Study Notes

Exodus 23:1-33

23:1-2 False Reports

It is interesting to me that we come to this section of Scripture on the Thursday night before Easter. For you see, the Jews who arrested and convicted Jesus Christ did not obey these laws that God gave them.

Malicious witnesses with false reports. In Matthew we read,

Matt. 26:59-61 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, in order that they might put Him to death; and they did not find {any,} even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, and said, "This man stated, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.'"

In Mark we find that,

Mark 14:56-59 For many were giving false testimony against Him, and {yet} their testimony was not consistent. And some stood up and {began} to give false testimony against Him, saying, "We heard Him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.'" And not even in this respect was their testimony consistent.

And in Luke the accusation was,

Luke 23:2 ..."We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar..."

23:3 Partiality To The Poor

This is an interesting part of the Law - not to show partiality to a poor man when deciding guilt or innocence. It is instinctive in us to feel sorry for people. The "victim" mentality which plagues our nations preys on the pity of people who have had a hard time.

But as the statue indicates, justice is supposed to be blind. It shouldn't matter if someone came from a dysfunctional home, a crime is a crime. It shouldn't matter if a person is poor - robbery is wrong.

Now on the other hand, we have a tendency to also show partiality to the rich. James said that there were folks who were showing partiality to the rich people in the church - giving them the best seats, while telling the poor people to sit in the back.

James 2:9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin {and} are convicted by the law as transgressors.

The book of Romans confirms,

Rom. 2:11 ...There is no partiality with God.

May we not fall into either trap.

23:4-5 Enemies In Difficulty

If you saw your neighbor's dog running away, you'd either try to catch it and put it back into the yard, or you'd at least say, "Hey, your dog's running away."

Funny how when it's our enemy, the way we deal with things changes. "Huh? No, I didn't see any dog. You have a dog?"

But the book of Romans tells us,

Rom. 12:17-21 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath {of God,} for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS UPON HIS HEAD." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Jesus said in Luke 6,

Luke 6:27-35 "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way. And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.

God is our example in all things. He died for us while we were His enemies. What greater standard could He set for us?

23:6-8 Justice

Corruption of justice happened then just as it does now. God's promise here is that though a guilty man may be acquitted in the court, the Lord will still hold him accountable for his crimes.

23:9 Strangers

Just as the Israelites were strangers in a strange land, so they would encounter other strangers. Taking advantage of the stranger's helplessness is something that God doesn't take kindly to. The Psalmist wrote,

Ps. 146:9 The LORD protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow; But He thwarts the way of the wicked.

The writer of Hebrews exhorted,

Hebr. 13:1-2 Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

And John wrote,

3John 5 Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially {when they are} strangers;

These things all point not only to not oppressing the stranger, but blessing him. We have a chance to bless strangers every Sunday morning and Thursday night. Remember the nervousness you've experienced when you visited a church. Remember the disappointment you felt when no one talked to you or reached out to you. How you felt there was no love in this place or that, because you weren't reached out to. Are you guilty of the same sin now? It is so discouraging to see little groups of friends gathered together in the back, church cliques talking in the kitchen, while the stranger sits silently alone. May this never be again. Bless the strangers.

23:10-13 Sabbaths

This sabbath for the land will be expounded upon in Leviticus 25. But basically, you were to work your field for 6 years, and the seventh you were just to leave it alone.

Unfortunately, this Law of the sabbath year for the land was not obeyed. For 490 years, the people neglected to give the land a rest. 70 sabbaths were not observed. After such time, the Lord caused the army of Babylon to conquer the Israelites. Jeremiah wrote,

2Chr. 36:20-21 And those who had escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and to his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete.

He warned them of this in advance back in Leviticus 26.

Lev. 26:34-35 "Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies' land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it."

God held the people accountable. You can't cheat God - He collects what is due one way or another.

The second half of this Sabbath Law had to do with the weekly Sabbath rest for people, and I believe the same principle applies. The sabbath day was created to refresh ourselves. How many ulcers, migraines, and stresses would be relieved if we simply observed the law of the Sabbath, and took a day to relax, putter, and enjoy?

Maybe you think, "But I can't! I've gotta get the kids to baseball practice and make dinner and do the laundry!" or "You don't understand! If I'm not at the office every day, I won't be able to make payroll!" Brother, sister, where is your faith? Remember the circumstances by which the Sabbath was introduced? The manna from heaven that they were to gather each morning was supernaturally doubled the day before the sabbath, that they could rest. God isn't making an unjust demand on your week. He will absolutely provide.

23:14-19 Three Feasts

There were seven annual feasts, but these three required that all able-bodied Jewish males attend. They are the Feast Of Unleavened Bread, which began with Passover; the Feast Of Firstfruits, which we are more familiar with the term Pentecost, and the Feast Of The Ingathering, also called the Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths.

We have quick mention of them in this section of Scripture, but they will be explained in detail when we get to them in Leviticus.

Each of the seven feasts of Israel pointed ahead to a prophetic event, which was fulfilled on the day it was celebrated. Paul the apostle wrote to the Colossians,

Col. 2:16-17 Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day - things which are a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

All of the holidays' prophetic fulfillments had to do with Christ.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread began with Passover, which speaks of salvation from judgment by the blood of the lamb. We will look at Passover tomorrow night in our Seder celebration.

The Feast of Firstfruits was 50 days after Passover, so it was given the name "Pentecost" meaning "50th". (It was also called the Feast of Weeks, because it was seven weeks plus one day after Passover.) This was the day when God was given the first fruits of the harvest. It was fulfilled the day when the first fruits of the harvest of men were given to God, when the Holy Spirit was poured out and the church was born.

The Feast of the Ingathering, or Tabernacles, was celebrated by God's people dwelling in temporary tabernacles, or booths. It points to a time yet future when God will gather His people into the Millennial Kingdom.

23:20-23 A Guarding Angel

We've talked many times before in our studies of Genesis and Revelation that Jesus Christ is often called an angel. Not because He is a celestial, created being, but simply because the word "angel" means "messenger." Here we see that the Lord said, "My name is in Him." This angel will often be called in the Hebrew "Yahweh" and "Elohim." But even the name Jesus includes the name of God. "Jesus" in Hebrew is "Yah-Shua", meaning "Yahweh is Salvation." The name of God is in the name Jesus.

23:24-26 Obedience And Blessing

If the Israelites serve the Lord instead of the false gods, He would supernaturally bless them materially and physically.

23:27-31 Driving Out The Heathen

The Lord promised the entirety of the land to the Jews. A huge section of earth - from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, from the wilderness to the Euphrates River.

As we get further into the Old Testament, we will see that God kept His end of the bargain - the fear of the God of the Israelites spreads ahead of them. You may recall the story in the book of Joshua, how two spies were sent into Jericho, and met Rahab. She told them,

Josh. 2:9-11 ..."I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And when we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath."

God did not, however, drive all the inhabitants of the land out all at once. The land was so vast, that the Israelites would not have had enough people to inhabit it all. The land would have become an overgrown wilderness, full of wild animals. So God drove them out a piece and part at a time.

I find that the Lord does the same thing in our lives. Often, we wish He would show us the whole picture, that He would complete the work in our lives in its entirety. But He does it slowly. Bit by bit, piece by piece, day by day. And we beg Him to speed things up, to do the whole thing right away. Silly people! We don't know what we are asking. Surely, He is much wiser than we.

23:32-33 Make No Covenant With Them

By the time we get to the book of Joshua, we will see that Israel followed other gods quite often. In Joshua 9, we see that they broke the other half of this commandment, in making a covenant with the Gibeonites.

The Gibeonites were afraid of the Israelites, and pulled a scam on them.

Josh. 9:4-6 they also acted craftily and set out as envoys, and took worn-out sacks on their donkeys, and wineskins, worn-out and torn and mended, and worn-out and patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and had become crumbled. And they went to Joshua to the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, "We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us."

Joshua was suspicious, but not enough to pray about it. They swore a covenant with the Gibeonites, and in not seeking the counsel of God, they sinned against God.

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