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Pondering the Law of God

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To begin with one must know where to find the Law and statutes of God.  Most people will assume this is the Old Testament law, Genesis through Deuteronomy.  That is a lot to ponder.  It is really overwhelming if one is going to deeply contemplate each verse.

We know that the Law of Moses allowed divorce for marital infidelity (Deu 24:1-4).  Yet the Messiah, Christ, seems to say that Moses was the force behind this allowance (Mat 19:3-10).  In any case it was not the way things were set up in the beginning.  Messiah taught the restoration of things as they were from the beginning, the initial creation of man.  The Creator knew what sort of conduct would bring peace by that time.  He set His law accordingly.  He doesn’t change, nor does the way of peace.

The Law of Moses required sacrifices to be offered at the altar in front of the temple or tabernacle (Deu 12:4-11, Lev 17:3-4).  Abraham had no temple nearby when he offered sacrifices to God.  He often just erected an altar where he camped (Gen 12:8, 13:18).  So since Abraham obeyed the Law of God, it evidently does not require the sacrifices at the temple that were required of Ancient Israel.


It was also likely the Messiah, through the spirit, who gave Peter the vision of Acts 10.  With this vision Peter learned that being uncircumcised did not make someone unclean (Acts 10:28).  Since the Law of Moses required circumcision (Lev 12:1-2) the Jews assumed anyone uncircumcised was deficient and unclean. 


In fact, Abraham received the promises of the covenant while still uncircumcised (Rom 4:10, Gen 15:2, 17-18, 16:16-17:1, 23-24).  Yet, Abraham received the promises of the covenant because he obeyed the Creator’s law (Gen 26:1-5).  So Abraham obeyed the Creator’s law without being circumcised.  The Law of God then, does not require circumcision and is not identical to the Law of Moses that does require circumcision. 


Hebrews 7 also indicates the Law was based on the existence of the tribe of Levi.  Many versions translate Hebrews 7:11 to indicate that the law was just received while the Levites were the priests.  The Greek word that describes this relationship does not typically mean ‘under’ as usually translated, but means ‘upon’.  The NASB version renders the verse, “Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need {was there} for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron?” (see also NIV, NLT, Emphasized Bible) 


The Law was based on the tribe of Levi representing the Creator to Israel.  Levi did not exist at the time of Abraham.  Abraham kept the law of God without any help from Levi.  The law of God does not require the existence of Levi.  The Law of Moses was based on the existence of Levi.


Any law that requires the existence of certain men to administer it is not going to last forever.  It is inherently weak and will become tarnished over time.  The principles the Creator set down in His law are eternal.  They will never tarnish.


Fortunately, only a part of the law that Moses wrote is actually the law of God.  David meditated on ‘Your statutes’ and delighted in ‘Your law’, not ‘The Law’ or ‘Moses law’.  Yes, all the Law of Moses was approved by God and was probably from God.  We should not assume that makes it His Law, what He directed from the beginning. 


In short, the Law of Moses was added to the Law of God (Gal 3:19), because Israel couldn’t be trusted to keep the Law of God.  Moses is quite clear in describing when this happened.  The record of Deuteronomy is authoritative on this matter since its author was witness to the event. 


So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished,  25 that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying:  26 "Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there as a witness against you;” (Deu 31:24-26)


The Law was separate from the covenant of the Lord, which is also a law.  The covenant of the Lord had actually been extant for a long time.  The Law was written and set outside the ark.  The prior Law, the covenant of the Lord, was inside the ark.


Galatians 3:19 indicates the Law of Moses was added.  Deuteronomy 31 quoted above shows it to have been added when it was confirmed and set beside the Covenant of the Lord.  The Law of Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy, was not all from the beginning.  It records events from the beginning, but it requires Israel function under the priesthood of Levi, regular animal sacrifices, centralized worship at the temple and national curses that were not from the beginning and had no place in even the covenant at Sinai.


Let’s remember that covenants are very serious things.  They do not change.  Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it.” (Gal 3:15)  The covenant made at Sinai was not just one phase or one part of the changing requirements of the Creator.  It was confirmed as the entire basis under which Israel was to live.  It was sufficient to direct Israel away from sin (Ex 20:20).  The Creator’s instruction was sufficient from the beginning.  The second covenant of Deuteronomy (See Deu 29:1, 9, 12, 14) was not an improvement, but a concession created at the behest of Moses.  So the Creator would not destroy them as He had threatened (Ex 32:7-10, Deu 4:1, 5:33, 6:24, 8:1).  Hence, it is called the Law of Moses (Josh 23:6, Deu 31:24-26).   


The Law of Moses being placed next to the ark of the covenant of the Lord, did not merge the two.  It was a second covenant, being set as law along with the original covenant under which Abraham functioned. The original law was in the ark.  The second law was placed outside.  This is a very brief explanation.   A full explanation is available at CreatorsCovenant.org, including why there were two distinct laws.


His covenant = His Law


The relationship between the Law and the Covenant of the Lord is important because His Covenant is His Law not Moses Law or The Law.  They did not keep the covenant of God; They refused to walk in His law” (Ps 78:10).   Hebrew speakers have the proclivity of repeating themselves.  Not that they say the same thing over again, but they repeat themselves using different words and come at the same matter from a slightly different perspective. 


As English speakers we might look at verse 10 above and conclude that the covenant of God and His Law are two different things.  This would be the typical English way of speaking.  It’s not the Hebrew way.  Psalms was originally written in Hebrew by Hebrew speakers who thought like Hebrews, not Englishmen.  A Hebrew speaker would understand that the author was intending ‘the covenant of God’ and ‘His law’ as, for all practical purposes, the same thing.


This is a tool Hebrew speakers use for emphasis.  In this case, they emphasize the utter failure of Israel to obey the fundamental truths of their Creator. 


