The Third Sunday in Lent

Exodus 22:20-23:9

A Matter of Justice

Here, we have what appear to be sundry rules for living.  Actually, they’re much more.  Just as we discussed yesterday, these laws reflect God’s nature, God’s heart.  And at the heart of this God we serve is justice – the source of right, and right relations between people.

Besides the fact that these laws express God’s righteous nature, what else might they express?  The clue lies in verse thirty-one: “You shall be consecrated to me.”  “Consecrated” means to set someone or something apart unto God’s service.  God desires that since He is righteous and holy, His people be righteous and holy before Him.  They are set apart unto Him and are His very own peculiar people” (Exodus 19:5-6; Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16; 2:9-10).  Therefore, we may say that one of the purposes of God’s Law is that His people may be consecrated unto Him through obedience.  As we walk with the Lord in obedience, we are drawn ever closer to Him.  As we are drawn closer to Him, we grow in our desire to obey Him.  It is a beautiful upward spiral as we grow in grace – the very grace He provides that we may walk with Him in obedience in the first place.

Now let us note the subject of these laws: In a word, justice.  And as we see here, justice is not devoid of mercy.  Indeed, mercy seems to be at the heart of justice.  We see a concern for the poor and outcast, and that in no way is justice to be denied anyone through deceitfulness, lying, or hatred.  Indeed, even here in God’s Law, we see love not only of neighbor but of one’s enemy even as that concerns his property and well-being.  We think of loving one’s enemy as a New Testament theme, but God’s heart has always been love and justice and mercy.

Christ revealed the heart of the God which is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  Christ fulfilled the Law where we could not.  This was no after-thought of God; He knew we would fail and that He would send His Son as the remedy for fallen man.  No one was ever saved by keeping the Law, for no one ever did.  God’s people have always been saved by Christ, whether they looked forward to the promise under the old covenant, or, like us, received the promise under the new.  The One on the cross was the Son of the God of the old covenant who made a new covenant with us through His Son’s atonement.  The covenant changed; the God remains the same.  And now we keep the Law and act with justice, not that we may be saved, but because we have been consecrated to the God of justice.

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