The Bible teaches that God is eternal in nature. He has no beginning and no end. There is a term that is used to describe His self-existing nature - aseity. God was not created and so has no creator. This means that God existed before the universe we see around us and is therefore qualified as Creator to make all things. The Bible also teaches that Jesus is God, but in flesh. This idea is difficult to understand unless one has an understanding of God's purpose for taking the form of flesh. The Gospels explain that Jesus maintained all of God's authority, power, wisdom, and unique attributes as the Son of God. The phrase "Son of God" refers to Jesus' position. The phrase Son of God refers to Jesus' possession as an "heir," explaining that Jesus and God are equal. Jesus' words, works, death, resurrection, and ascension all prove these claims to be true. The Bible teaches that the appearance of Jesus was simply reflective of Jesus taking on a new form as flesh and blood to accomplish His purpose in death. Thus, as God is eternal in nature, so too is Jesus since Jesus is God. Knowing this, should examine all points of scripture seeking to identify Jesus as God in different forms to accomplish the same works.
In Exodus 23:20-26 the Bible explains that God provided help to His people. After communicating the major commands of the Law as documented in the Book of Exodus, God explained that He would send an Angel to the children of Israel to help them keep the commands that they were given. First, it is important to note that, while the English language refers to an "angel" being sent, the original language uses the same word to refer to one that serves as a "messenger" just the same. The reason the English language uses the word "angel" to describe God's messenger is to emphasize deity and authority. Therefore, one must examine the characteristics of this Angel to understand why God sent Him, and what this Angel was supposed to do.
First, God told Moses that the Angel would go before the people in order to keep them in the way that they should go according to the Law. The Bible has a phrase for this kind of work - sanctification. The Bible explains that God sent an Angel to the children of Israel in order to keep the people in line with God's commands from the position of a "messenger." In other words, the Angel would continually remind the people about God's Law and commands. The Angel would continually remind people of God's will. The Angel would continually communicate and translate the Word of God to the people. The Bible explains that the Angel would do this work in order to keep the people in line through obedience. Since God's Law was intended to teach the people God's righteousness and facilitate holy living according to God's righteous standards, the Angel would serve as One to sanctify the people apart from the world and sin, according to God's own righteousness. Later, in Exodus 31:13 the Lord God (Yahweh) would identify Himself as "The Lord Who Sanctifies" (Jehovah Mekkodishkem), which means that it is Yahweh, and Him alone who sanctifies. Thus, the Angel that God sent is seen to be equal with God as sanctifier.
Second, God explained to Moses that the Angel would be the one to bring the people into the land that was promised to them. The Angel would serve as One that would keep the people in line with the will of the Father and lead them to the Promised Land. The job of the Angel was to keep the people from going astray both spiritually and physically, protect the people, and lead them into the land that God identified as "good land" and "green pasture." The Angel that God sent was to fulfill the role of the Good Shepherd on behalf of God in order to facilitate the promises of God. The Angel that God sent was supposed to be the method by which God's promises would be fulfilled.
Exodus 23:20-26 states that God warned the people about the Angel. God gave great authority to the Angel that was equal to His own authority. God told the people to "beware" of the Angel. This means that God wanted the people to pay attention to the Angel suggesting that the Angel would be recognizable to the people in some way. God told the people to listen to the voice of the Angel since He was sent as a Messenger of God, carrying God's own words with Him. God warned the people not to provoke the Angel lest they be judged. Specifically, God said that the people should not provoke the Angel by rejecting Him otherwise the Angel would not forgive their transgression. This means that the Angel has the authority to forgive transgression, but if He was rejected, He would not forgive. The Bible teaches that only God is able to forgive sins, yet this Angel is given that same authority by God.
Exodus 23:20-26 explains that the Angel possessed the ability and authority that He did because He uniquely possessed the name of God in Him. The Bible specifically says, "For My name is in Him." This means that the essence of God's identity was in the Angel that God sent. God was saying that He and the Angel had the same makeup and essence. In other words, the Angel and God were the same, only that the Angel was a form of God that the people could recognize since no one can see God the Father and live (Exodus 33:20). Therefore, God told the people that if they obeyed the voice of the Angel as if it were the voice of God, the people would be blessed. If the people were aware of the Angel and respected His authority and ability, God would destroy Israel's enemies, protect them from diseases, and ensure the people were well taken care of both physically and spiritually.
Lastly, God made an interesting statement in the midst of His description of this Angel. God reminded the people that they should not follow false gods, worship idols, or worship anything besides Him. This might seem confusing at first. God was clear to the people that He alone was worthy of praise and worship, yet He instructed the children of Israel to treat this Angel in the same manner as Him, yet also reminded the people that they should serve nothing else as if it were God. God was candid to explain that the children of Israel were to have no association with any false gods and idols and were to destroy all pagan resemblances and people. Still, God told the people to honor and revere the Angel that was being sent to them. This could only mean one thing - the Angel was God.
When examining the description of the Angel in Exodus 23:20-26, one must conclude that the Angel is not a normal angel. The Angel that God described to Moses had the authority of God, the ability of God, and God Himself commanded the people to recognize the Angel in such a way that was equal to their recognition of Him. The Bible explains that the Angel could be seen to a certain degree and was given to the people in order to draw the people of God closer to Himself through obedience according to the Law. The Angel had the authority to forgive sins and was attributed as righteous to the extent that His judgments are approved by God. The Lord clearly communicated that one who rejected the Angel was equal to one that rejected Him. This means that this Angel is none other than Jesus Christ. There is no other entity in all of scripture that possesses the attributes of God in a form that can be seen by mankind. There is no other entity described in scripture that attributes the responsibilities of the Angel to anyone else besides Jesus.
The Bible explains that, like the Angel, Jesus is the One who sanctifies; Jesus is the Good Shepherd; Jesus is the Word of God sent in flesh to more effectively communicate God's will; Jesus is Judge as the Messiah, Jesus is the only one that possesses the name of God as God in flesh. When examining the contents of Exodus 23:20-26, one must conclude that one is examining the description of Jesus in the form of an Angel, confirming the truth that He existed since the beginning, with God and as God. The description of the Angel in Exodus 23:20-26 reveals that Jesus has always been the way to the Father, the truth about the Father, and the life that comes from the Father. Jesus has always been the singular method by which God's people are able to go to God and receive the approval of God. Jesus has always been the method by which one is able to keep the Law and please the Father. Jesus has always been God in a form that His people are able to see, recognize and follow. Jesus has always been the fulfillment of God's promises and the way that His people are ushered into the Promised Land.
The Bible teaches that God desires His people to be different and uniquely identifiable as His children. The Old Testament makes that very clear. When the children of Israel were wandering through the wilderness, making their way towards the Promised Land, God spoke the commands of the Law with a variety of purposes, and one of those purposes was to ensure that His people were different than others that didn't know Him. God commanded His people to be holy because He is holy. Therefore, God gave certain commands in the Law that facilitated holiness and, if obeyed, would show the people of God to be different than the rest of the world.
One of the ways that God desired for His people to be different was in the celebration of the feast days. God knew that His people had short memories, so He implemented feast days that were geared to help the children of Israel remember the miraculous works of God as well as God's gracious and merciful nature. In Exodus 23:14-19 the Bible explains that God reminded the children of Israel about the 3 major feast days that they were to celebrate every year for the rest of their existence as a people group. God commanded the children of Israel to be sure to keep the Passover feast, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. God placed extra special emphasis on these feast days because of the lessons they were intended to teach the people of God, so that God's people were be set apart from the rest of the world as God's children.
Exodus 23:14-19 first referenced the Passover festival. The scriptures identify Passover as "the Feast of Unleavened Bread." God originally commanded that this feast was to be celebrated in the moth of "Abib," which is equivalent to modern day March/April. This month and this feast were to serve as the beginning of the Jewish calendar based on the work that God did to deliver His people from the bondage of Egypt. God wanted to ensure that His people remembered the work that He did to deliver them from Egypt and so He commanded them to honor the sacrifices and other instructions related to the Passover feast. This feast was important to God as it was intended to serve as a memorial of both the method of deliverance as well as the cost of deliverance since God killed the first born of all of the Egyptians on the night of the first Passover. God wanted His people to remember that death was required in order that His people were able to be set free, which helps people today understand that salvation and deliverance from sin comes at a steep price - the death of the only begotten Son of God, as well as death to self through repentance.
The scriptures also highlight Pentecost as one of the major feasts for the Israelites. Exodus 23:14-19 explains that 50 days after Passover, the children of Israel were to celebrate the "Feast of the Harvest," which is also referred to as "the Feast of First Fruits." This feast day was to serve as the Jewish thanksgiving as the people were supposed to show thanks to the Lord for the new harvest and provision that He gave on a yearly basis. The children of Israel were commanded to offer sacrifices and give offerings that consisted of the first of the flock and the harvest in recognition that all provision comes from God. The Lord wanted His people to remember that all of their provision was from Him, and He wanted His people to show thanks for their provision. It is interesting to consider that, while the children of Israel were disobedient on a number of occasions, God continued to provide and sustain His people. Though the children of Israel were often punished through famines and droughts, God always provided for a remnant in order to sustain the nation and remain faithful to His promises. Thus, the provision that God provided was not in response to the obedience or performance of the people, but was given on account of God's gracious and merciful nature. God wanted His people to remember that.
Lastly, Exodus 23:14-19 explains that God wanted His people to continually practice the "Feast of Ingathering," which is a reference to the Feast of Tabernacles. This feast was an important feast as it was the last feast of the year during the "holy month," which is modern day September/October. During this feast, the children of Israel were to dwell in tents, or booths, or mini "tabernacles" in order to remember the manner of living that the children of Israel experienced while wandering through the wilderness. The people were to fashion little tents made of palm leaves and live in them for the week while offering their sacrifices and thanking God for the provision, protection and leadership that He gave during the 40-year journey through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. God didn't want His people to forget the difficulty of the journey. God didn't want the people to forget the grace and patience that He showed in those 40 years. God didn't want the people to forget that He was the reason that the people were dwelling in the land as promised. God wanted the people to remember that, though the journey was difficult, He was faithful to fulfill His promise and took care of His people in the process, in spite of disobedience, rebellion, and complaining.
These three festivals were important to God because they were intended to remind the children of Israel about who God was, and how He proved Himself through the history of the people. God wanted the people to be thankful for the favor He showed them. God wanted the people to be aware of the quality of His provision, protection, and leadership. God wanted the people to remember that He did this work for the children of Israel, and only the children of Israel. There is no other people group on the planet that has a history like the Jewish people, and God wanted to make sure the people understood that. Thus, Exodus 23:14-19 not only reminded the people of the feast days, but that the people were expected to give quality sacrifices with clean hearts.
God was not interested in the people celebrating the feast days for the sake of checking them off of a list. Instead, God wanted the people to remember God and His nature, and respond in humble thanks. God reminded the people that their sacrifices were to be without leaven, which is another way of saying, without sin. Since leaven is representative of sin in the Bible, God wanted His people to practice the feast days apart from the sin of the world and the flesh. Again, since God was holy, as demonstrated through the works He did as remembered in the festivals, He expected His people to be holy - set apart from sin. God did not want sacrifices from the people in pretense. God did not want the people to just show up and have their hearts set in other places according to their fleshly desires. God wanted His people to take time and consider Him and respond in genuine affection and thanksgiving towards Him. God wanted the sacrifices of the people to be representative of the hearts of the people.
Exodus 23:14-19 also explains that God wanted the fat of the sacrifices to be burnt up right away. Once again, this is a reference to the sanctification and purification of the people. The fat of the offering was to be representative of sin so that when the fat of their sacrifices was burned up, it was supposed to represent the destruction of sin in the lives of God's people. God did not want sin in the camp of His people. God freed the children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt as an illustration of the work He desired to do to free all people from the bondage of sin. Hence, God did not want the "fat" remaining in the camp. God wanted sin purged from His people. The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church that the will of God is the sanctification of His people. God's purpose is to have people separate from sin since the wages of sin is death. Since God is a God of the living and not the dead, He desires for His people to deny and separate from that which kills. The sacrifices of the people were to be heartfelt representations of their desire to live pure and holy as God is pure and holy.
