Exodus 23

Today's Passage: Exodus 23

Exodus 23 reads like a laundry list of “Thou shalts…” and “Thou shalt nots…” They all serve the purpose of establishing the boundaries of a truly theocratic society ruled by Yahweh instead of an earthly king. God established national holidays designed to remember Him and His provision.

These commands were specifically written to Israel—to the generation that escaped captivity in Egypt and who would ultimately be unable to enter the Promised Land. So, what do we make of these rules 3,500 years later?

Chapter 23 opens where yesterday left off, with case law. God describes what should be done in specific situations—case studies. We need to understand a few things reading these kinds of lists. First, God’s Laws reveal His heart. For every precept and command, we can faithfully handle the text by asking, “How does this reveal God’s heart?” Remember, it’s of passages just like this that King David wrote in Psalm 19, “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, all of them are righteous.” Do you feel refreshed, wise, joyous, and radiant after reading today’s passage? If not, the issue is with us, not the Scripture.

What do we see about God’s heart in this passage? First, in verses 1–9 we see God’s heart for truth and justice. God’s people should never take advantage of the weak, but should stand as defenders for those who cannot defend themselves.

Second, in verses 10–19, God commands what I might call “Covenant Rest.” The practice of Sabbath and Festivals served many practical lessons. They required great trust in Yahweh during times of year that often demanded the most human effort (thinking of planting and harvest times). For those of us who stress about what we have to do next, this period forced people to trust in the Lord’s provision in practical ways. God’s heart is to provide for his people. He created opportunities for them to trust Him.

Sabbath and Festivals also reminded people to rest. It also pointed the people forward to the rest found only in Yahweh. We are designed with a priority for work. We rest from work at appropriate times. When done right, it points to the ultimate rest we will one day have in Christ.

Thirdly, we see God’s heart to deliver His people into the Land He promised to Abraham. Again, they will find rest in the Land that points to the ultimate rest in eternity. It will require great trust, but the battle is the Lord’s.

Intermixed in these commands is God’s heart to maintain a uniqueness of his people compared to the peoples around them—like the command not to boil a young goat in its mother’s milk. We assume that’s an ancient practice by pagan nations. Israel was to be distinct to reflect God’s heart and purposes to the other nations.

The second reminder while reading these lists is that these lists aren’t exhaustive. God prescribed what Israelites should do in these various scenarios. However, these scenarios are examples of God’s Heart that are meant to be applied beyond these specific circumstances. The lists of do’s and do not’s shouldn’t stop here. We should understand God’s heart and try to live that every day in every way, not just a legalistic application to specific scenarios.

Where do you see God’s heart in this passage? How can you live it out today?

Written By: Tyler Short

1 Comment

Lindsay - January 30th, 2023 at 8:09am

God wants us to be of good character. Because He has written His law upon our hearts it should become evident to believers what the correct behavior should be. I also thank God for His Holy Spirit who guides us in unclear situations.

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