The law not only addresses what should be done when someone is hurt or injured, it also prescribes what should be done when someone’s property is damaged or stolen. Then, as now, human nature tempts us to take from others or to press our own advantage. This, of course, breaks down our community and is brings severe consequences in the law.
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- Interested in joining us for worship on Sunday at 8:50
00:00:00:21 – 00:00:37:58
Hey, everybody. Welcome back. Thanks for being with us. A cold Wednesday afternoon in our part of the world. If it’s not true for you, big, be thankful. We’re kind of getting snowed in here, but things are going well and we’re glad to be able to share this time with you as we continue to move. Hopefully rather quickly through this section of Exodus as we look at some of the laws of the people as we move into chapter 22, the heading given in my Bible is laws of restitution, and these have to do with laws in the community for when somebody owes somebody something.
00:00:38:15 – 00:01:04:26
And in some cases that is because they have either on purpose or accidentally taken something that didn’t belong to them. In other cases, it’s because they’ve taken advantage of someone. We won’t go through this verse by verse. But the general rule of thumb here is that if you have deceived or stolen from someone, you have to make amends for that.
00:01:06:09 – 00:01:33:57
And oftentimes there is a punitive aspect of that where you not only have to pay back the value, but you pay more than the value because of your actions. And so the punishment then is not only the reimbursement, but the kind of fine that goes with that. And that’s more or less applied throughout these various examples of whether you take a donkey or whether something disappears from a house and whether or not you took it.
00:01:33:57 – 00:02:03:16
I will say, Michael. One interesting one interesting wrinkle that I don’t think we’ve seen yet as we go through these laws down here in verse eight, if a thief is not caught, the owner of the house shall be brought before God to determine whether or not the owner had his hands on the neighbor’s goods. And there’s a similar verse, part of the verse at the inverse nine in which there’s a dispute.
00:02:03:37 – 00:02:38:34
They should be brought before God. The one whom God condemns shall pay double to the other. So interestingly, though, we have seen an assumption in these laws so far that God has given them and abides by them and approves of them. Here we see God actively involved and I don’t think we know fully what this means to be brought before God or the one whom God condemns that is likely discerned via a priest or a prophet.
00:02:38:51 – 00:02:54:41
But. But it is intriguing that the law makes an opportunity for the very import of God to direct their actions. And to my knowledge, this is the first time to my memory, at least this is the first time we’ve seen that.
00:02:55:26 – 00:03:30:36
It underscores a theme that we talked about yesterday and then the study previous as we talked about the law. Then it underscores this idea that at its core, the law recognizes and codifies the fact that God is the one who is the ultimate judge, ruler and even priest over Israel. I mean, ultimately, God is the one whose word provides the structure in order for these folks to live and their lives in which they seek to have in the midst of their living community.
00:03:30:36 – 00:04:02:36
And the reality is that these people are agricultural, that a lot of these laws of restitution here deal with animals and they deal with what you do if you lend an animal to someone else and it dies in their care. There’s some laws here regarding after someone takes property from another person. You know, the law is clear in its intention to keep neighbor from using power against their neighbor, of subverting the neighbor’s best interest.
00:04:02:36 – 00:04:38:54
And this is, I think, maybe an easier connection for us to the Ten Commandments than what we may be had yesterday or the day previous. Because here we can see in the text this idea that one shouldn’t covet that one shouldn’t want what someone else has, that one should be content with gratefulness. And here the idea that if you go and you steal someone else’s property and then you’re found guilty of that, there should be a extreme or at least a proportional sort of consequence for that action, because that violates the integrity of the community.
00:04:38:54 – 00:05:03:46
So maybe because it’s property and it’s not dealing with human social hierarchical structures in the same explicit way that we had, especially when we dealt in the slave section and then, you know, tangentially in the section talking about murder and violence. I do think that maybe as it relates here to the property aspect, that maybe we can see that direct connection to the Ten Commandments.
00:05:03:46 – 00:05:06:03
That is easier for us to understand.
00:05:06:25 – 00:05:30:36
Yeah, I think so. And, you know, we could have said this on the outset, Michael, but I’m not sure that we did it in some cases. Obviously, these laws of restitution are vitally important because there are exceptions to how people behave and people don’t always do what they should. But there is a kind of enforcement of common sense.
00:05:30:36 – 00:05:56:52
You know, if people were faithful and did the right thing, we would need no laws in any society. But so look at verse 14 here. If someone borrows an animal from another and it’s injured or dies, the owner not being present for restitution shall be made. You know, that seems like common sense to us. If I borrow something and I break it, then then I should pay for it.
00:05:56:52 – 00:06:18:28
I should reimburse the person whom it belonged to. Verse 15 If the owner was present, there shall be no restitution because the owner should have had the ability, should have spoken up and said, Don’t, don’t do that. Don’t treat that animal. That isn’t the right way to do, you know, whatever that would be. And if it was hired, only the hiring fee is due.
00:06:18:28 – 00:06:47:16
So there’s a contractual nature in some of these laws, particularly in this kind of section that I think is really interesting. And if people then and now could be simply trusted to do the right thing, you know, we wouldn’t need laws. And I think we see that as we consider a summer of summary of the law, such as Jesus gives us in the New Testament, you know, love God, all your heart, mind, strength and soul, love your neighbor as yourself.
00:06:47:31 – 00:07:35:56
If you lived up to those two things, you wouldn’t need other guidance. You would be moved to do what is right. And so law is specifically intended for the places our character breaks down. Law is intended for the places our society and our community breaks down. That’s why these things exist, because that brokenness that we have been dealing with ever since those opening chapters of Genesis continue to be detrimental, continue to be problematic in the lives of real people then and now, and, you know, we have been trying pretty hard, Michael, to say when we look at these, yes, they sound archaic and outdated, but it’s not as though our brokenness and our failings have
00:07:35:56 – 00:08:01:15
gone away. The problems being addressed in Exodus in a very different time, place and culture are still with us. What happens when we take something that doesn’t belong to us? What what what is at stake in the way that we treat other people’s property as we move into the next section, tomorrow will see what is at stake in the way we treat people, particularly people who are vulnerable.
00:08:01:30 – 00:08:18:00
And these are questions that are relevant, I think, in every age. Whether or not that sounds relevant in the way that we read them, what is behind these laws, I think is always very current and perhaps that makes it a little easier to relate to some of them.
00:08:18:25 – 00:08:29:24
You know, Clint, this is an issue that I think you even deal with children is the difference between an accident and an action of ill intent.
00:08:29:24 – 00:08:29:41
00:08:30:09 – 00:08:53:25
And that’s a really tricky distinction because in some ways it matters if it was an accident because, you know, clearly there are some things you do that are just live in the area of mistake and humans make mistakes. Right. But the contention there or the difficult tension, I mean, is the fact that that doesn’t mean you won’t have to consequence.
00:08:53:25 – 00:09:19:31
And that’s a really difficult thing for a child to understand. But, you know, even here in the text, we see that being lived out on some level in verse six when fire breaks out and catches in thorns so that the grain or staying grain, the fuel is consumed, the one who started the fire will make full restitution. Well, doesn’t say if you meant to start the fire, doesn’t mean to say that you set out with the intent to do harm to that field or to the owner.
00:09:19:53 – 00:09:58:39
It says if you’ve done that damage, then at that point, if it got out of control, then you’re responsible for that. And that is a level of kind of social connectedness, a level of communal expectation that in some ways I think in the 21st century, as cities grow in size, you know, this is an extended version of the sort of growth of the enterprise and industrial production kind of things like as people come together, it’s easier and easier to depersonalize the folks that we live with.
00:09:58:39 – 00:10:19:15
This is less of a temptation. If you live in a more rural area. But if in the urban environment, there is this temptation to make that other person who is the one affected negatively by an action and say, well, that’s not my problem, but that’s that’s not the world and the mindset that is reflected here in the text.
00:10:19:15 – 00:10:34:21
The idea here is that they’re your neighbor. And so therefore, regardless of how it happened or why it happened, you’re responsible and should bear responsibility. And that is a theme that you’re going to see throughout all of the laws and I think may be seen really clearly here.
00:10:34:46 – 00:11:03:21
Agreed. And I think on the other side, Michael, not only are you accountable to the community, but this is how the people that live under the banner of God’s name should act. There should be accountability. There should be responsibility. You may not be guilty of ill will, but you may be responsible through your actions for doing some damage to property or person.
00:11:03:21 – 00:11:19:33
And therefore you are accountable to that. And you know, you brought up children that that’s always a funny conversation to have with kids like, Well, yes, I swung the stick at my brother, but I didn’t mean to hit. Yeah. Like, well, what, what did you mean to do to.
00:11:19:36 – 00:11:20:20
00:11:20:20 – 00:11:58:04
Lightly, you know, just to scare him a little bit. But, you know, that is that’s the tricky thing. And I think that’s the interesting thing. I know that some of this seems boring, but if you can look at this as a snapshot of how a group of people are trying to live together, are trying to manage relationships, are trying to account for human brokenness and moments of dishonesty and moments of bad judgment and moments of punishment and violence and all of the things that we’re too well aware continue to be a plague of human community.
00:11:58:51 – 00:12:25:40
I think this it gives these a living character, Michael, that I think is a helpful way to look into them. I I’m fascinated by the idea that partly what we see when we look at the laws of the Old Testament is a portrait of how people tried to live together in some meaningful and cohesive way. And, you know, we do the same thing.
00:12:26:04 – 00:12:34:49
It’s just our laws and our guidance seems very different in in content and sometimes language. Then there’s.
00:12:35:16 – 00:12:59:52
Clint. The metaphor that I had was that in many ways this is the correction for rose colored glasses, because you can have that high minded language about where the covenant people were, God’s chosen people, where the people have been brought out of Egypt, where the people that walked on dry ground were the people who God gave food to get the law.
00:13:00:14 – 00:13:12:25
Yeah, we’re the people who water came bursting out of a rock. You know, this does not hide. Yeah. The expectation that people are going to be broken.
00:13:12:25 – 00:13:23:56
We’re also the people who take our neighbor’s donkey. And we’re also the people who broke into a house and we’re also the people who took advantage of someone who didn’t have recycling. Yeah, no, we’re all of that.
00:13:24:03 – 00:13:53:45
And the text isn’t afraid of it, Right. It’s not surprised by it. It’s honest about it. It says, you know, we are people on the journey being carried out of Egypt, having Egypt taken out of us, and the process of that requires difficult adjudication. And anybody who’s lived a life with an openness and with an honesty will admit, yeah, it’s full of this, it’s full of really human moments.
00:13:53:45 – 00:14:19:42
And you as a person of faith, shouldn’t be surprised by that. The Bible certainly isn’t. Instead, we should go into it, you know that willing to learn, trust in God in the process and recognizing that there is both grace, but also the reality of consequence, that when one makes a choice, there will be at a consequence that follows.
00:14:19:42 – 00:14:26:02
And in the midst of that tension between those ideals, we continue to go on as the people of God.
00:14:26:31 – 00:14:43:55
Yeah, I think that’s really well said. I think that’s a great point. Michael. Hope that helps when some of these laws seem dry and dusty and very foreign. I hope maybe that perspective gives them a little bit of life there. There’s more here than it appears on the surface, I think.
00:14:43:57 – 00:15:00:21
Yeah, I just a quick promo for tomorrow. I do think some of the laws that we’re going to look at tomorrow are really, really interesting and will generate a really fascinating discussion as well. So I hope that as we go, there’s some breadcrumbs for you and I hope certainly that you all stay warm. If you’re in the area.
00:15:00:21 – 00:15:01:48
I’ll be blessed. We’ll talk to you soon.
00:15:02:04 – 00:15:10:39