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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

December 6, 2017

Exodus  23:1-13

  1. We continue our study of the laws that Yahweh/God gave the Hebrews. We have shared that the laws give us principles and case studies to be applied to various situations that might arise within the community. The structure clearly divides into two sections, with a noteworthy conclusion: 10 instructions about truth and justice (applying “don't bear false witness”), 4 instructions about wicked partiality, 2 instructions about being true to your enemies, 3 instructions about perverting justice in legal proceedings, 1 instruction about being true to sojourners, 6 instructions about work and rest (applying “remember the Sabbath”), and 2 instructions about working hard so you can rest and provide for others --Ex 23:10-12.

  2. Verse 1. One of the things that will destroy the fabric of a community is deceit and lies. Community needs truth and honesty because real relationships need truth and honesty. “Do not spread false rumors.” False rumors are designed to ruin the reputation of others thus causing others to not want to do business with them or trust them. Spreading false rumors is an intentional act to undermine someone’s credibility with others. This will lead to division. The verse adds this to being a witness in a judicial situation. Do not help a guilty person by being a witness that makes them look innocent. At the heart of the matter is truthfulness and honesty.

  3. Verses 2-3. The Lord warns us about having a mob mentality. It is very easy to just go along with the crowd without thinking for ourselves. We see this now in our current environment. Folks are not thinking for themselves and just go along with the crowd. Most likely, this verse points to the idea of a mob seeking to railroad someone in a judicial matter. The point is that we should always seek the truth independently of what the crowd is saying. The principles even applies when the issue seems righteous. The law seeks to add a qualifier so that a crowd would not just side with the poor person without doing their research and looking for evidence to support their conclusions.

  4. Verses 4-5. The community needs people who will do “good” no matter who benefits from the good deed. It doesn't help the community to sit idly by and watch someone suffer economic loss if you can simply act kindly. The loss of a donkey or an ox to anyone would signify a tremendous economic hardship. This hardship would not only be felt by the immediate person, but the community as a whole. We are connected no matter what many might think. The Lord calls the community to act with decency and kindness even when we don't get along.

  5. Verses 6-8. Poor people are always at a disadvantage especially in court proceedings. The Lord knows the hearts of man and seeks to counter the evil inclinations of people with a challenge to be just regarding the poor. Bribery was common and it was not unusual for a rich person to bribe a witness to make a false testimony against a poor person. God warns the people that he will not tolerate this (See Isaiah Chap 1 and 3). God forbids giving and receiving bribes because this blinds the perspective of the witness. Money has always been a powerful thing when it comes to judicial matters. God warns the people to get money out of it.

  6. Verse 9. Once again, God tells the people to not oppress people who are foreigners. Outsiders are always at a disadvantage. Instead of treating these people as outsiders, welcome them and treat them like part of the community. The reason being that the Hebrews were once outsiders. God doesn't want the former oppressed to become oppressors. The former slave model that they lived under wasn't a model they were to imitate when they moved into the promise land.

  7. Verses 10-11. The Hebrews were used to working all the time for the profit of the Egyptian slave masters. God has to show them a new way of working and living. The first issue is that the people must leave resources for the poor. God gives the people six years to sow and harvest, with the seventh year a year for the poor to harvest whatever grew in the field. God also allowed the wild animals to eat this food as well, knowing that allowed for the animal population to thrive and spread seeds. We have a system of good land use, helping the poor, and taking care of the wildlife. God calls the people to be good stewards where profit is not the bottom line, but sustainability.

  8. Verse 12. God also calls the people to be responsible employers to not work themselves and their workers all the time. God required that everybody rest with no exception. The Hebrews came out a system of mandatory overtime every day. Once again, the issue is fairness and sustainability. A system of harsh labor practices cannot be maintained over a long time without become oppressive and slave like.

  9. Verse 13. God again instructs the people not to worship other Gods. I am thinking this is here because the people had been exposed to false gods of the harvest. There might be a tendency to pray to those false gods in hope of a better harvest.

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