“House Rule’s part 2”
“A More Perfect Union”
II.) Vs. 1-19 Equal justice and general welfare
Several hundred years ago a group of idealistic men and women sat down to establish a new nation. With nothing more then personal experience and the Word of God as a model they pinned these opening words. “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.” The rest as they say is history! A nation of free men and woman, self governed, yet dedicated to the mutual benefit of all its citizens. Equal justice for all, the right of everyone to peruse happiness. We are not the first nation that sought such ideals, neither are we the first to fail to achieve them. In this chapter God reveals His heart towards justice and how to treat our enemies. He sets forth a year in which every member of the nation will demonstrate their trust in him by taking the year off. He gives them three national holidays in which they will celebrate His ability to provide and care for them. Lastly He declares His presidency and tells them how to make sure that they will succeed in the land that He has promised them.
With all that as a back drop, why did they not make it? The answer may surprise you, it’s the same reason why these United States have not achieved our ideal either.
II.) Vs. 1-19 Equal justice and general welfare
These first three verses primarily deal with the conduct of those that are judges for the nation. The judges also served as the jury and it was important that these men would be fair.
Vs. 1 The Jews interpreted this law by first making sure that the judge had a character that was zealous for what was right irregardless of the parties that were involved.
- To insure this, he would not listen to one side of the story without the other party present.
- If one of the litigants was unable to express himself then the judge would help them in getting the facts of the case form their perspective out.
- There was a strict policy against slander, the litigants were told to just state the facts of the case and not attack person’s character.
- Ten types of witness’s were not permitted to give testimony: Women (to emotional), slaves (not independent thinkers), minors (to immature), mentally deficient (not able to think), blind (can’t be eye witness), deaf (can not hear questions or answer them), relatives of litigants or persons involved in the case (not impartial), one who can not control their own lusts (unable to understand importance of telling the truth), wicked person, which is described as a person who did not practice their faith (did not care about truth).
Vs. 2 The idea behind this was to make sure that the innocent was not convicted with out a majority of two. There were 23 judges and there had to be at least 13 to convict a person. The judge had to make sure that he was not just following the crowd in his decision even if the crowd was far more experienced then he was. In the case of a capital offence the first persons to speak were the newest justices to make sure that the older ones would not sway them.
Vs. 3, 6 No partiality could be shown for the poor man just because he was poor, for that would be unfair to the other litigant. But neither could you favor the wealthy at the expense of the poor. To make sure that there was no perversion of justice is what lay behind these rules.
The Romans depicted justice as a woman that was blindfolded, with a sword in one hand and scales in the other. The idea was that justice would be tender but without respect to persons, just in her judgment concerning penalty but fair. Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” These rules ought to govern our behavior towards each other as well. We should not hear the testimony against our neighbor unless substantiated by two or three credible witnesses. We should not listen to one side of the story without having the other person present. We should not just follow what is popular in making a judgment against another. Justice and what is right ought to be what decides our actions not who is involved. We should not allow someone to attack the character of another instead just state the facts. If the body of Christ had done this through out the year’s there would never have been any church splits!
Vs. 4-9 These verses promote civil conduct and kindness towards those you have a problem with. These laws were set up so that a person would never need to go to court. Jesus stated them this way, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” and “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”
Vs. 4-5 The responsibility to love your enemies was even brought over to their animals. The Jews were always to ask themselves what they would want done if they were in the other person’s shoes. Further more if a man came upon a scene where a buddy of his had an animal down and an enemy had an animal down he was to help the enemy before the friend so as not to give into his feelings.
Vs. 7-8 Here we see the protection of the innocent from any miscarriage of justice. It was better for the guilty to go free then the innocent put to death. How different that was when Caiaphas the high priest said that it was better that Jesus, who was innocent, “should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” Circumstantial evidence was not admissible under Jewish law for they did not have the means to test such evidence as we do today; instead only witnesses who actually saw the crime could testify. Further more if the testimony of two witnesses disagreed on the details then the person was set free of the charge. It was a crime to bribe a judge; if at any time he had received a gift or service from a litigant he had to dismiss himself from the trial.
Vs. 9 Since the Jews knew what it was like to be a stranger in the land they were to always treat those who were strangers with great respect and care. The idea was to always put yourself in the shoes of the other person and treat them, as you would want to be treated yourself.
