The Israelites marched away from Egypt, through the Red Sea, to a place where they will now think, eat, sleep, drink and relate to each other in ways that God ordains as safe and secure. God commands these detailed laws, teaching His People, now free from bondage of Egyptians, how to live. God is building them by teaching them how to develop His character, integrity, and compassion. This building process will take time (as it does with us). Upon closer examination these details are simply safe practices for living in a new environment in better ways for their own good. God took His People out of Egypt, now He is taking Egypt out of His People. Hold that thought as we read and study how God works in and through His Chosen.
Exodus 22, The Message
1-3 “If someone steals an ox or a lamb and slaughters or sells it, the thief must pay five cattle in place of the ox and four sheep in place of the lamb. If the thief is caught while breaking in and is hit hard and dies, there is no bloodguilt. But if it happens after daybreak, there is bloodguilt.
3-4 “A thief must make full restitution for what is stolen. The thief who is unable to pay is to be sold for his thieving. If caught red-handed with the stolen goods, and the ox or donkey or lamb is still alive, the thief pays double.
5 “If someone grazes livestock in a field or vineyard but lets them loose so they graze in someone else’s field, restitution must be made from the best of the owner’s field or vineyard.
6 “If fire breaks out and spreads to the brush so that the sheaves of grain or the standing grain or even the whole field is burned up, whoever started the fire must pay for the damages.
7-8 “If someone gives a neighbor money or things for safekeeping and they are stolen from the neighbor’s house, the thief, if caught, must pay back double. If the thief is not caught, the owner must be brought before God to determine whether the owner was the one who took the neighbor’s goods.
9 “In all cases of stolen goods, whether oxen, donkeys, sheep, clothing, anything in fact missing of which someone says, ‘That’s mine,’ both parties must come before the judges. The one the judges pronounce guilty must pay double to the other.
10-13 “If someone gives a donkey or ox or lamb or any kind of animal to another for safekeeping and it dies or is injured or lost and there is no witness, an oath before God must be made between them to decide whether one has laid hands on the property of the other. The owner must accept this and no damages are assessed. But if it turns out it was stolen, the owner must be compensated. If it has been torn by wild beasts, the torn animal must be brought in as evidence; no damages have to be paid.
14-15 “If someone borrows an animal from a neighbor and it gets injured or dies while the owner is not present, he must pay for it. But if the owner was with it, he doesn’t have to pay. If the animal was hired, the payment covers the loss.
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16-17 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the marriage price and marry her. If her father absolutely refuses to give her away, the man must still pay the marriage price for virgins.
18 “Don’t let a sorceress live.
19 “Anyone who has sex with an animal gets the death penalty.
20 “Anyone who sacrifices to a god other than God alone must be put to death.
21 “Don’t abuse or take advantage of strangers; you, remember, were once strangers in Egypt.
22-24 “Don’t mistreat widows or orphans. If you do and they cry out to me, you can be sure I’ll take them most seriously; I’ll show my anger and come raging among you with the sword, and your wives will end up widows and your children orphans.
25 “If you lend money to my people, to any of the down-and-out among you, don’t come down hard on them and gouge them with interest.
26-27 “If you take your neighbor’s coat as security, give it back before nightfall; it may be your neighbor’s only covering—what else does the person have to sleep in? And if I hear the neighbor crying out from the cold, I’ll step in—I’m compassionate.
28 “Don’t curse God; and don’t damn your leaders.
29-30 “Don’t be stingy as your wine vats fill up.
“Dedicate your firstborn sons to me. The same with your cattle and sheep—they are to stay for seven days with their mother, then give them to me.
31 “Be holy for my sake.
“Don’t eat mutilated flesh you find in the fields; throw it to the dogs.”
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
We learn about the real work of developing holy relationships with each other. It was only right that whoever caused the fire should compensate the people who were deprived of their grain. The word translated “restore” or “make restitution,” used six times in chapter 22 (vv. 1, 3–6, 12), is the Hebrew word shalam that means “to make whole, to make complete” and is related to the familiar Hebrew word shalom (“peace, health”). It takes more than confession of guilt for an offender to make things right; it also demands effort on his part to compensate the people who were hurt. Only then can the torn fabric of relationships be mended and society be made whole.
We learn to think about ourselves less, others more. These laws limit the tendency toward selfishness. They admonish the Israelites to be kind to strangers and aliens, widows and orphans, and the poor. The Israelites had been strangers in Egypt and for many years were treated kindly, and widows and orphans are the special concern of the Lord.
Israel was cautioned against reviling any legitimate authority. They might blaspheme God with their lips but also by despising the laws He gave for their good, especially the ones relating to generosity to others (vv. 21–27). Blaspheming God was a capital offense (Lev. 24:10–16). It was against the law to speak evil of a ruler (Prov. 24:21, 22; 1 Pet. 2:17). God has established human government (Rom. 13), and even if we don’t respect the officer, we must respect the office.
Finally, says God, “Be HOLY for my sake.” Seek holiness by laying self aside, laying down our own wants and wishes, control and self promotion, to seek God who is Holy. Jesus was the supreme example. See Philippians 2.
Only God can make us holy.
“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:1-11, NLT
Help me to love like you love me. Make me holy. Continue to build your character traits in me.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen