EXODUS: DIVISION VIII
THE LAW AND THE PROMISES OF GOD (THE MOSAIC COVENANT) (PART 3): THE CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS LAWS OF ISRAEL—HELPFUL PRINCIPLES TO GOVERN MAN AND SOCIETY, 21:1-24:18
(21:1-24:18) DIVISION OVERVIEW— Israel, Laws of— Civil Law— Religious Law— Culture— Obedience: the civil and religious laws of Israel are now covered, one after another. Legal statement after legal statement, legal case after legal case is given. Note these facts:
1. The principles covered by the laws can be applied to the experiences and legal situations of all societies, both ancient and modern. True, these laws deal with ancient Israelite society, not with the societies of other nations nor with the societies of future history (modern society). Simply stated, these laws may govern something that does not exist today or govern some event that does not happen today. Nevertheless, the principles can be applied to the experiences and legal cases of all societies.
2. The laws listed here were only the Basic Laws, the Guiding Laws, the Foundational Laws of Israel. They were to be used as guiding principles to apply to the multitude of legal cases and experiences of human life. This is seen in that the laws given to Israel were often illustrated by an example or a particular legal case. The example was just that, an example or case that was to be used by the judge to apply to a multitude of experiences. This same approach to justice can be seen in the Constitution of the U.S. in that the Constitution covers only the basic principles that are to govern the free nation. The judges are to apply the basic laws to the multitude of cases that are brought into their courts.
3. The civil and religious laws of Israel and of any other nation can be dry, boring, and uninteresting. Moreover, the question can be reasonably asked, Of what use is it for believers today to read, preach, and teach the ancient laws of Israel? The Preacher's Outline & Sermon Bible® is aware of this point; therefore, two new things are being done to help make this section of Scripture more meaningful to share with God's people:
⇒ An additional feature is being used throughout this section to help the reader.
⇒ A great amount of practical application is being given.
Hopefully, this will better enable us to learn and apply the lessons of these laws to our own lives. Once we have personally learned the lessons, we can then build a far better society for ourselves and our children.
4. The broad range of experiences and legal situations that the Israelite citizen faced day by day are covered in these laws. Situations from every perspective are addressed. There are...
• laws that govern slavery
• laws that govern capital offenses
• laws that govern bodily injuries
• laws that govern the relationship between family members, both children and parents
• laws that govern kidnapping
• laws that govern compensation and restitution
• laws that govern the protection of the weak and helpless
• laws that govern property damage
• laws that govern theft of personal property
• laws that govern the social responsibility between unmarried men and women
• laws that govern the pagan religious practices of the world (sorcery, idolatry, etc)
• laws that govern the protection and dignity of foreigners, resident aliens, immigrants, travelers, or strangers
• laws that govern fire and burning control
• laws that govern deposits and loans
• laws that govern morality
• laws that govern animal control
• laws that govern the respect for government its leaders and rulers
By simply glancing at these different laws, the modern believer can appreciate a wonderful fact: God gave His people a full range of legal examples to govern their lives as they marched to the promised land, examples that are applicable to any and every society.
5. The law was given so God's people could live in security and peace. God gave the law to unify and mold His people into a nation. God already knew what history has shown man: that a nation without laws, or a nation that does not enforce its laws, quickly slips into chaos and anarchy. Thus God gave the law to His people so the nation of Israel would have a firm foundation to govern their relationships with one another and with God.
6. The laws were given by God in order to mold a community of people into law-abiding citizens. The citizen who lives by God's law bears a very special mark: the mark of responsible citizenship to community, society, and nation.
"By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked" (Proverbs 11:11).
"Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34).
"Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness" (Proverbs 25:5).
7. The laws that God gave to Israel were founded upon His great love and compassion for people. For example, slaves were valued as people who were made in the image of God and slaves were cared for and protected. Moreover, God's love and compassion limited the scope of retaliation against criminals. Life was just too valuable to waste on tempers that overreacted, that caused death and destruction.
