Justice for All, and A Whole Lot of Separation (Exodus 23)

Scripture reading – Exodus 23

The instructions that gave practical applications of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) to Israel’s daily life continues in Exodus 23.

Exodus 23:1-9 addressed the demand for Judicial integrity – Justice for All.  The ninth commandment stated, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (20:16).

Exodus 23:1-9 emphasized God’s mandate for Israel’s judges to be above reproach, and intolerant of any who might pervert justice. A witness must not bring a false accusation against an innocent man in a judicial matter, nor lie to spare the guilty their due punishment (23:1-2). There was one law, and one standard, and not even the poor were granted a charitable judgment nor spared the weight of the law (23:3).

There are some 21st century leaders in the broader latitude of “American Christianity” that are guilty of teaching that the Old Testament is all Law, and no grace. Those who express such a sentiment are either ignorant of the Word of God, or purposefully, and intentionally misleading believers. For example, Exodus 23:4-5 commanded Israel to be ready to show kindness to an enemy should he suffer harm (23:4; Proverbs 25:21-22), and be ready to express sympathy and assistance to even one who hates you (23:5).

Exodus 23:6-9 returns to judicial matters, and the demand for impartial judgment in legal matters. Under God’s Law, the poor were not to be denied representation or justice (23:6), and judges were to see that righteous judgment prevailed for all (23:7). Judges were not to be bribed (23:8), and non-Hebrews (“strangers”), were to be judged fairly (23:9).

The Sabbath Year (23:10-12)

Emphasizing the significance of “Sabbath Rest” (20:8-11), Israel was commanded to observe a “Sabbath Year.” The land would not be plowed, and crops would not be planted (23:10). The land was to rest, and if seeds volunteered and grew to bear fruit, the poor and the “beast of the field” were given liberty to eat (23:11).

Three Festivals to be Observed by Israel (23:14-19)

The men of Israel were commanded to observe three annual festivals (23:14-19). There was the “feast of unleavened bread” and the Passover (23:15, 18), that commemorated the Passover in Egypt when the LORD spared the firstborn of Israel. The “feast of the harvest,” known as the Firstfruits, and later celebrated as Pentecost, was observed at the beginning of harvest (23:16a). The first fruits of the harvest were to be offered to the LORD (23:19a). There was also the “feast of the ingathering,” observed at the end of the harvest season (23:16b), and was a time of thanksgiving.

Three Promises (23:20-28)

The LORD made three promises to Israel, whose fulfillment was conditioned upon the people hearing and obeying His Law and Commandments (23:20-28).

He promised to “send an Angel” before the nation. The LORD’S Angel was sent to “keep” Israel in the way, and bring them into the Promised Land (23:20), if the people obeyed the “voice” of the Angel (23:22; I am of the opinion this “Angel” was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ).

The LORD also  His “Angel” would “go before” the nation, and cut off those nations that occupied the land of Canaan (23:23). The Angel would give Israel protection (23:23), provisions (23:25), and posterity (i.e. future generations; 23:26).  Unlike other nations that adopted and sacrificed to the gods of the land they conquered; Israel was to destroy the idols of the people (23:24).

God promised to set the boundaries of the land He had covenanted with Abraham (23:31), and He warned that His people were not to befriend or make any covenant with the people they conquered, nor worship their gods. God warned Israel that, the conquered people “shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee (23:33).

This principle of radical separation is found throughout the Scriptures, though it is rarely preached in the pulpit, nor practiced the pew.

Israel was admonished: Fail to drive the ungodly out of the land, and the people would invariably adopt the sins of the heathen (23:33). That same principle is true for today’s believers. We are commanded, 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17a).

1 Corinthians 15:33 warns, “33Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” We are commanded, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

As Israel was called to separate from the wicked nations they conquered, and to destroy their gods, believers are to separate, and put a distance between themselves and the ungodly, lest we become like them!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith