This is another section of scripture, full of laws and ordinances (nice Old Testament term there ;). Pay attention to what this set of ordinances speak to. Remember that God was setting these guidelines (that’s what an ordinance is by the way) in place not just for when Israel was in the wilderness, but also with their residence in the Promised Land in mind. So some of the rules make more sense in the setting of a settled people. Take, for instance, the rules about killing or injuring another’s livestock, or stealing livestock, or damaging another person’s crops. All of those rules happen with the idea of a settled, agriculturally oriented society in mind.
That and they just make common sense. In fact most of the rules throughout Exodus are ones that make common sense. Treat one another nicely. Deal honestly with one another. Don’t rape. Don’t assault one another. Stay away from deviant sexual practices (this one has special meaning culturally because deviant sexual practices, like bestiality, were part of many pagan religious rites…don’t ask my why). Don’t practice spiritism or divination or sorcery. Don’t be selfish. The sad part is that we as fallen humanity need these reminders of what should be common sense because we still fall into these traps.
Allow me one other comment from this reading. The end of chapter 23 and into the beginning of chapter 24 talks about following God’s leading because he knows what he’s doing (he is wise) and because he is faithful. God promises to send an angel to lead Israel. This angel is going to appear several times throughout the books ahead, and he has already shown up in what we’ve read in Genesis (think about Abraham’s three visitors, the destruction of Sodom, and the angel Jacob wrestled with). When the Old Testament talks about the Angel of the Lord, it is commonly understood that this is Jesus before his incarnation. God warns Moses: “23:21 Be attentive to him and listen to his voice. Do not defy him, because he will not forgive your acts of rebellion, for My name is in him.” Whenever this Angel appears, notice that he does or says things that only God can say or do. If this seems strange to you, remember that Jesus existed prior to his incarnation, that he is eternal God. We can get stuck in only thinking about Jesus existing and working in the world after his birth. That is not the case. Don’t get stuck in boxes!
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Exodus 25-27