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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 22:18-31; Loving God and Neighbor

10/30 Exodus 22:18-31 Loving God and Neighbor

Jesus taught us that the entirety of the Old Testament can be summed up in two commands:

Matthew 22:37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (cf. Mk.12:28-31)

All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands. Love God and love neighbor. This is foundational to all of what God says to his people, what God expects of his people. So as we look back at God’s law given to his people at Mount Sinai – and Paul tells us that all scripture (by which he primarily meant the Old Testament):

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

As we look back at God’s law, we should gain a deeper appreciation for who God is and how he is to be loved, and what it means to love neighbor as self.

Keeping the First Commandment

God started his ten words to his people by saying:

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

God gives priority to worship. Keep first things first. Keep God first. Love God by giving him exclusive right to first place in your life. In the section of God’s law that we will look at today, God lays out for us how serious this is, and how our love for God should be reflected in how we treat others in our community.

Exodus 22:18 “You shall not permit a sorceress to live. 19 “Whoever lies with an animal shall be put to death. 20 “Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the LORD alone, shall be devoted to destruction.

These three capital crimes are ways in which someone would blatantly reject God’s exclusive right to worship. They are capital crimes because of the danger they pose to the community at large. Just as a willful murderer is to be executed for the good and protection of the community because God values life, even more so someone who is involved in this type of activity endangers the community by introducing a cancer that robs those who are infected of eternal life. Sorcery, bestiality, and idolatry were expressions of spiritual unfaithfulness, treason toward God, leading people astray from placing their faith and trust in God alone.

Sorcery or witchcraft is the attempt to foresee or manipulate the future by summoning supernatural power outside of the one true God. One of the greatest privileges of being in relationship with Almighty God is that we have access to him through prayer. Sorcery or witchcraft is a blatant defection from God by employing the powers of the enemy to gain insight or control over situations and events. We as believers have the strong comfort that God works all things out for the good of those who love him. To seek answers or to attempt change circumstances through supernatural means is to demonstrate distrust of God and disbelief of his promises. We would find ourselves actually fighting against God and against his perfect purposes and plans.

Bestiality or intercourse with an animal blurs God’s created distinction between animals and man, and distorts God’s gift of covenant sexual intimacy. This was part of the pagan worship of some of the nations that Israel would come in contact with and, like sorcery, expressed a dissatisfaction with God and his ways. God made man distinct from animals, as ruler over them to reflect his character, and he designed human sexual intimacy within the context of the covenant faithfulness of marriage to reflect his covenant faithfulness and intimacy with his people. Deviant sexual practices like homosexuality (Lev.20:13) and bestiality, rejections of God’s purpose and design in creation, were rejections of God himself.

Idolatry, or sacrificing to any god other than YHWH alone, is an explicit restatement of the first and second commandments, and ties these three capital offenses together. Giving our affection or devotion to anyone but the one true God is treason, robbing God of the honor that is due to him, falling short of giving God the glory that he alone deserves.

protection for aliens, widows, and the fatherless

In the next verses, the subject moves seamlessly from unadulterated love for God to how we treat the weak and defenseless in society, because putting God first in our affections means caring for those he specially cares for.

21 “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 22 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. 23 If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, 24 and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

Special protection is given to the sojourner, the widow and the fatherless. Most of the consequences given in the Book of the Covenant are judicial consequences – spelling out how a judge is to deal justly, but this lays out a different kind of consequence, because these people are the kind of people that might be overlooked or neglected by the justice system. God himself will come to the defense of the defenseless. God promises to hear the cry of the oppressed, and will himself come to their aid. The threat God gives is terrifying. His wrath will burn. Our God is passionate about justice, and he gets rightly fired up when we mistreat the weak. When you watch the news or see a movie and your emotions are engaged and you want to see the bad guys caught and punished, that is the image of God in you – an imperfect reflection of the character of our justice loving God. God has righteous wrath against sin. God says if you wrong, if you oppress, if you mistreat the weak, I will kill you. I will mete out poetic justice, putting your wife and your children in the vulnerable shoes of those you have wronged, oppressed, and mistreated. God says, ‘You know better. You know what it’s like to be the underdog.’ He is speaking to his people whom he rescued out of oppressive slavery in Egypt. ‘I did not save you so that you could now be on top and take it out on those below you. I saved you so that you would have compassion and empathy toward those who are defenseless, so that you would extend the justice and care to others that was withheld from you in your oppression.’ As Jesus said

Matthew 7:12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (cf. Lk.6:31)

protection for the poor

God extends this protection also to the poor.

25 “If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. 26 If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, 27 for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.

Do you hear the character of God that lies behind this command? ‘For I am compassionate.’ This is the first of thirteen times this word is used in the bible, always of God. It is frequently translated ‘gracious’ and almost always found in connection with another adjective translated ‘merciful’, also used exclusively of God. Our God is merciful and gracious. God is moved to extend kindness to those that do not deserve it. Undeserved kindness – this is the essence of grace. We as his people are to reflect his character in how we deal with the poor. We, who have been shown mercy, are to genuinely care and extend love to those that are in real trouble. We are not to see those in need as an investment that we can profit from. We are not to prey on their need. We are to treat the poor as our own family and lend without charging interest. The desperate condition of the poor is seen in the situation where the only collateral they can offer is the one cloak that will keep them warm at night. To keep that overnight would be to oppress your poor. Jesus calls us to take this a step further.

Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Jesus calls us not only to not charge interest, but to not even expect to get the principle back. In this way we reflect God, who gives generously to those who can never repay him.

This is a practical expression of our love for God and the right response to his love toward us. John tells us

1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Jesus gives us additional incentive to care for society’s least.

Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

put God first through obedience

The next verses return us to our vertical relationship, putting God first in all things.

28 “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.

