Friday, September 16, 2022

2022.09.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 23:1–9

Read Exodus 23:1–9

Questions from the Scripture text: What shall they not do with what (Exodus 23:1)? What are they not to put with whom? To do what? Whom shall they not follow to do what (Exodus 23:2)? What shall they not turn aside after whom to do in what situation? To whom shall they not show what in Exodus 23:3? What sort of animal are they encountering in the situation in Exodus 23:4? What has happened with it? What are they to do with it? Whose donkey is in the situation in Exodus 23:5? What has happened to it? How would one want to act (i.e. according to his flesh)? But what must he do instead? What shall they not do to what in Exodus 23:6? Of whom? What sort of matter is in question in Exodus 23:7? What instruction does God give them about such a matter? Why? What shall they not take (Exodus 23:8)? Why, what two things does a bribe do to what two types of people? What shall they not do to whom in Exodus 23:9? Why, what do they know? How do they know it?

How must God’s society resist the temptation to treat others unjustly? Exodus 23:1–9 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these nine verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that in situations where there is extra pressure to act unjustly, God’s people must be all the more resolved and consistent to act justly. 

God’s people must act justly as witnesses, Exodus 23:1-3.
The Israelite has not composed the report in Exodus 23:1, but he is tempted to support it. God describes this as putting his hand with the wicked. This does not change, even if everyone else is doing it. For if many have turned aside (Exodus 23:2b) so that they make a crowd (verse 2a), the Israelite must still refuse to do so. Better to side with God in the truth than all other men in a lie! Whose side is God on? The right one. And that doesn’t necessarily mean the poor man (Exodus 23:3). God is no Critical Theorist! Rather, knowing that the compassion that He has commanded toward the poor could be twisted, God now specifically forbids partiality toward him.

God’s people must act justly as neighborsExodus 23:4-5.
As the question in Luke 10:27–29 reminds us, being a neighbor isn’t necessarily easy. In fact, as Jesus’s answer (cf. Luke 10:30–36), sometimes the neighbor is from among the “enemy” (Exodus 23:4) “who hates you” (Exodus 23:5). So, the Lord takes the situation in which we’re most tempted not to love our neighbor as ourselves and uses the Hebrew doubling of the verb, in both verses, to press upon us our absolute obligation to love him.

Think about it: you see an ox or donkey going astray, or a donkey who has given out under its load. You notice that it belongs to an enemy, or someone who hates you. Are you not tempted in your flesh to laugh to yourself and consider it “justice” that this has happened to his animal? But you mustn’t! You must act with the same care as if the animal was your own. Return the straying animal and help the struggling animal. God demonstrated His own love for us in that while we were His enemies Christ died for us!

God’s people must act justly as judgesExodus 23:6-9.
Again, now in the case of judges, the Lord takes up several of the most tempting situations in which to take shortcuts to judgment. Exodus 23:6 treats the flipside of Exodus 23:3. A judge may be tempted to thrust aside the justice of the poor just as much as he might be tempted to favor the poor or the stranger (Exodus 23:9). The wealthy have more power to punish us or reward us (Exodus 23:8), but we must not allow that to blind us or change our words.

Another tempting situation is when there’s doubt about guilt in a capital crime (Exodus 23:7). The judge might worry that the defendant might be guilty, and what if he is letting him off the hook? God’s answer in verse 7 is that no one ever gets let off the hook. The wicked man, though the case be unproven on earth, will have to stand before God, Who will not justify him.

What are some situations in which you are tempted to be unjust? Whom do you know that acts as an enemy toward you or hates you? How does recognizing this help you prepare to obey the Lord in this?

Sample prayer: Lord, we thank You that You have shown us marvelous, redeeming kindness without compromising Your justice the smallest bit. Grant that we would be like You in both love and justice, especially in situations where we are tempted to be unjust. For, we ask it in Your own precious Name, Lord Jesus, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or TPH174 “The Ten Commandments”

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