This proclivity of Hebrew speakers to repeat themselves using different words or from a different perspective is called Hebrew parallelism.  It is easily found in both the Old and New Testaments, because all the prophets and apostles were native Hebrew speakers.   Hosea 8:1 also uses parallelism to connect the law of God and His covenant.  Set the trumpet to your mouth! He shall come like an eagle against the house of the LORD, Because they have transgressed My covenant And rebelled against My law.”


It is this law, His law, that the Psalmist, David, recommends pondering.  The Law, i.e., the Law of Moses is never mentioned in the Psalms.  The core of the Creator’s law is summarized in only three and a half chapters with His covenant.  It does not fill five books.  Certainly this is much more manageable.  The material is indeed worthy of diligent thought.  It is the unchangeable core of the mind of the Creator.  The five books of the Law are vital to detailed understanding, as is all scripture.  His Law was written to a different time and culture than our own but the principles, the spirit, still apply. 


He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: Holy and awesome is His name” (Ps 111:9)


He has given food to those who fear Him; He will ever be mindful of His covenant.” (Ps 111:5)


He remembers His covenant forever, The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations” (Ps 105:8)


The principles cover everything from marital relations to corporate law and the military draft.  One just needs to think about what is being said.  A gloss read is insufficient.


The Ten Commandments; a new law for Israel?


The covenant made at Sinai was not a new creation made just for Israel.  Moses rehearsed for Israel their various adventures since leaving Egypt just before they went into the Promised Land (Deu 1:1-5).  In that speech the covenant at Sinai is designated as the covenant of the Lord.  Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the LORD your God has forbidden you.” (Deu 4:23)


This same covenant is also called His covenant. “So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.” (Deu 4:13)


This covenant, His covenant, is the same covenant that was made with the patriarchs.  Remember His covenant forever, The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations,  16 The covenant which He made with Abraham, And His oath to Isaac,  17 And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, To Israel for an everlasting covenant,  18 Saying, "To you I will give the land of Canaan As the allotment of your inheritance,"” (I Chron 16:15-18)


This is reinforced as well in Deuteronomy 8:18.  His covenant, the Ten Commandments was made with the patriarchs.  “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”


His Commandments = His ways

 You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the LORD your God chastens you.  6 Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him.” (Deu 8:5-6)


The Covenant of the Lord, His commandments, His Law, is His way.  It is the essence of His character, His mind and His approach to life and relationships.  I will meditate on Your precepts, And contemplate Your ways.” (Ps 119:15)  As David learned how the Creator thought and followed that pattern he molded his own mind, his own spirit, into the spirit of God.


“… Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.” (John 8:39cd)  Even so, if we are the children of God, we do the works of God.  Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Mat 5:48)


Consider also what the Creator was doing when He spoke directly to Israel on Mount Sinai. 


And Moses said to the people, "Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin."” (Ex 20:20)


It was the intent of the Creator that His instruction at Sinai coupled with the awesome display of His power would prevent sin.  This instruction is the basis for understanding and avoiding sin.  It should have been sufficient for ancient Israel when coupled with the earth-shaking and fear-inducing display around the mountain.  The impression should have been etched permanently into their minds such that they would always consider the words of the Creator as long as they lived.


We were not present at the base of the mountain like Israel was.  However, we have the account of the events.  There are probably things assumed by their culture that are not assumed in our culture.  We have the rest of scripture to help us understand what we need to know to fill in the culture gaps.  We also have historical records from other cultures from the same geographical area.  So we have to do some translation of culture as well as language, but we have the tools to understand a lot of what they understood of the intentions of the Creator. 


His commandments along with the rest of the Sinai covenant is the foundation the Creator gave to enable them and us to avoid sin.  It is the essence of His way.  We have the rest of scripture and other records of history to help us better understand and fill in the gaps.



His Commandments: fundamental to salvation


So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."“ (Mat 19:17)  Verse 18 makes it clear Messiah is talking specifically of the Ten Commandments here.


Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.” (I Cor 7:19)


Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.” (Rev 11:19)


The commandments of God are critical to salvation.  The ark, which is the seat of the Creator in heaven, still contains His covenant, the Ten Commandments, like the mercy seat did in ancient Israel.  This instruction is not old.  It is the basis for salvation, because it teaches us the thought processes of the mind of God.  It is forever (Ps 111:9). 


The whole Law of Moses is not treated this way.  It is highly respected and regarded, but it is not the ultimate authority.  Moses prophesied that a prophet would come to whom Israel was to pay heed.  The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear” (Deu 18:15).  This is reflected in Paul’s statement regarding the law.  What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; …” (Gal 3:19).  The law of Moses had been the authority.  With the arrival of Messiah, He became the authority.  When all is said and done the example, action and word of Messiah is the authority.  That makes the Law of Moses secondary, not irrelevant.


In fact, Messiah said almost nothing against the Law.  The only direct exception He took to regulations in the Law involved the Law’s allowance for divorce and the manner of taking of certain oaths (Mat 19:8, 5:33-34).  In a number of areas He recommended stricter self-control than what the Law required.


Paul in Galatians goes on to explain that the law kept Israel under guard somewhat like protective custody.  But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.” (Gal 3:23)  He continues explaining that Israel was being trained by the Law similar to how a child is trained.  The trainer is likened to the Greek paidagogos, a slave-guardian set by wealthy people to train and discipline their boys (Gal 3:24-25).  The guardian taught them manners, respect for authority, and how to relate to others.  This is typically the job of parents in western society.  When the boys reached adulthood they were no longer under this guardian, but they often had an excellent relationship with him and looked to him for guidance as long as he lived.  As with any young adult, it was expected as a responsible adult they would conduct themselves as the paidagogos had taught them. (See further: “Novum Testamentum”, vol 29, 1987, “Paidagogos: The Social Setting”, by N.H.Young p174)


For believers, the ultimate authority is not the Law of Moses, but Christ, the Messiah.  He taught a return to what was from the beginning, the Law of God.  He attempted to correct contemporary misunderstanding and to clarify the original intent of the Creator.  The foundation is the Ten Commandments. They are the terms of His covenant with Abraham just as with Israel at Sinai.  We saw this in 1 Chronicles 16:15-18.  The Messiah reinforced the validity of the Ten Commandments (Mat 19:17).  He also validated the vast majority of the law.  HeeHe showed us how to properly interpret, to top-off, so to speak, the law (Mat 5:17-19), clarify and bring it into accord with the Law of God that was from the beginning.