Reviling God means more than saying something bad about God or using his name in vain. It means to treat him with contempt or dishonor. We treat God, and we treat anyone in authority, with contempt when we ignore or neglect to do what they say. Love for God is not a mushy-gooshy emotional feeling in our heart. Moses defines love for God this way:

Deuteronomy 11:1 “You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, and his commandments always.

Jesus says the same thing:

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. …21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. …23 “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, … 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.

John 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, …14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.

John gives us a simple definition:

1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

Love for God is expressed by obedience to God. Contempt for God is displayed by a disregard for what he says. Those who love God do not find his commands burdensome. In this passage he demands the first fruits and the firstborn.

29 “You shall not delay to offer from the fullness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to me. 30 You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep: seven days it shall be with its mother; on the eighth day you shall give it to me.

In Exodus 13, God required that all firstborn be given to him. The firstborn of animals fit for sacrifice must be sacrificed to him. The firstborn of unclean animals or people must be redeemed by a suitable substitute. Here he requires the firstfruits of the harvest – the fullness and outflow is to be given to him without delay. This indicates a joyful overflow of gratefulness for the abundance of God’s provision, rather than a token offering out of legalistic obligation. To those who are recipients of God’s grace, his commands are not burdensome. We have experienced God’s undeserved kindness. Our hearts should be moved to extravagant generosity. We are his. We have been bought with a price.

31 “You shall be consecrated to me. Therefore you shall not eat any flesh that is torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.

We are consecrated, set apart, called to be his special people.

Exodus 19:5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

This command to not eat meat that has not been properly killed – to abstain from eating blood – is found over and over again in the Law, starting with God’s instructions to Noah in Genesis 9, and it is even one of the few requirements given to Gentile believers in the New Testament (Acts 15:20,29; 21:25). The reason this is so important is given in Leviticus 17.

Leviticus 17:11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

Blood poured out represents a life given in sacrifice. The blood of the sacrifice was given to make atonement or to cover our guilt before God. The author of Hebrews tells us

Hebrews 9:22 … without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

He also tells us

Hebrews 10:4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

And he points to Jesus, who

Hebrews 9:12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

Jesus himself said:

Matthew 26:28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus is praised as the one who:

Revelation 1:5 …To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

We worship the Lamb, singing:

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

October 30, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 21:33-22:17 – Restitution – Making Wrongs Right

10/23 Exodus 21:33-22:17 Restitution; Making Wrongs Right

We are studying God’s rules for people in his community. These are the things that make his people distinct from the cultures that surround them. So, when we hear these laws, the first thing we think should not be ‘wow, we need to change the laws of our country to be more just’; instead we should think, ‘wow, if God’s people really lived this way, our culture would take notice and ask what makes us so different.’ Our lives should reflect the power of God’s life-transforming grace in the gospel message. God tells us to be holy because he is holy. God is totally other, totally different, totally distinct. We as his people are to be holy. Holiness is not how high you raise your hands or how loud you sing. Holiness is not something that happens on Sundays. Holiness is seen in our common everyday interactions with other people.

As we hear these laws, they should cause us to reflect on the law-giver, who ‘loves righteousness and justice’ (Ps.33:5). Our hearts should be drawn to worship the one whose righteous character is reflected in these, his laws. As the Psalmist says:

Psalm 119:7 I will praise you with an upright heart,

when I learn your righteous rules.

12 Blessed are you, O LORD;

teach me your statutes!

62 At midnight I rise to praise you,

because of your righteous rules.

68 You are good and do good;

teach me your statutes.

137 Righteous are you, O LORD,

and right are your rules.

142 Your righteousness is righteous forever,

and your law is true.

156 Great is your mercy, O LORD;

give me life according to your rules.

164 Seven times a day I praise you

for your righteous rules.

171 My lips will pour forth praise,

for you teach me your statutes.

175 Let my soul live and praise you,

and let your rules help me.

Our hearts should be stirred with admiration for our great King who is so passionate about justice and equity.

The section of God’s law we will be covering today deals primarily with issues of restitution, making it right when you have harmed someone economically. It covers issues of negligence that causes harm, repayment of theft, responsibilities in lending and borrowing, and the obligations that result from premarital sex.

pit laws

At the end of chapter 21 we have the pit laws and the goring ox laws

Exodus 21:33 “When a man opens a pit, or when a man digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34 the owner of the pit shall make restoration. He shall give money to its owner, and the dead beast shall be his. 35 “When one man’s ox butts another’s, so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and share its price, and the dead beast also they shall share. 36 Or if it is known that the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has not kept it in, he shall repay ox for ox, and the dead beast shall be his.

You might be thinking, ‘I’ve never dug a pit, and I don’t own an ox. What does this have to do with me?’ Well, as we will see in the next few verses, if you don’t own an ox, don’t take someone else’s! We must understand that these laws are paradigmatic, they give a specific example or paradigm that demonstrates the principle of justice, and that principle can be used to decide what to do in any number of various situations, including our specific situations today.

Negligence, not only malicious intent, has consequences. If your carelessness causes harm to another person, you are obligated to make it right. If you create a dangerous situation and it brings the loss of someone’s property, you must pay. Notice, the penalty doesn’t ignore the property rights of the owner – the other man’s animal shouldn’t have been wandering around near his well. He has to pay for the loss, but he gets to keep the dead animal – as if he simply bought it.

The butting ox law recognizes the inherent unpredictability of animals. It would be nearly impossible to determine who was at fault, so they sell the live animal and split the value, and also split the meat of the dead animal. Both owners share the loss equally. But if there was history that the animal had showed itself dangerous in the past, the negligent owner of the dangerous beast pays restitution. This might have application in our day to automobile accidents.


The next section deals with intentional financial injury to another person.

Exodus 22:1 “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. 2 “If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him, 3 but if the sun has risen on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him. He shall surely pay. If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. 4 If the stolen beast is found alive in his possession, whether it is an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double.

