Monday, September 24, 2018

Loving God Enough To Obey His Law

God’s laws were concerned with justice for those who had been wronged.  Modern American law is more concerned with punishment of the wrong doer.  As a result, the guilty party is fined or incarcerated, while the victim may be forced to file a separate civil suit to collect any reparations for his losses.  Frequently, legal fees wipe out any reparations he receives.    As we have already seen, God specified what the penalty for various actions was to be so that the victim suffered as little as possible.  Rather than paying a fine of being imprisoned for theft, a person was required to make reparation, 

Exodus 22:1-4 gives guidelines for dealing with thieves.  “If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.  If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.  If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.  If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double.”   

Most thieves do not steal to feed their families or to meet their needs, but to obtin something they want without having to earn it.  Under God’s law, if the item was recovered, the thief was to pay back twice the value of the item.  If the item had been sold or destroyed the thief had to pay back four times the value of the item for everyday items, such as a sheep which could easily be replaced, and five times as much for things which were critical for his job.  The ox was the equivalent of the farmer’s tractor today, and without it he could not farm his land.  Good oxen might not be readily available. 

If a thief broke into a house at night and the homeowner killed him, there were to be no charges brought against the homeowner. He could not see who the thief was or what kind of weapons he might have, and so was considered to be acting in self-defense.   If it was light however, he had could identify the thief, and thus had the responsibility to try to capture him alive or have him arrested.  If the thief was unable to pay the specified penalty for what he had taken, he was to be sold as a slave or indentured servant to cover those penalties.  In the American system, he is not expected to pay back what he took, and is often placed into prison where he could not earn the money to make restitution if he wanted to. 

When I was a child, if a guy had sex with a girl and she got pregnant, he was expected to marry her,  Later, thanks to the sexual revolution it was considered okay not to marry her even if she got pregnant, and Roe v Wade made it acceptable to get an abortion if the girl thought it would be inconvenient to have the baby.  God’s law was far different, according to Exodus 22:16-17.  “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife.  If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins.”  If a man had consensual sex with a woman who was not married or engaged to be married, he was required to acknowledge her as his wife, whether she got pregnant or not, even if her parents refused to allow her to live with him.  

If a married or engaged person had sex with someone other than their mate, they were to both be executed except in cases where there was definite evidence the sex was not consensual.    Deuteronomy 22:22-29 goes into detail about this.  “If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.  If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.

But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die: But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter: For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.

If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days.”

Along this same line, Exodus 22:19 commands, “Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death.”  Leviticus 20:13-16 goes into greater detail about this and other prohibited sexual behavior.  “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.  And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.  And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.  And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

Unfortunately, many churches and pastors today consider that sexual promiscuity is acceptable and should be ignored.  Some take the same position with homosexual activity or other sexual behavior.   Others go to the opposite extreme, forbidding couples who have indulged in sex before being legally married from getting married.  Clearly both approaches are contrary to God’s command, and as Jesus warned in Matthew 5:19, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  They will still be saved, but they will miss out on rewards they could have had.  As John 14:23-24 tells us, “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.  He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.”  The refusal to obey his law indicates a person does not love Christ as much as he likes the sin.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Responsibility Toward Other People’s Property

Romans 3:20 tells us, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”  Keeping the law would not save the Old Testament saints, nor will it save people today.   The whole purpose of the Law was to define what sin was.  Unfortunately, knowing the Law would not enable us to get into heaven because obeying it was dependent on human willpower.  Romans 8:3-4 tells us, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”  The fact that Christ fulfilled the law emphasized that it was not an impossible standard, making it clear anyone who didn’t fulfill it was not fitted for heaven.  It is only through accepting his sacrifice for our sin that we can be fitted for heaven. 

In Matthew 5:18-19, Jesus warned, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.  Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  While we can be saved without meeting the standards of the Law, ignoring it and teaching others to do so will cost rewards in the kingdom.  It behooves us to learn the standards God has set in order to please him. 

As we saw in the previous study, a man was responsible for the actions in which another person was hurt.  God had specified that anyone or any animal who killed a person was to be held accountable in Genesis 9:5-6.  “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.  Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” 

Exodus 21:28-29 expands on this command.  “If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit.  But if the ox were wont to push with his horn in time past, and it hath been testified to his owner, and he hath not kept him in, but that he hath killed a man or a woman; the ox shall be stoned, and his owner also shall be put to death.  If there be laid on him a sum of money, then he shall give for the ransom of his life whatsoever is laid upon him.  Whether he have gored a son, or have gored a daughter, according to this judgment shall it be done unto him.  If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give unto their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.” 

If a man’s animal killed someone, the animal was to be stoned and the body destroyed, but if the owner knew the animal was dangerous and made no effort to protect others, the owner was considered responsible for the person’s death, and deserved to die.  Since it was not deliberate, they had the option of collecting damages from if they chose to allow him to live.    Even if the animal did not kill the person, but deliberately hurt him the animal was to be killed and damages paid to the victim. 

People were to take responsibility in protecting other people’s property as well.  Exodus 21:33-36 commanded, “And if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or an ass fall therein; The owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money unto the owner of them; and the dead beast shall be his.  And if one man's ox hurt another's, that he die; then they shall sell the live ox, and divide the money of it; and the dead ox also they shall divide.  Or if it be known that the ox hath used to push in time past, and his owner hath not kept him in; he shall surely pay ox for ox; and the dead shall be his own.” 

Exodus 22:5-15 relate to other situations where one’s actions could cause another to suffer loss.  “If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man's field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution.  If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.

If a man shall deliver unto his neighbour money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man's house; if the thief be found, let him pay double.  If the thief be not found, then the master of the house shall be brought unto the judges, to see whether he have put his hand unto his neighbour's goods.

For all manner of trespass, whether it be for ox, for ass, for sheep, for raiment, or for any manner of lost thing, which another challengeth to be his, the cause of both parties shall come before the judges; and whom the judges shall condemn, he shall pay double unto his neighbour.

If a man deliver unto his neighbour an ass, or an ox, or a sheep, or any beast, to keep; and it die, or be hurt, or driven away, no man seeing it: Then shall an oath of the LORD be between them both, that he hath not put his hand unto his neighbour's goods; and the owner of it shall accept thereof, and he shall not make it good.  And if it be stolen from him, he shall make restitution unto the owner thereof.  If it be torn in pieces, then let him bring it for witness, and he shall not make good that which was torn.

And if a man borrow ought of his neighbour, and it be hurt, or die, the owner thereof being not with it, he shall surely make it good.  But if the owner thereof be with it, he shall not make it good: if it be an hired thing, it came for his hire.”

God expects people to take responsibility for their actions affect other people. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Taking Responsibility for The Results of One’s Actions

Human ideas of right and wrong tend to be much different than God’s standards.  Respect for God and the things he created are the basis for moral standards.  Murder is an affront to God in that it deliberately destroys a person who was created in the image of God.  The mandatory penalty for such disrespect toward God was death.  Exodus 21:15-17 describe three other crimes God says deserve the death penalty.  “And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.  And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.  And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.” 

Our parents give us life in a very real sense, and for the first years of our life we are totally dependent on them.  In a very real sense they are the epitome of God for us.  When we disrespect them by physically or verbally abusing them we are indirectly attacking God and violating Exodus 20:12, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.”  The penalty was to be death. 

God created people to be free to follow him.  Kidnapping disrespects God by taking away that freedom, forcing them to obey their captors instead.  Kidnappers were to be executed whether the captives were recovered or had been sold into slavery. 

As we saw, while serious, an accidental killing did not command the same penalty.  Physical injuries ot others were also to be taken quite seriously.  When two people fought, if one was injured, the other was to pay for hurting him, according to Exodus 21:18-19.  “And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed: If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed.”

If in the course of a fight, a bystander, in particular, a woman was injured the one who injured them was to be held accountable.  Exodus 21:22-25 describes the effects.  “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.  And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”  If the incident caused the loss of a baby, the woman’s husband was to set a figure for damages and if the judges determined it was legitimate, the man was to pay it.  If the injury cause permanent harm to the woman, the guilty party was to be injured in the same way the woman had been.   

Owning a slave did not give one the right to mistreat them.  Exodus 21:20 commanded, “And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.”   If the owner killed a slave, it was to be considered murder and the owner was to be executed just like any other murderer.  If the servant survived the punishment for a few days, the owner could not be charged with murder, because he was responsible for keeping him alive, but if the punishment caused permanent injury, even something so minor as knocking out a tooth, he had to give the slave or servant their freedom, according to Exodus 21:21, 26-27.  “Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.  And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye's sake.  And if he smite out his manservant's tooth, or his maidservant's tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth's sake.” 

Under the Law, a person was responsible for the results of his actions.  They were not to just ignore the consequences when others were hurt.  Unfortunately, modern court procedures tend to produce penalties far in excess of what was truly merited while the victims may receive far less than they should, with the settlements going for fines, court costs and legal fees.

