66. Exodus 22: “Commandments and Homework”
Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening Service on 9/15/2016
(edited February 2021)
As recorded back in Exodus chapter 20, Moses and Ancient Israel received the 10 Commandments directly from God on Mt. Sinai. For the sake of example, let’s begin our study by looking at two of them:
#3 Exodus 20:7
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”
“Vain” means empty. The name of our Lord should mean something special to us all! How sad when His name becomes just another word, or even worse, some kind of curse. I know I have fallen short in this area, several times.
#6 Exodus 20:13
“Thou shalt not kill.”
A long, long time ago, in a prison ministry, I was getting nervous as I prepared to give a message to a group of about 70 inmates. My little message that night was based on I John chapter 3. That’s where the Apostle John makes a point by using the sin of murder as a reference. That’s found in verse 15:
I John 3:15
“Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”
Well, Praise God, the message went well and the Spirit worked among us that evening. But out of curiosity, when it was all over, I asked the chaplain there with us if there had been any actual murderers in our service that evening. He calmy nodded his head and said softly, “O, yes, many.”
Settling disputes by the willful taking of another life seems to be approaching epidemic status in many places in the USA today! The facility I was in that night is an effort to address some of these problems, and many are working very hard at it. But the LORD is the only answer for America’s problems today. By the way, I have never willfully murdered anyone, but I have been angry enough to think about it. You see, it’s only by God’s grace that I was speaking in the prison that night and not already living there.
All 10 Commandments are true and righteous. There’s nothing wrong with them or with following them. To be wise you should follow these basic principles for righteous living. But we must remember that following these commandments alone, is not going to get us into Heaven. ONLY through a personal relationship with Christ can we be saved. You may be able to keep most of these commandments throughout your whole life (I’ve broken most of them), but not one of us will ever be able to keep them all, all the time. And that’s what it would take to earn your way into Heaven.
Knowing us, having created us, I believe the Lord realized right away that we need more than just the commandments. Like any good teacher, He knew we would need practice and practical examples if we were ever going to integrate His commandments into daily living. And that is where our chapter, Exodus 22, comes in.
The commandments have been given, but also included are some follow-up lessons. Some homework for Ancient Israel. Lessons meant to drive home the skills and the knowledge required for success. God doesn’t just bark out the rules and then leave us to struggle with all the details. You know what they say about details, right? That’s where the Devil is, in the details. But the Lord wants to instruct and guide us. To keep it real and practical, and possible, so we can serve Him as we should in Spirit and in Truth. Here we go:
Verses 1-4: “If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep. If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him. If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double.”
This is not just how to bring a thief to justice, but please notice, God wants us to make sure we have justice for the thief as well! That’s how much he loves all of us!
Verses 5-6: “If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man's field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution. If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.”
Property rights are to be respected. Sure, any power can be abused in the wrong hands and there needs to be oversight. But the Lord says we should respect the rights of private property owners. Is it any wonder, throughout modern history, that when certain regimes have attempted to seize all private property for the use of the government, they have also tried to restrict access to the Word of God?
Verses 7-13: “If a man shall deliver unto his neighbour money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man's house; if the thief be found, let him pay double. If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges, to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbour's goods. For all manner of trespass, whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing which another challengeth to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whom the judges shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbour. If a man deliver unto his neighbour an ass, or an ox, or a sheep, or any beast, to keep; and it die, or be hurt, or driven away, no man seeing it: Then shall an oath of the Lord be between them both, that he hath not put his hand unto his neighbour's goods; and the owner of it shall accept thereof, and he shall not make it good. And if it be stolen from him, he shall make restitution unto the owner thereof. If it be torn in pieces, then let him bring it for witness, and he shall not make good that which was torn.”
Good, solid, and fair business practices are of the Lord! And, always remember, God has the best “security cameras” in the world. He sees EVERYTHING that is going on, all the time! No matter how clever the scheme. No matter what we might come up with to fool others, God is not fooled. That’s why He is God!
Verses 14-15: “And if a man borrow ought of his neighbour, and it be hurt, or die, the owner thereof being not with it, he shall surely make it good. But if the owner thereof be with it, he shall not make it good: if it be an hired thing, it came for his hire.”
Folks sometimes write off the Bible as quaint and impractical. But if you actually study it, and ask God to help you study it with His Holy Spirit, received within in your New Birth, the Bible actually yields a lot of very practical advice. I would say that fairness itself, and reason, and common sense all come to us from the Lord and His Word.
Verses 16-20: “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins. Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death. He that sacrificeth unto any god, save unto the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed.”
The enforcement of this brand of capital punishment was necessary in an ancient world and an ancient social and spiritual environment. We still need to confront and resist evil in our day. The nature of that conflict has changed since Exodus was written in the Old Testament. That’s why they call it the “Old” Testament. But it’s not because evil is any more acceptable or less destructive. What has changed is that God has sent His Son all the way to Calvary to set us free from evil. All evil, for all time! That’s why things are handled differently now. That’s good news today for witches, and for the perverse, for sinners like you and like me. That is, if we are willing to repent and receive Christ by faith alone!
This passage is worth our consideration, more than ever. Morals matter, they always have. That is the point! The Lord was and He still is very concerned about what happens to the girl next door and the boy next door, also.
Let’s move on:
Verses 21-27: “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child. If thou afflict them in any wise, and they cry at all unto me, I will surely hear their cry; And my wrath shall wax hot, and I will kill you with the sword; and your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless. If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury. If thou at all take thy neighbour's raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down: For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious.”
God speaks more of “policing” His own, do you notice, rather than the heathen. In the end, the Heathen don’t get away with anything either. But they, knowingly or unknowingly, live as slaves to sin. The real question is: what will you do as a believer the with the knowledge and the power and the choice God has given you?
Also, let’s speak a little more of capital punishment for sins committed. I think most of us would say we are glad it is not handled directly by the Church, in our day. But remember this, everyone that is alive today is only alive because of God’s Grace and by His permission. So, although capital punishment has been taken out of the hands of God’s People, it has never been taken away from God! There are heated arguments today about whether the government should be trusted to administer a death sentence fairly and with consistency. And I’m sure there is some truth on both sides of that argument. But whether we like it or not, whether we accept it or not, the Lord, right now, retains the power of life and death over each and every one of us. So, you see, the format has changed since this passage was written, but capital punishment for sin isn’t obsolete at all. It occurs in the New Testament and it can happen in the Church today. I’ll give Jesus the final Word on this from the Book of Matthew:
“But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.”
Of the Ten Commandments, the last five deal with how we treat each other, but the first half with how we treat God. How we worship Him is now being addressed in our passage in Exodus:
Verses 28-30: “Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people. Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me. Likewise shalt thou do with thine oxen, and with thy sheep: seven days it shall be with his dam; on the eighth day thou shalt give it me.”
I think “gods” here may refer to the rulers of the people who were appointed by God. I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think the Lord is instructing them to violate the First Commandment in any way:
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me”
Generally, we are to stay in our lane in life and not show contempt for powers and authorities God has placed over us. At least not for any selfish reasons of our own.
Verse 31: “And ye shall be holy men unto me: neither shall ye eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs.”
There are ways that this life can take a person’s dignity away. But the saddest case of all is when we ourselves just throw it away. God cares about that also, very much I know, for I’ve struggled with it personally.
Well, we are out of verses and out of time for this evening. If you are getting anything out of these lessons God originally assigned to Moses and the People go ahead and read Exodus 23. That is YOUR homework, if you accept it. I’m sure, if you are diligent, it will help you to better understand and to put into practice the Commandments of the Lord. I hope so. Let’s pray.