If your negligence causes someone financial injury, you pay them back one for one. But if you intend to do them financial harm, you pay back four or five times the value of what you stole. This would serve as a severe deterrent to theft as well as making sure the one who was stolen from is paid back quickly and fully. Stealing an ox would be like stealing a tractor – and would cost the owner not only the value of the ox, but the value of lost time using his equipment.

The property owner has the right to defend himself. Lethal force is justified at night, but during daylight hours, even the life of the thief is valued and protected. Theft is not a capital crime. But the one who is stolen from is to be immediately repaid. The thief either pays or enters into a service contract so that the loss can be restored immediately.


Again, the issue of negligence is addressed, this time with damage to crops rather than livestock

5 “If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed over, or lets his beast loose and it feeds in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best in his own field and in his own vineyard. 6 “If fire breaks out and catches in thorns so that the stacked grain or the standing grain or the field is consumed, he who started the fire shall make full restitution.

Restitution is not to be second-rate, grudgingly given. Restitution is to be full, and from the best. If you inadvertently cause loss to another person, you make it right. You give of your best to make it right.

Trust in lending, borrowing and renting

The next section deals with trust. Trust within the community of God’s people is essential. We must be trustworthy people. We must be able to trust each other.

7 “If a man gives to his neighbor money or goods to keep safe, and it is stolen from the man’s house, then, if the thief is found, he shall pay double. 8 If the thief is not found, the owner of the house shall come near to God to show whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property. 9 For every breach of trust, whether it is for an ox, for a donkey, for a sheep, for a cloak, or for any kind of lost thing, of which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before God. The one whom God condemns shall pay double to his neighbor. 10 “If a man gives to his neighbor a donkey or an ox or a sheep or any beast to keep safe, and it dies or is injured or is driven away, without anyone seeing it, 11 an oath by the LORD shall be between them both to see whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property. The owner shall accept the oath, and he shall not make restitution. 12 But if it is stolen from him, he shall make restitution to its owner. 13 If it is torn by beasts, let him bring it as evidence. He shall not make restitution for what has been torn. 14 “If a man borrows anything of his neighbor, and it is injured or dies, the owner not being with it, he shall make full restitution. 15 If the owner was with it, he shall not make restitution; if it was hired, it came for its hiring fee.

Notice that the repayment for stolen goods or money is double rather than the four or fivefold payment for stolen livestock. Of course, if the thief is caught, he must make restitution. The focus of this section is when the thief is not caught. I entrust my possessions to my neighbor for safekeeping. When I return, he claims that it was stolen, but no thief has been caught. Suspicion may develop that my neighbor stole my stuff. Trust in the community is in jeopardy. But who can settle this kind of dispute? ‘You took my stuff. No I didn’t. Yes you did…’ Trust has been breached. How can this be made right? This kind of case is to be brought before God. God saw. God knows. God is the one who has perfect knowledge of what happened and can settle the dispute. Taking an oath before God is a serious thing. Remember, these laws were for the covenant community, those who were following God. To swear by the name of the LORD that I have a clear conscience and if I took your stuff, God will judge me – that is something that would not be taken lightly. That settles the matter. Better to make restitution than to fall into the hands of God having lied in his name. Trust is restored, and the one whose goods were stolen can rest knowing that if there is guilt, God will make it right.

bride price

The next section deals with the high value of purity in the covenant community.

16 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged to be married and lies with her, he shall give the bride–price for her and make her his wife. 17 If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride–price for virgins.

This deals specifically with a girl who is not engaged, and this is consensual, not rape. Deuteronomy 22:22ff make it clear that rape or sex with an engaged woman was a capital offense. The bride price was a large amount that a man would save up and give to the father of the bride. This would help compensate the family for the loss of a worker, and a wise father could put this away as a sort of insurance to provide for his daughter if anything were to happen to her husband. This demonstrated the high value of purity. Sex is God’s gift to be enjoyed exclusively within the covenant commitment of marriage. A man who wants to play without paying will surely have to pay the price and risks the refusal of father.

Love Your Neighbor

So what do all these laws have to do with us? Jesus summed up the whole law under the two greatest commands; Love God and love your neighbor (Mt.22:37-40; cf. Rom.13:9; Gal.5:14; James 2:8). This is some nitty gritty practical daily life application of what it looks like to love your neighbor as yourself. Treat your neighbor’s stuff better than you would treat your own. Look out for the interests of your neighbor. Compensate fully and quickly when you have harmed your neighbor. Make restitution. Make it right.


Let’s look at a New Testament instance of restitution, from Luke 19

Luke 19:1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

Tax collectors were considered the lowest scum of society. They were sell-out Jews who had traded their reputation for a lucrative career in the employment of the Roman government. Caesar specified how much tax he was to be given. Anything collected above that amount was pure profit. Tax-collectors were unashamed thieves that got rich by robbing their own countrymen under the authority of Rome. Jesus took flack for going to the house of such a low-life. But Jesus was intentional in inviting himself over to this man’s house. Jesus was after his heart. And we see genuine transformation.

8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

We don’t see Jesus saying to Zacchaeus ‘you’re going to need to make things right if you want to have a relationship with me.’ No, we simply see Jesus extending grace – undeserved kindness – to this sinner. Of all people this man was lost – lost to his greed and given over to self-centeredness, rejected by society and beyond hope. But Jesus came to seek and to save people like this. And Jesus extended his fellowship to this man. In response to Jesus’ extravagant grace, this man voluntarily decided to give half his goods to the poor and make fourfold restitution – twice what the law we have been looking at required. ‘If I have defrauded anyone of anything‘ he says; imagine the line at his front door when word got out about this! And remember, under Roman law, which is who was in authority, Zacchaeus wasn’t obligated to pay anything back. He worked for the government. What he had done was expected in the eyes of Rome. This is evidence of a transformed heart – truly loving his neighbor as himself.

