Moses continues to goes over the Law a second time with the people of Israel. Tonight, we begin in chapter 22.
If someone loses something, you need to return it. And, if you don't know whose it is, you keep it until he comes looking for it.
This law of "lost and found" goes against our human nature, which says, "Finders keepers, their loss is my gain! Too bad, so sad, it's mine now!" Honesty is necessary, and we must take every opportunity to do the right thing. We must, as Paul said,
Gal. 6:10 ...while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people...
The term "crossdressing" has been used to describe the sinful behavior of wearing clothes of the opposite sex. It is not funny, nor acceptable. It is an abomination to God.
If you're walking along and find a nest with a mother bird sitting on her eggs, it is okay to take the eggs to eat. Because if you take the eggs, they will be replaced. But if you take the mother also, you're removing the source of more eggs. You've just eliminated a source of blessing for the next person to come along.
In Bible times, the roof on your house would be flat, and used as a patio. You may remember Jesus said that when people witness the abomination of desolation,
Mark 13:15 "The one who is on the housetop must not go down, or go in to get anything out of his house"
And while Simon Peter was in Joppa, he...
Acts 10:9 ...went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.
Now, a rooftop being somewhat high up, people might get too close to the edge and fall off. God says to build a parapet, which is a low wall at the edge of the roof for safety purposes.
Having recently jumped through hoop after hoop of fire codes, disability requirements, safety rules, and the like, I don't even want to estimate how much extra money we've had to spend on our church building to meet every strict standard. Sometimes we find ourselves thinking, "Why should I go to extra expense to protect someone who's too dumb to stay away from the edge of the roof? But God here is giving us the Biblical building code: If you are neglectful of safety, you bring bloodguiltiness on yourself.
Three laws are given back to back that are so different, yet strangely identical. God is saying not to mix things.
Lev. 19:19 You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together.
In other words, God hates mixture, and wants us to avoid it even in insignificant ways. Why? Because little compromises always end up leading to worse compromises.
Does God really care if you plow with an ox and a donkey together? Yes, because they are quite literally unequally yoked. In the same way, God hates it when a believer yokes together with an unbeliever:
2Cor. 6:14-16 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?...
Does God really care when a garment is made of two materials? He seems to, especially considering that he wants us to be the same, cut from the same cloth. He hates it when people bless and curse with the same mouth.
James 3:9-10 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
Does God really care about breeding two kinds of cattle? It would seem so, since He definitely hates it when people combine Christianity with paganism:
1Cor. 10:21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.
Is two kinds of seed being sown really that big of a deal? I don't know, but I do know that God hates it when people attempt to pursue Him and money simultaneously:
Matt. 6:24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."
When you mix, you get corruption. Take for example when you mix hot and cold. What do you get? Lukewarm.
Rev. 3:15-16 "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth."
God wants our lives to be marked by holiness and oneness, not mixture.
The tassels which the Israelites were have on the corners of their garments had a purpose:
Num. 15:38-39 "...they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes..."
The tassels were to remember the Word, to give attention to the Scriptures.
Unfortunately, they became just one more thing that the scribes and Pharisees used to demonstrate their "super-spirituality." Jesus said of them,
Matt. 23:5 ..."They do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments."
In any society claiming to be of God, virginity is vital. Saving virginity for matrimony was not an option, but an expectation. How sad that this is not the case in the USA.
In Israel, if a man married a woman who, it turned out, was not a virgin, she was to be killed by the entire community. The Lord says that losing one's virginity before marriage is playing the harlot and is evil.
Notice, too, that if it was revealed that the husband was falsely accusing his new bride, he was to be chastised (disciplined) and fined a hundred shekels of silver. In other words, false accusation should carry a hugely high price.
Today, I see false accusations going out left and right against anyone and everyone. No one thinks twice about repeating this rumor or gabbing about that gossip. I myself have been the victim of numerous false accusations which go uncorrected and unrepented of. I wonder how this would decrease if any person found falsely accusing another would be publicly beaten and ordered to pay a hundred shekels of silver?
The act of adultery was also punishable by death. In the gospel of John,
John 8:3-5 The scribes and the Pharisees *brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they *said to Him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?"
Interesting that they only quoted half of the Law's requirement to Him. In fact, both of them were to die. Where was the man? Why wasn't he dragged in front of Jesus as well?
The crime of rape has plagued mankind almost since the beginning. God's Law mandated the death penalty be administered to a man who raped a woman. The stipulation, though, was that if it could be proven that the woman had not resisted, which meant that the act was really consentual at the time, and only later claimed as rape, they would both be put to death.
If the woman was not engaged and robbed her of her virginity, then he was to marry her. This tells us that there is no such thing as "casual sex." Imagine if you grew up knowing that the first person you had sex with was your marriage partner for life, with no possibility of divorce. If that were the case, Americans wouldn't treat it so casually.
Paul pointed out that it doesn't matter who the person is - you are uniting with them in a way that is far from casual. He said,
1Cor. 6:16 ...do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, "THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH."
How many American men would solicit prostitutes if they were forced to marry them?
Another relation that was forbidden was a man having relations with his step-mother. This brings us to an interesting understanding of our application of Law vs. Grace. You see, many Christians go around saying, "I'm a Christian saved by grace! I'm not under the Law!" Yes, we're saved by grace, but that does not nullify the Law. Though the Law cannot justify us, it continues to be our mirror of righteousness, which God does demand.
The early church faced this dilemma in Corinth. This very sin was happening in the midst of the Corinthian church. Paul wrote,
1Cor. 5:1-2 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father's wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.
The Corinthians thought they were living under grace, that the Law didn't matter. But it does, and Paul dealt with the situation swiftly and decisively.
The root word of the Hebrew rendered "emasculated" here is "crushed." It would seem that those who had accidental injuries in this area were excluded from the congregation's assembly. Now, this may seem exceptionally harsh or discriminatory, but God said through the prophet Isaiah,
Is. 56:4-5 For thus says the LORD, "To the eunuchs who keep My sabbaths, and choose what pleases Me, and hold fast My covenant, to them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial, and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off."
Though they might not have all of the privileges of the congregation, their eternal reward would be even better if they lived obediently to the Lord.
Another group to be excluded were the Ammonites and Moabites. These were the descendants of Lot's daughters, when they committed that horrible act in Genesis 19.
Interesting that God did not forbid them from entering because of their ancestors' sin, but because they tried to bring curses down upon the Israelites.
The camp of the Lord was to be kept holy. Cleanliness was a part of that godliness in very practical ways. They were to clean their bodies and bury their waste.
Unlike the sheep or donkey in chapter 22, a human being who escaped from his owner was not to be turned in. He was to be neither mistreated nor limited. He was a free man to live as he pleased.
Many of the Canaanite religions included temple prostitutes as part of their culture. Any kind of prostitution or money made through prostitution is abhorrent to God, who created sexual intimacy exclusively for married couples.
The Israelites were not to loan their fellow Israelites anything at interest. As many of you have experienced with credit card debt, it is a form of bondage and slavery to be continually paying interest on borrowed money.
Prov. 22:7 The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the lender's slave.
When some critics read about the strict requirements for vows to the Lord, and then read that Jesus forbade it, they cry, "Contradiction in the Bible." But in fact, the very Law says,
Deut. 23:22 "However, if you refrain from vowing, it would not be sin in you."
Making a vow to the Lord invites opportunity to violate the vow and enter into sin. That's why Jesus said,
Matt. 5:33-37 ..."You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.' But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your statement be, Yes, yes' or No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil."
This was God's provision for feeding the hungry, and Jesus' disciples were well-familiar with this Law:
Luke 6:1 Now it happened that He was passing through some grainfields on a Sabbath; and His disciples were picking the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands, and eating the grain.
As difficult as many of these Laws have been, we are reminded once again of God's mercy, provision, and faithfulness.