Chapter 22:16-23:9 (ESV) - “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride-price for her and make her his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride-price for virgins.
“You shall not permit a sorceress to live.
“Whoever lies with an animal shall be put to death.
“Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the LORD alone, shall be devoted to destruction.
“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.
“If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. If ever you take your neighbor's cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.
“You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.
“You shall not delay to offer from the fullness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to me. You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep: seven days it shall be with its mother; on the eighth day you shall give it to me.
“You shall be consecrated to me. Therefore you shall not eat any flesh that is torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.
“You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.
“If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.
“You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit. Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked. And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.
“You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
Question to consider: How does our own society compare with the one the LORD describes in this passage?
Today’s portion of the Book of the Covenant gave insight into how Israel was to organize a just society. From these commands, there were some core values that seemed to be emphasized by the LORD. The first was that the family is the central building block to a just society. This is a subject that is extremely contentious in modern society, but the breakdown of the family and diminishing of the marital covenant are root causes of many of our societal ills.
The joining of husband and wife as one flesh is a powerful union, and one that the LORD did not want to be diminished or corrupted. So He dealt with it front and center by saying that if it occurred outside of the marital covenant, the couple should immediately be married. If the father of the young woman refused this union, it was to be costly for the young man so that he would not immediately go out and seduce another young woman. If a family did not have a father, the rest of the community was to be there to assist the family and not take advantage of them.
Someone sojourning in the land of Israel was to be treated with hospitality and not oppression, for Israel knew what it was like to be oppressed in a foreign land and should remember this in their treatment of others. The poor were to receive equal justice with the rich, and lenders were not to take advantage of the poor but support them in their efforts to get ahead with a no-interest loan. Think of what a contrast we have in society today when the rich and powerful control the flow of justice, and predatory lenders financially enslave the poor. On the other side of the coin, it was also wrong to bend justice in favor of someone merely because they are poor.
Each person was to be held accountable for their actions, to be merciful and honest in their dealings and to show love toward their neighbor. Today, the idea of God’s law being represented in society is considered offensive merely because it is associated with God. There is not one of God’s ten words which are upheld as absolute in modern society, and separation of church and state has been refashioned to mean that God has no place in His creation. As a result, everyone does what is right in his own eyes, and we are on a path to chaos and destruction while we blame God for giving us over to our choices.
Dear heavenly Father, we ask that You bring us back to Your word so that we begin to do the things that You have instructed us to do. Help us to love our neighbors as Christ has loved us. May we use the gifts and resources You have given us to help Your kingdom to expand throughout the world. Amen.