About Jesus      Steve Sweetman

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ch. 23:1-9   ch. 23:10-13     ch. 23:14-19    ch. 12:20-33

Laws Of Justice And Mercy (ch. 23:1 - 9)    


Exodus 23 opens with the words, "do not".  I mention this because many of the Ten Commandments are similar.  In one sense of the word, there are more than ten commandments.  Here are a couple more.  Verse 1 says, "do not spread false reports.  Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness." 


There are "do nots" in verses 2 and 3.  "Do not follow a crowd".  This is especially important today when peer pressure is so great.  We are to stand on the side of God and Jesus, not the crowd.  In this case an example of following a crowd is in a court of law.  We are to tell the truth and not distort justice by following the crowd.


Verse 3 also says that we should not show favouritism in a lawsuit when it comes to the poor.  There is much said about the poor in the Law of Moses.  They are protected in many ways.  Jesus Himself was always on the side of the poor.


Verses 4 and 5 sound very much like Jesus when He tells us to love our enemies.  This command tells the Jews not to take advantage of your enemies when his ox or donkey falls into a pit.  I'm sure that this command, like many others can be understood in far reaching terms, other than what is exactly stated.  So I suggest that one should not take advantage of his enemy in any situation, not just those that concern his ox or donkey.    In time of war, you fight to win, and I don't believe this rule applies then.  We do know in later times Israel did fight wars, and were told to do so by God.  


We see protection again to the poor in verses 6 and 7, and also to the honest man.  We are to be on the side of the truth, even if that means being on the side of the poor.  Way too often the rich in important people sway us away from the truth because we like being friends with them.  We are to stand on the side of the truth no matter what it takes.


Verse 8 says, "do not accept a bribe."  The text states that if we accept bribes our understanding is blurred.  How true.  Money can blur the important things in life, and especially money that is received because of a bribe.  We become subject to the one who has bribed us instead of being subject to the truth.


Verse 9 protects the aliens who live among the Jews.  We've seen this command being stated before.   The alien is a bit like the poor.  They are disadvantaged.  We should look out for those of us who are so disadvantaged.      


Sabbath Laws (ch. 23:10 - 13)


In verses 10 and 11 we see the institution of the "Sabbath year", not the "Sabbath day".   Every seventh year the Jews must rest their land.  The reason for this is so the poor can eat from it.  I assume that means the poor can find food that may be there.  Once again, we see the protection for the poor.  Even the animals can benefit from this Sabbath year.  They will be able to eat what the poor leave behind.


You might ask, "how can the poor find food in a field that has not had seed planted in it?"  The assumption is that some plants might have reseeded itself, producing a plant in the seventh year. 


At this point I will mention that Israel failed to keep this law.  This is why the Lord allowed Babylon to attack Jerusalem and take the Jews away to Babylon.  2 Chronicles 36:17 tells us that this is the reason why Israel was taken captive by Babylon .  They had failed to obey the Sabbath year command for 490 years, so God brought judgment on Israel for each Sabbath year that they missed in those 490 years, and the number was 70.  They missed 70 Sabbaths and therefore God punished them for 70 years.


Verse 12 speaks of the Sabbath day. Every seven days Israel was to rest.  We saw this earlier in the Ten Commandments. 


Verse 13 says, "do not evoke the names of other gods…"  Israel belonged to Elohim Yahweh.  They bore His name.  If they took the name of other gods, this would be spiritual adultery.  They were married to one God, and He was Elohim Yahweh.


The Three Annual Festivals (ch. 23:14 - 19)


This section speaks to three feast.   Later, we see these three become seven feasts.  Both numbers are important and probably are important in the way it is seen here.  First comes three and then seven. 


The first feast is the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which we have seen before.  This is simply repeating what we already know, or to put it another way, it is codifying what has already been in existence.  This is a spring feast and lasts for 7 days.  It was during this feast that Jesus died on the cross.


In verse 16 we see the Feast of Harvest, also known as the Feast of Pentecost, and the Feast of Ingathering, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles.


These three of the seven feast were mandatory for the Jews to keep as seen in verse 17.  We thus know that Jesus celebrated these feasts every year that He lived.


In verse 18 we see that yeast and blood do not mix in the economy of God.  Yeast represents sin, so why should the two be mixed, especially when blood is always a type of the blood of Jesus.  For this reason the cross of Christ is extraordinarily amazing.  The perfect blood of Jesus was defiled by the yeast of our sin.


Verse 19 states that the best animals must be used in offerings to the Lord.  We also see the term "the house of the Lord your God" mentioned here for the first time.  At this point in time, there is no such place, no such house, but we will see the establishment of the house of God in the next chapter.  This then, becomes one of the major themes in the Bible.


The last phrase of this section says not to cook a young goat in mother's milk.  I don't totally know the significance of this law, but I do know that an orthodox Jew will not eat meat and milk at the same meal because of this verse.  That being said, many of these laws were instituted by God due to the practice of pagan religions.  Pagans did such things that God did not want Israel to do.  Therefore, some of these laws are to counteract pagan practices influencing Israel. 


God's Angel To Prepare The Way (ch. 23:20 - 33)


In verse 20 God tells Israel that He is sending an angel before them to guard them on their way to the promised land of Canaan.  This tells us something that angels do.  They work on the behalf of God, sent into the world to help God's people.  I believe angels can and still do the same today, both on the behalf of individuals, the church, or parts of the church, and even nations, and that especially includes Israel today.


I can think of the couple prime examples of how I believe angels have stepped into my life to save it from death from being hit by a car.  Twice this has happened.  Due to the fact that I am legally blind, it makes it hard for me to cross streets sometimes.  At least on two different occasions, I probably would have been killed except for what I believe was divine intervention.  Once an inner voice told me to immediately stop walking across the street, and as soon as I did, a car came by, way to fast for that street.  Another time my feet literally froze, wouldn't move.  If I had have moved 1 foot, I would have been hit by a speeding car and probably killed.


God tells Israel to pay attention to this angel, because if you disobey the angel he will not forgive you. Angels may not be as forgiving as God.  It's not that God doesn't forgive, He does, but on the other hand, He judges and punishes His people for their disobedience, and He certainly did that to Israel in later years.


Note also in verse 21 that it is important to God that this angel bares the name of God.  He represents God.  He is working on behalf of God.  This is what "in the name of Jesus" means to Christians,  We represent Jesus.  We work on His behalf on this earth.


In verses 22 and 23 God says that if Israel obeys Him, He will appose those who appose them.  He will fight for them.  I believe the same is true of Israel at the end of this age. The Bible teaches that God is the one who avenges.  Israel back then, and Christians today, don't have to worry about paying back evil.  God will do that much better than we ever can, and He will.


Verse 24 is important both to the Jew and to the church.  God tells Israel that they are not to worship the foreign gods in the land of Canaan, and not involve themselves in the worship of these gods.  We know from later history that they did not keep this command, and they suffered for it.


The church must do the same, and if we don't, we will suffer for it, as I believe parts of the church have in the past.  I believe the post-modern church of today, the so-called Emergent church is doing what God told Israel not to do.  This part of the church is involving itself in the practices of other religions in the name of unity.  This should not be.  God plainly states that here.  There must be a visible distinction between the people of the world and the people of God, and that is in more than just the clothes they wear.  It's not about legalism, but about an honourable lifestyle.  


The last part of verse 24 shows us how serious God is about this.  He tells Israel that when they take the land of Canaan from those who live their, they must "demolish" these foreign gods.  There is no hint of accommodation.  Just get rid of every foreign god you come across.  God really does not like His people associating with any other god, other than Him.  Remember, He is a jealous God.  This kind of thinking sounds so outrages in our world today, but it is the way the God of the Bible thinks.


Verses 25 and 26 state that Israel was to worship their God alone, and if they did that, they would be blessed, with food and good health.  The reverse isn't stated here, but you know it is true.  If Israel did not obey this command, God would not provide these things for them.  Jesus said the same to His followers when He told them to seek first the Kingdom of God and these things would be added to them.  These things mean the basics of life.


In verse 27 God tells Israel that He will "send His terror before them" in order for their fight to be easy.  One way that He would do this is seen in the next verse.  He would send hornets into the enemy camp.  God often uses natural disasters to bring about His will. We do know from these words that God is a god of terror.  This is not socially correct these days, but this is what the Bible teaches.


In verses 29 and 30 God says that He will not drive out Israel's enemies all at once.  He'd do it "little by little."  His thinking is that He did not want to see the land desolate of people and wild animals overrun it.  Little by little the victory would be won as Israel grew in numbers to fill the land.  Many Sunday sermons have been preached on this point.  The outworking of our salvation takes place over a life time.  Little by little, step by step, one victory after another is won over sin and the devil in our lives.


Verse 31 gives the borders of the land of Canaan that Israel would possess.  It is the same borders that God told Abraham.


In verse 32 God tells Israel not to make a covenant with the people in the land of Canaan.  God's people are not to unite themselves with those who are not of God.  There needs to be a visible separation between God's people and the rest of the world.  That is just as true with the church today as it was with Israel back then.


God tells Israel not to let their enemies live in their land, because the worship of their gods will become a snare to Israel , and that certainly is what happened.  Israel did not obey God in this matter, as much of the church is not obeying God in this matter today.  The paganization of the church in the fourth century is a prime example of how the church allowed other gods, other practices into the church for the sake of unity and accommodation to the pagan.  This should have never been, but the post-modern church is doing the same today.  We are allowing other religious philosophies and practices into the church today, and it will become a snare to us.


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