The love and compassion of God made it possible for the Israelites to live in peace, secure in the fact that the law was a deterrent to crime and that justice was going to be enforced—both for the victim and for the offender.
8. The laws that God gave to Israel were a totally new concept to the world. Remember, the Israelites had just been slaves themselves, subject to the unpredictable, insane dictates of Pharaoh and his cruel taskmasters. At any given moment, the Israelite could have been struck down for no reason at all. Justice in Egypt was dispensed at random and was completely unpredictable. God's people were at the mercy of men who did not know the LORD God of Israel and did not care about pleasing or displeasing Him. The Egyptian masters were not interested in how the Israelites felt nor in what they needed. Egyptian law did not care about personal rights. But God did, and He provided for His people a system of justice that was guaranteed by the very Word of God itself. For the first time in history, a people were given a form of government that would protect the rights of everyone in true justice, peace, security, and understanding—if the people would just follow God and seek to live in the Promised Land of God. God established a theocracy, a government that recognized Him as the Sovereign King, and provided a "Declaration of Independence" for His people. The establishment of these laws and form of government was only a foreshadowing of things to come. One day in the future, God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, will return to earth and establish His eternal kingdom. The Scriptures declare this fact: Jesus Christ will rule forever and ever in perfect justice.
"He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:32-33).
"But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom" (Hebrews 1:8).
"Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isaiah 9:7).
"I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end" (Daniel 6:26).
9. The one thing above all else to look for in studying the civil laws of Israel is this: the spirit and principle underlying the laws. Note three facts:
a. The nation that would work out its laws based upon the spirit and principles of God's laws (given to the Israelites) would be one of the greatest societies in history, a society that would be...
• just and equitable
• safe and secure
• protected and supported (cared for)
• compassionate and merciful
b. The spirit and principles lying behind the laws of God could change society if they were written into the laws of a nation. How can this be said? Because the spirit and principles are based upon...
• true justice and protection
• true mercy and compassion
c. A society that would base its laws upon the principles of God's law would be a righteous community. What is a righteous community? The righteous society is a neighborhood, a city, a nation where the laws of a nation and of God are applied with justice toward every person. The Scripture promises great benefits to the righteous society.
THE BENEFITS TO A RIGHTEOUS SOCIETY
⇒ God will exalt the nation that diligently listens to His voice.
"And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth" (Deut. 28:1).
⇒ God will bless the nation who claims Him. He will claim them for His very own inheritance.
"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord: and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance" (Psalm 33:12).
⇒ God will exalt a righteous nation.
"Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34).
⇒ God will bless the city that is filled with righteous people.
"When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting. By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked" (Proverbs 11:10-11).
⇒ God will protect the city that trusts in Him.
"Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep [protect] the city, the watchman waketh but in vain" (Psalm 127:1).
⇒ God will make a righteous nation a great nation.
"Keep [the laws] therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?" (Deut. 4:6-8).
⇒ God will spare a society from judgment if righteousness is found within its borders.
"And the Lord said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes" (Genesis 18:26).
"Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.... And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake" (Genesis 18:28,32).
VIII. THE LAW AND THE PROMISES OF GOD (THE MOSAIC COVENANT) (PART 3): THE CIVIL AND RELIGIOUS LAWS OF ISRAEL—HELPFUL PRINCIPLES TO GOVERN MAN AND SOCIETY, 21:1-24:18
A. The Laws Governing Human Rights, 21:1-32
B. The Laws Governing Property Rights, 21:33-22:15
C. The Laws Governing Social and Moral Obligations, 22:16-31
D. The Laws Governing Justice and Mercy In Court and Among Neighbors, 23:1-9
E. The Laws Governing Religion: The Sabbath and Religious Feasts, 23:10-19
F. The Conclusion of the Law, the Mosaic Covenant: The Rewards of Obedience, 23:20-33
G. The Climactic Adoption of the Law, the Mosaic Covenant: The Great Duty of Believers After Receiving the Law, the Word of God, 24:1-18