m not going to do it.

I’m going to see if we can find groupings. Well, theft is one. What does this mean? It seems God is a respecter of our private property. While there is a communal quality, he seems to understand that we have a separation from others with certain items or property. Essentially, this is an honoring of boundaries. If one person invades or takes from another they are to help the victim be restored, so there is no loss. Not only that, the inconvenience is noted and so if the original can’t be returned the thief has to pay interest, even if it means the thief goes into slavery.

God asks us to respect other people, and to respect what God has given them. No coveting, after all.

The verses following 22:16 go a different direction. Here God is showing his concern with social order, and that includes religious propriety. In the first section here we see the concern being for individual rights. Now we see the concern focusing on the rights the society has, which the individuals must be accountable for.

Included in this is a few interesting bits. One there is a clear importance put on not offending God himself. He is the source of power and life for Israel. So, don’t anger him, please. At this point he’s asking nicely. Later on in the prophets his reminders get a little more potent.

Another is that within society personal property rights are not the sole financial concern. How we treat the least among us is as, if not more important. I say more because in these verses we are told that if a person has a grievance because they were trampled in their need, God himself will respond to their cries for justice.

Sorceresses should be put to death. Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal shall be put to death. Anyone who takes advantage of a widow and orphan… don’t worry about them. God himself will be their executioner. He takes such things personal apparently.

Oh, and don’t charge interests if you loan money to a poor person.

All people should be treated fairly and generously, no matter their station in life. If you try to profit off their pain, watch out for God.

Chapter 23 continues many of the same themes. God is a fair God. He is a just God. He is a compassionate God. He is an honest God. He is an upright God. Even if it hurts, do right by people. God is watching.

Justice and mercy are not merely nice words to be bandied about. For God they are eminently practical words that have absolutely pragmatic applications. Words mean something. They mean actions and responses and sometimes sacrifice.

In 23:10, however, we have a little change of pace. God has taught about justice and mercy and shared a little introduction to what and who he values. He has set up patterns for living in space together.

Now, he sets up patterns to live in time together. Six days work, then rest. Six years sow a field, on the seventh let it rest. Let a grove and a vineyard have the same sabbath year. Don’t even guard it. Let loose all responsibility for it during that year. Let the poor and animals take what they want.

Reminds me of John 3:16. For God so loved the world, he sent his son. The world is also in need of rest, and just as sin trashes our inner being, too much overwork is too much for the land itself. To live right, there has to be patterns of work and rest, for us and for everything.

Three times during the year, God commands, party. It’s the law. Feast. Dance. Celebrate God’s work. Remind yourselves three times during the year what God has done and be thankful for it.

Oh, and don’t cook a goat in its mothers milk.

The Sabbath is an ordering of the present, giving it over to God. Passover is the mark of the Past. In 23:20, God gives order to the future. He is establishing himself as being in control of space and time, so that here he says exactly what his angel will do, so that the People can live and act in such ways as reflects the angels actions. They can live in hope. They can live in promise. They can live in victory.

God will act, therefore live in such a way as though God already acted. The future determines the past. God’s promises echo back into the present changing hearts and minds, so they can live without the fears and worries that the present always offers, as well as put aside the regrets the past constantly brings up. The People of God are people who live in the power of the future, and so change the present by reflecting God in ways of hope and life and joy and thanksgiving.

I’m struck by how much 23:20-33 reminds me of another teaching later on. This section is very much like the book of Revelation, though plenty shorter.

Chapter 24 wraps this first law giving up. Moses goes and meets with God, who finalizes this telling with the ceremony of sacrifice and tablets.

God has in the last five chapters given a very well rounded revelation of himself, setting out briefly and succinctly what he values and who he is. He is a God of justice and fairness, he is a respecter of individuals and of community. He does not despise the rich but he very much looks after the poor. He demands order in space and in time. These laws are meant for the people of Israel. They are not random bits of good ideas, but instead they are specific patterns of living that if followed will reflect God to this entire world.

We can see God in these laws. See him quite clearly in fact.

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