While God's Law can never make us righteous, it does reveal God's standard, providing a gauge of just how bad we are and pointing us to the Savior. Let's take a look at more particulars of the Law in this study of Exodus 22-23. We'll consider both God's great care for us and the choice He provides: to obey or to disobey.
Beginning in the brickyards of Egypt and ending in the tabernacle filled with God's presence, the book of Exodus chronicles the deliverance of God's people from Egypt and records the end of their oppression under Pharaoh. It also provides an account of the beginning of a prophecy fulfilled: God promised Abraham descendants beyond number, and on the pages of Exodus we see Israel become a great nation.
In this verse-by-verse study, Pastor Skip Heitzig presents an in-depth look at Moses, the ten plagues, the ten commandments, the desert wanderings, the construction of the tabernacle, and more. As we study, we'll see the grace of God, witness the glory of the Lord, and a catch a glimpse of Israel's coming Savior.
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Hebrew Terms: שָׁלַם; shalam- to make good; שָׁלוֹם; shalom - to make peace
Greek Terms: porneiða; porneia - fornication
Figures Referenced: Hammurabi
Cross References: Leviticus 22:8; Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 22; Deuteronomy 24:6; Psalm 51:5; Psalm 115:8; Proverbs 18:; Luke 19:8; Acts 23:1-5; Romans 3:20; Romans 3:23; James 1:19
Father, thank you for the body of Christ and the hunger that is represented here tonight. We now pray that as we get into your word, these legal principles quoted many times in the New Testament, referred to certainly, that our knowledge of you and your word would be more well-rounded and mature. And that behind the precepts, we would see your heart, your love, your protective nature as a father wanting to ensure that his children, his people, are well-cared for and flourish in the land that you are bringing them into. And as you bring us from place to place and hopefully in a progression of our spirits to maturity that we too would see how much you care for us, Lord, and that your plan for us is best. We submit to you and we submit now to the hearing of your word. In Jesus' name, Amen.
One time there was a husband and wife. They were talking about how good it would be to go to the Holy Land and go on a tour. And indeed, I've been there 33 times and I would attest if you'd never been on a tour of Israel or tour of the Holy Lands, it's worthwhile. While they were talking about the idea of going to the Holy Land, the husband said, "Wouldn't it be great to climb Mt. Sinai and shout the Ten Commandments from the top of Mt. Sinai?" And his wife listening said, "Well, honey, yes. It would be wonderful. But it might be better if we just stayed home and kept them."
God brought his people to Mt. Sinai. Moses climbed Mt. Sinai and met with God. It would be best if they were to have kept the commandments God gave. Now, they wanted to do that. They said they would do that. They said, "Moses, go and listen to everything God says. Bring back word to us and we will do them." God responded by saying, "Oh, that they had such a heart within them." God recognized that the failure was not with his law. It would serve a purpose. It would point them to the solution for their sin. But he knew that because their hearts were sinful, they lack the capability to fully keep the law.
The law, in a nutshell, was to reveal sin. Here's God's standard. I don't know about you, but when I read the Old Testament law, I go, "Okay, I've done that but I haven't done that," or "I haven't always done that. I failed." It reveals my sin. Paul said, "Through the law comes the knowledge of sin." It reveals sin and it points us to Christ, the solution for our sin. In a nutshell, that's what the law does.
I had a phone call from a friend yesterday who told me about a very large and prominent church that he visited in the United States. And a guest speaker was there and he mentioned the "S" word. I mean the dirty word, sin. The three letter word, s-i-n. He mentioned that from the pulpit and he was reprimanded by the leadership team afterwards, "We don't use the word sin in this church. It does something to people when they hear it. They don't like to hear it. We don't want you to say it."
And as he was telling me this I thought, "Wow! How will people ever understand the good news unless they understand the bad news?" The good news is Jesus Christ came to save us from sin. The bad news, we've all sinned and fallen in short of the glory of God. If people don't know that, they'll never understand the good news of Jesus Christ being the savior.
David, who wrote so many of the Psalms, put it this way, "I was brought forth in an iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me." In other words, sin is a human problem of the heart that affects every single person from birth. Have you ever grabbed an apple and bit into it to discover a worm was living in it? How many of you have ever done that?