There are somethings we just can’t make restitution for, even if we want to. We can never make full restitution for all the wrongs we have done to our fellow man, let alone to God. But this is the good news. Jesus came to fulfill the law. Jesus came to fulfill every part of the law perfectly for us. Jesus came to make all things right again. Jesus came to a lost sinner’s house because that is the only kind of person there is. We are all lost sinners in need of a Savior. And he came to seek and to save us. Jesus, who had invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house, said ‘today salvation has come to this house.’ I have come. Salvation has come in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have come to save you from the debt you could never pay. To forgive your sins before God. When Jesus hung on the cross, he said:

John 19:30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

The Greek word translated ‘it is finished’ (tetelestai; tetelestai) can literally be translated ‘paid in full’ It is what was written across a bill that had been fully satisfied. Jesus, taking our sin on the cross, paid our debt in full.

‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’ I have come to so transform your heart, that you go beyond merely making things right as far as you are able, but transforming your heart so you love. You truly, genuinely, from your heart, love your neighbor as yourself. 

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

October 23, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 21:12-32; Capital Punishment – The Wages of Sin

10/16 Exodus 21:12-32 Capital Punishment; The Wages of Sin

How to Right the Wrong When You Fall Short

We are in Exodus 21, the Book of the Covenant, and today we come to a section of God’s laws where he addresses capital offenses. God has laid out his perfect standard in chapter 20, in his ten words spoken to his people. He said:

Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

13 “You shall not murder.

15 “You shall not steal.

These are absolute statements. They are commands. The assumption is ‘this is how people in relationship with the living God live. There is no ‘what if’ or ‘what about….’ God has spoken authoritatively to what life should look like in his kingdom.

And remember the response of his people. They were terrified at the presence of God and asked that he speak no more to them directly or they would die. They felt their guilt and inadequacy before God. They knew they didn’t live up to his perfect standards. They requested a mediator, a go-between to keep them safe. God is now speaking to Moses, who will write God’s words and communicate them to the people.

In this section, God tells his people what to do when they violate his perfect standard. He addresses the distinction in consequences between manslaughter and premeditated homicide, consequences for kidnapping, consequences for disrespect of parents, consequences for injuries and disabilities short of death, consequences for harming an innocent bystander, and consequences for negligent homicide.

We Have Wronged God

So God lays down his perfect standard. Then he tells them how to right the wrong when they fall short of his perfect standard. He starts, at the end of chapter 20, by addressing how to right the wrong done to him for violating his rules, because all sin is first of all sin against God the perfect lawgiver. And there is no restitution that can be made. There is nothing we can do to make it right with God. The wages of sin is death. We have dishonored God by not living according to his instructions. But God, in his mercy has allows for substitution. A sacrificial animal can take our place an die. Its blood in place of ours to satisfy justice. God gives us the sacrifice of a substitute to demonstrate the depth of our guilt and the greatness of his honor, and to bring reconciliation when we have wronged him. Through the death of a substitute, we can be brought back into a proper worship relationship with our Creator. This all points forward to Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

God Values Human Life

Now God is addressing the secondary issue that when we violate God’s perfect standards, we not only wrong God, but we also wrong those around us. This section addresses how to right the wrongs we have done to our fellow man. God had told us all the way back in Genesis how much he values life. He told Noah:

Genesis 9:5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

God values human life because human life uniquely carries his image. It’s as if you see someone’s reflection in a mirror, and you hate that person so much and want to do them harm that you throw a stone at the reflection of their face and shatter the mirror. God takes that personally, because it really is an attack on him. God made man to reflect his own character. To assault a human being is to assault the character of God. The dignity and worth of man as an image-bearer of God is so great that it requires the ultimate protection. To take the life of another is to forfeit your own. That is what he says in Exodus 12:12.

Exodus 21:12 “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.


Death is the consequence for violating the sixth command, ‘you shall not murder’. But he goes on to qualify that there are exceptions to the general rule.

13 But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. 14 But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die.

God cares about the intent of your heart. If you intended to kill, if it was a willful or cunning premeditated attack, you are to be granted no sanctuary. Even the most sacred place is no place of refuge for the murderer. This is not to say that all murderers go to hell. A murderer could trust in God’s provision of a substitute to deal with his guilt before God. He would not escape the immediate consequences of his sin against his fellow man, but in God’s mercy he would escape the eternal consequences of his sin against God. An example of this would be the thief – likely a murderer – on the cross, who acknowledged his own guilt and looked to the Lamb of God for mercy. He did not escape the immediate consequences of his sin, but Jesus promised him a place with him after death. King David, a murderer, said:

Psalm 32:1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. 2 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity…

The exception listed here is when a death occurs that was not premeditated, not willful, not by cunning. There was no intent to kill. We have a word for this that the bible does not use. We would call it an accident. Our word comes from the Latin meaning to fall – it simply fell out this way, it happened, a chance occurrence, the idea of fortune, fate, destiny, or luck. There are no accidents in God’s universe. Nothing just happens. The phrase the bible uses here is a bit startling: “God let him fall into his hand.” The example given in Deuteronomy 19:5 is neighbors cutting wood and an axe head slips from the handle and kills a man. This is not murder. And this is not senseless fate. God let him fall into his hand.

Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

God says:

Isaiah 46:9 …I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

This is a recognition of the sovereign providence of God, who orders all things. There is protection for the one who killed without malicious intent. We see in Numbers 35 the establishment of cities of refuge where the manslayer can flee and find protection for his life.


In verse 16 we see that kidnapping is a capital offense.

16 “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.

Anyone taking away the freedom of another person is in effect taking away their life, and for that offense, they forfeit their own life.

