Exodus 22:18-31~ 20111030 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
10/30 Exodus 22:18-31 Loving God and Neighbor
Jesus taught us that the entirety of the Old Testament can be summed up in two commands:
All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands. Love God and love neighbor. This is foundational to all of what God says to his people, what God expects of his people. So as we look back at God's law given to his people at Mount Sinai – and Paul tells us that all scripture (by which he primarily meant the Old Testament):
As we look back at God's law, we should gain a deeper appreciation for who God is and how he is to be loved, and what it means to love neighbor as self.
Keeping the First Commandment
God started his ten words to his people by saying:
God gives priority to worship. Keep first things first. Keep God first. Love God by giving him exclusive right to first place in your life. In the section of God's law that we will look at today, God lays out for us how serious this is, and how our love for God should be reflected in how we treat others in our community.
These three capital crimes are ways in which someone would blatantly reject God's exclusive right to worship. They are capital crimes because of the danger they pose to the community at large. Just as a willful murderer is to be executed for the good and protection of the community because God values life, even more so someone who is involved in this type of activity endangers the community by introducing a cancer that robs those who are infected of eternal life. Sorcery, bestiality, and idolatry were expressions of spiritual unfaithfulness, treason toward God, leading people astray from placing their faith and trust in God alone.
Sorcery or witchcraft is the attempt to foresee or manipulate the future by summoning supernatural power outside of the one true God. One of the greatest privileges of being in relationship with Almighty God is that we have access to him through prayer. Sorcery or witchcraft is a blatant defection from God by employing the powers of the enemy to gain insight or control over situations and events. We as believers have the strong comfort that God works all things out for the good of those who love him. To seek answers or to attempt change circumstances through supernatural means is to demonstrate distrust of God and disbelief of his promises. We would find ourselves actually fighting against God and against his perfect purposes and plans.
Bestiality or intercourse with an animal blurs God's created distinction between animals and man, and distorts God's gift of covenant sexual intimacy. This was part of the pagan worship of some of the nations that Israel would come in contact with and, like sorcery, expressed a dissatisfaction with God and his ways. God made man distinct from animals, as ruler over them to reflect his character, and he designed human sexual intimacy within the context of the covenant faithfulness of marriage to reflect his covenant faithfulness and intimacy with his people. Deviant sexual practices like homosexuality (Lev.20:13) and bestiality, rejections of God's purpose and design in creation, were rejections of God himself.
Idolatry, or sacrificing to any god other than YHWH alone, is an explicit restatement of the first and second commandments, and ties these three capital offenses together. Giving our affection or devotion to anyone but the one true God is treason, robbing God of the honor that is due to him, falling short of giving God the glory that he alone deserves.
protection for aliens, widows, and the fatherless
In the next verses, the subject moves seamlessly from unadulterated love for God to how we treat the weak and defenseless in society, because putting God first in our affections means caring for those he specially cares for.
Special protection is given to the sojourner, the widow and the fatherless. Most of the consequences given in the Book of the Covenant are judicial consequences – spelling out how a judge is to deal justly, but this lays out a different kind of consequence, because these people are the kind of people that might be overlooked or neglected by the justice system. God himself will come to the defense of the defenseless. God promises to hear the cry of the oppressed, and will himself come to their aid. The threat God gives is terrifying. His wrath will burn. Our God is passionate about justice, and he gets rightly fired up when we mistreat the weak. When you watch the news or see a movie and your emotions are engaged and you want to see the bad guys caught and punished, that is the image of God in you – an imperfect reflection of the character of our justice loving God. God has righteous wrath against sin. God says if you wrong, if you oppress, if you mistreat the weak, I will kill you. I will mete out poetic justice, putting your wife and your children in the vulnerable shoes of those you have wronged, oppressed, and mistreated. God says, 'You know better. You know what it's like to be the underdog.' He is speaking to his people whom he rescued out of oppressive slavery in Egypt. 'I did not save you so that you could now be on top and take it out on those below you. I saved you so that you would have compassion and empathy toward those who are defenseless, so that you would extend the justice and care to others that was withheld from you in your oppression.' As Jesus said
protection for the poor
God extends this protection also to the poor.
Do you hear the character of God that lies behind this command? 'For I am compassionate.' This is the first of thirteen times this word is used in the bible, always of God. It is frequently translated 'gracious' and almost always found in connection with another adjective translated 'merciful', also used exclusively of God. Our God is merciful and gracious. God is moved to extend kindness to those that do not deserve it. Undeserved kindness - this is the essence of grace. We as his people are to reflect his character in how we deal with the poor. We, who have been shown mercy, are to genuinely care and extend love to those that are in real trouble. We are not to see those in need as an investment that we can profit from. We are not to prey on their need. We are to treat the poor as our own family and lend without charging interest. The desperate condition of the poor is seen in the situation where the only collateral they can offer is the one cloak that will keep them warm at night. To keep that overnight would be to oppress your poor. Jesus calls us to take this a step further.
Jesus calls us not only to not charge interest, but to not even expect to get the principle back. In this way we reflect God, who gives generously to those who can never repay him.
This is a practical expression of our love for God and the right response to his love toward us. John tells us
Jesus gives us additional incentive to care for society's least.
put God first through obedience
The next verses return us to our vertical relationship, putting God first in all things.
Reviling God means more than saying something bad about God or using his name in vain. It means to treat him with contempt or dishonor. We treat God, and we treat anyone in authority, with contempt when we ignore or neglect to do what they say. Love for God is not a mushy-gooshy emotional feeling in our heart. Moses defines love for God this way:
Jesus says the same thing:
John gives us a simple definition:
Love for God is expressed by obedience to God. Contempt for God is displayed by a disregard for what he says. Those who love God do not find his commands burdensome. In this passage he demands the first fruits and the firstborn.
In Exodus 13, God required that all firstborn be given to him. The firstborn of animals fit for sacrifice must be sacrificed to him. The firstborn of unclean animals or people must be redeemed by a suitable substitute. Here he requires the firstfruits of the harvest – the fullness and outflow is to be given to him without delay. This indicates a joyful overflow of gratefulness for the abundance of God's provision, rather than a token offering out of legalistic obligation. To those who are recipients of God's grace, his commands are not burdensome. We have experienced God's undeserved kindness. Our hearts should be moved to extravagant generosity. We are his. We have been bought with a price.
We are consecrated, set apart, called to be his special people.
This command to not eat meat that has not been properly killed – to abstain from eating blood – is found over and over again in the Law, starting with God's instructions to Noah in Genesis 9, and it is even one of the few requirements given to Gentile believers in the New Testament (Acts 15:20,29; 21:25). The reason this is so important is given in Leviticus 17.
Blood poured out represents a life given in sacrifice. The blood of the sacrifice was given to make atonement or to cover our guilt before God. The author of Hebrews tells us
He also tells us
And he points to Jesus, who
Jesus himself said:
Jesus is praised as the one who:
We worship the Lamb, singing: