Exodus 21-23: Law and Promise
February 8, 2024
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Some of these laws seem a little strange to us, others immediately resonant as reflecting the moral principles laid down by the Ten Commandments in more detail now. Behind many of them is the judicial principle of “eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” In a theocratic political setting, it was important to establish precise laws for ensuring that fairness and justice were carried out, that the rich did not prey on the poor, that the strong did not abuse the weak, and that basic health was maintained. Immersed within such matters are many moral matters of expansion and particularization of the commandments already given.
Surprising for many are the instructions given about slavery (21:1-32). Have they not just escaped from the land of slavery? Old Testament, Jewish, slavery was very different from antebellum slavery, more like “indentured servitude.” Still far from ideal, it was regulated here in order to remove its worse abuses and ameliorate its potential for giving someone who had fallen on bad times a place to live and the opportunity for a fresh start once the servitude period has ended. It is understood that some might even choose to continue to live in this situation.
Their conquest of the Promised Land is once again predicted (23:20-33). And they are warned not to worship the idols of Canaan, not to become syncretistic in their religious practices, a constant danger for anyone, even contemporary mission movements today.
God’s people are being shaped by discipline and instruction into a people who could be ready one day to enter their own land, live wholly (and holy) unto God, and be an honorable, God-glorifying representation of the redemption from Egypt that they have received. Christians today are not merely to follow Christ with lip-service but also with life-service, to give their lives to him, to serve in the church, and to take risks for God on his mission, trusting that God will go before them and advance the kingdom of God according to his purposes and in his power.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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