We are continuing with Moses on Mt. Sinai where God is fleshing out the commandments. One addressed today is bearing false witness.
In the instructions God is giving Moses today, some of the results for sin come from the people/justice system and some come from God. Sacrificing to other gods and mistreating widows and fatherless children are two sins that God specifically says He will get involved in punishment over them. They both come with a death sentence from God. The death penalty administered by man is only sited in the offenses of sorcery and sex with animals. Most of the other issues listed don’t say what recompense would be measured against the one committing the offense.
One that is specific, beyond what was already listed, is seducing a virgin who has not already spoken for in marriage. Notice here that we are NOT talking about rape. The woman in this example was seduced indicating at least basic consent. The man is then required to pay the “bride price” to the girl’s father. The father has the right to refuse to allow his daughter to marry the man but the man pays the same amount of money regardless. That was a large amount of money so I’m betting that this would cut down significantly on premarital sex. If the two were planning on getting married to begin with, maybe not. This might be a good way to try and force a reluctant father’s hand.
Twice in our reading today God tells Moses to instruct the people not to oppress the “sojourner” in their midst. I know we have seen this before. When we get to the end of God’s instructions I’m going to count up how many times He repeated this directive.
I think this command was near and dear to God’s heart for the same reason how we forgive others is. Israel, from the time of Abraham right through the generation He was working with now, were foreigners in foreign lands. Not all those years were bad, but not all of them were good either. He is calling the people to remember what they suffered and have compassion on others in those same circumstances.
He calls us to do the same with forgiveness. We NEED His forgiveness! He freely gave it when we asked. We need to remember our own need of forgiveness when faced with forgiving someone else. I can forgive only because God showed me how to when He forgave me. NO it’s not easy to do, but God says we have to. “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours” (Matthew 6:14-15).
The poor is another area where God focuses a lot of attention. These are the people who are at the mercy of the rest of the world. They cannot take care of themselves for some reason. God doesn’t specify how they got into their current predicament but we saw in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 that if it is out of laziness, God takes a different view on that. “If you don’t work you don’t eat.” But for the man who has fallen on hard times or can’t work because of a physical disability, God says for His people to treat them with care. DO NOT take advantage of them either in business (i.e. lending them money with interest) or in court.
God says NOT to charge the poor with interest on money lent to them. When He speaks of holding a man’s coat as a pledge, He is speaking on behalf of the poor. The poor would have nothing else to offer as collateral but he also needs his coat for survival.
I have an issue similar to this in my life. I have a brother in law who ALWAYS has a need. I know part of his problem is laziness but other parts are simply the situation his life has moved in. I made a decision to help on a regular basis if he would promise not to beg money from my mother in law. This was a problem she was dealing with on a nearly daily basis and it was affecting her financial stability.
At first there was anger at me for stepping in between, on his part not hers. Then came acceptance and gratitude. His wife stated she wanted what we gave them to be a loan instead. I told her that it was a gift to help them be able to rise above where they were right then and that they could “repay me” by letting me watch them succeed. They have grown considerably because of the monthly gift. They have learned to budget better and make better choices as to where they spend. It also freed up my mother in law too. She occasionally gives them gifts too but those are relegated to special occasions when SHE decides to give instead of a response to the “poor me” speeches.
I’m glad God gave me this opportunity to bless both of them. That support is also coming to a close in the near future as things have turned around for them. My husband and I are blessed to have been a part of that journey and glad that it FINALLY happened. I honestly don’t believe change would have come about without my “meddling.” I was operating on God’s command to “not delay to offer from the fullness of your harvest and from the overflow of your presses” (verse 29). I was able to give because He blessed us with more than enough to meet our needs.
So my point here might be to make a “gift” to the poor or a “pay me when you can” request instead. No interest and no undue collateral. God hears the cries of the poor. Don’t be the one they are crying out in pain from.
We come to the part connected directly to one of God’s original Ten Commandments; bearing false witness. As usual, He expounds on this. “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” (verses 1-2) and “You shall not pervert justice doe to your poor in his lawsuit, Keep far from false charges 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” (verses 6-8). Each of these instances builds on God’s commandment regarding bearing false witness. In short, speak the truth about others in and out of court.
The last principal I want to touch on is how we treat others who are our enemies or hate us. God doesn’t tell us that we won’t or can’t have enemies. He knows His children like the back of His hand and knows where we fall short. What He says instead leads right into what Jesus told His followers. Jesus said to pray for our enemies and do good to those who use us wrongly. God laid that foundation by telling His people to help their enemy’s animals when they are lost and wandering or have fallen under a heavy burden. The second half of this instruction could be easily twisted by someone. “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” (verses 4-5). To the unscrupulous, leaving the last two words off of this command would appear to justify taking the animal from the man because he was “overworking” it. But that is not what God said to do. He said to help the man who hates you with his burden. Don’t leave him to deal with an overburdened donkey. Help carry the load yourself. You would be surprised what that kind of offer can do to a relationship! Might just make friends out of enemies.
Father God, thank You for walking me through You statutes today. These too still apply today as well as they did when You gave them. Thank You for helping me live many of them out in my life today as a praise and thanks to all You have done for me. You have let me live out, in some degree, even the last section from today. I wasn’t as successful or helpful as I could or maybe should have been, but what You did prompt changed things for me. I can’t say how it affected the other person but that isn’t mine to deal with. I just need to obey You and leave the rest in Your hands.
I also remember NOT doing what You asked regarding enemies. I still regret those decisions. I wonder what difference I could have made if I had only been open to Your leading. The one I’m thinking specifically about is beyond repair since the other party is dead. I honestly don’t know what would have happened if I had made the simple gesture that kept coming up in my spirit. Every time I started to make it she would do something else even worse and I would tamp the thought back down. Please forgive me for this Lord. Help me NOT fall into the same pattern again. I did pray for her but probably not as much as I should have. I’m 99% certain that I won’t encounter her in Heaven. Would my acting on Your leading have possibly have changed that too? I guess that may have to be another bench question we talk about. I don’t know how I will respond if the answer is that it would have. Oh Father! What have I done! But I need to know. Help me give this to You too.