It is important to know that while slavery was permitted it was very different from that practiced by most groups.  As we have seen they could not keep a person as a slave more than six years, nor could they keep what he had owned before he was enslaved.  Forcing people into slavery by kidnapping was illegal, and the slaves had very definite rights as people.  Unfortunately, when the American colonies were established, they followed British law rather than God’s law, and slavery became a serious problem. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Punishment For Killing

The American court system today is not concerned about justice.  It has become a contest between the lawyers.  The clients just provide the cases and the money for the lawyers to play the game, and the winning lawyers get extra pay and prestige.  Frequently even the winning client does not win enough to recover his legal expenses, but because our laws have become so complex almost everyone is forced to hire a lawyer, enabling them to charge exorbitant fees. 

When the jury finally gets the case, they are given a series of complex instructions that frequently make it difficult to come to a decision as to what the verdict should be.  God’s laws were much more straightforward, so that lawyers were not necessary, but by Christ’s time, the Jews had modified and complicated the law enough to justify a class of lawyers.    The laws God gave Moses were simple and logical. 

For example his laws relating to murder and manslaughter were quite clear, as we see in Exodus 21:12-14.  “He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.  And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.  But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.” 

There was no concern for whether a person was mentally competent.  If he murdered someone he was to be executed.    If it was an accident, God made provision for the person to go to one of the cities of refuge, and as long as he remained in the city he was protected from execution.  If the person deliberately attacked the person and killed him it was murder, and he was to be executed, even if he fled to the City of Refuge or into the very temple itself.  They were not to protect or provide sanctuary for murderers.

Deuteronomy 19:4-13 goes into greater detail about this.  “And this is the case of the slayer, which shall flee thither, that he may live: Whoso killeth his neighbour ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past; As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live: Lest the avenger of the blood pursue the slayer, while his heart is hot, and overtake him, because the way is long, and slay him; whereas he was not worthy of death, inasmuch as he hated him not in time past.

Wherefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt separate three cities for thee.  And if the LORD thy God enlarge thy coast, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, and give thee all the land which he promised to give unto thy fathers; If thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them, which I command thee this day, to love the LORD thy God, and to walk ever in his ways; then shalt thou add three cities more for thee, beside these three: That innocent blood be not shed in thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and so blood be upon thee.

But if any man hate his neighbour, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and fleeth into one of these cities: Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die.  Thine eye shall not pity him, but thou shalt put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with thee.”

Numbers 35:16-25 goes into greater detail about how to decide if it was an accident or murder.  “And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.  And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.  Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.  The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him. But if he thrust him of hatred, or hurl at him by laying of wait, that he die; Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer, when he meeteth him.

But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him any thing without laying of wait, Or with any stone, wherewith a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it upon him, that he die, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm: Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments: And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil.”

If they used any implement as a weapon, it was to be considered murder, but things that were clearly an accident, such as unintentionally knocking a rock off a wall and hitting someone was to be considered accidental manslaughter and the person was to be protected, provided he followed the rules as   Numbers 35:26-28 tells us.  “But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled; And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood: Because he should have remained in the city of his refuge until the death of the high priest: but after the death of the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession.”  Manslaughter was a life sentence, and it was up to the guilty person to stay inside the City of Refuge.

This was God’s standard, and it was not to be changed.  Numbers 35:29-32 commanded, “So these things shall be for a statute of judgment unto you throughout your generations in all your dwellings.  Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.  Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.  And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest.”   No one should be able to get by with murder or manslaughter, regardless how much money or power their family might have.  At the same time, no one could be convicted on the basis of a single witness.  There had to be additional evidence. 

When we look at man’s standard it seems that some people matter more than others.  Black lives appear to matter more if they are killed by a police officer than if they are killed by another black person.  Sanctuary cities protect murderers who are illegal aliens, and powerful political figures are never investigated when they are linked to murders.   God said every murderer was to be executed.  While we cannot bring the victim back to life, we can prevent their killer from killing others. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

God’s Principles For daily Life

One of the things we know is that the basic principles of science that God established at creation do not change over time.  As a result, I can confidently place things on shelf, knowing that gravity will keep them there unless something moves them.   A basketball player can shoot at the goal, knowing gravity will cause the ball to act in a certain way.  The same rules that govern what the basketball does also govern what a space ship does.  All of science is based on the principle that the rules do not change.  If it is not true, there can be no science.  When we ignore those principles, things do not work out as we expect them to.   The better we understand those principles, the easier it is to accomplish the things we want.