Anybody ever do that? Okay. Probably you thought that the worm got there by crawling from the outside and going in. That's not how the worm got there. Scientists tell us it's an inside job. Scientists tell us that the eggs are laid on the blossom of the apple tree and hatched in the core of the apple. And within the core, the worm grows inside the apple and burst from the inside out. That's how it is with humanity. You might say you we're rotten to the core. It's an inside job. We've all been stained from birth with sin. We have a sin nature. We're sinners by nature and then sinners by choice. We correspond and cooperate with that sinful nature and its impulses.
So because of that, the law sets the standards and points us to the solution. The law, the Law of Moses, modifies behavior. It's all it can do. It's a behavior modifier. The law modifies behavior but it never rectifies character. So, it points us to the solution and that is to Christ.
There was a man who had a dream and in his dream he was in heaven. Again, it was just a dream and dreams are weird, right? Peter was showing him around heaven and as he was going from room to room, he saw clocks on all of the walls and names under the clocks. And they were all set at different times and they were ticking away, some moving faster than others. Peter said, "Actually, those aren't clocks. Those are sin-o-meters. They correspond to the people on the earth and every time somebody commits a sin, it makes one revolution."
Well, there were some names he recognized and some of them were moving speedily along. He said, "Wow! I know that person." Some of them were moving slowly and he thought, "Oh yeah, that person is pretty holy so I can see it's moving slowly." So, he looked around. He said, "Peter, I can't find my clock, my sin-o-meter. Where is it?" He said, "Oh, we've taken it to the basement. They're using it for a fan."
Well essentially, that's what the law does. It keeps track. It sets the standard and says, "Here's God's bar of justice. Do this. Don't do that." So we can look at it and we can sort of gauge where we are and our response to God. But Paul made it clear, "By the deeds of the law," Romans Chapter 3 Verse 20, "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified, for by the law is the knowledge of sin." It simply reveals that indeed I am a sinner.
Now in Chapter 22, we're dealing like in Chapter 21 with the particulars of the law and we're dealing first of all in this chapter with the Eight Commandment. You know the Eight Commandment, you shall not steal. Well, now that is fleshed out in the nitty gritty of life. And so, we'll take the principle number one, of Verse 1, Chapter 22, "If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters is or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep."
Let me give you a comparison because it's often made in the scholastic world. There was an ancient Legal Code that predated Moses, 1700 BC in Babylon versus Moses, about 1300 BC. The code that I speak of is called the code of Hammurabi. He was a Babylonian ruler. He ruled for about 40, 42 years in Babylon. They have discovered in archeology the detailed laws of that ancient culture which is in some ways similar to the Law of Moses. And so, Moses and Hammurabi are often compared.
When Hammurabi speaks about thieves, his law demands that if a thief is caught and he cannot pay back what he had stolen that he is to be put to death. The Law of Moses however, even though some see it is harsh, was actually one of the more merciful codes of standard in the ancient world. I bring that up. Why? Because so many people say, "Well, the Old Testament reveals a God of wrath. The New Testament describes a God of love."
I think the Old Testament describes a God of love, as God is seeking to protect the innocent and impugn the guilty but far less harsh than the Code of Hammurabi.
Now, you will remember, because you remember your New Testament I'm sure, that there was a man named Zacchaeus. Remember the short little guy? He climbed up that sycamore fig tree in Jericho and he heard that Jesus was coming by and so he got on the tree to see Jesus because he was a man of short stature. So he wanted to check Jesus out and see what the hubbub was all about. This is in Luke Chapter 19.
When he finally meets Jesus and they get together, Zacchaeus, convicted of a sin said, "Lord, half of what I own I give to the poor. And If I have defrauded anyone, I will pay them back fourfold." What is he referring to? He's referring to this law, the law of compensation, "If I have defrauded or stolen any goods that the compensation is a fourfold factor."
Now, our law in America says that if a thief is caught, typically he restores what has been stolen. In the Old Testament law, you restore what is stolen plus you add compensation. Now, if we had to pay four times or five times what was taken or lost because of property damage, we would be more careful. So this is a very, very high standard, four times or five times, depending on the situation or depending on the animal.
Verse 2, if the thief is found breaking in, literally digging through, I'll get to that in a moment. If a thief is found digging through and he is stuck or he struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. Now, ancient homes were built out of what? Clay, like the old adobe homes in this State. They were built out of clay, built out of adobe and the roofs had beams that would go across with fetch and mud on top like some of the old homes here.
So, a thief could dig through the wall or dig through the roof. That's the idea of breaking and entering here, digging through. If a thief is caught digging through your house, breaking in and you kill him, it's not considered murder because if he has the intention and the wherewithal to dig through your house, probably some kind of an implement, it is assumed that he may not stop in just digging through your house, but he might use that implement to kill you. So, to protect your property and for self-protection, this law was put into play.
Years ago, I read a story about a thief who broke into a home. This is a true story in California. He broke into a house. The owner of the house was home and shot the thief. He didn't kill him, he wounded him. The thief sued for damages and won the case in court. The owner of the home had to sell his property to pay off the thief in damages.
It's a sad day when in our judicial system which supposedly should be based, and at one time I think was more rooted in the Old Testament, when we are more concerned about the rights of criminals than the rights of victims. When we say, "Well, it's inhumane to just put somebody in jail. They need at least HBO," and we got to take them to basketball games every now and then.
And yes, God does give rights to criminals, but he does not override the rights of the victims. Verse 3, "If the Son has risen on him," or if this happens during the day would be a better way to look at it, "There shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He," that is the thief, "should make full restitution. If he has nothing then he shall be sold," that is, going to slavery, an indentured slavery like we talked about last week, "for his theft."
So, there's a difference between somebody breaking through, breaking into your house at night or during the day according to the Old Testament Law of Moses. At night, there's no visibility.
If you kill him at night, you don't know what's in his hand. He might kill you. And because it's harder to get help at night than during the day because everybody is sleeping, you could kill him at night if he's breaking in and it wouldn't be considered murder. However, if it's during the day and you killed a man breaking in when you have complete visibility and you would see what's in his hand or not, it was considered over the line. It was considered over the line revenge, exacting too much. And so, he would be held guilty.
Verse 4, "If the theft is certainly alive in his hand," that would be the animal that he had stolen, "whether it is an ox or a donkey or sheep, he shall restore double." Okay, so the law now differentiates between a thief that steals an animal and kills it or sells it versus a thief who steals an animal and still has it, he keeps it. If it's in the first case, he kills it or he sells it, he is to restore five times or four times. But if he steals something but still has that animal alive, then he has to pay double.
"If a man," Verse 5, "causes a field or vineyard to be grazed and let's loose his animal and it feeds in another man's field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard." In those days, boundaries were marked by stones. Certain markers, certain sized stones would mark the corners of the property. The problem is an animal doesn't know that. An animal can't read, "This is my property," or, "Keep out!" He just sees the stone and he says, "I'm not going to graze on the stone. I'm looking for something I can eat." So, he may go into your neighbor's property and in a sense you're allowing your animal to steal your neighbor's food. So you have to watch where your animal is grazing when you turn them free.
Verse 6, "If a fire breaks out and catches in thorns so that stacked grains, standing grain, or the field is consumed; he who kindled the fire shall surely make restitution." Notice that word again, restitution. So, when the dry season in Israel, the summertime, if you're out cooking bread like they did on a stone or even early in the morning, even when it's the dry season, it can be sometimes very cold the temperature. So, you'd warm yourself up. If the fire gets out of hand, you're responsible to make restitution.
"If a man delivers to his neighbor money or articles to keep, and it is stolen at the man's house. If the thief is found he shall pay double. If the thief is not found, then the master of the house shall be brought to the judges to see whether he has put his hand into his neighbor's goods." For any kind of trespass, whether it concerned an ox, donkey, a sheep, clothing, for any kind of lost thing which another claims to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges and take it to court. And whomever the judge condemns shall pay double to his neighbor.
If a man delivers to his neighbor a donkey, ox, sheep, or any animal to keep and it dies, is hurt, or driven away with no one seeing it, there's no eyewitness testimony, then an oath of the Lord shall be between them both, that he has not put his hand into his neighbor's goods. The owner of it shall accept that and he shall not make it good.
I find this fascinating. Let's say you say, "Skip, I'm going out of town and I've just restored a '55 Chevy. It's pristine, brand new paint job, brand new engine. Would you keep it in your garage?" "Well, I just have enough for two cars in my garage but sure, I'll pull mine out and then I'll put your classic car in my garage and I'll watch it for you while you're out of town."
