Friday, August 26, 2022

2022.08.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 22:18–20

Read Exodus 22:18–20

Questions from the Scripture text: What must not be done with a sorceress (Exodus 22:18)? Who else must be put to death (Exodus 22:19)? Who must be utterly destroyed (Exodus 22:20)?  

How did God’s civil law for Israel highlight how abominable idolatry is? Exodus 22:18–20 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that idolatry is not only abominable in itself but leads to other abominations that are uniquely detestable to the LORD. 

No power greater than YahwehExodus 22:18. The word ‘sorceress’ here is a feminine, singular form of the word used for the “magicians” of Egypt in Exodus 7:16. Ancient near eastern religions held to a “deep magic” to which even the gods were subject, and which could be used to manipulate them. Permitting such wicked practitioners in Israel would have been to put Yahweh in the same class. For this reason, the penalty prescribed here and in Exodus 22:20 are put in phrases used when something is devoted to death or destruction in order to vindicate the honor or righteousness of God (cf. Deuteronomy 20:16). 

While there are some who believe in things like luck or other magic that can overwrite providence, even believers can be susceptible to trying to manipulate God. Israel would even attempt to use “seeking God” and fasting as ways to force God to do what they wanted (cf. Isaiah 58:3–4). Saul’s own rebellion for the supposed purpose of religion was characterized by Samuel “as the sin of witchcraft” in 1 Samuel 15:22–23.

No power from perversionExodus 22:19. While the placement of verse 19 may seem disjointed, ancient near-eastern studies help us to see the connection. This immoral abomination was thought to be a way to gain benefits of life and power associated with the various beasts. Idolatry quickly descends into sexual immorality, because it displaces man as made in the image of God and marriage as for producing image-bearers. 

The idolatry of humanism has been no different in its defacing of the image of God and multiplication of perversions. In addition to such perversions, the idea of ascribing divinity to animals and obtaining divine power from them is imported from many pagan religions into various activities that many around us unthinkingly participate in.

No power from any other godExodus 22:20. The word ‘sacrifice’ in this verse is a more general word than the one for burnt offering. It can even be used just of an animal slaughtered for a communal meal. Yahweh demands complete exclusivity. We must not give to any other that dependence, devotion, or delight which belongs to the LORD alone.

What means has the Lord given us to be helped by Him? To serve Him? To enjoy Him? How offensive is it when we look for power, purpose, or pleasure in another way?

Sample prayer: Lord, You are the one, true and living God. Forgive us for our idolatries and cleanse us from them, so that we will depend upon, be devoted to, and delight in You alone, for we ask it in Your Name, Lord Jesus, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or TPH174 “The Ten Commandments 

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