During the dark ages, there was a determined effort to set aside those rules in an attempt to turn other materials into gold. Alchemists spent vast amounts of money and resources in the effort, eventually proving that the ancient scientist had been right all along.   Modern chemistry and physics developed as a result of their failures.   

In a similar way, God established certain principles for human interactions.  Efforts to ignore them cause serious conflicts and problems at every level.  God gave Israel a set of laws relating to those principles, in an effort to help them avoid many of the problems that result from ignoring them.    Unfortunately, like the alchemists during the Dark Ages, many people today think we can change or ignore those principles.  In Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.  Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” 

Those same principles will remain in effect as long as this world exists.  Efforts to change or ignore them bring us into direct conflict with other people and with God.  Christ’s sacrifice on the cross freed those who believe from the penalty for breaking the law, but the law is still in effect.  In an emergency, a police officer is free to exceed the speed limit but in doing so he may put his life and those of others around him in danger, because the purpose of the law is to protect people.  In the same way, while we are not bound by the Old Testament Law, we need to be very careful because failure to obey may put us or others at risk.   Exodus 21-23 list some of the laws as to how the Israelites were to treat each other. 

Because of differences in our culture and language, sometimes it can be a little confusing as to what is meant, but the principles stay the same.  For example, slavery is not legal in America, so it is easy to think the principles relating to it do not apply to our society.  Let’s examine these laws for a moment.

Exodus 21:2-3 says, “If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.   If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him.”   It is very clear they did not own the servant or slave.  They had only purchased his services for a period of time, and the maximum time was for six years.  At the end of the time he was free to leave.  If the agreement included both the man and his wife. both were free at the end of the time.  While slavery is illegal in America, we still have apprenticeship programs, businesses still contract for people to work for a period of time, and the military still has people enlist for specified periods.  At the end of the term, the employer has no claim against things he had before he went to work for them.  At the same time, he has no claim against his employer for things they have provided while he worked for them, even though they were personal things.   Exodus 21:4 states, “If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself.” 

When the term was finished, the employee was free to negotiate a new agreement with his employer if he liked the job, as we see in Exodus 21:5-6.  “And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever.”  He can stay in the same job forever if that’s what they decide, but it has to be the employee’s decision. 

Many employers have taken advantage of their power to get sexual favors from those under them.  There were some special guidelines for how women were to be treated according to Exodus 21:7-11.   And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do.  If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealt deceitfully with her.  And if he have betrothed her unto his son, he shall deal with her after the manner of daughters.  If he take him another wife; her food, her raiment, and her duty of marriage, shall he not diminish.  And if he do not these three unto her, then shall she go out free without money.

In taking a woman on as a slave, the employer assumed the responsibility for providing her a husband.  If he didn’t want to marry her, he had to give her the opportunity to marry someone else, who would pay her debt, but he could not sell her. If she married his son, she was to be treated as equal with his own daughters, and she could not be kept secretly, but was to be acknowledged a truly his wife with all the rights and privileges such a position offered.  If he was not willing to meet those requirements, the woman was free to leave, owing him nothing.

These laws and others dealt with many of the abuses modern labor laws are designed to prevent.  Though our laws are different, human nature is not.   People still need protection from the same kinds of abuses. 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Emphasizing Respect For God

A serious problem in modern society is the number of parents and teachers who are more concerned about being the child’s friend than being a parent or teacher.  Instead of preparing healthy food for the child, the parent allows them to choose what they want.  Since the child doesn’t understand what his body needs, he tends to choose only familiar things and avoid new tastes, becoming a picky eater.  He begins to get the idea he should always get his own way, and gets very angry and rebellious when he doesn’t, having little or no respect for anyone. 

Good parents realize it is their responsibility to develop their children’s physical and social health, even when it is not what the child wants.  They are the parent or teacher, not just another friend.  They have to teach the child to show respect for themselves in order to develop a proper parent child relationship.  If the child does not learn to respect his parents, it will be difficult for him to obey them or to develop a proper attitude toward other people.  The attitude toward their parents tends to dominate one’s attitude toward other people.  In much the same way, our attitude toward God influences our attitude toward other people.   A person who has little respect for God will find obey him, and as we have seen, many of God’s commands have to do with our relationship to other people. 

Knowing this, God deliberately acted in a manner to emphasize his authority and power, and the people were intimidated, as we see in Exodus 20:18-19.  “And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.  And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.” 

