Exodus 22 Devotional
by Pastor Mark Hudson
“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” This is the cry of God found throughout the Bible. This verse was also a favorite of Martin Luther King Jr. as he and others called on our nation to be consistent in America’s pursuit of justice. Inspired by Holy Spirit through the mouth and pen of Amos (5:24), this truth resonates within our heart today. God is teaching his people about justice in this chapter and throughout the Bible.
In every age, believers and non-believers attempt to be just and try to determine what justice looks like. In this year, 2020, Christians should welcome the cry for justice that we hear from so many marching in our streets. Long before these untimely deaths, God has been teaching justice through His Word. We should listen to their demands for justice and compare and contrast God’s sense of justice with the sense of justice some are demanding.
In Exodus 22, everyday events are the focus of verses 1-14, the first half of this chapter. Grazing, fires, borrowing, and keeping animals for a neighbor are things that could happen to many people all over the world. Notice the emphasis on intent and restitution in vs. 1-4. In verses 5-6, restitution is also stressed. How I wish our judicial system understood this concept: restitution to the one harmed not restitution to the state or serving time.
In his commentary on Exodus, Douglas K Stuarts, provides 4 advantages to restitution. 1) It compensates the victims of the crime more generously and more immediately than is the case in modern Western societies. 2) It requires the offender to deal directly with the person he has offended and to face the effects of his crime on that person. 3) It permits a repentant offender to continue a productive life immediately upon making restoration. 4) And it does not require society to provide housing, food, and clothing for the duration of the offender’s imprisonment. Weakness of restoration include the wealthier a person is, the less restitution hurts and imprisonment does remove people who continually commits crimes that endanger others.
In verses 7-10, God makes a determination when both sides refuse to admit guilt. The oath they make to God (v. 9, 11) assumes it is better to have a dispute with your neighbor rather than a dispute with God if you lie to God. So if both are protesting their innocence, God is the only one who can see the heart.
In verses 10-14, God again serves as the final arbritator. The idea is the person who watches the beast should be held liable unless there are valid reasons why the individual should not be. But an investigation would follow to determine guilt or innocence.
In verses 15ff, there is a number of laws that are not easily categorized. The regulation over seducing a virgin underscores the family relations that are impacted in a marriage. Many in our culture will have a hard time understanding this. They will only see the bride price as indicating women were no more than property. These criticisms are to be expected when one’s mind is made up before reading the text. But there are consequcnces when pre-marital sex is involved. One is that the couple become one flesh and are virtually though not legally married. This does not mean the couple must get married. They may marry provided other considerations follow. The man seducing the woman had to pay the bride price, no small amount of money, whether the father allowed the marriage to go through or not. The bridal price tended to elevate the importance of marriage and prevented the young couple from thinking intercourse or marriage is a small trivial matter. This decision of marriage involved both families then as it should now.
On a side note, one of the practices I employed in pre-marital counseling is to mail the future in-laws an invitation to write a letter to their soon to be son/daughter-in-law. I would tell the couple I would be doing this so they could alert their parents. I timed this part of the counseling so the letter, which was sent to me, though written to their future son/daughter-in-law, was part of our last session together. The parents were asked to write a brief letter or a few paragraphs welcoming the individual into their family and wishing them well. This was meant to be a signal to the parents that they need to acknowledge a big change is about to occur. Each young person seemed anxious to hear what their future in-laws wrote.
As you might imagine, some letters were well thought-out and welcoming. Other letters exposed what the young couple already knew was present. I had a purpose in this bit of homework. My attempt was to include the parents in the pre-marital process. I wanted them prepare for a big adjustement in their lives as well as their child. Some parents resisted my simple ploy which made this new relationship harder for everyone. Others welcome the opportunity to bless the new couple and were already rejoicing with them.
As you reflect on our laws and the policies you live under at work, school, home, or other organizations consider what the rules are for. Rarely do people just make rules to prevent enjoyment of others. Where would we be without laws, guidelines, or policies? Do you grumble about speed limits, road repairs, or rules now about masks or other Covid rules? Were your parents punishing you when they ushered you to bed when you were younger? Didn’t they want you to be able to enjoy the next day (and not be such a grouch)? Hopefully we can work at understanding why our teacher, our company, our government, and our parents insist on guidelines and rules.
Positively, aren’t you glad that we do have speed limits, drinking ages, seat belts, and rules governing our behavior? We ought to express our thanks to those that are over us instead of complaining. And we ought to advocate for justice for all not just our own. All of us can do our best to be fair to others, to respect those in authority, and to demand those over us follow rules as well. Our God is just and he calls us to be just. As Frank Ragan told his granddaughter in the t.v. show Blue Bloods, “Life isn’t fair, but you can be.”