Friday, September 02, 2022

2022.09.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 22:21–27

Read Exodus 22:21–27

Questions from the Scripture text: What two things shall they not do especially to whom in Exodus 22:21? Why? What two groups are they especially to avoid doing what to in Exodus 22:22? If they do this to one of the three, what might they do (Exodus 22:23)? And what would the Lord do? What will happen when He hears their cry (Exodus 22:24)? And what will the Lord do? With what results? To whom might they do what in Exodus 22:25? Whom must they not be like in this case? By not doing what? What might they do when they loaned something (Exodus 22:26)? But what must they do in such a case? Why—what two things is his garment for him (Exodus 22:27)? And when does he especially need it? And what might he do if he can’t sleep? And what will the Lord do when the poor man cries to Him? Why will the Lord hear?

Why should God’s society have empathy toward the needy? Exodus 22:21–27 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that whereas men tend to take special advantage of the needy, God has a special ear for them, so His people must have a special empathy toward them. 

God commands special carefulness toward the needy. The sojourner, the widow, and the fatherless are mentioned here together for the first time. A sojourner owned no land and had no status. Note that Israel is not commanded to give them status. Neediness is not so much a lack of means as it is a lack of status, defender, or advocate.

God’s people, of course, are not to mistreat, oppress, or afflict anyone. But it is those who appear not to have a defender that we are more tempted to mistreat. Beware! Appearances are deceiving. The Lord Himself is their defender. So you must not lend to them in order to get something from them (Exodus 22:25). You must make sure that they have access to their collateral when they need it (Exodus 22:26). And you must make sure not to take advantage of them in any other way (Exodus 22:23).

God commands special empathy toward the needy. Notice that God doesn’t just give the command but in Exodus 22:26-27 in particular, he paints a picture and asks a question. 

He paints the picture of the needy person in just their undergarment, skin exposed. The sun has gone down. There’s a chill in the air, portending several hours of dropping temperatures.

Now, the Lord asks the question. “What will he sleep in?” It’s different than stating, “he has nothing to sleep in.” Instead, the Lord forces the hearer to put himself in the place of the needy one. He makes us come to the conclusion that there is nothing to sleep in. We can feel the cold and the slow, tortuous sleeplessness that comes with it. 

God Himself is empathetic. Notice the statement in Exodus 22:23, “Hearing, I will hear their cry.” And again in Exodus 22:27, “I will hear.” And notice also the “warmth” of the language in Exodus 22:24, “My wrath will become hot.” We know that God cannot change, so it’s not like there are changing emotions in Him. He doesn’t change, but as people and circumstances do, God’s perfectly consistent disposition brings them into a differing relation to Him. He speaks this way to communicate to us His empathy toward the needy. He is our example in this. And He is our danger if we don’t!

God Himself takes vengeance because He is gracious. Creatures such as we are, who are subject to emotions, have difficulty holding those two things together. But for the Lord, they both come from His perfectly consistent (“divine immutability”) and cohesive (“divine simplicity”) character. He is gracious toward the needy, which means He will avenge whatever advantage is taken of them. 

Notice that God does not command the Israelite society to inflict a special punishment, and He elsewhere even forbids practicing favoritism toward them (cf. Exodus 23:3; Leviticus 19:15). This is not because they are not to be avenged, but because He Himself will avenge them. There will be no courtroom, where the rich can use his status or rely on his high-dollar lawyer. The Lord, in His grace, will hear the cries that no one else hears, and He will answer with the fullness of divine wrath. This should encourage us when we are mistreated and warn us against ever mistreating another.

Whom do you know of, who has no status, defender, or advocate? What must you be careful not to do toward them? What is their life like? Who else is already noticing that and responding to it?

Sample prayer: Lord, thank You for being gracious, for hearing when we cry, and for avenging when we are wronged. Forgive us for when we forget this about ourselves and despair, or forget this about others and mistreat them. Make us to be more like You, Whom we know most fully in the Lord Jesus, in Whose Name we ask it, AMEN!

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

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