Moses documented that foundation for us in Exodus 20 along with the judgments in the following three chapters that were given at the same time.  A judgment is a decision based on existing law.  The judgments that were detailed in Exodus 21-23 are decisions based on the instruction of Exodus 20.  They go hand in glove with the Ten Commandments and help us understand their full intent.  We also have the instruction of the Messiah and the Apostles for further clarification.


Human law assumes that it must plug all the loopholes or people will skirt the intent of the law.  Consequently our governmental codes of law are huge volumes and whole libraries of books.  No one can know it all. 


The Creator’s law is not written that way.  It is written to those who are diligently seeking to be like their Creator.  The Creator is trying to build us into faithful people who will seek on our own to do what is right.  One doesn’t need volumes of regulations to govern someone who governs himself, because he is anxious and diligent to comply with the will of God.


Teach the mind, the spirit 


Consider that David was not the only one that felt the need to ponder the way of God. 


For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” (Rom 8:5)


Believers are focused on improving their understanding of the will of God, how He thinks, His spirit. Humans are wrapped up in their physical well-being and enjoyment. 


In the western world it is not unusual for people to have free time that ends up being more or less wasted.  It can be wasted on spectator sports, Hollywood personality trivia and/or a host of other pursuits that in reality are of no consequence.  Many also are seeking to secure great wealth for themselves (Mat 6:24-34).  These are things of the flesh. 


The things of the spirit involve focusing the mind on emulation of the Father.  Our spirit, our mentality and values, are to be modeled after those of our Creator such that we walk in His way.  Those who live according to the spirit use their mind to consider the instruction given us in scripture and ponder His precepts and His ways.  They are not very concerned about simply entertaining themselves with trivia or wasting time away.  See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,  16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph 5:15-16)


We need to make an effort to provide for ourselves and have sufficient to give to others (Eph 4:28).  We also need to trust that God will provide our needs if we have done what we can (Luke 12:28-30).  However, this is all instruction for believers, those who are walking in His way and trying to understand the full implications of His Law.  If God is not providing needs, we need to look at our own part, not assume our Creator is fickle or unfaithful.


For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa 55:8-9)


O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” (Jer 10:23)


The way of the Creator is not intuitive to a son of Adam.  It takes diligent thought to dig below the surface record the Creator left us.  His intention was to teach the spirit, the mind, how to think like He thinks.  


The intent in this document is to help the reader dig out the full meaning and application of the Law of God, Exodus 20-23:19.  Not that we know it all ourselves and intend to tell you, but that we hope to enable you to start digging and pondering successfully yourself.  The value is in arranging your own journey as much as in arriving at the final destination.  If we simply tell you what we have found, we fear you will not develop the ability to ponder this rich instruction yourself.  Instead of enabling you in your relationship with your Creator we have made you dependent upon us.  Ultimately, we may get in the way.  We do not wish to do that.


We hope at this point the reader will understand that the covenant confirmed at Sinai including the additional instruction of Exodus 20:24 - 23:19 is a complete package.  It is referred to as “the Covenant of the Lord” (Deu 4:23) even though technically that is specifically the Ten Commandments.  The covenant and the following instruction can be considered as one because the additional judgments and statutes are instruction based on the Ten Commandments.  They clarify issues that are not necessarily perfectly clear from the specific wording of the Ten Commandments.


This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them” (Heb 10:16).


The ways of the Creator are significantly superior to our own (Isa 55:8-9).  We must learn His ways by careful examination.  When one gets down to the details they are not common sense.  Following their instruction takes faith, because the believer will put himself at risk. 


When His Law is written in our heart we do it (Rom 2:14-15, Deu 8:6).  It seems it ought to be self evident, if we have not carefully studied His Law of Exodus 21-23, we will not have it written in our heart.  His way requires action that would seem to be contrary to common sense.  Common sense tells us that if we don’t take care of ourselves, no one else will.  So, when backed into a corner we stretch the truth or lie in an attempt to protect ourselves or try to wiggle out of our responsibility.  Ultimately, this is not the way of God as evidenced in Jesus Christ who willingly gave Himself for us.


I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  27 "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” (Eze 36:26-27)


The presence of the spirit of God and the keeping of His statutes and judgments are really one and the same.  They are inextricably intertwined.  When we think like God thinks our spirit works like God’s spirit.  Actually, it is the spirit of God since it is certainly not our own.  Our mind does not naturally work like His.  We set our way aside, walk according to His standard and our spirit is converted to His.  Messiah is anxious to support our sincere efforts and provides help so we don’t give up or fall back into old habits.  When His law is truly in our heart we not only recognize the overall foundation of the Ten Commandments themselves, but also the more detailed instruction of His statutes and judgments.  Again, there is no place where His statutes and judgments appear in a more concentrated form than in the instruction that was given with the Sinai covenant.


Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double–minded.” (Jas 4:8)


"And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him." (Acts 5:32)


"If you love Me, keep My commandments.  16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever––“ (John 14:15-16)


Our Creator expects us to follow His lead.  At some point during that conversion the purpose of His instruction and the enormity of Messiah’s own sacrifice will dawn on us.  We will trust Him as never before and be willing to replace our priorities with His.  His spirit and values then guide our mind.  We may not do everything exactly as He would do it, but we will thirst for improved understanding.  We will ponder His way and examine our own to bring them into alignment.  This is minding the things of the spirit.


We will also know what not to do.  We will not walk contrary to His Law, because of ignorance.  We know what it is and do it.


Limits of the written law of God

The Ten Commandments tell us we should not steal.  What do we do if we borrow something and it breaks?  What if we rent something and it breaks?  Can we sell plans for an invention made as an employee of one company to some other company? 


