Exodus, Chapter 22

Sunday, June 28

Read

Exodus, Chapter 22

Reflect

Chapter 22 is part of a larger section of text here in the middle of Exodus called the Book of the Covenant.  It includes the 10 commandments listed in chapter 20 and other laws given to the Israelite people from Mt. Sinai.  While we as modern Christian readers may be tempted to skim over this section as an intrusion to the ongoing narrative, the ancient Israelites’ ears would have perked up.  Now that they have been redeemed, they want to know what to do.  And here is a key point – redemption always precedes law.  The law is a response to grace not a precondition for it.  So when we read these strange laws about oxen and idols and bestiality, we must remember these were words spoken by God to a redeemed people.  Now, in light of their redemption and freedom, they are to live in harmony with God and one another.

Our first temptation when confronted with verses like these that don’t easily translate into our modern culture is either to totally dismiss them or to try and uncover a hidden meaning or principle that we can fit into our contemporary context.  But the Book of the Covenant was a very specific law given at a particular time to a particular people for a particular purpose.  And because of that, these few chapters give us unique insight into the way God was shaping His people after their escape from Egypt.  They have a new start and these are just a few of the ways God wanted to structure their life together.

Respond

When you hear “grace precedes law,” how do you feel?  Is this assuring, threatening, does it bring up a sense of security?

For many of us, there is comfort in the law because when we are given a set of rules, we feel as if we are in control of our standing with God.  If we try just a bit harder or do a bit more, then perhaps we can earn an extra measure of His grace.  However, over and over again, especially in the Gospel narratives, we find that God’s grace cannot be controlled or tamed.  We are fully dependent on the God who eagerly extends irresistible grace to each of us as He took the form of a man and saved us from our sin.  There is nothing more to be done, no more grace to be earned.  We can trust Him.

Pray

Merciful God, we cannot fathom the expanse of your grace.  We cannot comprehend the depth of your love.  Forgive us when we try to limit you by our desire for control and our narrow understanding of your salvation.  When we become burdened by the laws and rules we set up for ourselves, reorient us, remind us of your economy of grace that doesn’t fit neatly into any of our boxes, but simply calls us to trust, to love, and to find freedom in our limits. In Christ’s name. Amen.

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