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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Leviticus 25:23-38; Jubilee – Redemption of the Land

04/02 Leviticus 25:23-38; Jubilee; Redemption of Land; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170402_leviticus-25_23-38.mp3

The chapter divides into three sections, each concluding with the phrase “I am YHWH your God.”

The first section of Leviticus 25 extends the calendar begun in chapter 23 and deals with the Sabbath year and the year of jubilee. Every seventh day, people and animals were to rest from their labors. There were certain holy times each year that were set apart for specific purposes, days in which no work was to be done, days of rest and worship. Every seventh year, the land was to keep a Sabbath rest. This was the Sabbath year. After seven weeks of years, after 49 years, the fiftieth year was a year of Jubilee. Liberty was proclaimed and a return to property and to families. Rest was required. God’s provision was promised. There was a warning not to wrong a neighbor. The focus of the first section is the cycle of work and rest, even rest for the land, and the promise of God’s provision.

The second section, verses 23-38, begins with God’s claim that the land belongs to him, and concludes with “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.” The focus of this section is land, its sale and redemption or release in the year of Jubilee.

Verses 39-55 address the situation where a person would sell himself to pay off a debt. In verse 42, God asserts his ownership over the people whom he brought out of the land of Egypt be his servants. This section concludes with “For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” The focus of the final section is God’s people, their sale, and their redemption or release in the year of Jubilee.

1-22 rest for land; Sabbath year and Jubilee

23-38 redemption or release of land

39-55 redemption or release of people

Our focus today will be the second section of this chapter.

God Owns the Land

God begins in verse 23 with his assertion of ownership over the land.

Leviticus 25:23 “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me.

This sets the parameters for the discussion of land ownership and sale and release. This speaks to the rest for the land every seventh year and every fiftieth year. God’s people would be tempted to argue ‘but I can’t stop working the land for a whole year! How could we survive?’ When we are entrusted with something, especially if it is for a long time, we begin to feel like we own it. We have had access to it for so long that we begin to think of it as belonging to us. God reminds his people ‘the land is mine.’ The land does not belong to you. I can tell you what you can and can’t do with the land, because the land belongs to me.

Tenant farming was a typical arrangement in the ancient world. We see this under Joseph in Egypt. The severity of the famine forced the Egyptians to sell their land to the Pharaoh in order to survive.

Genesis 47:18 …“We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent. The herds of livestock are my lord’s. There is nothing left in the sight of my lord but our bodies and our land. 19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we with our land will be servants to Pharaoh. And give us seed that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.” 20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh’s. 21 As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. …23 Then Joseph said to the people, “Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. 24 And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones.” 25 And they said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh.”

So all the land in Egypt was owned by the Pharaoh, but he allowed the people to live on it and work his land in exchange for 20 percent of the produce.

Several of Jesus’ parables used the illustration of stewardship; money or a vineyard was entrusted to someone’s care, and at some point the owner returned and expected his portion of the harvest or a return on his investment.

God reminds his people “the land is mine.” I’m allowing you to squat on my land, to live on it, to farm it, to use it. But don’t forget, it belongs to me. “You are strangers and sojourners with me.” In Leviticus we have heard a lot about the strangers and sojourners in the land. This typically refers to non-Israelites, foreigners. Here God reminds his people, Israel ‘you are aliens, strangers in a land not belonging to you. It is my land. I am the King, the great landlord. I set the terms of your occupation and your tenancy. As the landowner, he reserves the right to evict any tenants who refuse to follow his rules. He has done this before. In Leviticus chapters 18 and 20, where God lays out the code of conduct he requires of his people, he reminds them

Leviticus 20:22 “You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. 23 And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them. 24 But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples.

God is the landowner, and he is evicting the former tenants after excessively generous notification. But this is a warning to his own people. If they refuse to follow his rules, they too will be evicted. God’s people are always to keep in mind that they are sojourners and strangers living on God’s land.

As such, “the land shall not be sold in perpetuity.” God’s people living in God’s land are allowed to sub-lease the land to others. But no sales are final, because the land belongs to God. In the first section, introducing the year of Jubilee, God clarified that what is being sold is not the land itself, but the number of harvests until the year of Jubilee, when the land would return to the ones God allotted it to.

Redemption and the Kinsman Redeemer

Leviticus 25:24 And in all the country you possess, you shall allow a redemption of the land. 25 “If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold.

Here we are introduced to the idea of redemption. This noun shows up 9 times in this chapter, twice in Ruth 4, twice in Jeremiah 32, and once in Ezekiel. Leviticus 25 is key to understanding what redemption means. The verb form shows up 10 times in this chapter, and 12 times in Leviticus 27, a handful of times scattered through the rest of the Pentateuch and the other historical books; 21 times in Ruth, twice in Job, 10 times in Psalms, once in Proverbs, 24 times in Isaiah (x24); and several other occurrences in the prophets. The noun is gullah (gheh-ool-law’), from the verb ga’al (gaw-al’), kinsman redeemer. The same verb is translated ‘avenger’ in the phrase ‘avenger of blood’ about 12 times in Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, and 2 Samuel. As we learn from Leviticus and from Ruth, the kinsman redeemer was a near relative who had the ability to right what was wrong in the family. If a brother was in financial trouble, his nearest redeemer had the responsibility to keep the land in the family. In the next section we will see a brother who sells himself into slavery can be redeemed by his kinsman redeemer. In Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua, the kinsman redeemer had the responsibility to defend the rights of his kin and avenge his murder. In the poetic and prophetic books, God is the kinsman redeemer of his people. This is the foundation for the concept of the redemption we have in Jesus in the New Testament.