A recognition that a parent or God can take unpleasant action when we do things that they don’t like furnishes an incentive to cooperate with them even when we don’t understand why they make such demands.  At the same time it is important to know that they want what is best for us.  Exodus 10:20m tells us, “And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.”  God’s purpose was to encourage them to do what was right. He was not just looking for something to punish them for.  He had demonstrated his concern for them by delivering them for Egypt and supplying their needs, but they needed to understand he was God, not just a genie for them to order around. 

God gave some special instructions emphasize their respect for him, in Exodus 20:21-26.  “And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.  And the LORD said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.  Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.

An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.  And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.  Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.”

They had heard God speak to them and seen his power.  They were not to worship any other gods or statues along with him.    As he said in Exodus 20:4-6, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”  Figures of other things would be like a husband keeping a photograph of a former girlfriend in his wallet and spending time looking at it every day.   It implies he is not satisfied with what he already has, and his wife would have every right to be jealous. 

Any altar they used to worship were to be made on natural materials just the way God had made tyhem.  Any attempt to make fit together better implied God didn’t do things well enough.  Finally they were nto to do things that would distract from worshipping.  Steps might allow one to see up skirt, distracting one from focusing on God.  Later, he would demand that priest’s garments included underwear (breeches) for the same reason.   

Friday, September 14, 2018

An Outline Of God’s Expectations

God had gone out of his way to impress the people with the seriousness of a covenant with him.  The people had said they wanted such a covenant, so with the so called Ten Commandments, he gave them a brief outline of what their responsibilities would be.  Later, he would flesh out this outline in greater detail before it was finally approved, much like establishing a contract between two people or businesses.   They start by outlining what is desired, and once an agreement is reached, a final contract with all the details is written and signed by both parties.

The first part of the Ten Commandments outlines the attitude they were to have toward God.  Exodus 20:1-6 said they were not to worship any other Gods.  “And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” 

God was the one who had delivered them from Egypt, sending the plagues and destroying the Egyptian army, and clearly showing he was more powerful than anything the Egyptians might worship.  When he said, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” the combination of words translated before means literally they were not to set anything alongside of or equal to God.  They were not to worship, to in any way credit anything with having power similar to God’s.  They were not to bow to other religions gods , or even the rulers of other countries.  God is a jealous God, not willing to share his position as God with others, just as a husband should not be willing to share his position as husband with others.  He promised to reward those who followed his commands and to punish those who would not. 

God demanded total respect.  Exodus 20:7 commands, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”  They were not to treat his name lightly or disrespectfully.  To do so would be treated as disrespecting God, and those who made fun of him or otherwise disrespected him would be held accountable for what they had done. 

Exodus 20:8-11 set the Sabbath day apart as an holy day.  “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.” 

Resting on the Sabbath was a mark of respect for God and creation, because it marked the completion of creation.  In Mark 2:27, Jesus said, “…The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”  Both humans and animals need rest, and by taking a day off, we demonstrate respect for the things God created, and by obeying him in doing so we demonstrate our respect for him. 

This emphasis on respect carries over in the rest of the commandments.  Exodus 20:12 commands, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” Because they have more experience, learning to pay attention to what our parents tell us can literally save our lives and avoid a lot of suffering. 

Exodus 20:13 commands, “Thou shalt not kill.”  The word kill used here means to kill a person and refers specifically to murder.  It is based again on respect for God and the things he has created.  Genesis 9:5-6 states,  “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.  Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”  Taking a person’s life disrespects that person as well as the God who created him. 

Exodus 20:14 commands, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”  Sexual sin has a similar implication of disrespect for both God and other people.  Genesis 2:24 tells us, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”  Taking another person’s wife or husband is the emotional equivalent of chopping off their arm or leg, and shows a complete lack of regard for them and for God’s command.     Taking their belongings or destroying their reputation are other ways of showing disrespect.  Exodus 20:15-16 commands, “Thou shalt not steal.  Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.” 

Jesus said all the law could be summed up in Loving God and Loving man, in Matthew 22:37-40.  “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”  When we respect and love God or other people, we do not wish to hurt them. 

When we begin to focus on what others have there is danger we may begin to try to take it for ourselves.  Exodus 20:17 warns against allowing that attitude in our lives.  “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.”  If we are not careful, having those things will become more important than God to us.  Ephesians 5:3-5 warns Christians to be careful about our attitudes and behavior.  “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.  For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”