Dishonoring Parents

In verses 15 and 17 we see that breaking the 5th command was also a capital crime

15 “Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death. … 17 “Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death.

In the 5th command, God told us to “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long…” And here we see just how short your days would be if you didn’t take this command seriously! The role of parent is to be held with such high honor and respect that hitting father or mother would be unthinkable. This drills down to the heart attitude when even cursing is included – to say something like ‘I hate you and I wish you were dead’; this kind of disrespect warrants the death penalty, because it disregards the most basic representation of God’s authority on this earth.

Disability Benefits

Next, God addresses how to make it right on issues that fall short of the death penalty, but where there is injury.

18 “When men quarrel and one strikes the other with a stone or with his fist and the man does not die but takes to his bed, 19 then if the man rises again and walks outdoors with his staff, he who struck him shall be clear; only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall have him thoroughly healed. 20 “When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. 21 But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.

The weapons listed would be those available spontaneously in the heat of the moment. A stone or fist demonstrate a different level of premeditation from a knife or a sword. If the fist does cause death, this would fall under the previous category of a willful attack. Here he addresses the issue of a disabling injury caused by another person. The person who inflicted the injury is responsible to pay for the loss of time and any medical needs. This would be the equivalent of disability and health care coverage. ‘He shall be clear’ means that the death penalty is not to be applied when death does not result. The death penalty is to be inflicted if a master beats his slave to death. As we saw last time, biblical slavery is a very different thing from the slavery we are familiar with. Here, the human rights of the slave are protected just as the free man. This does affirm that a master has the right to inflict discipline to correct an unruly slave. But if he causes his servant to temporarily miss work, the loss of work is a loss to him, so he doesn’t have to compensate himself.

Innocent Bystander and the Life of the Unborn

The next section addresses the wrong done to the ultimate innocent bystander, a woman and her unborn child.

22 “When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. 23 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Again we see God’s concern and care for the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. Even when there is no harm, a fine is to be imposed on the careless individual. There is some debate among bible scholars if the harm includes only the woman or also the child, but common sense would make it clear that the miscarriage of a baby to an expecting couple would certainly be considered harm. If there is no harm would indicate that both premature baby and mother are uninjured. If there is harm to mother or child, the one who caused the injury will pay, even the death penalty if he caused death.

Injury to Slaves

The next verses protect slaves from abusive masters.

26 “When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. 27 If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth.

A master had the right to discipline his servant, but not to abuse. Any abuse – evidenced by a permanent injury – allowed the slave to go free and cost the master his investment.

Dangerous Animals

The final section addresses justice in the situation of dangerous animals

28 “When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner of the ox shall not be liable. 29 But if the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death. 30 If a ransom is imposed on him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is imposed on him. 31 If it gores a man’s son or daughter, he shall be dealt with according to this same rule. 32 If the ox gores a slave, male or female, the owner shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.

This in today’s world would be considered negligent homicide. If your brakes unexpectedly go out and you run someone over, you are not considered a murderer, but your car gets impounded. But if you knew your brakes didn’t work and you drove anyway, you have knowingly endangered human life and are held responsible. And here we see the concept of redemption. In differing circumstances, the judges could impose penalties that seemed fair, up to the death penalty. A ransom could be imposed, not a fine, but a ransom to redeem your life. In this case, you acknowledged that you are guilty and deserve to die, but you redeem or purchase your life back.


What can we learn from all of this? First, we learn that sin is serious. All sin is first against God and also wrongs other people. The wages of sin is death. God takes sin seriously. Jesus taught:

Matthew 18:8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

God never lets sin slide, but he has provided a way for us to be reconciled to him through the death of a substitute. The author of Hebrews tells us that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin; this all pointed forward to the God-man Jesus Christ, who became sin for us.

We also learn that God values human life. The life of every human being, whether slave or free, rich or poor, male or female, young, old, or unborn, all are precious to him.

Lex Talionis

God values justice and equity. The lex talionis (or law retaliation) found in this passage is restrictive; it prevents the human inclination to escalate the consequences due to others that have wronged us. If you knock out my tooth, I’d feel justified in knocking you into kingdom come. Here’s what Jesus has to say about this:

Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven….

Jesus is not negating the strict justice of ‘lex talionis’. God loves justice. The punishment is to fit the crime. You are not allowed to demand greater punishment than what has been done to you. But if you have been wronged you are not required to extract punishment. You can forgive. Jesus calls us to a higher standard – a standard of love. Love your enemies. Be image-bearers; be imitators of God, who is just and righteous, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.

Romans 5:6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person––though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die–– 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Christ Jesus demonstrated the ultimate love for his enemies; he laid down his life for us to redeem us and make us his friends

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

October 16, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 21:1-11; Rethinking Slavery

10/09 Exodus 21:1-11 Rethinking Slavery; Israel’s Welfare System and the Least of These

We are in Exodus, studying the Book of the Covenant, God’s expectations for the people that he has redeemed out of slavery and brought into a covenant relationship with himself. These are not rules we must keep in order to get right with God. This is God’s expectations for the people that he has already saved.

These laws were not intended to be imposed on the unbelieving world. These were given directly to God’s people, rules for life in a community consisting of those who are in relationship with God. God gave these rules to his people, not to restrict their freedom and stifle their fun, but to bless them, so that they would get the maximum joy out of life and have a sure hope for the life to come.

The Book of the Covenant begins with the most important thing, our relationship with God, pointing us to the sacrifice that restores us to a right relationship with him, so that we can do the thing we were created to do, worship him.

God’s Care for the Least

The very next thing God addresses is slavery. In contrast, this is the last thing addressed in the code of Hammurabi. God puts it up front because his people had just experienced the horrors of slavery.

Exodus 2:23 … the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.

