Proper Worship and Social Responsibility

Exodus   •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  49:14
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As we have been going through this part of Exodus, we have seen what God expects of His people. Israel needed to know how to fulfill their covenant relationship with God, to live lives pleasing to God. Something that is very exciting is that this section reveals God’s character. The ordinances, case laws and commands making up the law makes the OT law different than any law code or book of curt decisions. The law here reveals the Lawgiver. We do not study it to find out what what we have to do, but to know our God.

1. Reject false worship of the LORD, 22:18-20.

These three crimes against God are so heinous that they demanded the death penalty: witchcraft, bestiality, and sacrifices made to pagan gods. Each of these involved false worship.
In verse 18, the female may have been singled out here because of the sexual aspects of the fertility cult as practiced by the Canaanite cultures, though Deuteronomy 18:9-14 points out that no one is to practice sorcery.

1A. Sorcery — seeking to manipulate the future; repudiate the sovereignty of God over all events.

Verse 19 speaks against a common practice within the Canaanite cultures.

1B. Bestiality —perverting and confusing the boundaries God had established in His creation.

Some pagans portrayed their false gods as having sex with animals. People tried to unite with their gods through physical union with the animals that depicted them. This was absolutely forbidden in Israel.

1C. Idolatry — sacrificing to other gods, through apostasy or syncretism, in defiance of covenant exclusivity of belonging to God alone.

The transgressor in verse 20 would be to be placed “under the ban,” that is, to be set aside for utter destruction, receiving God’s judgment and wrath without appeal.
The term used here would designate the people and plunder taken later in Canaan by Israel, or people groups such as the Amalekites, all of whom were to be destroyed by the priests and Israel—all according to God’s instruction.
Shifting from improper worship, the book of the covenant gives Israel...

2. Dealing lovingly with the vulnerable, 22:21-28.

2A. Treatment of a stranger, v.21.

The term used here describes someone without rights to land or property. Israel was to treat them well, not mistreating them or oppressing them. They have personal experience, knowing what it is like to be a stranger in Egypt. So they are not to treat the strangers in their midst like the Egyptians had treated them.

2B. Treatment of any widow or orphan, vs. 22-24.

Do not treat them harshly or afflict them in any way. These two groups are already extremely disadvantage. They lack a family for protection, making them particularly susceptible to those who prey on the weak. Oppression of these vulnerable ones will not go unnoticed. God will hear their cry, He will come down, and He will make these oppressors suffer the same fate that fell on the Egyptians, leaving widows and orphans among them.

2C. Treatment of the needy, vs. 25-27.

Verse 25 stipulates that if a poor man is loaned money, the one loaning the money is to charge no interest—after all, he could not afford interest. This may be an example helping one’s neighbor in the time of their need and not a time to make a profit.
Verses 26-27 refers to the pledge given in a loan transaction, a form of collateral. To give a cloak is an indication of how destitute the borrower was. To take a neighbor’s cloak would be a way to help the borrower keep honor; to give the cloak back at sunset demonstrates care for the needy one. Graciousness is to be a characteristic of God’s people because He himself is gracious.

2D. Do not show contempt for a ruler of the people, v. 28.

This is a conclusion to the laws concerning the disadvantaged. This warning is because of a failure to follow God’s law in this context. To curse the rulers is to show contempt for those whose duty is to uphold God’s law.
Rather than curse God, the Israelites are to “give their best to God.

3. The LORD deserves “the best” in worship, 22:29-31.

The Israelites are reminded in these verses that their best belongs to the LORD.

3A. The first-born son, of animals, and the firstfruit of the field belong to God, vs. 29-30.

3B. The flesh torn to pieces in the field is not to be eaten, v. 31.

This may have been allowed by other pagan nations, but not for those set apart to God.
In giving their best to the LORD, the Israelites were to demonstrate God’s character in how they interacted with others, These next nine verses are...

4. Dealing lovingly with others in life, 23:1-9.

Many of these following commands deal with proper daily conduct, especially in regards to legal justice.

4A. Proper daily conduct, 23:1-6.

4A(1). Do not circulate a false report, 23:1a.

We could say that that this covers a prohibition of an all-time favorite—Gossip.
Telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is the only way to not spread false reports.
Hearsay and conjecture are unreliable; only the full story is reliable.

4A(2). Do not give a false witness, 23:1b.

The godly Israelite is to make no attempt to pervert justice by making the guilty look innocent. Do not conspire with someone to make the innocent look guilty.

4A(3). Do not follow a multitude bent on evil, 23:2a.

God’s people are called to not follow the majority, but to speak only truth, even when we know it will be unpopular and unwelcome.
We are called to follow Christ, which usually means going in the opposite direction of the majority.

4A(4). Do not join the majority who desire to pervert justice, 23:2b.

God’s people are called to do what is right, not what feels right.

4A(5). Do not favor a poor man just because he is poor, 23:3.

God is not “on the side of the poor no matter what.” God is just in His dealings with all. But as we will see in verse 6, although the poor are not to be shown favoritism, they are not to be denied justice either

4A(6). Return a straying animal to its owner, even if he is your enemy, v. 4.

4A(7). Help a helpless animal, even if he belongs to your enemy, v. 5.

Here the unity that the people of God are express toward each other extends even to those who do not like each other. Proper behavior again is determined by what is right, not how one feels.

4B. Proper Justice in the courts, 23:6-9.

4B(1). Do not give the poor perverted justice, v. 6.

4B(2). Reject obviously false charges, v. 7a.

4B(3). Do not slay an innocent, righteous man, v. 7b.

4B(4). A bribe is not to be received (by a judge), v. 8.

4B(5). Do not oppress a stranger (in the court), v. 9.

Now we move to the verse that concern how Israel was to properly worship God as the come into the promised land. Just to remind us: this was before the events at Kadesh Barnea — the Israelites anticipated they would be in the land very shortly...

5. Proper worship in the land, 23:10-19.

verses 10-11 gives the principle of the Sabbath as it relates to the land:

5A. Israelite land is to rest every seventh year, v. 10-11.

This enriched the land, fed the poor and the beast of the field and tested Israel’s faith as to whether they would trust the LORD to provide for their needs or not.

5B. Israelites are to rest every seventh day, v. 12.

Neither Israel, its animals or its servants were to do labor on the Sabbath. The animals would get a rest; the rest would receive a time of refreshing.

5C. Israelites are to be faithful to the LORD alone, v. 13.

5D. Israelites are to keep three annual feasts, vs. 14-19.

5D(1) The three feasts are Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles.

5D(2). Commands given for these feasts:

all adult males must attend these feasts, v. 17.
every man must bring a gift (of firstfruits), v. 15, 19.
No leaven is to be offered with the sacrifices, v. 18a.
No fat of the sacrifices is to remain until morning, v. 18b.
A young goat is not to be boiled in its mother’s milk, v. 19.
This was something the pagan fertility cults followed, but it was not to be so in the worship of the LORD.
Israel was to be a worshipping community. God is to be honored as they participated in society and as they approached God to give Him what is His due.
Finally, just a reminder. Keeping these laws did not make Israel a saved people—they were already saved because of the blood of the Passover lamb and deliverance from the slave market of Egypt by crossing over through the Red Sea on dry land. These texts are focusing on how to walk with God without fear but with proper reverence. It is the horizontal and vertical commandments, ordinance and guidelines that God has given to keep His people Israel in ‘set apart (i.e. holy)” status within the world they lived in. They were to be a distinct people, behaving properly toward their God and with each other, thereby demonstrating the superiority of their LORD to the surrounding nations, so that others might be drawn to the true God.
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