Exodus 21

Exodus 21 gets into some laws that God gives Moses to bring to the people.  God says “Now these are the rules that you shall set before them”.  Moses has a job to do – to give the people direction and instruction on how God expects them to live.  These are appropriate for the day, and we have to be careful not to interpret them outside that context.  God put them in the scriptures, so we’ll take a look at them here, but some of them are certainly not the same in today’s world.

The first is a rather lengthy instruction on dealing with slaves.  God gives all sorts of instruction around how slaves were to be treated.  Obviously we don’t have slaves today, and we certainly can’t apply this as how to treat people in the workplace.  But God gives direction on a number of different situations that may have arisen in that day.  Then comes a list of a number of different things and what the punishment or response should be:

  • “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death
  • Whoever strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death
  • Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death
  • Whoever curses his father or his mother shall be put to death
  • When men quarrel and one strikes the other….he who struck him….shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall have him thoroughly healed
  • When a man strikes his slave….and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged
  • When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman….the one who hit her shall surely be fined
  • if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. When a man strikes the eye of his slave….he shall let the slave go free
  • When an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall be stoned
  • When a man opens a pit….and an ox or a donkey falls into it, the owner of the pit shall make restoration”

It is pretty obvious the death penalty was a part of societal rule in that day.  That would have been some of those bigger decisions that Jethro told Moses he needed to deal with, and why it was important to pass off the regular and routine to other good men.  God has some pretty clear rules here.  That is the lesson I think we need to take from this.  While I don’t believe most of these fit our society today, I do think the reality is that God has similar rules and laws that we are to obey that do fit today’s world.

God is the ultimate law maker.  He sits on the judgment throne and we will stand before Him someday and give account.  He’ll ask us about our obedience – and perfection is the requirement.  Sin and disobedience will disqualify us from entry into heaven – on our own we’ll fall short.  So the real question will be about Jesus.  Have we received His free offer of grace and salvation?  Rules and laws still exist in God’s economy. There are requirements.  Jesus is the only hope we have of standing before God pure and righteous.  Have you taken that step?  Are you ready to meet Him?


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