God heard their cry and rescued his people from bondage. He introduces his ten commandments by reminding his people that

Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

Now he is demanding that his people not oppress others the way they had been oppressed. God is defending the rights of those who were at the very bottom of the social structure. God cares for the least of these, and he demands that we as his people care for the least of these.

Not Far Enough?

Many feel that God didn’t go far enough and abolish slavery altogether, rather than merely regulate the practice. This is possible, because Jesus tells us that the allowance for divorce in the law was not God’s ideal, but God merely regulating a sinful practice because of the hardness of our hearts, and Jesus calls us to a higher standard.

Matthew 19:8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. (cf. Mark 10:5)

But I think that if we take the time to understand what God is saying here, we might say with the Psalmist:

Psalm 119:98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.

Let’s start with verse 1.

A Written Code

21:1 “Now these are the rules that you shall set before them.

One of the first things to note in this law code, is that it is written. This is part of the Book of the Covenant. And in the first verse, Moses is to ‘set these rules before them’ – before the whole people. This was an objective written standard that could not be changed on the whim of a ruler. Even those on the bottom of the social scale were entitled to know these laws and were empowered to appeal for their rights to fair treatment. God is caring for those that society deems worthless.

A Different Kind of Slavery

The next thing to note when talking about biblical slave laws, is the massive difference between the African slave trade that Wilberforce fought to abolish in Britain and President Lincoln ended here on this continent. If we jump down to verse 16, we see that.

Exodus 21:16 “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.

So the slave trade that we are familiar with is outlawed biblically on pain of death. Stealing and selling a human being or having a slave that was kidnapped was a capital offense. When we come to any passage in the bible that seems to tolerate or even approve of the practice of slavery, we need to shift our thinking to realize that what the bible is talking about when it addresses slavery is a very different thing from what comes to our minds when we hear the word ‘slave’. In the bible, there was good slavery and bad slavery.

Let’s start by asking how someone could become a slave in the Old Testament. If a person could not be captured and sold against their will, then how would someone become a slave? If we jump ahead just one chapter in Exodus, later in the Book of the Covenant, we see one scenario:

Exodus 22:2 “If a thief is found breaking in… 3 … He shall surely pay. If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.

We will see that the penalty for theft was restitution. If you felt guilty and wanted to return the stolen goods, you had to pay double. If you sold or consumed what you stole, you had to pay back 4-5 times the worth of what you stole. If you stole someone’s ox (or in modern farming terms, a tractor), you had to pay him back with five oxen. Your theft probably indicated that you didn’t have enough resources to buy your own ox, so you certainly wouldn’t have enough to pay back 5 times the value. And there were no bankruptcy laws in ancient Israel. If you couldn’t pay, you had to work off the debt. You lost your freedom, not in prison, but as a slave.

Another scenario is found in Leviticus 25:

Leviticus 25:39 “If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave:

Here the reason for your inability to pay your debts is not specified, but the consequence is the same. Possibly you lost your income due to laziness or natural disaster. Regardless, you were obligated to pay what you owe. Notice, in this scenario, it is voluntary. The seller is the slave. You sold yourself. This is why the proverbs very literally can say:

Proverbs 22:7 The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.

If a husband and father got himself in financial trouble, he would not be hauled off alone to leave his wife a widow and his children orphans, which would have been almost equivalent to the death sentence for them. They would be allowed to go together into slavery. This will start to make sense as we look at some of the details of this passage.

21:1 “Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. 2 When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing. 3 If he comes in single, he shall go out single; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. 4 If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out alone.

Here we see another primary difference between this kind of slavery and what we are familiar with. Biblical slavery was not perpetual ownership of another human being. This was a temporary arrangement with explicit time limits in order to pay off specific, often self-inflicted debts. The term limit for Israelite slavery was six years. It seems, whether the debt had been satisfied or not, when the six years was up, you went free. And we find, in Deuteronomy 15, that the slave owner was required to help his former slave get his feet under him.

Deuteronomy 15:12 “If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. 13 And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty–handed. 14 You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress. As the LORD your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today.

I think it might help our thinking to replace the term ‘slavery’ with something like a ‘correctional internship’ or ‘financial rehabilitation.’ This was really a gracious arrangement. You have handled your finances poorly or simply fallen on hard times. An Israelite family agreed to take you in, provide you with room and board and employment so that you could learn a skill, pay your debts, learn how to manage your money wisely, and be given a fresh start on life. I think we could learn some things from arrangement.

Protection for Families

Three possible scenarios are laid out in dealing with the family of the slave. If the slave comes single, they leave single. If they come with a family, the family leaves together. The master has no right to keep part of the family even though he has provided room and board for all of them. That was understood up front. The more complicated scenario is if the master has another slave working for him and he approves of a marriage between them. This protects the interests of the master. He doesn’t get cheated out of the remainder of the service term of the one when the term of the other is up. This does not mean that the new marriage is broken up. Remember, this is the Book of the Covenant, made know to all the people. So the single slave would know up front what would be involved in entering into a relationship while serving his term. He would have to step up and pay the redemption price for his new wife to get her out of her contract early, or he would have to wait. His other option is spelled out in the next verses:

5 But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ 6 then his master shall bring him to God, and he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall be his slave forever.

The slave who was due to be released could voluntarily choose to remain a slave for life. Notice his attitude: ‘I hate my master but he has left me no other options.’ No, ‘I love my master.’ Here is deep gratitude for the generous and gracious hospitality of the master. This voluntary service is evidence of a healthy happy relationship. The slave was free. But he could choose the safety and security of continuing to serve a good master for the rest of his life. This could not be a rash decision. It had to be thought through carefully and finalized with a public ceremony. This is an indication that this sort of biblical slavery could be a very attractive arrangement with a good master.

Protection for Female Slaves

Verse 7 picks up another thread, with special protection for female slaves when they are mistreated.

7 “When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. 8 If she does not please her master, who has designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has broken faith with her. 9 If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter.