The Lord has some interesting ways of teaching His people how to trust Him. The Lord has a way of instructing His people to practice certain things that seem practical in nature, but also teach powerful lessons about dependency and faith at the same time. Therefore, in order to learn the lessons that God desires to teach regarding faith, trust, and dependency, one must consider the commandments of God and seek to obey them. The Lord had great purposes for His people when He gave the children of Israel the Law and desired His people to trust Him while He also desired to protect His people from self-reliance and false god worship. The Lord used the Law to teach these fundamentally critical lessons in terms of salvation.
In Exodus 23:10-13 the Lord provided helpful instructions to His people regarding farming and the Sabbath. The Lord had already given the people the command regarding the Sabbath, but additionally gave commands about practicing a Sabbath for the land for a whole year. The Lord told the children of Israel to sow their land and gather its produce for 6 years, then on the 7th year they were to let the land rest as they were to rest themselves on the Sabbath day. God explained that it was important to let the land rest so as to not deplete its resources and nutrients. The Lord promised to take the children of Israel into a good and healthy land. Thus, God provided helpful instruction to keep the land in such a condition.
The command that the Lord gave to let the land rest was a helpful command. Today farmers understand the value of the instruction God gave in Exodus 23:10-13 and are practitioners of this farming technique. Over time, people have learned that it is possible to strain the land and overwork the land so that its fertile nature deteriorates with over-usage. Thus, it is common to see farmers today rotate through sections of land so that some areas get used while other sections get rest. The Lord provided good instruction that was helpful. God intended to take care of His people and ensure they were able to enjoy the benefits of the land that He was giving them. Though the command was restrictive in some ways, God's overall intent was to provide good things for His people.
The command that God gave was intended to teach the children of Israel dependency and trust at the same time. One must consider that as the Lord commanded a 7th year "rest" for the land, the people of Israel were not to farm on that land for a whole year. Depending on the quality and quantity of one's corps in preceding years, one might be afraid to give the land a break. In order to let the land rest for a whole year, the people would have to trust that the Lord would make up for the loss. Certainly, the refraining from farming on certain portions of land would minimize the harvest. The children of Israel would have to trust the Lord to make up the difference. The children of Israel would have to practice contentment, knowing that they would not be able to add to their enterprise for a whole year. While the command did provide practical benefits to the land, it was restrictive in nature and required sacrifice, patience, and trust for that year.
The command of Exodus 23:10-13 was coupled with a reminder about the Sabbath day of rest that the children of Israel were to practice on every 7th day. The children of Israel should have understood the practical benefits of rest because of the Sabbath day. The children of Israel should have understood the value of taking a break, having received the physical benefits of rest themselves. However, the children of Israel also should have focused on the spiritual lessons that the Sabbath day taught as well. God commanded the people to honor the Sabbath day in order to learn to trust the Lord, to focus on the Lord, and to worship the Lord. The Sabbath day was intended to allow God's people to experience physical rest, but for the purpose of taking that free time to think about the Lord and His provision, trusting that He would continue to provide in spite of their physical productivity. The Sabbath day was to serve as a reminder to the people that God was the cause of their increase, not their own efforts in labor. Thus, in the same way, the children of Israel were to learn the same lessons with the Sabbath rest for the land in the 7th year.
After God gave this command in Exodus 23:10-13, He reminded the children of Israel where their minds were supposed to be focused. God told the people that they should keep all of the commandments He gave in mind - especially the one's concerning the Sabbath. The Lord told His people that they should carefully guard His commandments with their minds, suggesting that the people would have been wise to meditate on those things and keep them in focus at all times. The Bible explains that God told His people to make no mention of other gods and refrain from even speaking of them. In other words, God did not want His people to associate with other gods in anyway. He wanted the people to keep Him in mind since He was the One that delivered the people and provided for them - not other gods. The Lord wanted His people to recognize who He was, the work He was doing, and trust in that work. God wanted the people to trust that God's work was effective with, or without the efforts of His people. God wanted to teach His people that He was faithful in spite of the efforts of His people. God wanted His people to know that He was gracious to provide and take care of His people in spite of their efforts. God wanted His people to learn that He was the cause for any and all kinds of increase, whether they trusted in Him or not; and so God wanted to protect His people from vain thoughts that would lead to disappointment and death when focused on other gods that weren't real. Since God did all that the scriptures testify was already done, it is reasonable to see God communicate the expectation for the quality of relationship He demanded. No other god was willing or able to do as Yahweh had done for His people!
Justice is very important to God. Since God is just, and God created mankind in His own image, the Bible teaches that God has an expectation for His creation to resemble His just nature. Unfortunately, the world does not resemble the just and fair nature of the Lord, which means that God's creation either does not know the just nature of God or is in rebellion against it. This is not to the fault of the Lord. The Bible explains that God provided instructions through the Law to teach His people about His just and fair nature. Knowing that His people were not naturally able to exemplify His righteous attributes, God provided simple commands to help His people conduct themselves in a manner that resembled His nature for His glory. The plan was that, through obedience, the people would not only glorify God, but also be able to live peaceably with one another.
In Exodus 23:6-9 the Lord gave His people several commands that were aimed to help the people demonstrate the righteousness of God through justice and fairness. God commanded the people that they should not be swayed in their opinions or testimonies of others based on their outward appearance or economic status. God did not want poor people receiving favorable treatment or unfavorable treatment just because they were poor. God wanted the children of Israel to judge all people fairly regardless of their financial position. If there was a dispute, God did not want the people He appointed as judges to examine the economic position of either person to administer judgement. In other words, God didn't want poor people receiving favor just because they were poor. Likewise, God did not want justice being withheld from the poor just because they were poor.
Exodus 23:6-9 explains that God wanted His people to stay far away from false matters. God did not want His people associated with shady business in any sort of way. The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian church that God's people should walk as "children of light" and stay far away from darkness since the deeds of "darkness" are shameful even to mention, let alone participate in. God commanded His people the same thing in the Law. God wanted His people to bear His righteous image and possess good reputations. He did not desire for His people to be associated with anything that might tarnish their reputations, and by extension, His own reputation. Since God is a God of truth, He demanded that His people keep far away from "false matters." God did not want His people associating with dishonest people or participating in dishonest activity.
God commanded His people to keep from killing the innocent and the righteous. The Law explains that the children of Israel adopted the death penalty by God's command. Certain transgressions were to result in death. The Bible teaches that things like blasphemy, adultery, and sorcery were to result in death. However, Exodus 23:6-9 explains that God did not want people using the Law in such a way as to legally kill people, and wanted the people to be careful about their judgments regarding the death penalty. God did not command for the innocent and righteous to be killed. God demanded that the guilty be killed. Thus, God warned the people that they should not make false accusations against others in order that those people would be killed. For example, when Jesus was taken to Pontius Pilate, the accusation that was brought against Jesus was that He was a blasphemer. Since Jesus was God in flesh as the Son of God, it was impossible for Him to be a blasphemer. The Gospels testify that the Jewish religious leaders brought false witnesses against Jesus to accuse Him of blasphemy in order that they could legally put Jesus to death. God commanded against this and bluntly stated that He will not justify the wicked. God stated that He would administrate His own justice against those who kill the innocent and the righteous in injustice.
Exodus 23:6-9 explains that God commanded against His people taking bribes. God did not want the selfish ambition of people to interfere with their duty and mandate to administrate righteousness. God wanted His righteous will to be done without compromise. God did not want people to pervert truth in order to make financial or political gains. God stated that those who take bribes become foolish by nature. The Bible states that those who take bribes eventually become blind to truth and are unable to discern truth. The Bible teaches that people who take bribes grow accustomed to saying anything that needs to be said in order to get paid so that there is no appreciate or value for truth. Those who live surrounded by lies, especially for the purpose of selfish gain, eventually forget what the truth looks like.
Lastly, God commanded His people to refrain from oppressing strangers. God did not wan the children of Israel treating "strangers" as lower citizens in hypocrisy. God reminded the children of Israel that they too were "strangers" in the land of Egypt and hated the ways the Egyptians treated them. Thus, God wanted the children of Israel to treat others as they desired to be treated - fairly and equally. The Bible teaches that a person should not think of themselves more highly than they ought. The Bible teaches that God's people should respond in humility to all circumstances, remembering that God gives every person all that they have according to His measure - even faith and salvation. Thus, there is no reason for any person to boast or consider one's self greater than another. According to the Bible, without Christ, all people are equally pitiful, unrighteous, and unprofitable before the Living God. The Lord did not want His people examining themselves compared to each other, where one might look better compared to another. Instead, God wanted His people examining themselves compared to Him, knowing that without Him, His people were nothing. Having this humble understanding, God commanded His people to treat others with the same mercy and grace that He showed them.
The Bible makes it clear that God's Law is good. If God's people would follow the commands of God's Law, the world would be a much different place. Unfortunately, the children of Israel sought to follow other gods and the desires of their flesh according to worldly affections and lusts. Their natural condition as sinners kept them from desiring to do the things of God, and they were unable to do the things that God commanded. Yet God was patient with His people. Though God did bring discipline for disobedience, God also sustained the people according to His promises, and eventually, God took the form of man as Jesus Christ, died for the sin of the world, resurrected from the dead, ascended back into heaven, but left His people the Holy Spirit according to the New Covenant promises. God did the work that needed to be done to forgive sin so that believers, God's people, could possess His Spirit in faith and thereby receive a change in conscience and heart; giving God's people the desire and ability to do the things that God commanded. While the world resembles an unjust and unfair place today, God has equipped His people with His Spirit in order to administrate justice and righteousness according to His standards identified in the Word.
The Bible takes a unique and difficult perspective on how a person should treat one's enemies. While the world often promotes the ideas of vengeance and self-centeredness, the Bible teaches that the people of God should treat those people in the direct opposite manner. Since the Bible explains that God is merciful and forgiving, the Bible also explains that the people of God should be merciful and forgiving. The scriptures also provide the most powerful example in human history to show how this is to be done through the life and death of Jesus Christ. The Bible explains that Jesus came into the world as God in flesh, but the world He created in the beginning could not recognize its Creator. The Bible teaches that Jesus went to His own people - the children of Israel - and they flat out rejected Him. Nevertheless, Jesus exemplified the merciful and forgiving nature of the Father by surrendering Himself to the cross in order that sinners could be saved from their sin. The Bible explains that people would seldom die for a righteous person, but Jesus exemplified the intense mercy and grace of the Father by dying for all unrighteous people.
It is important to recognize that, since the nature of God is merciful and forgiving, He has always been this way - not just through Jesus. This truth can be seen in the Old Testament Law. In Exodus 23:4-5 the Bible explains that God desired His people to exemplify His mercy and forgiveness in how they treated their enemies. First, the Bible teaches that God commanded the children of Israel to help their enemies with their work animals. Exodus 23:4-5 explains that the children of Israel were to help retrieve the ox of an enemy if they saw it go astray. Secondly, the Bible explains that God commanded the children of Israel to help those who hated them with animals that were stuck under some sort of burden.
The scriptures use strong language in the context of these commands. The Bible explains that the children of Israel were to lend helping hands to those who were considered enemies and other who hated them. When examining the commands given in Exodus 23:4-5 one will find no conditions. This means that God expected the children of Israel to help their enemies while they were still enemies. This means that God expected the children of Israel to help those who hated them while they were still hated. God did not say that the enemies and haters were obligated to apologize before receiving help. God did not say that one should make any demands of the enemy or hater before receiving help. God simply wanted His people to do what was right according to His perfect standard of righteousness.
The Bible explains that Jesus died for the sins of the world while the world was still in sin. Jesus paid the price of sin and removed the debt of sin and made no demands of the people before He provided this benefit. In other words, He helped every person who needed help without conditions. Though repentance is required to receive the benefits of Jesus' work on the cross, the work was done in spite of repentance. The very nature of Jesus' death was an example that the people rejected the help that Jesus offered. The blood and water that poured out of His side when pierced on the cross serves as verification that Jesus died for the sins of the world anyway. This powerful act of mercy, grace, and forgiveness was the most powerful demonstration of God's character that the world has seen to date. Yet the command of Exodus 23:4-5 shows that God expected His people to practice this same type of righteousness.
When considering one's enemies, one usually doesn't consider ways that one can help one's enemies. When one thinks about the haters in one's life, one seldom considers the opportunities to serve those people in helpful and productive ways. History has shown that the natural person does not embrace the opportunity to help those who are against them. Instead, history has shown that people have a natural tendency to wish terrible things upon those against them. History has shown that people have a natural tendency to celebrate the hardships and demise of those against them. History has shown that people have a natural tendency to be spiteful towards those against them. The command that God gave in Exodus 23:4-5 clearly reveals that God did not want His people to respond to their enemies in "natural" ways, but instead, supernaturally according to His own character of righteousness.
The command that God gave clearly reveals that God did not want His people to act like themselves. God did not want His people to act like the people they were born as. God did not want His people to act out of natural habits since the Bible identifies (and history confirms) that the natural person is wicked and sinful in nature. The command of Exodus 23:4-5 explains that God wanted His people to act like Him. God wanted His people to reflect His brand of righteousness, not self-righteousness. God wanted His people to respond contrary to human nature and in His own nature. God wanted His people to learn about Him through the Law so that upon examining commands like those given in Exodus 23:4-5, God's people could learn about the magnitude of His mercy, grace, and forgiveness. Understanding the difficulty of keeping the command of Exodus 23:4-5, one should recognize the power and greatness of Jesus' work on the cross and thereby be greatly appreciative of that work! Though the world did not have the Spirit of God to equip them to execute these types of commands until after the resurrection of Jesus, the command itself clearly defines the full extent of God's righteousness, and the expectation for His people to live sanctified according to His image. Thus, since the people of God do possess His Spirit today as a result of the work of Jesus Christ, the people of God are equipped to do as God commanded; and the Spirit of God should convict one's conscience to be like Him for His glory - especially in this way.
The Bible explains that God wants His people to resemble Him. There is a cliche phrase that perfectly explains God's desire for His people: like Father, like son. The Bible explains that God wants His people to know the Word in order to know Him, and upon learning who God is, copy His character. The Lord even provides those who believe with His Spirit, which equips the people of God to resemble the Father. Though the Holy Spirit was not given fully until after the work of Jesus in His death and resurrection, the Bible teaches that God gave His people the Law as a picture of His righteousness to copy. Thus, as one examines the Law of God in the Old Testament, one can observe the righteousness of God.
In Exodus 23:1-3 the Bible defines God's righteousness through the commands God gave the children of Israel regarding justice. God gave the children of Israel several commands about how they should properly conduct themselves in a court setting. First, God demanded that the people should not circulate false reports about others. God did not want His people to become comfortable with lying. Since the essence of God is "truth," God wanted His people to demonstrate fairness and justice by telling the truth. God did not want His people to lie as witnesses so that the reputations of others were tarnished by false witnesses. One who seeks to lie as a witness to change matters of justice is one that resembles the devil. Jesus taught that the devil is the father of lies. Hence, those who grow comfortable with lying are those who resemble the devil. God did not desire that for His children; but instead wanted His people to live according to truth.
Secondly, Exodus 23:1-3 explains that God did not want the people to take bribes as unrighteous witnesses. The Bible states that the people of God were not to "put their hand with the wicked," which is a reference to taking bribes. God did not want His people to compromise truth for the sake of financial or selfish gain of any sorts. God cannot be bribed. God is not swayed from His position of perfect righteousness. God cannot be bought. There is nothing that God desires more that truth and justice. God is merciful to the world today, but one day will soon come where God's zeal for justice will be seen by all. The Bible teaches that God wants His people to be equally zealous for justice (though equally merciful as well). In other words, God desires His people to be passionate enough about truth, righteousness and justice according to God's standards, that they are unwilling to compromise for the sake of selfish gain.
The third command that God gave regarding justice was that His people were not to "follow crowds to do evil." God did not want His people swayed to injustice and unrighteousness by money, and did not want His people to give into pressures from other people. The Gospels show that the Jewish religious leaders were able to rally the children of Israel against Jesus so that multitudes of people called for the crucifixion of Jesus. This is the kind of stuff that God commanded against. God did not want His people to get involved as participants of the "mob mentality" or "movements" that stirred up chaos, disorder, and wickedness. God wanted His people to be holy and separate from these types of things. Exodus 23:1-3 explains that God did not want His people to compromise justice by accepting money, or getting caught up in the wrong crowd. Neither instance was acceptable to God.
Lastly, Exodus 23:1-3 explains that God did not want His people to show partiality - specifically to the poor. God did not want witnesses to look at the outward appearance of a person and be swayed in their testimony to show partiality or favoritism. God did not want the outward appearance, reputation, or personal opinion of a person to dictate a person's witness and testimony in court. The Bible plainly states that God is not a respecter of people (Acts 10:34). In other words, God does not play favorites. God is not swayed by the outward appearance of a person. God does not hold any person in any higher esteem based on a person's accomplishments or lack thereof. God treats every person the same way and holds all people to the same standards. Hence, God expected His people to do the same so that the poor were not treated any differently than those who were not, simply because they were poor. In other words, a poor person was not to be treated differently for stealing just because they couldn't afford to buy the items that were stolen.
The Bible makes it clear that God is a just God, a righteous God, and is the God of truth. For these reasons, God expected His people to uphold and represent His qualities. God wanted His people to learn of Him through the Law and desire to be as He was to witness to other nations that didn't know Him. God wanted His people to seek to please Him by learning of God through the Law and desiring His qualities rather than worldly qualities of self-righteousness. The same could be said of today, except that God has now provided the necessary tools to actually fulfill the Law. The Bible teaches that those who believe in the identity and purpose of Jesus Christ will receive the Spirit of God. Upon receiving God's Spirit, the Bible teaches that the Spirit will transform the heart of a person through the conscience so that believers will desire to do the will of God according to the Word (including the Law), rather than practice the traditions of flawed people according to the sinful ways of the world. The Bible also teaches that upon receiving the Spirit, one will then be equipped to do as Jesus did, demonstrating the righteousness of God through the fulfillment of the Law as a witness to the Father for His glory. Thus, as God revealed His righteousness and desire for justice, the people of God should desire to demonstrate those qualities and glorify God through obedience even today.
The concept of "holiness" in the Bible is a difficult one to fully digest. The term literally refers to "separation" The concept of holiness refers to a distinction and a differentiation, which defines one as "separate." The Bible teaches that God is holy, meaning that God is "separate" from all other people as the Lord God Almighty. The Bible is even referred to as the "Holy Bible," referring to its uniqueness in nature and content. The Bible is not like any other book. That said, the Bible also teaches that God's people are to be holy, just like God is holy. This essentially refers to God's relationship with sin. Since He is perfect and righteous and since it is impossible for God to sin, He is considered holy. In the same way, the Bible explains that God's people are to be holy - separate from sin as non-participants.
However, the Bible also explains that God went above and beyond with the children of Israel to facilitate their holiness. God wanted the children of Israel to be separate from sin, but also separate from most of the other man-made traditions and cultural practices of the world. When God gave the Law to the children of Israel, He included many commands that facilitated differentiation through diet, clothing, government, and of course worship. One of the unique things about the Jewish culture is the dietary laws that God gave to the children of Israel to facilitate holiness. For example, in Exodus 22:31 the Bible explains that God commanded the children of Israel to be holy by refraining from eating meat that was killed and torn by wild beasts in the field. God did not want His people to eat the meat of an animal that had been killed in the wild by another animal. God said that His people were to throw that meat to the dogs.
When examining scriptures like these, it is important to understand God's greater point. One must consider that, since God's main focus is righteousness for salvation, the type of food that His people eat is obviously not the main focus of His intent when giving commands regarding diet. The command of God is intended to teach some spiritual lesson in some way. Therefore, while the children of Israel were expected to be obedient to the commands God gave, the people were also expected to learn the spiritual lessons tied to them as well. The point of God's command found in Exodus 22:31 has to do with holiness, which refers to one's relationship with sin. Thus, one must examine the command from the perspective of God's righteous nature to see how God taught holiness through the quality of one's meat.
The essence of the command found in Exodus 22:31 deals with meat that is torn by beats in the field or wilderness. God did not want His people to eat that kind of meat. There are essentially two reasons for this. The simplest reason is that God did not want His people practicing the things that other pagan nations were practicing. The pagans didn't care about how their food died. When meat was available, they ate it. Since other pagan nations weren't serving God and didn't know of His holy nature, they simply satisfied the desires of their flesh when they had them, and ate any type of food that was available. God wanted the children of Israel to be holy. God wanted His people to be separate from those practices. God did not want His people to get in the habit of picking up any old thing for the sake of gratifying their fleshly cravings. God did not want His people getting in the habit of seeking the convenient ways to satisfy carnal cravings and needs. Though it might have been easier to eat an animals that was already killed rather than butchering it according to the provision of the Law, there were dangerous habits and practices that God was trying to protect His people from that could have led to greater dangers in sin.
Secondly, it is important to recognize that God was specific in His command concerning the ways the animal died. God did not want His people eating meat that was torn to pieces. When examining the parallel passages of this command in Deuteronomy and Leviticus, one will find that God also stated He didn't want His people to consume food that had died naturally either. In other words, God wanted the meat that was consumed by His people to be butchered in a specific way according to His commands. God wanted the people killing their own food in particular ways for a few reasons. First, one must consider the practical application associated with God's command. An animal that dies "naturally" or that is killed by some other beast may be infected with certain bacteria, or other disease-causing organisms. God's command facilitated health safety and good eating habits in that regard.
The command of Exodus 22:31 also teaches that God did not want His people to consume things that were affected by the consequence of sin. The command of Exodus 22:31 taught great spiritual principals in this regard as well. It is important to remember that when God created the heavens and the earth and everything in them, all of the living creatures were vegetarians. There was not death in the world until Adam sinned in the Garden. Thus, animals did not eat each other. Carnivorous animals are the result of sin. In the beginning, God made it so that each animal was somewhat friendly with one another and simply ate plants, fruits, and vegetables to live - not each other. The spilling of blood was not a part of this world in any sort of way; and it was in this condition that God examined the world and saw that it was good. Sin changed those dynamics. Sin caused death to inhabit the world, and God sacrificed an animal to cover the shame of Adam and Eve. Blood was shed on account of sin, and the dynamics of life have severely changed. As animals began to eat each other and shed more blood, the consequence of sin grew greater and greater. God did not want His people consuming the after affects of sin's work.
When considering the way the world was before sin, in contrast to its current condition, one can see that God did not want His people eating animals that died as a consequence of sin, in a manner that was contrary to His original purpose in creation. God understood that His people needed to eat, and so God gave special commands to raise animals specifically for food, and gave commands for proper ways to butcher them for good health, and in ways that taught holiness. God didn't want His people associated with sin in ANY sort of way. God didn't even want His people to consume food that was killed or died in ways that stemmed from the results of sin. Though other cultures might have been okay with the consumption of any old thing for the purpose of fulfillment and gratification, God did not want His children adopting those habits. Instead, God wanted His people to do the extra work and labor to consume the appropriate things that were good nourishment in the appropriate ways according to His standards of righteousness. God knew the dangers of sin and the deadly habits that people develop when growing comfortable with sin and its effects. Thus, God commanded that His people stay away from those things - even in their food.
The Bible teaches that each and every possession that a person might have has come from the Living God. The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church that there is nothing that makes one person differ from another in terms of where each person came from and how they've been built up. God is in charge of all of it. The apostle Paul wrote that every possession of any person has come from the Living God. The Lord has allowed certain people to possess certain things so that all things come from Him. Hence, Paul wrote to the church that there is no room for boasting as if a person is entitled to their possessions based on the work they completed to "earn" certain things. According to the Bible, it doesn't work like that. Even if one would consider that they "earned" a certain thing or opportunity, it is still the Living God that provided the breath and ability one has to perform. For these reasons, the Bible explains that believers must always consider themselves stewards of God's things, rather than owners of their own.
This same principal was taught in the Book of Exodus through the Law. In Exodus 22:29-30 the Lord reminded the children of Israel about their sacrifices and offerings. The Lord simply told the children of Israel not to delay in giving their offerings of their first fruits and of their tithes. The Lord wanted the children of Israel to make their offerings a priority of their life. God did not want His people being lazy with their offerings and did not want them withholding their offerings. God wanted His people to recognize the source of their possessions and be sure to quickly acknowledge God.
God sought to teach His people how to prioritize things in life. Since the children of Israel were wandering through the wilderness, the provision of God was pretty obvious. There were no stores or static resources that the people could have went to in order to buy food and water and the other things they needed. The Bible teaches that God provided bread supernaturally for 40 years. The Bible teaches that God made water gush out of rocks. The Bible teaches that the children of Israel were able to destroy wicked nations like the Midianites and take spoils with armies that had no resources and training. The Bible makes it clear that the children of Israel received everything they had from God while they were wandering through the wilderness. Thus, the command of Exodus 22:29-30 was a command that caused the children of Israel to acknowledge God's provision, and to make that acknowledgement a priority in life.
Exodus 22:29-30 explains that God desired offerings of the first fruits. God did not want left overs. God understood, and wanted His people to understand, that without Him, the children of Israel would have had nothing. Without God, the children of Israel would have still been suffering at the hands of the Egyptians. Knowing this, it is reasonable to acknowledge God's expectation to have the first of what He provided. God's desire to receive the first fruits as an offering was an exercise in trust. In order to give of the best quality that one has, one must trust more in the results of the gift rather than dwell on loss. God wanted His people to know that He deserved the best offering because without Him, the Israelites would have had nothing. God was worthy to receive the best, and His provision was proof.
The scriptures also show that God didn't ask for much. For example, in the Book of Numbers, when the Israelites destroyed the Midianites, God only wanted one out of every 50 animals as an offering from the people who did not fight, and one out of every 100 animals as an offering from the people that did. Thus, God wanted one animal and desired to let His people keep 49/99 respectively. God didn't ask for much. It is true that God wanted the best, but not at the total expense of the people. The offerings that God required were simply to serve as a tribute - a way to thank the Lord. The offerings that God required were intended to allow the children of Israel to acknowledge that God was a faithful and gracious provider, and God desired that the children of Israel would not forget these things.
The essence of Exodus 22:29-30 is primarily related to time. the essence of the command is centered on the phrase "do not delay." It was not just that God wanted the people to give offerings, and wanted the best quality offering, but He wanted the children of Israel to make it a focused priority to give that offering. God did not want the children of Israel getting in the habit of taking care of their own business and putting God in a lesser position. God did not want His people getting in the habit of pushing things back so that their offerings became an afterthought that lacked substance and meaning for the people. God wanted the people to be genuinely thankful, and wanted that thankfulness to be demonstrated in the integrity and intentionality of the offerings. The Lord had already done some of the most incredible work that the world had ever seen and simply gave His people opportunities to show their appreciation through obedience to the Law.
It is important to be careful in how one speaks about the Lord and His work. It is true that the work that the Lord does is difficult to understand. It is true that the work of sanctification is tough to endure. It is true that God prunes His people for the purpose of more fruitful growth, but that the pruning process can be painful. It is true that tragedy happens, making life upsetting. However, in spite of all of these realities, the Bible is clear to explain that one must be careful in how one interprets circumstances and how one examines God's position in those circumstances. Though life can be hard, the Bible is clear to explain that the children of God should never blame God, be critical of God's work, or curse God in response.
In Exodus 22:28 the Bible plainly states that one should not revile God and that one should not curse a ruler of the people. The original Hebrew word for "revile" refers to cursing. The commandment instructs that God's people should not curse God. The people of God should not examine the work of God and criticize His work spitefully. The truth of the matter is, God's ways are far greater than the ways of His people. Human beings almost never have all of the facts and so are ill equipped to make judgments regarding the quality of God's decision making. The difficulty of circumstances does not entitle one to be critical of God and the things He does and allows.
It is important to consider the reality of "cursing" God. When one curses God by criticizing His work methods, one demonstrates the characteristics of Satan. Recall that it was Satan who observed the work of God, felt that he knew better than God, could do better than God, and sought to be greater than the Most High God. It is never a good idea for the people of God to conduct themselves in a manner that resembles the devil. The Bible is clear to explain that the devil was cast down from his position, and will be destroyed by God's wrath in the end. Jesus was clear to explain that those who resemble the devil will suffer the same fate in the end. To curse God and to criticize His work is to demonstrate a level of pride that rivals the devil's. Instead, one would be wise to examine God's work and admit in humility that, while God's work might be hard to understand, His all-knowing and all-powerful nature equip God to do perfect work, so that one is willing to trust God in spite of difficulty.
Exodus 22:28 also explains that one should not curse a ruler of the people. The Lord had appointed people to assume certain positions of authority to help rule over the people and judge them in the manner of His righteousness. God knew what He was working with when He chose those people. He knew that He was working with sinful people with wicked hearts. He knew that the people He appointed to leadership and authority would be imperfect in their responsibilities. Nevertheless, God makes the decisions that He makes, and whether one understands them or not, the Bible is clear that one must submit to God's choices in terms of the people He selects to govern.
It is important to recognize the relationship in the commandments that God gave in Exodus 22:28. God first commanded that one should not revile Him. Then God stated that one should not curse a ruler of the people in the context of reviling Him. Thus, the ideas are connected together by context. One that curses or criticizes the selection and appointment of "rulers" is one that criticizes the work of the Living God to appoint that person. God did not want His people reviling Him by questioning and criticizing the decisions He made regarding the leadership of the people. The Book of Numbers is clear to show that when God's people rebelled against Moses and the others God put in charge, those people died. God knows what He's doing. God is well aware of the leadership ability of the people He places in leadership. God does not need the help of sinful people to point out situations they feel are mistakes. To criticize the leadership that God appoints is to criticize the work of the Living God.
It is important to recognize, not just what the command of Exodus 22:28 says, but also what it does not say. The command of Exodus 22:28 does not provide exceptions. For example, the children of Israel were not allowed to criticize God when the circumstances were really hard or when the leadership turned out to be really bad. The extent of sin from the leadership in Israel did not permit the people to curse God; and when one examines Israels' history, one can see that they had some really bad leadership! God doesn't care. The Bible explains that God has great purpose for the people He selects to lead His people. The Lord expects that His people respect that purpose and trust in it, whether His people understand that purpose or not.
Today, one might argue that the leadership in the world is slightly below par. One might also argue that, considering the condition of the world today, stakes have never been so high, and decisions of leadership have never been so critical. Thus, bad leadership can have severely devastating consequences. According to the command that God spoke in Exodus 22:28, the circumstances of today do not excuse the people of God from obedience. As God expected the children of Israel to trust in His work and purposes, God continues to expect His children to trust in His work and purposes. One would not be wise to criticize the selection of leadership in any part of the world, lest one be found criticizing and cursing the very work of God in a manner that resembles the attitude of the devil. The command of Exodus 22:28 was intended to teach God's people trust - to walk by faith and not by sight. The command of Exodus 22:28 was given in order to teach the people of God that God's ways and plans are too great and complex for the human mind to fully digest. The command of Exodus 22:28 was given with the expectation of obedience. Thus, the people of God would be wise to refrain from criticism in an effort to submit to the Lord's command through obedience.
Though the work of God can be hard to understand sometimes, there are some things about the ways God works that are actually very easy to understand. There are some people who feel as if God is distant. Many think that because God can't be seen in person that He is far away. The perception of many people is that because God is in heaven, He's relatively far from His people, so that this type of thinking can confuse people about the ways God works here. However, the Bible explains, that while the Father cannot be seen by people, God can be seen on this planet. The Bible explains that God can be seen in two ways: first through His Son by the Word of God, and second through His Spirit that resides in the hearts of believers. The Bible explains that this is the plan of God, and He communicated this through His Law.
In Exodus 22:25-28 the Lord addressed the issue of lending. God talked about the proper way to handle situations when a person had to borrow money or something from another person. Once again, knowing the wicked hearts of people, God was compelled to explain His righteousness through lending laws. The Bible explains that when a person from the house of Israel borrowed money from another person from the house of Israel, no interest was to be charged. God specifically stated that "His people" should not be charged interest. God made it clear that He did not want people profiting off of His people. God did not want His own people taking advantage of one another, setting others behind and burying each other in debt.
Exodus 22:25-28 also explained His purpose for this command through a more simple form of lending. God told the children of Israel, that if a person gave their cloak as a form of collateral, that cloak was to be returned to them by the end of the day, before night time. During the time that Moses wrote the Book of Exodus, the cloak of a person was really important for survival - especially since the children of Israel were living in the wilderness during this time. The cloak of a person served to keep them cool in the heat, and to keep them warm at night. The cloak of a person acted as their blanket at night to keep them warm. Therefore, these cloaks became very important and valuable to people, which was why they were often used as forms of collateral in certain situations.
God commanded the children of Israel to be sure to return the cloak of another by the end of the day when it was used for collateral. Whether the person made good on their promise or debt was not a qualifying factor. God wanted to make sure His people were taken care of, knew the importance of a person's cloak for their comfort and survival, and wanted to ensure that His people were not destroying one another on account of debt. Hence, regardless of the person's ability to pay back debt or make a situation good, God commanded the children of Israel to make sure that a person's cloak was returned by night so that they could be warm and survive the environment.
When God gave the commandments about the cloaks, He stated His reasons for these lending laws. God plainly said that He is gracious. This is a powerful statement. Though the Law was strict concerning righteousness, the Law also illustrated points of God's grace, and the lending laws was one example. The dictionary defines "grace" as, "unmerited favor." According to the Bible, the children of Israel were already great recipients of God's grace. They were considered heirs to God's eternally unconditional promises to Abraham. The Bible does not explain that Abraham did anything to inspire God to make those promises. God simply desired to speak those promises to Abraham and His descendants. The children of Israel did not do anything to warrant God liberating them from Egypt. In fact, their discontentment and complaints about God's would would have likely qualified them for judgment rather than favor. Nonetheless, God showed great favor to the children of Israel though they didn't deserve it. God explained that He is gracious in nature.
When one examines the circumstances of the lending laws God communicated, one can see that the commands were simply opportunities for God's people to demonstrate His grace. Though it was customary to charge interest to those who borrowed money, God commanded against that amongst His own people in order to teach His people His grace. God wanted His people to reflect His grace to His people. Though a person might have left a cloak as collateral and not made good on his oath, the cloak was to be returned anyway as a gracious gesture. The person might not have merited favor, but God wanted favor to be given anyway. Since God is gracious, God clearly communicated His desire for His people to be gracious. In other words, God wanted His people to be reflective of Him.
The Bible explains that God gave His people the Law to reveal His righteousness, so that others that did not know God would know the righteousness of God through the obedience of God's people. While there are other uses for the Law that God had as well, this was a primary way that God desired to use His Law. This is why when a Christian receives the Spirit of God, the Lord promised that the Spirit would write God's Laws and commands on the heart, changing the conscience of that person, causing them to desire obedience to God, so that the righteousness and character of God could be seen by the obedience of God's people by His Spirit. The Bible teaches that God wants to reveal Himself to others by His people who possess His Spirit. Since God is gracious, He commanded His people to be gracious so that His grace could be received and seen by others. Thus, God should be seen through His people that seek obedience in faith to His Word. The world should see God's people as reflections of God Himself as possessors of His Spirit that enable obedience to God's Word. Thus, when God cannot be seen on this planet, it is because God's people are not reflecting His image in sanctification by the Spirit. When God can be seen in this world, it is because God's people are reflecting His image by the Spirit in sanctification. Either way, this shows that one must seek to make it one's priority in life, above all other things, to fulfill one's duty to reflect the image, character and nature of God by His Spirit in faith through obedience to the Word.