Thursday, July 22, 2010

Law with a Heart

Today my reading through the Bible using M'Cheyne's schedule took me to Exodus chapter 23, headed "Sundry Laws" in my New American Standard version.  Sounds dry, but it isn't.  I was immediately struck by the high level of personal integrity required by these laws.  One is to do what is right by another person regardless of what everyone else (the "masses" in v. 2) is doing, regardless whether he is rich (this sounds modern) or poor (this does not), whether he hates you, or whether he is a stranger.  You are not to accept a bribe, because a bribe will distort your judgment.  There is a very strong sense here that each person stands before the Lord and must answer for his treatment of another, with no pleading of others' opinions or actions, and no extenuating circumstances.  Furthermore, one's treatment of another is  here linked closely with sympathy and empathy for that other.  One is not to oppress a stranger, not only because it is not right, but specifically because the Israelite should know how it feels to be a stranger, since they were strangers in Egypt. 

The sabbath rest every seven days for man and beast, and every seven years for the land, are likewise explained in terms of empathy and sympathy, not agricultural technique.  In the seventh year, the self-seeded food crop will feed the hungry, who will have to go and pick it.  The seventh-day rest allows refeshment for workers and working animals. 

Finally, God's sympathy for his people is demonstrated in his driving out the nations gradually, so that the wild animals will not grow too numerous or the fields be ruined by too long neglect.

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