This addresses the uniquely vulnerable situation of a female slave. Apparently this master/servant relationship was intended to become a husband/wife relationship, and in that case, the marriage was not to be dissolved after the six years of service ended. Marriage is a lifetime commitment. If his intentions were to marry her, but he changes his mind, (and notice, he is in the wrong – he has broken faith with her) then he is to treat her with dignity and allow her family to redeem her. She is not to be sold as mere property. If she is to be the wife of his son, he is to treat her with dignity as he would his own daughter. If he does take her as his wife, he is not to abuse or neglect that relationship.

10 If he takes another wife to himself, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital rights. 11 And if he does not do these three things for her, she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money.

The issue of multiple wives is addressed and regulated. This is in no way condoning the practice, but protecting the rights of the weakest members of society. This would fall into the category of ‘if a thief is found breaking in, he shall surely pay’. Any man who is foolish enough to take on more than one wife, he shall surely pay. He is going to have to figure out how he is going to meet the needs of each one without diminishing the rights of the other. And this is more than mere subsistence, the word for ‘food’ here is ‘meat,’ probably a luxury item. Ample food, clothing, and conjugal rights are not to be diminished, or he is guilty of neglect and she is immediately and freely released from the situation. The consequences laid out for this action, like the five times restitution for theft, should cause a man to think twice.

Later in this covenant code, we see further protection for the life and health of those who have become slaves. They are persons that cannot be abused or disposed of at the whim of the master without appropriate consequences. A slave who is killed by his master is to be avenged. A master who abuses his slave forfeits the slave. (Ex.21:20-21, 26-27, 32).

God intends to protect and care for the least in society. For those who have gotten themselves into legal or financial trouble, he has provided a way for them to be cared for in a way that enables them to satisfy their obligations with dignity and gets them back on their feet in a relatively short period of time.

A New Master

Exodus is not about freedom from slavery. It is about the transfer out from under a cruel taskmaster and into the service of a kind and generous King who richly rewards his servants. In Leviticus, God says

Leviticus 25:42 For they are my servants [lit. slaves], whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves.

Jesus came to effect the ultimate exodus. Jesus said:

John 8:34 … “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.

We are all enslaved to a cruel taskmaster. Often we don’t even realize we are in bondage. We are in over our heads with no hope of escape. Jesus,

Philippians 2:6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, [lit. slave] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus came to be the slave to get us all out of our slavery. God became man so that he could die on a cross to pay what our sins cost.

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus bought us with his life. He paid the ultimate ransom price.

1 Corinthians 6:19 …You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Jesus purchased us for himself. He is a good master. He set us free from bondage to sin and bought us back so we can fulfill the purpose for which he designed us – to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Our glorious redeemer turned everything on its head.

John 13:3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Luke 22:25 And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

Do you know how the apostles introduced themselves? Paul in Romans, Philippians and Titus calls himself a slave of Jesus Christ; James and Jude the Lord’s brothers in the flesh call themselves slaves of Jesus Christ, Peter in 2 Peter calls himself a slave of Jesus Christ. John, in Revelation, calls himself a slave of Jesus Christ.

We gladly walk to the doorpost of the sanctuary, to the cross, and we gladly confess Jesus as Lord – he is my Master. I will serve him forever. I will be his slave. I love my Master. I will not go out free. I will be his slave forever. We confess our love for our new King Jesus.

And we sing with the Psalmist:

Psalm 84:10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

October 9, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 20:22-26; The Need for Sacrifice

10/02 Exodus 20:22-26 Worship and Sacrifice in Response to God’s Law

We are in Exodus 20:22-26. God has saved his people and brought them to himself. He has thundered from heaven and given them his expectations for life in relationship with him. The people responded with terror and begged Moses to intercede for them. The next section, roughly the next 3 chapters, is referred to as the Book of the Covenant, a name that comes from 24:7. This is a collection of case laws or examples of how to apply the ten commandments to specific circumstances in Israelite society. These examples are not exhaustive, covering every possible scenario, but instead give a broad sampling of issues so that anyone with a good portion of common sense could reason from the examples to the specific issue in question and apply the principles found here to render a judgment. We will see how this works as we go along.

Begins and Ends with God

This Book of the Covenant covers issues of social responsibility; how to live in community with other people, but it is instructive to note where God begins in these instructions. He begins and ends with worship. Worship is central. How we treat others flows out of a life lived in relationship with God.

Exodus 20:22 And the LORD said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the people of Israel: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven. 23 You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. 24 An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it. 26 And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’

In the context, these are God’s first words spoken to Moses privately after he thundered his ten words to all the people and they begged for Moses to serve as intermediary. God is speaking now to Moses and Moses is to relay God’s words to the people.

Right up front in the application of God’s standard is provision for failure. It’s as if God is saying ‘here is my perfect standard, and I know you can’t live up to it, so I’m letting you know up front that I have planned for your failure.’ What a merciful God we worship! What a great God, who understands the weakness of his people. What a compassionate God, eager to provide forgiveness for the failings of his people. Here is my perfect standard, and here is what to do when you blow it.

He is There and He is Not Silent

The first thing God highlights for us is that he is a speaking God. ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven.’ They saw lightning and fire and smoke and thick darkness, they heard the thunder and they felt the earth shake. But what God wants them to take away from this experience is ‘you have seen that I have spoken.’ That is a funny way to put it. Not ‘you heard me speak’ but ‘you saw me speak.’ Your perception of me was that I have spoken to you. Our God is a speaking God. God reveals himself in words. Do we have any sense of appreciation for what a blessing this is? God could have been content to wrap himself in mystery and leave us guessing as to how we must please him. Throw our virgin daughters into the volcano, walk on fire and cut ourselves, cast our sons in the ocean, trial and error, see what seems to appease him and what has no effect. How do we know where we stand, what are the standards, what happens next, how good is good enough, have we measured up? Praise God, he has not left us guessing! ‘I have talked with you!’ Our God is a God who reveals himself to us in words.

