PastorRodney’s Weblog

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