While the Ten Commandments outline God’s law for His people in our dealings with Him and others, the Mosaic Law continues for two more chapters in Exodus. These laws fall under the umbrella of the Ten Commandments, further detailing God’s design for ancient Israel in the areas of mercy, justice, and social responsibility.
It’s easy and comfortable to focus on God’s grace, but the Old Testament reminds us that God is also perfectly just. Although these civil laws differ from contemporary customs, they follow the path of natural justice.
As Christians, we are not obligated under these laws since we are now under the new covenant. However, God has not changed His moral expectations of us. And we can still glean wisdom from reading the Mosaic laws God gave His fledgling chosen nation.
You may read Exodus 21-23 here: Bible Gateway.
Protection for Servants, Persons, and Property (21:1-22:15)
God’s value of life rings with tenacity through His commands that prohibit killing and stealing. He expects His people to respect their servants as human beings, even to the point of allowing families freedom in the Year of Jubilee. Who were these servants in ancient Israel? Layman’s Bible Commentary writes: “Foreign slaves were often war prisoners. However, impoverished Israelites sometimes sold themselves or their children so that they could work and be cared for. In other cases, judges sold some persons for their crimes, and creditors were, in some cases, allowed to sell debtors who could not pay. Forced Hebrew slavery for any reason was not practiced and is ranked in the New Testament with the greatest of crimes.”
Social Responsibility (22:16-31)
At first glance, these first few laws may seem harsh, such as: “Do not allow a sorceress to live,” (vs. 18). But sorcery was a crime against God Himself. The first commandment to “have no other gods” was abused by invoking evil powers. As one continues to read through this section, God’s mercy shines through His expectations of how the people are to treat widows, orphans, and the needy. God calls His people to honor Him by respecting and honoring those around them through generosity and justice.
Laws of Mercy and Justice (23:1-9)
God details acts of justice through the lens of fairness and honesty. Every practical requirement of God not only enables the Israelites to worship Him with their behavior, but also sets them apart from their pagan neighbors. He prohibits the lessening of faults and aggravating small ones. Neither does He allow excuses for offenders, accusations of the innocent, or trivial misinterpretations of the truth.
Sabbath Laws and Festivals (23:10-19)
These laws teach the need for dependency on God and the importance of mercy. The seventh week day and seventh year are designed for sacred times of rest and rejoicing in God. In following this schedule, God teaches His people to trust that He will provide and bless their faithfulness.
Because of the Israelites’ weakness for idolatry, God sets up a rigorous schedule in which they are to honor Him during three annual festivals. Their love and loyalty to God are shown when they arrive to these festivals with sacrifices instead of being empty -handed.
God’s Angel to Prepare the Way (23:20-33)
At the end of this chapter God promises to prosper and prepare the way for Israel by driving out their enemies and bringing them safely to the promised land. He commands them to be attentive and worship the angel alone that He will send ahead of them.
I’m sure there are several questions to ponder in this section, but being a full-time taxi-mom lately, I’m drawn to the following question/challenge from Layman’s Bible Commentary: “Have you allowed your life to crowd out time for worshiping and celebrating God’s goodness? This is the blessing intended for all of God’s children—to come together in gratitude and to enjoy and honor Him on a regular basis. Indeed, periodic rest from the duties of the world helps us anticipate the heavenly rest which we crave—when all earthly labors and cares shall cease. How can you seize upon the blessing of a day of rest and worship more practically amidst a hectic life?”
Cheers to some intentional times of refreshment through worship and celebration! 🙂