Reading: Exodus 21-24
This morning my Bible reading led me into that often perceived wilderness section of laws for the Hebrew society—laws regarding how to treat a servant, how to deal with personal injuries (liability), various ways theft can occur and how to deal with it, a laundry list of social issues from a man's responsibility toward a virgin he seduces, deviant sexual behavior, treatment of foreigners, widows and orphans and so forth. Now I realize that for many of us this is fly over country—those portions of scripture which we jump into autopilot and read kind of mindlessly hoping merely to get them done, and not expecting to find anything particularly useful from them. I too have to fight that temptation.
However, as I read this section this morning, I was given grace to see them in a different light. As I read this section this morning, I was first struck by the obvious effectiveness of this law over the complex and often convoluted laws by which our society is governed today.
The Effectiveness of God's Law
In our day, if someone steals, then the honest people of society support them for a few months to several years (depending on the situation), and then they get out Scot-free. I have twice had my home broken into, twice had things of value stolen, twice the police have caught the perpetrator, twice had courts order restitution as a stipulation prior to release, and never have I received a penny of that restitution. I'm not sure exactly what happens between the sentencing and the release to change it all, but our penal system is not oriented in the same way God's system is oriented. In God's system, the thief will have to work hard, not get free room and board, because the thief who steals a sheep now has to pay back four sheep. In addition to the victim being compensated, the thief has learned how to get sheep when he needs them: work! If he can earn four sheep, he can certainly earn one. And if I have to earn four sheep every time I steal one, it shouldn't take long for me to figure out not to steal.
While admittedly dealing with issues that can seem mismatched with our own such as mistreatment of slaves, God's system was oriented toward the victim, brought about justice, and would be far more effective in reform than the system we live under. It also taught us the practical application of love your enemies when it says, “4If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. 5If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.” (Exodus 23:4-5) As good as it is, I don't think the purpose of this section for the believer today is to strive to set up this form of government on earth. (However, for those involved in the legal process it ought to provide a model toward which to reform our own system.)
The second thing I was struck by as I read this section this morning is what I believe to be a godly dissatisfaction with earthly governments. This dissatisfaction is accompanied by a heart cry, “Our Father in heaven, let your kingdom come.” Oh how good it will be to live under our Father's rule. We were not made to be fully satisfied in earthly kingdoms. The political process was never intended to bring about heaven on earth. The United States, as much as I love it (it is the best men have come up with in all of history), is not the Kingdom of God, nor can it ever be. As believers we should be involved actively as salt and light in this nation, but we should do so as if not engrossed in it. (1 Corinthians 7:29-31) We should always be longing for God's kingdom to come.
While a reading of God's law through Moses reveals God's justice clearly, it should also be understood that Israel never really lived under this. Well, not for more than very brief periods of time. This side of heaven, God's kingdom has never fully come. Except once.
God's Kingdom Fully Come
And this is the third thing which struck me this morning as I contemplated how this section of Scripture applies to us today. There is one time when God's kingdom fully came: when the rule of God had full sway in the affairs of man. That one time was in the man Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ did nothing outside the will of His Father. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law. If ever you want to see how we would live if we lived fully under God's kingdom look at Jesus.
In fact, as believers, this reminds us why we are not called to live under the shadow law (Moses' law), but rather we are to live under the reality law: Christ (Colossians 2:17). “Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” (Colossians 3:11) The hope of glory for the Christian is not a world full of people living under the Mosaic law. The hope of glory for the Christian is Christ formed in us! (Colossians 1:27) When Christ is formed in us, the law will be fulfilled. When we are clothed with Christ, we will have put on “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” We will “bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances [we] may have against one another.” We will “forgive as the Lord forgave [us].” (Colossians 3:12-13)
So as we go about our days, let us not strive to set up an earthly kingdom ruled by God's law externally (some form of theocracy). Rather, let's strive to have Christ rule and reign in our hearts, Christ being formed in us, so that “whatever you do, whether in word or deed,” we can “do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17) And, let our hearts cry, “May Your Kingdom come, may your will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.”
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,