Yesterday was on the 10 commandments and the Israelite’s reaction to God, so i don’t know what i expected for chapter 21, but it certainly wasn’t this. To put things in perspective a little bit; there were originally no chapters and verse in the scriptures. They were added later on to help people study and reference the Bible better. As a result when the text was originally written, there was no real division between what was commanded in 20 and then in 21. So, God gave the people the 10 commandments / promises, then almost immediately we get into the topic that opens chapter 21: slavery!
Now i know that back in the day both supporters of and those opposed to slavery used the Bible to prove their point of view. Ultimately though, it was those who understood that God’s view of humanity being created in His image and his redemption bringing equality to all that overcame and was a driving force in especially Great Britain’s move to make slavery illegal. But when i started copying this chapter over it hit me. Almost immediately after giving the 10 commandments / promises God begins the rest of the law and legal instructions with rules about slavery? Isn’t that a huge piece of evidence that God is in SUPPORT of slavery? Doesn’t that justify that abominable practice?
I was really struggling through this idea and concept for a good chunk of my writing this morning. It was really bothering me. Then, as i was writing, struggling with this, and questioning God about it; He brought an answer to my mind. It’s not that He supported slavery. It’s that He knew slavery was going to occur no matter what. He set His 10 primary promises / commands then immediately He set the rules to protect those who would end up as slaves. It wasn’t an attempt to encourage the mistreatment of His creation. It was making it a priority to protect those least able to protect themselves.
The chapter continues by dealing with how to respond to murder / accidental deaths from other people as well as animals. Obviously this is a very important aspect of the law to deal with. This theme of protecting the innocent continues with the instruction that if two men are fighting and a pregnant woman is struck resulting in premature birth but no harm is done, then the husband may demand any fine he requests. If there is an injury it is an eye for eye, tooth for tooth, burn for burn, hand for hand, etc.
If we call ourselves Christians, are we protecting those less able to protect themselves? Do we live our lives taking responsibility for those around us?
Isn’t it nice to have an outside perspective sometimes. We look at our own situation time and time again. We see the same problems the same ways. We walk through the same doors and fall into the same traps. It’s so easy to get caught up in our own way of doing things that we lose track of the idea that there may be another, better solution. We also get so used to seeing the same blessings that we fail to see them as blessings. We see our successes in light of our situation and lose track of how amazing they can be sometimes.
Moses had started to get into some of these kinds of ruts. He was hearing the same people complaining about the same problems while doing the same things over and over. Then along came Jethro, his father-in-law, bringing Moses wife and two sons, and they saw it all anew. They heard the stories for the first time. They learned about the situation and saw all the blessings that God was doing for the people off Israel, and they were amazed. Jethro was the priest of Midian. He was a man of experience and wisdom, and yet he said, “Now I know that the LORD (YHWH) is greater than all the gods. Indeed, it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people.” He saw how God had treated those who stood proudly against His people, and Jethro, the priest of Midian, knew that there was no God like YHWH.
In response Jethro took a burnt offering and sacrifice to the LORD. He prepared it as a meal and invited the leaders of Israel to eat a meal together before God. He served in his role as a priest, yet he also set a precedent for the leaders; one of fellowshipping together before the LORD. Don’t you love a good perspective!?
The chapter finishes with Moses sitting before the people judging them. They came to him with their conflicts and problems, and he judged between the people. As i was reading this, it reminded me of the incident in chapter 2 “He (Moses) went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, ‘Why are you striking your companion?’ But he said, ‘Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Then Moses was afraid and said, ‘Surely the matter has become known.’” So Moses has become the judge that he had tried to be. He went from poser to the man of the hour; yet ironically, it was too much.
Jethro to the rescue! He tells Moses that this is too much work for him alone; that he needs to abdicate the work to others. To those who hate injustice so that it does not become too much of a burden. Do we pursue an outside perspective for our lives?