You come back from town, and I say "Oh, man. I'm so sorry. Somebody broke in my garage in the middle of the night and stole your car." Maybe he did. Maybe he didn't. Maybe I took your car and I have it stored somewhere else until this whole thing blows over and then I have your car. But I say somebody else did it. That's the scenario set up here.
You deliver some of your property into your neighbor's or your friend's safekeeping and guard. If it gets gone, there's nobody to see really what has happened. Then your neighbor goes to court and swears an oath. Just like today, this is where we get it from, hand on the Bible, "I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So help me God."
And it's interesting that God is brought in. And if the guy is willing to stand up and say, "In front of God, I am telling you the truth," that would weigh in because you have to be some kind of a rat, a low life to swear an oath before God and invoke his name and still be lying. "But if in fact it is stolen from him, he shall make restitution," there is that word again, "to the owner of it." If it's torn to pieces by a beast, then he shall bring it as evidence. That is, the parts of the animal. So, if I'm watching your sheep and a wolf gets your sheep and takes it out and tears it apart, I got to go looking for its leg or head, plop it down and say, "Look. There's the head of your sheep. There is the mark you put on his ear."
"If it's torn to pieces by a beast, then he shall bring it as evidence and shall not make good what was torn."
"If a man borrows anything from his neighbor and it becomes injured or dies, the owner of it, not being with it, he shall surely make it good. If the owner was with it he shall not make it good. If it was hired, it came for a tire." Six times in the verses that we have read so far, the term "restore" or "restitution" is mentioned.
The Hebrew word is, listen carefully, Shalam. It means whole or complete and it's related to another familiar Hebrew term, Shalom, which means peace or health or wholeness or safety or completeness. It's the same idea. Here's the idea behind all of these commandments of restoration. It's more than just saying, "I'm sorry," to bring peace, to bring Shalam, Shalom. You have to do something or pay back something because whenever the fabric of human relationship is torn by sin, it's the restitution or the compensation that sews it back together. You just don't get off Scott free because it will cheapen the act that was committed, whether you meant to or not.
Verse 16, we start miscellaneous laws, and the first of the miscellaneous laws is against sexual promiscuity. "If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her," that is sexually, "he shall surely pay the bride price for her to be his wife."
It's speaking about premarital sex but the New Testament would typically refer to it under the heading of fornication. So if a young man and a young girl get together, their hormones are raging and the young man seduces or entices the young woman to have sex, the solution, he is to marry her. It doesn't say if she's pregnant. It is that they have consummated their relationship. He is to go find her dad and be willing to pay the dowry as if they were going to get married because they are. But what if the dad says, "You are a creep! I don't want you anywhere near my daughter." Look at this, "If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the price, bride price of virgins." In other words, he is still stuck with the dowry. If she becomes his wife, he pays the dowry. That was done because the father is losing his daughter, part of the workforce around the house, around the tent. So, you compensate the father by a dowry, a bride price. That means you're serious about the relationship. If he says, "You are creep! You can't get near her. You can't marry her," he still has to pay. What's the message? You play, you pay either way. I've had some discussions with people over the years who want to be adamant for some reason that the bible doesn't talk about premarital sex. Here's a clear cut case where it does.
And the reason it is not often mentioned in the New Testament is simply because it was assumed everybody knew what the law was. They didn't have to be stipulated. It was a Jewish environment. In fact, in Deuteronomy, the stipulation is interesting. It says, "If a young man and a young woman get married and he discovers she is not a virgin," assuming that she should be when they married, then there are certain legal stipulations and recourse that he can take even without. So, the New Testament, as I mentioned, uses the broad heading "pornea", which is sexual immorality to speak about a number of sexual sins including premarital sex.
Verse 18 is the sin of sorcery. "You shall not permit a sorcerer or sorceress to live," or a witch as some translations say. Now, I will say that I am glad I don't live in Old Testament times because based upon my own background and practices, I'd be dead. I practice astral projection. I practice spirit riding, all sorcery, all witchcraft when I was experimenting as a youth.
"You shall not permit a sorceress to live." Why a sorceress? Why not a sorcerer? Well, it would seem back then that males were discriminated against in the profession of witchcraft or sorcery and by far there were many more women who are mediums then there were men for whatever reason. Now, it's based upon this verse that the medieval church over a thousand years ago hunted down and killed witches because "You shall not permit a sorceress to live."
Go back to the Old Testament times, however, in which this is found. In ancient times, ancient civilizations distinguished between black magic and white magic. In ancient Babylon and Egypt, these distinctions were known. Black magic was the incantations used to harm someone. White magic, human harm was not involved, just good fortune, etcetera, and prevention of certain things.
Under God's law, it was all forbidden. It was seen as idolatry, a very nefarious from of idolatry. In fact, when the Greek translation of what you're reading, the Greek translation of the Old Testament called The Septuagint, translates witch or sorceress, it translates it "poisoner", one who poisons society. You may just want to think about that the next time at Halloween, you want to dress your kids up as witches and sorcerers, keeping in mind what the Bible says about these things. Well, it gets worse. Verse 19, bestiality is mentioned. "Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be out to death." This is sexual intercourse with an animal. Why is that mentioned? Canaanites practiced it. Mesopotamians practiced it. They believed that this was part of the activity of the gods they worshipped. And so some of them in worshipping their gods practiced what they thought their gods practiced. Now, there's a principle there. A person becomes like the god he or she worships.
That was David's point, wasn't it? In Psalm, I'm guessing, 115 or 15, one of the two. It says, "Concerning idols, they have eyes but they can't see, they have noses but they can't smell; they have mouths but they can't speak, they have feet but they can't walk. And everyone who worships them becomes like them," he said. You become like the God you worship. If your god is promiscuous, you're promiscuous. If you're god is false, you're false. If you're God is true and righteous and holy, if you truly worship him, you become true and righteous and holy.
Idolatry, Verse 20, "He who sacrifices to any god except to the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed." Idolatry became the greatest temptation for the children of Israel. I find that interesting. God made a covenant with them but because they were surrounded by nations even within their own boarders, people who practice the worship of other gods and goddesses, it was the greatest temptation they faced in their history and by and large the reason they were taken to captivity in Babylon. And then the Northern King destroyed by the Assyrians was because of idolatry.
You see, here's the deal. Here's the issue. Everybody was doing it. It's sort of hard to be the only kid on the block who's not doing what everybody is doing. It's called peer pressure. We know what that's like. Why do people do certain things today and why do Christians struggle with certain things that the world struggles with? Because they do it. Everybody's practicing that. Everybody's believing that or doing that and because we live around them, and the idea of separation is not as strong as it should be in our hearts. It's a temptation for us as well.
Verse 21 is oppression, "You shall not mistreat a stranger nor oppress him for you are strangers in the land of Egypt." This is the resident alien. You know what that is? They weren't Jewish. They weren't forced to become Jewish but they were protected under Jewish law. Did you know, just for the record, that the Palestinian today within the boarders of the state of Israel has the same status as what is mentioned in this verse? They are given protection by the Israeli government. They're given the benefits that you wouldn't get if you lived in Gaza and you were isolated in those communities that are trying to destroy Israel. Israel still treats the Palestinians like the resident alien giving them all of the benefits that an Israeli citizen has, sort of having the land called their own. "You shall not afflict any widow of fatherless." That makes sense. That's a good law isn't it? Why? A widow doesn't have a husband. An orphan doesn't have a father, a human protector. So God becomes the protector. Now watch this. This is cool. "If you afflict them in any way and they cry at all to me, I will surely hear their cry and my wrath will become hot and I will kill you with a sword and you're wives will be widows and you're children fatherless. If you lend money to any of my people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a money lender to him. You shall not charge him interest. You are not to take advantage of the poor."
Alone to the poor was for one reason, to prevent that person from becoming totally destitute. So, you don't take advantage and, "I'll loan you the money but 45% interest." It's supposed to be an interest-free loan. Now, here's something that I hope you'll find interesting. I did. This verse, these verses are the origin of a law in modern Judaism called the Gemach or the plural, Gemachim, which is an interest-free loan for immigrants.
When Jewish immigrants even, back in World War II and even to the present time would need to relocate, they would get one of this institutional free loan so that they wouldn't get to a place and become destitute. They could pay off their loan interest-free until they have got themselves settled. So, don't take advantage of the poor. Now, I have something against religious leaders and religious broadcasters who try to capitalize and take advantage of the poor. They will find demographics and they'll send their letters out to them and they'll put their name in the letter. All they do is they find out the person's name. They don't know the person. They find out the name and in a form letter, the computer can insert their name where it says, "Dear Marge," or "Dear Sam," or "Dear John, or "Dear George". So the name is there. "I've been thinking about you," says the televangelist a lot lately "and I've been praying for you by name," the letter says even though the televangelist doesn't know Marge of George from a hole in the wall.
"I've been thinking, the Lord laid you on my heart and I know you're experiencing financial difficulty. I have the solution. If you send me your money as a seed faith gift, I'll send you my specially scented anointing oil. When you put that anointing oil on the specially cut prayer cloth and then you drape the oil latent per cloth on your head," so that you look like an idiot, "then you'll get your miracle." "Okay, I'll do that. I am really destitute. I really am poor."
So many have taken advantage. I've kept a file over the years of some of these letters. I took them out today just to read through it. Oh, my goodness, I remember that. I heard of one incident where the televangelist got the name wrong and sent it to a company rather than a person. The name of the company was called Pale-O-Chicken, like a pale of chicken. Pale-O-Chicken, Pale of Chicken. And so, the letter started "Dear Pale-O, the Lord laid you on my heart lately. And Mr. Chicken, as I was bringing your name Pale-O before the Lord -"
Verse 26, "If you ever take your neighbor's garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down for that is his only covering. It is his garment for his skin. What shall he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to me I will hear for I am gracious." The outer robe was the blanket. If you take as a pledge because you give a loan to somebody -- Look, I'll give you this loan but give me your garment as a pledge. At night time you give it back to him. Take it back the next day but give it to him every night because he needs something to stay warm.
Now, Deuteronomy will tell us even more. If he has a hand mill or a mill stone at home, you don't take those items. He needs those or she needs those for survival to grind up grain, to grind up bread. So, you don't take the stuff for basic survival as a pledge. You help the poor. You don't penalize the poor. "You shall not revile God," Verse 28, "or curse a ruler of your people. Does that ring a bell? Now, before we apply it, does it ring a bell in the New Testament? This is a verse that Paul the Apostle quoted almost verbatim. In Acts Chapter 23, a fascinating scene, Paul the Apostle is before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. This is how it begins. "I have lived in good conscience before God until this day." That is what he said to the Jewish leaders. Ananias, the high priest, who is presiding commanded the people standing next to Paul to slap him, to slug him upside the face for saying that.
He said, "Hit him." And so, the guy next to Paul hit him. And then Paul turned to the high priest and said, "God's going to hit you, you witted wall," and the person who hit him said "What are you doing? You're reviling the Lord's high priest." And Paul said, "Oh, apologies. I didn't know he was the high priest for it is written, you will not curse or revile a ruler of you're people." He quotes his verse. So, he backs up. He didn't know that Ananias was the high priest. He didn't recognize him for whatever reason.
And so, he quotes this. So, here's Paul the Apostle, this was his bible. These were the principles he lived by. He respected the office. Now, let's apply it. Even if you don't like the officer holding the office, you must respect the office. "Well, I didn't vote for him." So? If it's your governor or your president and you didn't vote for him or her or them, I still hope you pray regularly for them. The bible tells us to do that. Respect the office. You see, God established, according to Romans Chapter 13, a human government. And if you want to submit to God, the bible says you submit to human government. Of course, up to a point if they're violating the laws of God, you don't. It says that in Acts Chapters 4, 5, 6, that section. But you respect the office.
"You shall not delay," Verses 29, "to offer the first of your ripe produce and your juices." "The firstborn of sons you shall give to me. Likewise you shall do with your oxen, your sheep. It shall be with its mother for seven days and on the eighth day you shall give it to me." So, the first fruits, whether it's crops or animals or in modern terms, the first check you write. I write to do the Lord's work my typed check. Verse 31, "And you shall be holy men to me. You shall not eat meat torn by beasts in the field. You shall throw it to the dogs."
So, if you're walking down the road and you see a carcass and it's been recently killed and you go, "Oh boy, free meat! It's steak tonight honey." Well, it just may cost you more than you think. There's a penalty for it. God says you're to be holy. Number one, on ceremonial grounds, religious grounds, they weren't eat that meat because according to Leviticus Chapter 22, all the meat had to be drained, bled immediately upon death. You couldn't ensure that as you happen upon a carcass in the road. Number two, that meat may already be spreading disease. So God again is protecting his people not just for ceremonial reasons, but protecting them. He tells them to stay away from the meat. Exodus Chapter 23 Verse 1 --
Now by the way, just so you know, if you're wondering, chapters and verses were not in the original bible. Did you know that? They were added in the year 1227 by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton. He just said, "Let's make it easy so you can reference it. You can say turn to this book, this chapter, this verse and it's easy for us." But because it was added later on by people who thought the chapter should be here and the verse should be there, sometimes you'll find and make mistakes in the division. Sometimes a verse belongs to the previous chapter or a group of them do. But that's when it was added. So, it continues basically.
Chapter 23 verse 1, "You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness." I've met some people who have a good sense of rumor not rumor. Not humor, rumor. They love gossip. They love it. It's like they live for it. They encourage it and they spread it. Now, James put it this way, "Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to laugh, listen carefully and --" James said. Someone put it this way, "God gave you two ears and one mouth. We should exercise them in proportion, listening twice as much as we would talk." In the bible later on, it calls this sin of spreading false rumor "tale bearing", a tale bearer. And the bible for example in Proverbs Chapter 18 says, "The words of a tale bearer are like tasty trifles. They go down to the in most part of the body." So you hear them go, "Oh yeah, tell me more." You're just so geeked on hearing gossip about somebody. Now, when somebody comes to you and wants to give you a report about someone. "I have a prayer request about so and so. I heard and I'll -- the only reason I'm saying this is I thought you may want to pray." You may want to ask a few questions. Number one, why are you telling me this? What's your motivation? Could it be jealousy? Could it be anger? Is it really concerned? It might be. What is the reason for it?
Number two, where did you get your information? "Well, I have my sources." So, you're not really anxious to be accountable or have them accountable for this report. You just say, "I have my sources based upon good information but I can't tell you who said it." Well, when somebody tells me I was like, "I don't want to hear it. I'm done." Number three, ask them this. "Have you gone to the person directly?" The bible talks about restoring the person one on one. "Have you gone?" "Well, no. I haven't yet because I just wanted to tell 200 people first to pray about it." Here's another question, "Have you personally checked out all the facts?" "I heard." "Have you personally checked out all the facts?"
Sure, figures don't lie, but liars sure can figure. Where did you get your figures? Where did you get your facts? Have you personally checked it out? And the fifth question, ask this, "Can I quote you on this?" "No, no leave me out." You brought the information. You're now accountable. Verse 2, "You shall not follow a crowd to do evil," mob mentality, peer pressure, "nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice." Boy, if people followed this, there would be no gangs, there would be no riots, and there would have been no crucifixion. The crowd shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" and inside it a bigger and a bigger circle as the crowd went in to do evil. "Don't follow the crowd," God says. You're holy. You're different.
Here's what's funny and I've noticed it even from my upbringing and when I was young. We would do certain things. We would grow our hair certain lengths, we would wear certain clothes, and we would do certain practices because we were rebelling against the man, the culture, our parents, our society. We don't want to be like them. We want to be independent and individual. Well, what's funny is it then becomes a trend and every body looks the same. So, you're really just following the crowd. Any dead fish can float down stream. That's one of God's points. Don't be like the people around you in many of these practices. You are to be different. You are to be holy.
Verse 3, "You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute." Justice is to blind. The ancient Romans depicted justice as a woman who is blindfolded. She was tender, but blindfolded. In one hand she held a sword speaking of swift justice. In the other hand, a set of scales being fair and weighing it out. In fact, in the ancient Persian courts, the judges always wore a blindfold when hearing a case, so that they wouldn't be influenced by the manner of dress. Whether he was poor or whether he was rich because it could weigh on the decision. So, it was just the facts. You couldn't see anything. Justice should be blind.
If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. Now, here's something very contemporary. Maybe not the donkey part, but follow me. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it. Now, even Jesus said you are to love your enemies. It's just sort of the Old Testament equivalent of love your enemies. Let's put it this way. You see the Toyota Prius of somebody who's hassled you and said bad things about you. There the car is parked. I'm just making up a car. I'm now down on the car. The emergency break is off and you see it sliding down the hill. It's starting to slide. What do you do? Somebody says, "Let it go." That's human nature. I know it will drive you crazy, but you want to -- did you get that, drive you?
You want to prevent something bad from happening because what it might do is turn the enemy into a friend. Reconciliation might be over you showing love to your enemies. Instead of saying, "I hate that person. That serves him right." Donkey's gone astray. Toyota Prius got crashed, so what? You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute. Keep yourself far from a false matter. Do not kill the innocent and the righteous for I will not justify the wicked and you shall take no bribe for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous. Also, you shall not oppress a stranger for you know the heart of a stranger because you were strangers in Egypt.
Now, this is the second time God brings this up. You are a stranger. Give him a break. Let me put it to you this way. When you see an unbeliever and you have a tendency perhaps to harden your heart towards that unbeliever. That guy's stupid. He should be open to a reason. You were there once. You were stupid once. You were as blind once. Look at what they're doing. Look what they're practicing. Look what I was doing. Look what I was practicing before I came to Christ. I don't have stones in my hands. I know what they need. They need Jesus.
So, you know what the stranger part is like. He said, "You were slaves in Egypt." Be cautious. Be careful. Be tender. Be compassionate. Six years you will sow your land and gather in its produce. But the seventh year you are to let it rest and lie fallow that the poor of your people may eat and what they leave, the beast of the field may eat. In like manner you will do with your vineyard and your olive grove. This is God's welfare program. Let them at you field and let them go in. So, six years you plow, seventh year it lays fallow. Six and one pattern. Six years, one year of rest. This part of the Sabbath law. It's expanded upon the 6 in 1 day thing from the Ten Commandments but this also part of it. So, here's how it will be able to work. Six years you work, one year, the seventh year, you leave it alone. The poor comes in, the poor eats. It will produce enough for you and the poor. You do that again, you do it for seven times.
Now, on the seventh set of the seven years, that's 49 years, the next year is called the year of Jubilee, the 50th year of the year of the Yovel, the blowing of the trumpet. What happens is land that has been lost because of poverty immediately on the 50th year gets reverted back to the original land owner. So, God would keep the land allotments within the tribe by the gracious year of Jubilee. Now, while people love to harp on keeping the Sabbath, I some times -- no, I often like to challenge them and say, "Do you really keep the Sabbath?" "Of course I do on the seventh day of the week. Saturday is the day I rest and the day worship, not Sunday." "Really? So, you keep the Sabbath?
"So, do you keep the Sabbath year?" And usually, do you know what people say? They go, "Huh?" "Yeah, the Sabbath law is expanded upon in subsequent chapters saying the seventh year you shouldn't work at all but you just trust the Lord. Is that what you do?" "No." "Well, you're breaking the Sabbath." "No, I'm not. That wasn't as big of a deal to God." Oh really?
See, yesterday I just finished reading 2 Chronicles Chapter 36 where God said, "Because you broke the Sabbath year law, I'm sending you into captivity." He takes it pretty seriously. It exacted 70 years because they didn't let the land rest for 490 years. Six days you should do your work. On the seventh day you shall rest. And you can see that we're not going to make it all the way through the chapter tonight, that your ox and your donkey may rest. God cares about your donkey.
And the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed and in all that I have said to you be circumspect. Make no mention of the name of other gods nor let it be heard from your mouth. Three times a year you will keep a feast to me in the year, and that's where we'll leave of for next time. The three times they were to gather together and thank the Lord for specific things God did in their past. Three times a year they would enjoy the unity as the people of God from all over the land. That's where we'll pick up next time.
Father in heaven, how wonderful it is to be your children, to be related in part to those covenant members in the old covenant, the Old Testament, the people of Israel. In fact, tonight we pray for the nation of Israel. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem as your word says. As David wrote, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May they prosper who love thee."
Lord we know that real lasting peace won't happen until the prince of peace comes. But until then, bring a measure of peace in this imperfect human environment and middle this situation that we find ourselves in today. Thank you for your love that is behind your law. And even though the law can't cleanse us, it points us to the one who can cleanse us. It can only modify our behavior. It cannot rectify our character, but Jesus can.
And I pray for anyone tonight who doesn't have a personal relationship with Christ, that they would come to know you, to come to walk with you and even as the Old Testament, lambs and sacrifices covered sin and pointed to the one who would take it away, even Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. So I pray that some here tonight, some listening by radio, some watching or listening via internet, wherever they might be. If their relationship with you is tentative, tenuous or non- existent, bring them to a place of forgiveness and then intimacy.
Father we thank you for the country in which we live and we pray your blessing upon our leaders, those who govern our country, govern our state, and govern our city. Strengthen them. Strengthen them and help them to pass laws that would enable your gospel to be furthered even more. In Jesus' name, Amen.