Exodus – God’s Way Out!
As God’s people form community with each other, God sees the need to explain how people need to get along. He gets very specific. If you read slowly and carefully, even though our traditions and customs are different today, we see the groundwork laid for our present laws concerning property rights and responsibilities to each other.
If freedom doesn’t lead to maturity, then we end up imprisoned in a bondage worse than what we had before, a bondage from within and not from without. It’s bad enough to be enslaved by an Egyptian taskmaster, but it’s even worse to enslave yourself and become your own taskmaster.
Remember, Moses went up to meet God on the mountain, and what God told him, he came down and shared with the people. The image of maturity that God used was that of the eagle, bearing it’s young on its wings and teaching them the glorious freedom of flight. Moses used the same image in the song he taught Israel at the close of his life.
God’s concern for the helpless follows immediately upon his concern for proper worship (21:1-11). Slavery is not forbidden, as that would leave the destitute with no means of survival. But the institution is strictly regulated, with clear provisions against the creation of a permanent underclass.
Servitude for life was possible only through the servant’s own choice. A woman born into poverty had almost no chance of a normal marriage. As un-ideal as concubinage was, it was preferable to the alternative: prostitution. Given these realities, the laws seek to ensure that the concubine will be treated as a person of worth, not as an expendable sex device (21:7-11).
All persons are recipients of God’s grace. No one has a right to take advantage of another’s misfortune. Keep them in mind as we read…
Exodus 21, The Message
“These are the laws that you are to place before them:
2-6 “When you buy a Hebrew slave, he will serve six years. The seventh year he goes free, for nothing. If he came in single he leaves single. If he came in married he leaves with his wife. If the master gives him a wife and she gave him sons and daughters, the wife and children stay with the master and he leaves by himself. But suppose the slave should say, ‘I love my master and my wife and children—I don’t want my freedom,’ then his master is to bring him before God and to a door or doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl, a sign that he is a slave for life.
7-11 “When a man sells his daughter to be a handmaid, she doesn’t go free after six years like the men. If she doesn’t please her master, her family must buy her back; her master doesn’t have the right to sell her to foreigners since he broke his word to her. If he turns her over to his son, he has to treat her like a daughter. If he marries another woman, she retains all her full rights to meals, clothing, and marital relations. If he won’t do any of these three things for her, she goes free, for nothing.
12-14 “If someone hits another and death results, the penalty is death. But if there was no intent to kill—if it was an accident, an ‘act of God’—I’ll set aside a place to which the killer can flee for refuge. But if the murder was premeditated, cunningly plotted, then drag the killer away, even if it’s from my Altar, to be put to death.
15 “If someone hits father or mother, the penalty is death.
16 “If someone kidnaps a person, the penalty is death, regardless of whether the person has been sold or is still held in possession.
17 “If someone curses father or mother, the penalty is death.
18-19 “If a quarrel breaks out and one hits the other with a rock or a fist and the injured one doesn’t die but is confined to bed and then later gets better and can get about on a crutch, the one who hit him is in the clear, except to pay for the loss of time and make sure of complete recovery.
20-21 “If a slave owner hits a slave, male or female, with a stick and the slave dies on the spot, the slave must be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he’s not to be avenged—the slave is the owner’s property.
22-25 “When there’s a fight and in the fight a pregnant woman is hit so that she miscarries but is not otherwise hurt, the one responsible has to pay whatever the husband demands in compensation. But if there is further damage, then you must give life for life—eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.
26-27 “If a slave owner hits the eye of a slave or handmaid and ruins it, the owner must let the slave go free because of the eye. If the owner knocks out the tooth of the male or female slave, the slave must be released and go free because of the tooth.
28-32 “If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox must be stoned. The meat cannot be eaten but the owner of the ox is in the clear. But if the ox has a history of goring and the owner knew it and did nothing to guard against it, then if the ox kills a man or a woman, the ox is to be stoned and the owner given the death penalty. If a ransom is agreed upon instead of death, he must pay it in full as a redemption for his life. If a son or daughter is gored, the same judgment holds. If it is a slave or a handmaid the ox gores, thirty shekels of silver is to be paid to the owner and the ox stoned.
33-34 “If someone uncovers a cistern or digs a pit and leaves it open and an ox or donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit must pay whatever the animal is worth to its owner but can keep the dead animal.
35-36 “If someone’s ox injures a neighbor’s ox and the ox dies, they must sell the live ox and split the price; they must also split the dead animal. But if the ox had a history of goring and the owner knew it and did nothing to guard against it, the owner must pay an ox for an ox but can keep the dead animal.”
The privilege of freedom brings with it the responsibility to use that freedom wisely for the glory of God and the good of others. However, the Ten Commandments were much more than laws for governing the life of the nation of Israel. they are a part of the covenant God made with Israel when He took them to Himself to be His special people.
God gave the Jews the title deed to the Promised Land, but Israel’s possession and enjoyment of that land depended on their obedience to the Mosaic covenant. The tragedy is that the nation disobeyed the law, defiled their land, and grieved their Lord, so they had to be chastened…but we are getting ahead of ourselves…
The law was never given as a way of salvation for either Jews or Gentiles, because “by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16). The law is a mirror that reveals where we are dirty, but we don’t wash our face in the mirror (James 1:22). Only the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse us from sin.
Why did God choose to give the Israelites the Ten Commandments?
In what ways was obedience to these commandments a response to God’s grace?
Why might some of the Jews have come to believe that “salvation” was a product of following the rules?
If not because of the law, why does God give His Holy Spirit to us? (Galatians 3 and 4)
Choose three or four of these laws and think about the purpose each of these laws served. What concerns did each law address?
How do these laws reflect timeless principles of justice?
Israel was God’s chosen people. What are some ways you are set apart because of your faith in Christ?
How does that play out in practical ways?
How do you find balance to be both set apart and also very much a part of the world in which you live?
What are both important to a life of faith?
What is one of the idols you struggle with?
How does it steal from your relationship with God?
What are some practical ways to overcome the temptations of this idol?
Why are you following the order of the state to stay inside?
Dear Heavenly Father,
Even though laws are meant to protect us, we grumble. Help me to consider why laws are important for our well being. Help me to remember, too that it is not the law that saves me but the sacrifice of your Body that redeemed me. Your law convicts us. Your grace saves us. Hallelujah! May I never forget that all you are and all you do is for our best. Amazing love, wow.
In Jesus Name, Amen