One could decide that stealing only applies when someone physically takes something that does not belong to him.  We all know, though, that we can be deprived of things without a brazen grab and run.  Some thefts are so subtle that they are not even called theft.  Other words such as pilfering, larceny, and fraud are used.  The end result is the same.  The judgments add detail so we can understand and appreciate property rights and respect them.


The function of the judgments is to clarify “gray areas’.  Those things that might not be obvious based just on the wording of one of the Ten Commandments.  The judgments address many matters that might otherwise be unclear. 


One must understand the principle behind or spirit of this instruction.  A gloss read is unlikely to teach us everything that is available or intended by the instruction itself.  The instruction is often given as samples.  All applications of the principle supported by the sample are not detailed.  We need to be familiar with the samples, so that we can apply a similar solution to equivalent circumstances.  This concept is similar to the practice of judges to judge according to a PRECEDENT that was set in a prior case.  Sometimes the instruction is direct; often it is not.  This is why David needed to meditate on and ponder His Law.  Principle based instruction enables us to apply the law of God to a situation that did not exist in Moses time.  Understanding and following the principle allows us the freedom to live holy lives in significantly different cultures from that of ancient Israel.  The law of God allows for cultural diversity.  The catch is, we must understand more than the letter of His law.


Pondering by example


Again, keep in mind that we should be at least as interested in the principles behind the instruction as in the instruction itself.  Some things are fairly straight forward, but others are not.  In the culture of ancient Israel, a principle may have been applied to a particular situation.  Now, that situation may not exist, but the principle probably applies in a different way today. 


Read and consider.  Make yourself familiar with the contents of Exodus 20-23:19.  Look for the principles.  There may be more than one in a particular verse. For instance:


Servants & slaves

"If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. (Ex 21:4)


This instruction is dealing with slavery.  Since slavery is illegal in the western world can this apply to us?  Consider that this instruction is really dealing in property rights, not just slavery.  Treatment of slaves is simply an example illustrating property rights.  Do you have or come in contact with property?  If your answer is yes, this might apply to you. 


This particular situation can be easily applied to employee/employer relations. It can be applied in principle to an invention someone comes up with while an employee.  Isn’t someone’s invention sometimes called his baby?  The company for which the employee works bought, paid for and therefore owned the inventor’s time and any invention created with that time.  It belongs to the company unless some other agreement is worked out.  It would be considered theft, based on this instruction (vs. 4) as it applied to slaves, for the employee to take his knowledge of this invention elsewhere and sell it.  The baby belonged to the master that owned the time and supplied the tools of the servant.

This principle is recognized today in employee/employer regulations.  Laws prohibit people from taking company property and or secrets and selling them in some form or other to a competitor.  With this ancient example God has weighed in with His opinion on an issue in modern society that no one would have thought of during the time of Moses.

That example has a rather narrow application.  Not too many of us are employed as inventors.  However, there are places in the New Testament where believers are called the servants or bondservants of Christ (I Cor 7:22, Phil 1:1).  This indicates believers are the slaves of Jesus Christ.  That applies universally to believers.

Consider that even a child fathered by the slave belonged to the master if the master supplied the wife.  Is anything more a part of a person than the child he engenders?  Yet that child was not considered to be his, but the masters.  This tells us that everything the slave did was done on behalf of the master.  The slave’s actions were considered the actions of the master. 


What does this say of our actions in relationship to Messiah, our Master, if we claim to be His servants?  Doesn’t it mean that everything we do is as if Messiah did it Himself?  Is He proud or embarrassed?  Are we doing what is pleasing in His sight or making Him the servant of sin?  It is not likely He will own such action.  Certainly He is not the servant of sin.  If we sin is it any wonder that He distances Himself from us? 


Contrary to how we might first think, slavery is not completely dead in the Western world.  Actually some countries largest employer is probably involved in a form of slavery.  Anyone conscripted into the military will easily understand.  What does this example of ownership say about a private’s responsibility and a general’s responsibility?  It would seem to indicate “I was just following orders” is not the cop-out it is often pictured to be. 

Pondering the function of a slave and their relationship to their master is well worth the effort, since any believer is a slave.  Slavery is not an irrelevant institution to a believer, since he/she is one.  Don’t be confused by certain historical abuses of slavery.  There is plenty more to learn.  This example illustrates that one must look beyond the surface and ponder how it applies today.  We may not see an application immediately, but over time if we are familiar with the instruction, alert and thinking, we can understand the mind of God in an infinite number of situations.

Being very familiar with all the instruction in Exodus 20-23:19 is vital to squeezing out understanding.  If you run into a difficult situation consider what example from this area might apply.  If you don’t know what is there you won’t be in a good position to see the connection.

Besides property rights this judgment above also sheds light on our relationship with our Creator.  If we claim He is our God He expects us to honor Him in our conduct.  If we don’t do that we pay homage to some other God.  So this judgment clarifies not only the commandment against theft but also to have no other God


Be Holy

"And you shall be holy men to Me: you shall not eat meat torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.” (Ex 22:31) 


Consider that in order to be holy to the Creator we are to be discerning in what we eat.  All the ramifications of being holy is another study.  Suffice it to say that being holy is being like the Creator, emulating Him because He is holy (Lev 11:44-45, I Pet 1:16). 


We understand that it is not the food we take in that really defiles us, but what comes from our mind (Mat 15:11).  Nevertheless, we are to be holy in body, physically, and in spirit, mentally (1 Cor 7:34).  Some things are more important than others.  Blessed are those that do and teach even the least of the commandments (Mat 5:19). 


The judgments of Exodus 21-23 do not specifically mention clean or unclean foods.  Can we ignore the instruction of the Law of Moses that does mention them?  The great bulk of Leviticus 11 is concerned with clean and unclean foods.  Consider how the Creator summed up the approach Israel should take regarding this.  For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Lev 11:44)


The Law is clear that part of being holy to God is avoiding the unclean foods mentioned in Leviticus 11.  Exodus 22:31 exhorts Israel to be holy.  It seems apparent that the definition of holy hasn’t changed, because the Creator hasn’t changed.  It should also be clear to us that there is a physical part to being holy as well as a mental part (1 Cor 7:34).  The physical part certainly includes what we eat.  In this case the Law of Moses is simply adding detail “as a witness against” them (Deu 31:26).  It is clarifying the fuller intention of Exodus 22:31.  The law left Israel without an excuse when it came to eating certain foods.  We are also without excuse if we intend to walk in the ways of our Creator.


