Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 5 Feb 18:
1. Exodus 21:1-11 – “When you buy a Hebrew slave.” Bible verses related to slavery generate much emotion in our generation for good reason. However, the world view and concept of servitude and slavery were much different in ancient times. In that day and age, God’s word was revolutionary and controversial, not because of its cruelty but rather because of its uncommon concern for the rights of all people. Within ancient Israel, as in the entire ancient world, there were people who worked for others on the principle of servitude (servants), and there were slaves (usually foreign captives from battle). Servants are often viewed as slaves, but this wasn’t the brutal form of slavery we think of today. “Moses did not institute slavery in any shape; the laws concerning it were made on purpose to repress it, to confine it within very narrow bounds, and ultimately to put an end to it.” (Spurgeon) God brought the Israelites out of slavery, and it is fitting that His first laws dealt with respecting the rights and dignity of servants. There were four basic ways a Hebrew might become a slave to another Hebrew. In extreme poverty, they might sell their liberty (Leviticus 25:39); a father might sell a daughter as a servant into a home with the intention that she would eventually marry into that family (Exodus 21:7); in the case of bankruptcy, a man might become servant to his creditors (2 Kings 4:1); and if a thief had nothing with which to pay proper restitution (Exodus 22:3-4). Slavery, on the other hand, was often a choice given to foreign enemies as a substitute for death in a time where “total war” was the norm (when everyone was killed to totally eliminate enemies and the possibility of continued conflict with that enemy). The ideas of man-stealing into life-long servitude – the concepts many have of slavery – simply do not apply to the practice of slavery in the Old Testament. Normally, both servitude was chosen or mutually arranged contractually, of limited duration, and highly regulated. In all of the four above mentioned cases, the servitude was never obligated to be life-long. The Hebrew servant worked for six years and then was set free. A careful consideration of the laws concerning slavery show that they abolished slavery among God’s people, and substituted for it, contractual labor for a period of years. “Henceforward the condition of slaves among the Hebrew people would be in marked distinction to slavery as existing among other peoples. It was the beginning of a great moral movement.” If, after the six years of servitude, a servant wished to make a life-long commitment to his master – in light of the master’s goodness and his blessings for the servant – he could. However, this commitment was not motivated by debt or obligation, only by love for the master, and the good things that the master had provided for the servant. Still, it might be hard for us, being so far removed from society at that time, to imagine why God simply did not eliminate any form of servitude (slavery) altogether. Our complaints might be comparable to the trouble the Pharisees had in understanding how to navigate God’s laws on divorce considering that the Bible states that God opposes divorce (Malachi 2:16). Jesus explained it this way: “He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.’ And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let not man separate.’” (Mark 10:3-9) God’s laws account for the hardness of the heart of man.
2. Exodus 21:16 – Again, the Bible does not allow forced slavery outside of war.
3. Exodus 21:19 – God values a person’s time.
4. Exodus 21:22-25 – In the Bible, killing an unborn baby is a crime punishable by death, just like
any other murder. God’s view of abortion should be more than clear.
5. Exodus 21:16-36 – In Biblical justice, restitution is made to the victim, not to the government.
Why is that not the case today?
6. Exodus 22:2, 3 – The Bible makes a distinction between self-defense and revenge.
7. Exodus 22:3 – Everyone was held accountable to the law, regardless of their economic status.
8. Exodus 22:6 – God’s laws hold people accountable for carelessness.
9. Proverbs 5:2 – “…that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge.” Have God’s words on your lips, ready for the moments of decision where you need God’s word to keep from being deceived by your natural passions and desires and from doing what you want to do rather than what God commands you to do. If there is an area in your life where you know you are easily tempted, memorize Bible verses on that topic and recite them to yourself regularly, particularly in moments of weakness.
10. Proverbs 5:6 – Evil people often don’t know or believe they are evil.
11. Proverbs 5:8 – “Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house.” If you know that certain things or certain situations entice you to sin, then the best thing you can do is stay far, far away from them. Don’t be complacent with or toy with temptations.
12. Proverbs 5:11 – “…. and at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed.” People choose between two pains: the constructive pain of discipline today, or the destructive pain of regret tomorrow. You will reap what you sow.
13. Proverbs 5:12 – You will choose between two pains in life: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.
14. Proverbs 5:23 — Most pain in life is self-induced.
15. Matthew 26:8, 9 – “And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this
waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.’” Good works can’t replace genuine worship. More than charity, people need Jesus Christ. Acts of charity can be used a substitute for a lack of genuine love, designed to ease the conscience or promote self-righteousness. Acts of charity can also direct hope towards mankind rather than hope in Christ and can provide short-term comfort without addressing the deeper spiritual issues at hand. Christians should be most charitable, but as ambassadors for Christ on a mission of reconciliation.
16. Matthew 26:20-34 – Judas betrayed, and Peter denied. Betrayal involves planning and waiting,
but denial can be instant, revealing the hidden truth of the heart. Verse 22 points out that anyone could betray Jesus, and we know that all of the disciples except John would abandon Jesus in the time of Jesus’ greatest need. We are all totally dependent on the grace of Christ with no reason to boast.
17. Matthew 26:53, 54 — “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send
me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” Peter responded to his circumstances ‘in the flesh’, reacting emotionally, taking matters into his own hands based on his own understanding, relying on his own strength, all contrary to God’s will. Peter’s response revealed a typical security bias, overvaluing physical safety (of self or loved ones) at the expense of the mission. Conversely, Jesus chose to deny self and His personal security for sake of faithfulness to the mission given him by the Father. Following God requires self-denial, dying while still alive – “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) The Spirit empowers us to deny self. Self-denial frees us to follow the Spirit. As with the other fruits of the spirit, self-control is something we must cultivate, and often God will use the heat of the moment to reveal to us what is really in our hearts. How do you respond when you are attacked un-expectantly? Do you start cutting off ears or use the opportunity to glorify God in love? Love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 5 Feb: Do not defend yourself today, but rather make the most of every opportunity to not only demonstrate the love of Christ but also to proclaim Gospel of Jesus. Return good for evil, and tell them about Jesus too. Always point to Him. Deny self, take up your cross, and follow Jesus in example – when He was crucified, He prayed for the forgiveness of those who were persecuting Him. (Matthew 26)