Passage: Exodus 20:22–24; 21:7–11, 22–27
Speaker: Mitch Kim
Series: Coming Home – A Journey Through Exodus
Reflecting The God Who Restores
Injustice makes us angry, yet change is agonizingly slow. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Caesar may have lounged in a palace when Christ died on a cross, but that Christ rose from the dead. The Bible paints a stunning picture of the God who redeems his people from slavery, yet that same God doesn’t snap his fingers to fix the injustices of slavery immediately. Instead God works through his people to demonstrate his character in the mess of the world. The Book of the Covenant (Exodus 20–24) show how the people of God reflect the character of God in the systemic brokenness of our world. More specifically, as we worship God properly, we reflect God’s tenderness in harsh slavery and justice instead of unchecked vengeance (Exod 20:22–21:27).
First we must worship God properly (Exod 20:22–24). The God who meets his people (Exod 20:22) calls them to not make any gods of silver or gold, but instead to offer their sacrifices on an altar of earth and trust in Him (Exod 20:23–24). In this way we avoid improper and denigrating worship of the living God who meets his people, but instead we give God the worship that he deserves.
And proper worship leads us to reflect God’s tenderness in harsh slavery (Exod 21:7-11). God does not immediately abolish the evil of slavery, but he invites his people to live with tenderness and compassion in the midst of a corrupt system. Just like God showed tenderness to the people of Israel in slavery, so they were to show tenderness to slaves in their midst. This tenderness is especially clear in the treatment of female slaves, who were doubly vulnerable to abuse. Yet they were to be seen as a daughter (21:7), treated with the dignity of a wife or a daughter in law (21:8–10), or be set free. Such a tender and protective concern for one of the most vulnerable members of society show the tender care of God for these vulnerable. Today much of the #metoo movement has given voice to the deep pain of women whose vulnerabilities were preyed on by men. Yet this is not God’s heart for his people; the people of God are to be marked by tender compassion and protection for the most vulnerable around us. An oppressive and domineering male chauvinism does not reflect the character of our God and should have no place among the people of God.
Proper worship not only leads us to reflect God’s tenderness but also his justice instead of unchecked vengeance (Exod 21:22–27). Exodus 21:12–27 detail extensively how to respond when a person is struck, killed, kidnapped, cursed, or injured. When we are wronged, a desire for retribution is properly ignited. Yet vengeance unchecked only escalates; if someone takes a penny, then we want to take a dollar. Yet the Bible is clear, “But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, would for wound, stripe for stripe” (Exod 21:23–24). This is a limitation on the extent of vengeance. Wrongdoing merits a response, but that response must be appropriate to the situation (e.g. Exod 21:13–14).
So what? As we worship God properly, we reflect God’s tenderness in harsh slavery and justice instead of unchecked vengeance. This is as true today as it is is when it was originally written. This law is not abolished but fulfilled in Jesus (Matt 5:17–20) who call for a radical living out of righteousness by his people. Despite Paul’s strong critiques against the law as a means of salvation (Rom 3:19–21, 28), he still cites from the law for Christians (e.g. Eph 6:2; 1 Cor 9:9). We do not obey in order to belong to the people of God; we obey because we are the people of God and live out the character of the One who saved us. May we show tenderness toward the vulnerable around us and shine his justice even when we are wronged.