Leviticus 25:26 If a man has no one to redeem it and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it, 27 let him calculate the years since he sold it and pay back the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and then return to his property. 28 But if he does not have sufficient means to recover it, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of the buyer until the year of jubilee. In the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property.

The one who sells his own land may redeem it himself if he becomes financially able. This would be highly unlikely, apart from receiving an inheritance. The redemption price is to be a fair price, the price for which the land was sold, less the amount of harvests that have benefited the buyer after the sale. So if there was 30 years until the Jubilee, and the land could generate 1,000 a year, it would be sold for 30,000. If ten years into the contract, a kinsman redeemer came forward to redeem the land, he would pay 20,000, in effect refunding the value of the 20 remaining years. The buyer should have gotten his 10,000 out of the land in the first ten years of his lease.

If there is no one able to redeem the land, it must remain in the possession of the buyer until the Jubilee. In the year of Jubilee, the land reverts to the one God had entrusted it to.

Exceptions

There are some exceptions to these general rules of redemption and release covered in the rest of this section.

Leviticus 25:29 “If a man sells a dwelling house in a walled city, he may redeem it within a year of its sale. For a full year he shall have the right of redemption. 30 If it is not redeemed within a full year, then the house in the walled city shall belong in perpetuity to the buyer, throughout his generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee. 31 But the houses of the villages that have no wall around them shall be classified with the fields of the land. They may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the jubilee.

Houses in walled cities were an exception to the rule. The seller retained the right to redeem it for one year, after which it became the permanent possession of the buyer. Houses in unwalled villages were counted as land, and were subject to the same redemption and release in the Jubilee.

Then there is an exception to the exception.

Leviticus 25:32 As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites may redeem at any time the houses in the cities they possess. 33 And if one of the Levites exercises his right of redemption, then the house that was sold in a city they possess shall be released in the jubilee. For the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the people of Israel. 34 But the fields of pastureland belonging to their cities may not be sold, for that is their possession forever.

The Levites, remember, were not given any land inheritance, only cities scattered within the other tribes of Israel; cities of refuge. Dwellings given to the Levites in these cities could always be redeemed, and they would be released back to them in the Jubilee.

Hospitality to a Brother

Verses 35-38 conclude this section with an exhortation to take care of your brother, and a warning to fear God.

Leviticus 25:35 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. 37 You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. 38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

Leviticus 19 told us to love your neighbor as yourself, and to love the stranger as yourself. But we may not feel that this extends to a near relative. We know them. They knew better. ‘I’m willing to help my neighbor, and the guy I don’t know, but my brother, well, he got himself into this mess. I warned him and he didn’t listen. He needs to learn his lesson. I’m not going to bail him out; he’ll just do it again.’ God says, don’t harden your heart to your relative. Treat him at least as well as you would treat a stranger. Take him in. Help him out. Help him get back on his feet. Show hospitality. Don’t enable him, but don’t take advantage of his vulnerable situation either. We see a similar warning to what we saw in the first section of this chapter.

Redemption is to be a blessing to those in need. Don’t turn the blessing into a curse. Don’t hold it over his head. Don’t take interest from him. Don’t capitalize on his misfortune. Genuinely seek to help him get back on his feet. Do for him what you would want him to do for you if it was you who fell on hard times. Do not take advantage of him, but fear God. You were slaves in Egypt. God brought you out and gave you the land. The land you possess is a gift from God. Give a gift to your brother in need.

Application

How do we apply a passage like this? We must remember, this was written to Israel after God rescued them from Egypt and was preparing them to enter Canaan. The land promises were a big deal. But we are not Israel, this is not Canaan, we don’t have Levites or walled cities, our property was not apportioned by God, and we don’t release property back to its original owner in the year of Jubilee.

Care for your Brothers

But we can draw some principles that do apply to us today. We are not under the kinsman redeemer laws, but it is right to look out for our relatives.

1 Timothy 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 John asks:

1 John 3:17 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.

Acknowledged God’s Sovereignty

We may not be in the promised land, but we should recognize God’s absolute ownership and right over all that he has made. Psalm 24, quoted in 1 Corinthians 10, says:

Psalm 24:1 The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,

God is the Creator of all that is. He made it and he can do with it what he pleases. He retains the authority to make the rules and enforce them. Everything belongs to him and it exists to please him.

We need to be reminded that we have been entrusted with a stewardship, and that we will be called to account for what we have done with what we have been given. We are sojourners and strangers in a land that belongs to another.

1 Peter 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Look to the Redeemer

Most importantly, we understand from this passage a little more clearly what redemption is all about. It was the responsibility of a near relative to redeem the one in trouble. 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 emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, 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 became related to us, became one of us, became human, so that he could be our Kinsman Redeemer. Hebrews says:

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

He had to be made like his brothers, so that he could redeem us as brothers. Isaiah even goes so far as to say:

Isaiah 54:5 For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.

Our Creator became our husband to redeem us. Jesus is our Redeemer, our near kinsman, the one who comes to our rescue when we are poor and desperate and beyond all hope. Jesus is our rescue when all other hope is lost.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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April 4, 2017 Posted by | Leviticus, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exodus 22:18-31; Loving God and Neighbor

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20111030_exodus22_18-31.mp3

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 ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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

Exodus 21:1-11; Rethinking Slavery

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20111009_exodus21_1-11.mp3

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 ~ www.ephraimbible.org

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