Monday, May 8, 2017

Daily reading assignment: Exodus 21-24

Having given Israel His Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), the LORD continued instructing the people through His servants Moses beginning with Exodus 20:22 and continuing through Exodus 23:33.  I will briefly consider the LORD’s instructions to Israel in today’s devotional commentary knowing we will derive principles and insights from them that are applicable to the 21st century church.

Exodus 20:22-26 instructs the people regarding worship and the LORD’s intolerance of idols among His people (20:22-23).   We also note the construction and sanctity of altars for sacrifices (Exodus 20:24-25) and a principle for modesty: “Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon” (Exodus 20:26).

In a day when “anything goes” and the church calls it worship, it might surprise some the extent to which God regarded not only the construction of places of worship (i.e. altars), but also the dress of those who led the people (i.e. priests). Contrary to the casual “come as you are” brashness of the majority of 21st century American churches, those who led Israel in worshipping the LORD were to conduct themselves in a manner befitting the holiness of God and never allow for any “nakedness” that would be a distraction for those who worship the LORD (Exodus 20:26).

[On a personal note: I have considered the use of robes for choir and musicians on stage as a practice in keeping with this principle, although many might criticize them as too formal].

I encourage my readers to note the fundamental basis for democratic law and order are found in Exodus 21:1-23:19.  We find God’s Laws for masters (employers) and indentured servants (employees) stated in Exodus 21:1-11.  Exodus 21:12-17 states God’s Law addressing the taking of human life, a violation of the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13), drawing a difference between murder and manslaughter (taking a life without intent).

For those who treat lightly the lack of respect sons and daughters often manifest toward parents, a violation of the fifth commandment (20:12), cursing a parent was a capital crime and death mandated (21:17).  The case for accidental injuries and proper compensation is also stated (21:18-32).

Knowing a man’s livelihood and a family’s well being in an agricultural society were dependent on the care of one’s livestock, the theft of ox and sheep was a serious crime (22:1-4) as was damage to a man’s crops (22:5-6).

Personal responsibility and liability were important issues among God’s people and fair compensation for losses, whether by theft or neglect, mandated (22:7-15).  I draw your attention particularly to verses 14-15 that state an obligation a borrower assumes when borrowing another man’s property.  The subject is a farmer who borrows another man’s goods and, for the sake of our illustration an ox whereby he plows his field, but the ox is injured or dies while in his care.  Under that circumstance the borrower is debtor to the lender and under obligation to “make it good” (22:14); in other words, repay or replace.  The exception is when the owner of the ox is plowing a man’s field “for his hire” (22:15).

For a practical application, honesty and integrity demand when you borrow or rent another’s property or goods, you are under obligation to make right any damages or loss that occur to the lender.  In other words, “I’m sorry” does not make whole or restore another’s loss.  Our families and society need to restore this principle to its application.  If you want your children to have integrity, teach them by your example to make whole any goods and property they have damaged or destroyed.

Various laws address other moral and societal issues (22:16-23:19), including rape (22:16-17), witchcraft (22:18), bestiality (22:19), and idolatry (22:20).   Excessive interest that imposes unnecessary hardship on the poor is also outlawed (22:25-27).

Recognizing God is Just, it follows He demands His people be just in matters of law and make no occasion for lies and distortions of the truth (23:1-8).  Our scripture reading concludes with God’s promise to protect Israel as they journey through the wilderness and bless them (23:20-33).

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith