Continuity and the Law

2/21/2009 10:45am

Exodus 21-25

Pericope: Exodus 21:1

I remember that while I was in college, I would browse through different websites out of sheer boredom. This rarely happens anymore since I keep so busy. Most of us who have engaged in such mindless activity have stumbled across one of those websites which describes weird laws. They are humerus to read! Here is one of them if you don’t know what I am talking about. (Click here). Well, as it turns out, our country is not the only place in time that has had weird laws.

As I have continued my journey of reading through the Pentateuch for my Old Testament class, I have stumbled upon some passages that have been particularly bothersome and cumbersome for me to read through in the past: the laws. I have often wondered what in the world the deal was with all these weird Old Testament laws. Some are understandable while others are still quite mysterious.

I think that the key to unlocking portions of Scripture like this are found here in Exodus 21:1: “These are the decisions that you will set before them.” This was certainly not the first time Israel lived under the rule of law. For sure, they were under the laws of Egypt when they were in slavery. In this part of the Epic story, as God moves his people toward the Promised Land, God graciously provides continuity for his people. Before this point, there was no organized system to protect citizens of Israel from injustice that their sinful natures would cause them to commit against one another.

The Laws addressed in this portion of scripture may seem weird or unusual. But that is because they were addressing the issues of that culture. This part of Scripture is descriptive and not prescriptive. In the context of the history and the culture of God’s people at that time, this Scripture describes how God decides to deal with the sins of his people: how should injustice be dealt with. In the large scope of things, God is providing continuity between people. Such continuity would have been essential in order for God to get his people to do the things they would not necessarily want to do so that they might gain the freedom their hearts ultimately long for.

Sometimes laws seem tedious and irrelevant. But we must understand that they are put there for a reason. It is true that some laws become outdated and are no longer useful to the culture (i.e. they no longer address issues that are relevant or present), and in such cases the law is changed. But the grand idea to gain from passages such as this one is that God is bringing his people together as one body. Continuity, unity, must exist for progress to be made.

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Did God Forget?

2/16/2009 5:00pm

Exodus 1-5

Pericope: Exodus 2:23-25.

My wife and I attend Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Tx. A few months ago, our pastors returned from Congo, Africa, the most impoverished area on the globe. We have a justice ministry in different regions of Congo and in other parts of Africa which fight for the rights of the underserved- orphans, widows and impoverished. Our church helps bring food aid and other supplies, but what was amazing from this trip is the people’s response when they knew there was a Church thousands of miles away who was praying for them and loves them. Tears of joy were shed because they knew they were remembered.

One of the most devastating circumstances in life is hopelessness. There are several reasons why one would feel hopeless. Unrelenting stress at a job, poverty, victimization, and general aimlessness are just a few. In Exodus, the story begins with God’s people lost in the misery of slavery. The text shows how God is protecting his people, yet they are enslaved. God is making them multiply, yet only to be whipped. Israel was in slavery for over 400 years! What happened to God? Did God forget?

On face value, it seems that God does not care about his people. But the writer of Exodus (probably Moses) records, “God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob…” As the writer looks back in history, he attributes whatever happens next to God. God remembered not only his people, but the covenants he had established. In other words, there was never a time when God fell asleep and was AWOL. The writer is acknowledging that God knew his covenants and was sovereignly working not only to deliver his people, but to be faithful to the covenant. As the rest of Exodus unpacks, we will see that is exactly what happens!

Some of us may be in a bind. Sometimes we know God asks us to do something or has put us in a circumstance. Yet, we are caught up in a bind that we cannot be free of. It is in these moments we must remember that God is faithful! He never leaves us hanging. He is always knowledgeable, able and active in history. No one’s situation is unique. God was faithful to deliver his people in a mighty way. Ultimately he brought redemption to a people who were undeserving. We can look back on God’s past work and find hope for our present situation. God did not forget. God has not forgotten you!

Strong Faith

2/12/2009

Genesis 47-50

Pericope: Genesis 50

Recently I was speaking with some African American friends about the horrors of slavery in the early days of our nation as it was forming. The issue of forgiveness came up as well as the sovereignty of God. How can forgiveness be extended and where in the world was God in the midst of it all?

In the final chapter of Genesis, Joseph is approached by his brothers when their father dies. They beg Joseph for their lives. Joseph’s brothers feared him because he could have easily slain them to get revenge for selling him into slavery and staging his death. But that was not his response. He  forgave his brothers and provided for them! Joseph was a man of strong faith and did what was right even when it was hard. What does it take to have strong faith in the midst of injustice?

Strong faith comes from a fundamental alignment of the heart trusting in the goodness and sovereignty of God. Joseph said to his brothers, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day.” As finite beings with such limited perspective, we do not have the capacity to understand much of the big picture of injustice. But if we are going to have strong faith we must know that God is working to deliver us from injustice, even though the injustices that are immediately affecting us.

In Genesis 49 we can see God’s ultimate plan. In his blessing on his son Judah, Jacob pronounced, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; the nations will obey him.” When Jacob mentions “the ruler’s staff from between his feet,” it is a euphemism referring to the genitals. In this case the phrase refers by metonymy to those who come forth from his genitals, i.e., his descendants. Immediately, this is a promise that Judah’s sons would be rulers and Kings. Ultimately, this is speaking of the reign of Christ.

Strong faith is built on the trust that God is working all things according to his purpose. We live in a world which offers hurts, habits and hangups. We all will experience injustice and harm. We have a choice in how to respond. The strongest will extend forgiveness because they trust that one day evil will be finally destroyed. Injustice will be recompensed. Christ is on the throne and he will be back to judge those who do evil!