The First Two Revisited

God goes on to reiterate the first two commands. The original reads like this:

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Here by way of reminder he simply says:

23 You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold.

No matter how expensive or elaborate, you must not make physical representations of God. You must not give your worship to anything or anyone but me. I think we could turn this around and say ‘you must not make silver your god, nor shall you make gold your god. We are to worship only, exclusively, the one true God.

Sacrificial Altars

After this introduction and reminder to keep God first, God gives instructions on the construction of altars. ‘Here is my character and my expectations for life in relationship with me. You will fall short of my perfect standard. When you do, I have provided a way for you to demonstrate both the severity of your guilt and the greatness of my honor; I will accept the sacrifice of a substitute.’ An innocent animal must die in the place of the guilty person. Blood must be shed. The wages of sin is death. Listen to God’s gracious provision:

24 An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it. 26 And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’

Burnt Offerings and Peace Offerings

Right after the giving of the ten commandments, God points to the sacrificial system. Remember, this was the reason for leaving Egypt in the first place. They were to tell Pharaoh:

Exodus 3:18 … go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’ (cf. Exodus 5:3,8,17; 8:8,25-29)

For those who have fallen short of God’s perfect standard, sacrifice is God’s provision to cover our sins and allow us back into his presence. Two of the primary types of sacrifice are mentioned here: burnt offerings and peace offerings. There are 5 types of sacrifice listed in Leviticus 1-7, the burnt offering being the first and foundational. This sacrifice didn’t start here, it was offered by Noah, Abraham, and Job, and although the word is not used, this was probably the sacrifice of Abel and originated after our first parents rebelled in the garden. The burnt offering is foundational, because it is designed to address our sin problem.

Leviticus 1:4 He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.

The purpose of the burnt offering was to make atonement. The animal was accepted by God as a substitute, dying in the place of the sinner and making atonement, or covering guilt and bringing reconciliation. The procedure was to acknowledge guilt and symbolically transfer sin by laying the hand on the head of the animal, and then slaughter the animal and burn the whole thing (except for the hide) on the altar. This sacrifice is sometimes referred to as the whole burnt offering. The whole animal went up in smoke to God.

None of the other offerings happened on their own; they had to follow the burnt offering. The peace offering was to be placed on top of the whole burnt offering. The peace offering takes its name from the Hebrew word shalom. It is sometimes referred to as the fellowship offering or even the communion meal, because it celebrates the shalom that results from having sins atoned for. A portion of the sacrificial animal was burnt on the altar, and the rest was barbecued and eaten by the worshipers in the presence of God.

Deuteronomy 27:7 and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God.

The peace offering was a celebration of fellowship with God, that had been restored through the whole burnt offering.

Simplicity of Altars

God here gives clear instructions on how an altar for sacrifice is to be constructed. Make it out of dirt. If you use stones, use natural stones. No steps. Simplicity. The altar is not to attract attention. Dirt, rocks, nothing fancy. The altar is not what is important. What happens on the altar is what is significant. The blood shed, the death of the animal as a substitute sacrifice for sin – that is what is important. Two things in altar construction are expressly prohibited; if you wield your tool on it you profane it and if you use steps to go up to it your nakedness will be exposed on it.

First, use only stones as found in their natural state. Don’t use cut stones. Why would God say that using a tool defiles or profanes the altar? There was to be nothing about the altar that showed man’s skill or workmanship. We could argue ‘no, I’m making it ornate and beautiful, something worthy of God.’ God says, ‘no, your work pollutes and defiles it, makes it common and unfit for spiritual use.’

Isaiah 64:6 …all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. …

Even our best effort is offensive in God’s sight. It is God who accepts the offering to make atonement. It is God who saves.

Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy,…

Salvation is:

Ephesians 2:8 … not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Works will follow, but if we attempt to apply any of our own workmanship to God’s finished work of salvation, we pollute and defile it. Our good works are in response to God’s finished work of salvation and put on display that we are indeed God’s workmanship.

The second prohibition is ‘you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’ Steps were something the Canaanites used for their altars, and the Canaanites included sexually perverted practices as part of their worship. There was not to be even a hint of this among God’s people.

Also, steps would require human effort to ascend. God would allow no human effort in the way he was approached. There are no steps to climb up in our relationship with God. There is nothing we can do to bring ourselves closer to God. We cannot elevate ourselves. Steps would only expose our vulnerabilities and shame us. So there is to be no human workmanship and no human effort allowed when dealing with our sin problem, because our skill would only defile and our effort would only expose our shame. We are to acknowledge our guilt and our need for a substitute, and trust God to transfer our guilt to the sin-bearing substitute who is consumed in our place, restoring peace with God and opening the door to sweet communion with him.

The Blessing

Did you notice the gracious promise of God in this passage?

24 ..In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.

When we approach God on his terms, humbly confessing our sin before him, refraining from applying the tool of human ingenuity or taking even a step of human energy, when we approach him by means of the appointed substitute, we can know that he is causing his name to be memorialized. He is putting his character on display. The fame of his name is being proclaimed. And that name is Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, God’s only Son put forward as the propitiation for our sin. The whole sacrificial system, the altar, the offerings, all point to Jesus! God says ‘I will come to you;’ this is the greatest blessing we could possibly hope for – God’s presence with us! The name ‘Immanuel’ means God with us. This is applied to Jesus in Matthew 1:23 (Isa.7:14), who is God with us, God in the flesh, God come down to us, to seek and to save that which was lost. I will come to you and bless you. We have this promise

Hebrews 13:5 … “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Jesus said:

Matthew 28:20 …And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Isaiah 41:10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

October 2, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment