Exodus 23: Little by Little

“You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. 2 You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice. 3 You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute.

-        These are great words to live by. Let’s recap what we were just told:

o   Don’t circulate a false report. Meaning, don’t repeat anything you aren’t sure is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Gossip would fall into this category! We must also be careful how we “label” what we’re telling others. As believers, we can’t “share” information in the form of a prayer request. If it was told to you in private, don’t pass it along and frame it as, “Please be in prayer for ______” (and then continue to tell of the issue). Just give the name of the individual and request prayer – no need to indulge in the indulgences.

o   Don’t follow a wicked crowd. Proverbs 13:20 gives us some great advice: He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed. That’s a pretty simple statement. Hang out with wise people = you’re wise. Hang out with fools = death. Makes you really stop and think about those you surround yourself with, doesn’t it? Choosing godly people to be around is one of the most important habits we can have.

o   Don’t show favoritism. Whether the person is poor, wealthy, well-known, or unknown, we must be equal and honest in our testament of the person.

4 “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again.5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it.

-        We each have at least one person who isn’t on our “favorite” list, right? At my work, we actually have a class called, Working With You is Killing Me! That’s really what we’re talking about here – those individuals who rub you wrong all the time. In relation to this verse, the ox or donkey of your enemy would’ve actually been their livelihood. Ox and donkeys were necessary to plow the ground for crops. So really, what this tells us is when you see your enemy’s livelihood at stake, you should help them. And it even goes a step further – if it’s a person who doesn’t like you, you should also help them. I read a quote awhile back that said, “Critics are the unpaid guardians of our soul.” They keep us humble and those thorns in the flesh are there to keep our focus on Him.  

6 “You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute. 7 Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify the wicked. 8 And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous.

9 “Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

-        The purposes of these laws weren’t for them to simply obey – it was to teach them how to practice love. There are things we should do in order to display love, but even more so, those things should be actions we want to do because the love of Christ is overflowing from our lives. The fruit of the Spirit is love. All of the other eight fruits are an outgrowth of love (Wiersbe). It’s when we accept and receive His grace that His love begins to fully fill and transform our lives.

10 “Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its produce, 11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave, the beasts of the field may eat. In like manner you shall do with your vineyard and your olive grove. 12 Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed.

-        The seventh day or year was always a test of the Israelites’ faith. While all the neighboring people were busy at work, the Israelites were to rest and rely upon their Provider. And that brings up a good question to ask ourselves: When the busyness of life is buzzing around us, are we able to consistently and sacrificially rest and rely upon our Provider?

13 “And in all that I have said to you, be circumspect and make no mention of the name of other gods, nor let it be heard from your mouth.

-        If you entertain a thought long enough, it becomes an emotion, and our emotions then become an action. The Lord was reminding them that they shouldn’t even mention the name of other gods because He knew those words would plant seeds in the mind. If every word we speak is a seed, then are those seeds producing godly fruit or destructiveness?

14 “Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year: 15 You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread (you shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt; none shall appear before Me empty); 16 and the Feast of Harvest, the first fruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field.

17 “Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God.

-        God wanted His people to be together three times a year: Passover, Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles. During that period, they were unified together– much like how Paul pleads we be in Philippians 2, “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,  fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  

18 “You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread; nor shall the fat of My sacrifice remain until morning. 19 The first of the first fruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God. You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.

-        In verse 18, the Lord reinforces the Passover and how it was to be carried out. Remember, before the Israelites exited Egypt, they were instructed to remove all leaven (which spiritually, represents our sin). Additionally, they were not to leave any of the lamb (sacrifice) until the next morning – just as Christ was taken down from the cross (John 19:38).

-        The commandment of not boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk may seem a little odd…to us. But, during these times, it was a pagan practice to boil an offspring in the mother’s milk. Really, what God was saying is the same thing He reminds us of today in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. “

20 “Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. 21 Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him. 22 But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. 23 For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off. 24 You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their works; but you shall utterly overthrow them and completely break down their sacred pillars.

-        Who was this Angel? It was Jesus Christ! If you thought Jesus was only a New Testament figure, now you know differently. Christ was the Angel of the God (same as in Exodus 14:19 – the pillar of cloud) mentioned here because only He can pardon our transgressions. He is the only way to the Father (John 14).

25 “So you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you. 26 No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.

-        God reminds His people here that He is their provision and their health. We need that reminder, too, especially when money feels tight and our health is taxed. We must choose to trust in Him. Even more so, God is our spiritual provision and health. He will bless us through the reading of His Word (the bread of our life) and His water (the Holy Spirit, who counsels us), and the sickness of sin is removed as we yield to our Father, too.

27 “I will send My fear before you, I will cause confusion among all the people to whom you come, and will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28 And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite from before you. 29 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land. 31 And I will set your bounds from the Red Sea to the sea, Philistia, and from the desert to the River. For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”

-        What a beautiful promise of God to His people. He explains to them what He was going to do and how He would drive out the pagans of the land. Notice that it is not man driving out man…it is God driving out man. How true this application should be in our own lives! The book of Galatians is drenched with grace (His enabling power and unmerited favor) – yet, we are still caught up in trying to do the work ourselves. Little by little, God will continue His sanctifying work in our life through His Word. We know this because Jesus prayed it Himself in John 17:17, which says, “Sanctify them in the truth: thy word is truth.” Be in His truth, day by day, and allow Him to drive out the sin of your life through that truth. Amen.