Passage: Exodus 21:28–32

Speaker: Mitch Kim

Series: Coming Home – A Journey Through Exodus

Church, Rise!

            What do we do with a passage that talks about an ox that gores? Most of us have not even seen an ox, let alone own an ox! We have to understand the significance of these types of commands in their original context. And as we compare this text to similar texts in its context we see that because people matter, we take responsibility for others, so a ransom must be paid for our sin.

            First we see that people matter (Exod 21:28, 31–32). In the Code of Hammurabi, when an ox gores a person, the owner of the ox can go free. Only the wealthy own oxen; poor people cannot afford them. Often the law takes the side of the rich and powerful, but in this case the law protects the poor from the privilege of the powerful. Even when a heavy price is paid, this is important because people matter more than their position; there is no laxity because of privilege.

            Because people matter, we take responsibility for others (Exod 21:29). In the code of Hammurabi, the owner of an ox that gores is fined only a 1/2 piece of silver. Here the price is far higher: the ox must be stoned for a one-time goring, and the ox and its owner must both be put to death for an ox that is accustomed to goring. This sense of responsibility extends to taking responsibility for accidents (21:33–36), theft (22:1), grazing (22:5), fires (22:6), and items that we keep for others (22:7–13), and things that we borrow (22:14). Our actions matter.

            And as we take responsibility for others, a ransom can be paid for our sin (Exod 21:30). Sometimes our sin demands death— when an owner fails to curb his ox that is accustomed to goring, for example.  Yet here a ransom can be paid for the redemption of his life (21:30). Interestingly all the people of God have committed a sin that is worthy of death, and so a ransom for all people is demanded for all people (30:12). This reminds us that all of us must be redeemed. And that is why Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb, came — God sent a ransom for us from a futile way of life that we might be bought back not with silver and gold but the precious blood of a lamb without blemish or spot, Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:18–19). And because of this ransom, we can stand without shame.

            So what? We are to reflect the God who restores what sin destroys. This means that people matter over positions of power, so we take responsibility for our actions. Sometimes the burden of God’s standards feel impossible. Yet God’s standards are only achievable by God’s grace. So let us not shrink back from striving to live out his standards; as we strive we realize more deeply our need for his grace. And by that grace we show make the God of restoration known.

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