Is the diet instructed in Leviticus 11 and Exodus 22 complete?  If we live by those rules are we physically holy?  Consider, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” (1Cor 3:15-16)


Paul reinforces that we are not to defile our bodies.  Certainly this means we ought to carefully care for them.  Indeed there are strong indications that most unclean foods have inherent health risks above and beyond those in clean foods.  A sick body is a defiled body.  So likely the Creator is protecting our health by disallowing unclean foods from our diet.  The question is, do we eat other foods that are just as detrimental to health but not designated unclean in scripture? 


In fact studies have shown soft drinks, heavily processed foods, preservatives in processed foods, milled refined grains and anything heavily refined is likely a problem.  They may not kill us immediately, but then neither does eating most unclean food.  The damage is not immediately visible, but shows up over the long term.  These items are not included in Leviticus 11, because they simply didn’t exist when it was written.  However, many of these items are just as sure in their damage to our bodies as are the unclean foods that are listed.  The principle is not simply to avoid pork or certain particular foods. In this case the principle is straightforward; be holy and care for the temple of God, which we are.  Don’t put your body at risk in anything that might cause either a quick or slow death.  Unclean might be better defined as anything that does not promote full health, rather than a laundry list of certain animals.


Pleasant taste is not necessarily an indicator of good food.  Our Creator made a host of foods that have pleasant taste as well as provide actual nutrients that our body, which He created, needs.  Although completely out of context it seems more true than not that “if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it.” (Ex 20:25c)  Food processing companies have historically been interested in making money, not providing good nutrition.  They sell good taste to an oblivious self-indulgent public.  Nutritional value is secondary at best.  


This instruction requiring the children of God to be holy is not independent of the Ten Commandments.  It is intended in Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before Me”.  If we claim the Creator as our God, He expects us to live according to certain standards.  If we don’t live to those standards He is not really our God.  We have some other God.


Personal Responsibility

Ex 22:28-36 "If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, then the ox shall surely be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten: but the owner of the ox shall be acquitted.  29.  But if the ox tended to thrust with its horn in times past, and it has been made known to his owner, and he has not kept it confined, so that it has killed a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner shall be put to death. 30.  If there is imposed on him a sum of money, then he shall pay to redeem his life, whatever is imposed on him. 31. Whether it has gored a son or gored a daughter, according to this judgment it shall be done to him. 32.  If the ox gores a manservant or a maid servant, he shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned."


Verses 33-36 detail circumstances that are easily comparable to the above.  Few of us keep bulls or oxen.  Does this only apply to ranchers?  The principle is that we are responsible for what we do and for what those under our control do.  If some damage was truly an accident, the one responsible was to make it right.  Sometimes the local judges were involved in determining equity.  If someone should have taken precautions, but did not, that one is as responsible as if he inflicted the damage purposefully.


How different would our world be if accidents were handled this way?  Would we not be extremely careful of our neighbors and aware of hazardous conditions all around?  There was a case in San Francisco in July of 2002 where a couple living in an apartment building were keeping some very aggressive dogs.  The neighbors complained, but the owners did nothing.  The dogs ended up killing a woman who lived down the hall.  The owners had no regard for the safety of their neighbors.  This is not what God expects of His people.


This would apply to corporations as well as individuals.  There would be no dumping of toxic waste. Philip Morris would have discontinued the manufacture of cigarettes long ago.  There would probably be no second opportunity for a drunk driver to kill.


This may sound like big brother, but actually this is true freedom.  Think of all the auto accident victims that would have been able to live healthy lives to their full age.  Many cancer victims would have done the same and animals, vegetation, drinking water and finally people would not have been poisoned by corporate greed.  Freedom is freedom for everyone, not just those who are lucky enough to dodge harm’s way.  We all have a part in this.  Our Creator expects us to examine our own conduct.  No big brother should be necessary.


Whether or not our civil laws hold us to this standard, this is what our Creator expects of His servants.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Phil 2:4)  This thought is also summarized in I Corinthians 13:5b.  Love “does not seek its own”.


At a very low level this matter would also include such assumedly minor things such as littering and graffiti.  Cheaply made products would qualify as well.  Litter and graffiti take away from what could otherwise be a peaceful, pleasant landscape either public or private.  In some cases it actually robs someone of their time or money to clean up the mess.  Shoddy workmanship or cheaply made products do the same when premature failure is the result and the job must be done again or the product replaced. 

The way of the Creator is the way of personal responsibility.  His servants are careful for others as well as themselves.  A servant of the Master will also be anxious to make things right after an accident.


Fair treatment of disadvantaged

Ex 23:21-27"You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.  22.  You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child.  23.  If you afflict them in any way, and they cry out to Me, I will surely hear their cry:  24.  And My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless."


Of all the explanations we might give of what it means to honor God I can think of none more appropriate or fear-inducing than these verses.  Our God takes the plight of the disadvantaged VERY personally.  Let there be no doubt!


Every other matter in these judgments is left to the Israelites themselves but mistreatment of the poor (see also verse 27).  Improper treatment of the disadvantaged God will weigh and exact a penalty Himself.  And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts” (Mal 3:5).   Of course, we should respect and treat everyone as a brother or sister, but with those who have no human patron to lean on, we should take special care.  Not doing this is a clear indication that we don’t really fear God.  We are hypocrites.  We think neither He nor anyone else will see, so we can get away with it.


The real intent of this judgment is more clear in Leviticus 19:9-14.  We are to help and support the under-privileged.  The Israelites were to leave the corners of their fields and the gleanings and deal in an honest and straightforward way, not taking advantage.  In what field do we work?  Can we designate a portion of the harvest for the disadvantaged?  Perhaps we could also translate that into providing employment when we can and paying a generous wage.  Pay promptly as agreed or when the job is done.  Fairness and honesty in all dealings should go without saying.


To a certain extent the Ten Commandments and the judgments were written to a minimum standard.  Certainly we should not kick someone when they are down.  The real hope of the Creator is that we lift them up.


Jesus Christ also addressed this subject frequently.  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Mat 25:37-40).  


But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.  14.  And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you: for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:13-14). 


Of course the teaching didn’t stop with Jesus’ death: “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?(I John 3:17).  Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit (help) the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (Jas 1:27). 


Even before Moses, Job knew God would be aware of any wrong in this area.  If I have kept the poor from their desire, Or caused the eyes of the widow to fail, 17.  Or eaten my morsel by myself, So that the fatherless may not eat of it.  18.  (But from my youth I reared him as a father, And from my mothers womb I guided the widow);  19.  If I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, Or any poor man without covering;  20.  If his heart has not blessed me, And if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep;  21.  If I have raised my hand against the fatherless, When I saw I had help in the gate;  22.  Then let my arm fall from my shoulder, Let my arm be torn from the socket.”  (Job 31:16-22)


There are cautions to consider in giving.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures…6  But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." (Jas 4: 3, 6)  The Creator does not always give to those who ask.  If we are to be like our Father we need to carefully consider His approach. 


"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,  45  "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  46  "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  47  "And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?  48  "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.  1   "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them.  Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Mat 5:44 – 6:1) 


The Creator is concerned that people’s necessities are provided, not necessarily their latest whim.  He provides the basic necessities for all as an example for us.  Everyone is due a certain minimum respect. 


Also there is no point in letting other people know when you give.  The spirit seeking person will understand that the Creator is the provider and judge; so great effort to protect or justify the self to men is pointless.  The believer will affirm the truth even if it may negatively affect him (Ps 15:4).  God knows.  He is the judge.  Why would we want to try to fool men?


Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil” (1 Cor 13:4-5).  Our first reaction should not be suspicion, but concern.


We should not pass by the reference to Israel being strangers in Egypt.  This is repeated in Exodus 23:9 and Leviticus 19:34 & 25:38.  If we think about this for just a moment it is apparent that the purpose for bringing this up is to remind Israel how it felt to be strangers in someone else’s land.  It undoubtedly wasn’t as pleasant as it should have been.  It seems apparent that God did not want the stranger in Israel to be mistreated the way Israel had been.


We still hear the ‘golden rule’ quoted occasionally.  Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Mat 7:12).   And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31).  What isn’t often noticed is that this rule originates in the law of God.  Specifically, it ought to be clear that it is firmly rooted in this judgment.  God reminded Israel of their situation in Egypt to get them to put themselves in the other person's shoes and treat them as Israel would have wished to be treated when they were in Egypt.  Although phrased more directly, the concept behind Jesus’ statement came straight from this judgment.


A directly associated principle involved here is that as we do to others, so shall it be done to us.  This is true of punishment and it applies on the positive side as well.  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Mat 5:7)   “36.  Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.  37.   Judge not, and you shall not be judged.  Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38.  Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom.  For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:36-38).


The above are all samples of how additional thought can help us better understand the mind of our Creator and His intention in His judgments.  The judgments clarify the Ten Commandments.  The Law can clarify the judgments, as does the instruction of the New Testament.  It all works together to help us understand what has been important to the Creator from the beginning.


The judgments of Exodus 20-23 do not require the existence of Levi or the temple or animal sacrifices, so we don’t have to guess how to compensate for their loss.  Everything is concerned with showing concern for one another and for our Creator.  Faith is required.  We can’t give it a gloss read, but it helps explain the Ten Commandments, which would have made Israel holy had they kept them.


These are things every believer needs to think about.  We all have our own lives and circumstances.  It is unlikely one can properly deal with all the circumstances he encounters by relying on someone else’s understanding.  Every believer needs to go directly to the source, the Master.


Use the Scripture

The Law of Moses is an excellent source of information about the culture and customs of ancient Israel.  Throughout the books of the Law is specific instruction of how the principles of the covenant of the Lord were implemented for Israel.  We looked at the example of clean and unclean food.  That showed how the Law clarifies the principles of the judgments of God.  It also illustrated how the judgments clarified aspects of the Ten Commandments that weren’t intuitively obvious. 


If we make the Creator our God we care for our bodies by eating what the Creator intended we eat.  We don’t eat what He didn’t intend to be eaten.  Exodus 19:10 also shows us that washing ourselves and our clothes has a part in making us holy.  Also Deuteronomy 23:12-14 gives instruction to Israel on how to handle human waste.  This is also part of being holy.


Since the Law instructs Israel to bury their human waste outside the camp are we required to reject the use of modern plumbing?  Can we be holy and not bury our waste exactly the way Israel was instructed?


As part of the instruction to Israel, the Creator clarified that the human waste should not be scattered around the camp.  Therefore, He directed that it be buried.  He expects our cities and dwellings to be free from filth.  Considering that the principle of being holy is the true standard, it would seem that a properly designed sewage system could accomplish the same thing that burying does.  


The Law tells us how ancient Israel handled additional details and various facets of life that even the judgments did not specifically address.  We are not bound to live our lives exactly as the law instructed Israel, but we use it to better understand the concerns of the Creator.  So, the law is vital to understanding more of the detail intended in the principles of the Sinai Covenant.  It illustrates how the Creator implemented the principle for Israel.  If we can implement the principle the exact same way, so much the better.  If their way is not really acceptable or workable in our culture and society, we can consider how to implement the instruction in a way that accomplishes the same thing.  In the case of human waste it seems apparent that modern technology can provide a system equivalent to that of ancient Israel for processing our waste. 


If we are not bound to live exactly as the Law instructed Israel, can we eat certain unclean foods?  Perhaps we understand better how to avoid some of the health issues they create.  Do we understand all the health issues any particular animal may create?   Can we eliminate all those issues?  Unclean animals have not undergone any significant bodily transformation.  Why would we want to take the chance that we know all the reasons why the Creator disallowed certain animals?  


Consider as well that there may be situations today that are not directly addressed in the Law, but need to be considered.  For instance, the Law does not specifically address how animal waste is to be handled.  The assumption is the animals would be out in the field.  The natural processes of the field would handle their waste.  However, if one has multiple animals kept in tight quarters or even dogs in the back yard, is it OK that their waste be scattered about when human waste should not be scattered about?  It seems that animal waste could lead to filth and disease just as human waste.  Wouldn’t the Creator be just as repulsed by animal waste as human waste?   


So, the Law shows us many examples of how the principles of the Ten Commandments were implemented in Israel.  However, it doesn’t necessarily give us a detailed equivalent of everything that we need to implement in modern society.  We need to understand the principles and then consider how to apply them in our circumstances.


Where there is a link between the Law and the terms of the Sinai covenant one can assume the Law of Moses is simply adding more detail showing how Israel implemented the Ten Commandments.  This helps us understand both the Law and the Ten Commandments better.  There are also things in the Law that really don’t directly connect to the Ten Commandments.  Circumcision is one of those things. 


Instruction from the New Testament also helps us better understand the intent and principle behind this instruction recorded in the Sinai covenant.  The words of the Messiah are authoritative, but again He can be better understood when His words are considered in light of the Sinai covenant instruction.  Needless to say the apostles also had significant insight.  Paul, for instance, recognized the authority of the law of God (Rom 7:22).  He didn’t feel the same toward the Law of Moses (Gal 3:24-25)


Since Abraham was circumcised as a sign of his covenant with the Creator one could assume that circumcision was from before the Sinai Covenant and therefore predated the Law and was from the beginning.  However, as we mentioned early on, Abraham received the promise of the covenant before he was circumcised (Rom 4:10, Gen 15:2, 17-18, 16:16-17:1, 23-24).  He was also credited with keeping the law of God before receiving the covenant.  So if he kept the Law of God, the Ten Commandments, before he received the covenant and before he was circumcised, circumcision is not part of the Law of God or His covenant.


Consider as well 1 Corinthians 9:17 “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.”  Keeping the commandments is what really matters.  Circumcision is not important, although there are health benefits.  Therefore being circumcised is not inherent in any of the commandments.  Indeed, there is no hint of it in the terms of the Sinai covenant.


Also Joshua records that circumcision was not implemented by Israel until they went into the Promised Land (Josh 5:1-5).  There is no indication that the Creator was at all concerned about this.  The Law of Moses was confirmed just before Israel went into the Promised Land.  It seems apparent that circumcision was implemented because of the Law of Moses, not because of the Sinai covenant confirmed 39+ years earlier. 


Circumcision was added as a sign of Abraham’s covenant.  It was not a stipulation of the covenant itself, but an outward indication that Abraham was compliant with His covenant.  Although the Sinai covenant was for all practical purposes the same covenant (1 Chron 16:15-18), the sign of that covenant was the keeping of the Sabbaths (Ex 31:13-18) not circumcision.  Effectively that eliminated circumcision as a feature of the covenant of the Lord made directly with Israel.  Hence, they didn’t do it.


So one must be very careful in deciding what is truly intended in the Sinai covenant.  One could guess that we honor our Creator when we are circumcised.  In fact, He is apparently not overly impressed with the physical circumcision of the flesh.  Certainly He is with the circumcision of the heart.  Again, careful thought must go into all aspects of pondering the Law of God. 


Those things in the law that do not connect with any principle of the Sinai Covenant were likely added to keep them “under guard” (Gal 3:23b).  Circumcision is a physical reminder of what they needed to do to their mind.  If one keeps the Law of God, how important is it to adhere to regulations given Israel to help them keep the Law of God?  Any such regulation would be of no great purpose.  Lessons could still be learned, but the expectation of obedience is already realized.  Implementing such things would be of limited value.


Things that were added by the Law of Moses without any precedent in Exodus 20-23 are still of value.  The value must be carefully considered.  Often these instructions are symbolic of future events.  For instance, the regular sacrifices pointed to the ultimate sacrifice of the Messiah.  This doesn’t mean we need to make animal sacrifices.  If we obey there is no need for animal sacrifice. 


not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another––  26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (Heb 9:25-26)  For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: "Sacrifice and offering You did not desire.” (Heb 10:4-5a)  then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." He takes away the first that He may establish the second.” (Heb 10:9)


Messiah’s sacrifice is much more potent than animal sacrifice.  It was intended to eliminate sin, which the animal sacrifices couldn’t do (Heb 10:1-2).  They could only provide atonement or forgiveness.  The animal sacrifices were eliminated so His sacrifice would be firmly established.  It is the only option now.


Ponder continually

The examples above are intended to show how we can sift through His judgments and find principles to apply in our own lives.  The commandments are His way (Deu 8:6).  It is our job, if we wish to be children of our Creator, to emulate Him.  "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Mat 5:48)


Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” (Eph 5:1)


“…that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (Php 2:15)


Our Creator gave us His covenant.  His statutes and judgments clarify its intent so that we do not sin, but can be like Him.  In order to be like Him we must understand how He thinks and what is important to Him. 


Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot [continue to1] sin, because he has been born of God.  10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest”. (1 John 3:9-10a)

(1. See Word Pictures in the New Testament, by A. T. Robertson, Vol. VI p.223  “The present active infinitive hamartamein can only mean ‘and he cannot go on sinning…” See Rom 6:1.)


The Judgments of Exodus 20-23:19 are the most concentrated, detailed and diverse area of scripture that explains His mind.  Intimate familiarity allows one to begin to see how this instruction is applicable on a daily basis.  This instruction also sheds light on other scripture that may not be perfectly understood.  It is the solid unshakable foundation on which all other understanding is based.


He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: Holy and awesome is His name.” (Ps 111:9)


With that in mind is it worth your time to dig a little deeper into these judgments?  You may not have an inspired moment immediately, maybe not even soon.  If you keep with it and seek to live according to the principles of this instruction your spirit will be feeding on the mind of God.  Developing the habit of considering His way is more important than understanding His mind on any one particular aspect of life.  If we are familiar with how He thinks, we will be able to know His will in all aspects of life.  The reward is to those who diligently seek (Heb 11:6).


Sitting down and carefully reading is the first step.  It may be necessary to reread regularly to become intimately familiar with these verses. 


You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” (Deu 6:7) 


In some cases we must first teach ourselves.  As you read, consider situations where the principles apply.  As you go about your life consider what you do and what others do.  Listen to the news.  Are people living by these principles or by some other principle?  Does our justice system uphold the way of God? 


Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” (II Cor 13:5ab)


Make this a daily habit.  If you have routine work that doesn’t involve a lot of concentration, put your mind to work considering how this instruction applies.  What is the reason you do what you do?  Are you loving your neighbor or yourself?  If you have children follow the advice above.  Point out to them the good examples and the bad.  Explain what should have been.


If someone simply tells you everything they have found in this rich mine you will likely not understand how to dig for yourself.  You will be limited by the perception of your human source.  Knowing how to dig, how to consider and apply the instruction of God will enable you to make the Creator your source.  This is how it should be, because He is the Master.


This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them" (Heb 10:16).


He doesn’t do this entirely by Himself.  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:3)  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double–minded” (Jas 4:8).  The way of God is the way of attraction.  The selfless sacrifice of Messiah is the ultimate statement of both the Father and the Son evidencing their incredible concern for us.  They don’t force us into anything.  They want to write His Law in our hearts by our own hand and as we fully appreciate their concern for us.  That way we will have made it our own, never to waver.


As you think about how to apply the principles of the judgments there is another general principle or two to keep in mind.  Everything needs to be in accord with Messiah’s comments recorded in Matthew 22:37-40.

Jesus said to him, "‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  38 This is the first and great commandment.  39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” (Rom 8:5)

The Statutes of Leviticus 18-20

It seems apparent to this author that the Creator places a special emphasis on the instruction of Leviticus 18-20.  His liberal use in these chapters of "My Statutes and My judgments" leaves little doubt that this instruction is fundamental to His Law.  Yet most of the detail in this instruction is not found in His covenant, His Law, of Exodus 20-23.  Is Exodus 20-23 a complete record of His Law or only partial?

If we understand that truly the words or terms of His covenant are the Ten Commandments (Ex 34:28, Deu 4:13), we can understand better how the Creator sees things.  The Ten Commandments are ten simple expectations the Creator makes of His people.  He weighs the value of everything based on these principles. 

Unfortunately, how we might weigh and how He might weigh are not always the same.  To clarify, He added the statutes and judgments that follow His words to Israel in Exodus 20.  Well, guess what?  That instruction doesn't clearly and fully address all the imagination of the human mind either.  Likely it should have been clear to ancient Israel, but for us who are a language and culture thousands of years removed, there are great gaps.


Exodus 22:31 exhorts us to be holy.  Generally speaking, our society doesn't teach us what that means.  If Israel had kept His Law, the meaning likely would have come down to us from them.  Evidently knowing this would not happen, the Law added detail to His law, besides establishing some regulations that had no precedent in His Law.  The personalization included in Leviticus 18-20 must indicate that these chapters were intended by the instruction of Exodus 20-23, even though the actual detail was not included.  At least part was obviously covered in the principle of Exodus 22:31, "be holy".   "Be holy" is assumed in "You shall have no other gods before Me." (Ex 20:3).  Because God is who He is, He has expectations of His servants.  He expects them to reflect His values and reject profane conduct.


With that in mind, it seems apparent that the instruction of Leviticus 18-20 was fully intended by the judgments of Exodus 21-23.  The judgments were fully intended by the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20.  It is then vital to understand the letter and spirit of all this instruction in Leviticus 18-20 in order to properly apply it in our daily lives and properly represent our Creator.


Statutes vs. Judgments

The end of Leviticus 18 seems to mix at least three categories or laws; statutes, judgments and ordinances. Which are which? 


After detailing various prohibited sexual unions, verse 26 equates these regulations with statutes and judgments.  You shall therefore keep My statutes [Heb. chuqqah] and My judgments [Heb. mishpat] , and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you”.  One would think the regulations detailed in Leviticus 18 would easily fit into a single category since they are so similar.  However, they seem to be lumped together as both statutes and judgments with no distinction between the two.


To complicate matters, verse 30 refers back to these same regulations and seems to indicate that these instructions are an ordinance(s) [Heb. mishmereth].  There are also two slightly different Hebrew words both typically translated ‘statute(s)’ in English.  One chuqqah the other choq.  There seems to be no correlation between any particular group of regulations and one of these words.  Apparently the first of these words is a derivative of the other.  So perhaps it shouldn’t be a big surprise that the distinction is not crystal clear to us. 


What is the legal score-keeper to do?  It seems the Creator is interested in obedience, not necessarily in facilitating the organization of the various regulations being given.  It seems unlikely that the Creator intends us to understand that there is a significant difference between these categories. 


The instructions in Exodus 20:23-26 were given after the Creator spoke the Ten Commandments, but before the ‘judgments’.  For those that must categorize things we could assume they are statutes, since they are not listed after Exodus 21:1, which seems to start the judgments section. 


Alternatively the reference to “My statutes and My judgments” may be intended as a parallelism.  That is, His statutes are His judgments.  In other words, His statutes are based on a higher law, they are not just arbitrary disconnected demands.  The Creator is saying, ‘Given that higher law, one should handle this particular situation in this way’.  This is the essence of a judgment.  It is a ruling based on some pre-existing law, code or tradition.  Of course that higher law is the Ten Commandments.  It is the basis for the detail of the judgments.  Once the judgment is made, it becomes law and a statute on which other judgments may be based.