Mar 10, 2022

(Exodus 21, Luke 24; Optional Psalm 48, Proverbs 13:19-22)

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EXODUS 21 – God expands on His law, showing HIS values and that He cares about EVERY aspect of the lives of His people. Remember that this was for Israel as a theocracy (a nation ruled by God as their king, clearly making His will known through Moses). So we can’t directly apply everything straight into our lives. For example, Ex 20:24-26 gives directions for sacrificing animals which we are NOT to do this side of the cross. But we CAN apply the principle of MODESTY in worship that’s given in Ex 20:24-26. Beware being overly quick to dismiss what we’re reading as ONLY for their culture/time. God’s claim on EVERY aspect of our lives hasn’t changed (although some of the application details have), and our sinful tendencies haven’t changed. So the multiple safeguards God commands for Israel are helpful reminders to guard and train our hearts (NOT follow our hearts like our culture is so keen on).

I’ve been dreading this chapter, because God spends so much time regulating slavery, and many today wonder why God didn’t just ban it. I’ve been agonizing for awhile about how to frame this issue for our time that is so torn with arguments over reparations for slavery in America and similar issues. This morning two things struck me. First, God had JUST brought them out of more than 400 years of affliction in slavery (see Gen 15:12-16 where God predicts this slavery to Abraham as part of His sovereign plan). And yet, early in unpacking His law for them, God lays out these regulations for certain types of slavery (while abhorring other kinds – see Ex 21:16 – and this kidnapping kind of slavery IS what American slavery was built on). Second, I’m convicted about how quickly I ignored the very current-to-them pain of slavery that I’m reading about in Exodus and made it about OUR current cultural moment. I get reminded daily that I’m a sinner and am so thankful for God’s rescuing me (and bearing with me and teaching me even during my ongoing struggles with selfishness and tendency to make things about me).

Ex 21:1-2 – This is ONE kind of slavery, where a fellow Hebrew is destitute and sells themselves to another Israelite. But the word in the original Hebrew language is the SAME as the word in Ex 20:2 where God reminds them He Himself had just brought them “out of the house of slavery / bondage.” Many translations use a different English word in Ex 21:2 from Ex 20:2, but the word is the same in Hebrew. This IS different from American slavery in two important ways. 1) American slavery of darker-skinned people so often acted like Gen 1:26-27 wasn’t true for all people. Acted like SOME were created in God’s image but not others. Wrong and wicked! 2) Much of American slavery was built on kidnapping, and God put the death penalty on that, both for the person DOING the kidnapping AND for the person who knowingly bought someone that was kidnapped (Ex 21:16). So the kind of slavery we had in America was HATED by God. God had just brought them OUT of slavery (and the kind of slavery they were in was certainly harsh and sinful – Pharaoh refused to let them go even when commanded by God) AND God sovereignly used all that in His ultimate plan. And don’t miss that the kind of slavery regulated in Ex 21 was NORMALLY short-term – for six years.

Ex 21:3-6 – But it wasn’t ALWAYS short-term. A person could CHOOSE to belong to a good master for his whole life. Why does God put this so early in His law for Israel? I suspect because HE is a perfectly good Master, and knows that those who are His will happily make it clear that we belong to Him. I often hear people saying something like this: “The problem with American slavery is that people acted like they owned other people.” But God makes it clear that a husband belongs to his wife and vice-versa (see 1 Cor 7:1-5, 32-35 – this is why God calls some to be single and have undivided devotion to HIM). And children belong to parents in a very real way while they’re still young. And 1 Cor 6:19-20 makes joyfully clear that God has bought us with the blood of Jesus and that we are not our own, but belong to Him.

Of course there are qualifiers and nuance needed… Christians are not ONLY slaves of God, but ALSO clearly beloved children (Eph 5:1). And we will have a constant call to NOT present ourselves as slaves to sin, but as happy slaves to God and His righteousness (that’s what all of Rom 6 is about).

The rest of Ex 21 is fascinating in how much of our current legal system IS correctly founded on the PRINCIPLES that are here! Don’t miss how it easy it is to take PARTS of this that we’re comfortable with and ignore the parts we don’t like. For example, many American slaveholders twisted Ex 21 as a justification for their wicked image-of-God-demeaning ways. But they ignored Ex 21:16 and they ignored Ex 21:20-27 which was strong motivation to Israelites to treat their voluntary slaves (see Ex 21:1-6) well.

Through the whole chapter, note how God wants law to recognize our sinful bent and take that into account with checks and balances.

LUKE 24 – Jesus is raised from the dead, appears to multiple disciples, shows that the whole Old Testament points to Him, promises the coming Holy Spirit, and then ascends to heaven. In the book of Acts, Luke will continue the account from here (and give us more details about the 40 days Jesus spent teaching them before His ascension).

Lk 24:1 – See yesterday’s notes on the sabbath (at the Exodus 20 reading). Though there is no command for Christians to meet on Sunday (the first day of the week), many Christians have been doing that as a weekly celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.

Lk 24:11 – Evidence of the Bible’s truthfulness! Not hiding the early doubts of the leaders. Of course this also lends credibility to when they DID get enough evidence to firmly believe (see v 33-34, 1 Cor 15:1-7).

Lk 24:13-32 – I’ve often wished I could’ve been there for that Old Testament overview! But we DO get to see it in the preaching of the apostles in the early church. When we get to the book of Acts (where Luke continues his inspired account), we’ll see that in their preaching the apostles continually point to OT evidence that Jesus is the promised Messiah, both victorious King AND Suffering Servant – all prophesied in Jewish Scriptures. Jesus does NOT say that EVERY OT paragraph is specifically pointing to Him, but that He is pointed to all through the Old Testament. I say this because there’s a trend among some to overly stretch some OT texts, trying to see pointers to Jesus in every paragraph. But we SHOULD be looking to those pointers – they’re all through the Scriptures!

Lk 24:47 – Luke’s version of the Great Commission. Notice the emphasis on repentance that we’ve seen all through Jesus’ ministry (and John the baptizer’s ministry of preparation before Jesus – see Lk 3:7-8).

Lk 24:49 – This is the promise of the fullness of the Holy Spirit who would come on Pentecost. Again, Acts will pick up from here, and Acts 1 will give more details of the 40 days Jesus spent teaching them and giving many proofs of His resurrection before He ascended. But first we’ll read through the Gospel of John. Here’s a 9-minute video overview of John 1-12 –

Optional Psalm 48 – Praise to God who is the great King over all kings, and who is fortress for His people and will ultimately get justice and deliverance for His people so that we can praise Him forever. And be intentional in instructing the next generation about His goodness (Ps 48:13-14).

Optional Proverbs 13:19-22 – Pr 13:20 – one of many Scriptures about the huge importance of who we spend lots of time with and who influences us. Don’t miss huge applications to our media consumption, where we tend to spend lots of time and tend to be very influenced.