Our treatment ought to always be the result of love not obeying the law. Jesus has treated us so well it is the very least that we can do is treat other as He would treat them Himself. Folk’s spend the rest of your life treating other’s the same way you would want to be treated. Husbands, when you get home from work your tired, but you know what so is your wife. So when dinner is done get up and do the dishes for that is what you would want done if it were you. The Word of God is extremely practical if you want to apply it in your life!
Vs. 10-13 The Sabbath was given to the Jews so that they would learn to trust God for His provision. We are told here that the Sabbath day led to a Sabbath year in which the nation would take the year off as far as the land was concerned. For six years they would work the land then on the seventh they would not work it at all and during that time what ever came up in the land was ok to eat as long as you left enough for the poor, the stranger and the beasts of the field to eat as well. There was to be no storing up all that you had in other words. You were allowed to irrigate the land but it was forbidden to do any work to prepare the land for the following year, neither could you alter the way you ate the produce or sell it during the Sabbath year. All these laws came into effect 30 days prior to the beginning of the new year.
There are certain Christian sects that maintain worship on the Sabbath and really think that they are doing it according to God’s Word yet I don’t know of a single one of them that every seven years takes the whole year off! Yet this was just as important as keeping the weekly Sabbath’s. In fact, according to 2 Chron. 36:20-21, it was Israel’s failure to keep the seventh year Sabbath in the land of promise that led to their judgment by God and captivity to Babylon for exactly 70 years since it was 490 years that they had been in the land. In Lev. 25:20-21 we are told that God would make sure that they had enough in that year by blessing them with enough crops for three years in the Sabbath year. The purpose of the year of was to worship God, so they were not to be into any other gods not even to mention their names. Being an agrarian society meant that these other gods were all dealing with fruitful harvests. So God did not want to be trusting in any thing other then Him.
God wants you and I to be trusting in Him for everything each and every day. There are times in our lives that we go through a place where we are totally dependent upon Him for everything, kind of like a Sabbath year, so instead of trusting in your own work why not learn to trust in Him. And while you are in that state make sure you are gracious to everyone else as well!
Vs. 14-17 Along with the Sabbath year in which they set aside the whole year to appreciate the Lord’s provision God gave them three national holidays which, coincided with three harvest times, that they would recognize three specific attributes about the Lord concerning His nature.
- 15 Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover): The was observed around mid March to mid April and was immediately after Passover. It was at this time that the barley grain would be harvested. This celebration was to remind them that God is a deliver. To us this celebration should remind us of salvation from judgment by way of the blood of the lamb and based upon that we need to put away sin (leaven) from our lives.
- 16 Feast of Harvest, Feast of First fruits or Feast of weeks: It was called by all three of these names and took place 50 days after the Feast of unleavened Bread during mid May to mid June thus we know it as Pentecost (meaning 50). It was during this time when the wheat would be harvested and God was given the “first fruits” of the harvest. Here they celebrated God as the provider. The Jews would go out into their fields and orchards the moment they began to see the crops ripen and they would tie a piece of straw around those crops making them the first fruits of the harvest and thus dedicated to the Lord. When they would ripen completely they would bring them into the temple and present them to the priest with great rejoicing. This was to be seen as such a celebration that you could not participate in this if you had just experienced a death of a close relative. So they would place 1/6th of their first fruits in an attractive basket along with seven doves to present at the temple. Some of the doves were to be sacrificed others were a gift to the priest. Now upon entering Jerusalem they would be greeted by crowds of cheering people and then as they went into the courtyard of the temple the Levites would chant Psalms. Upon giving the basket to the priest he would quote Deut. 16:3, “I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come to the country which the LORD swore to our fathers to give us.” This is the day that the church became the “first fruits” of those who have been saved by the blood of the Lamb. So we to ought to enter into the temple bringing our first fruits with great joy and celebration.
- 16 Feast of Ingathering or Feast of Tabernacles: This would take place around mid September to mid October when the produce from the vines began to ripen. It was to commemorate the dwelling in tents for 40 years. Every year at this time they would build booths and move out side for a whole week. This holiday follows Yom Kippur, which is a time, spent fasting and prayer seeking forgiveness for the sins of the last year. It was to remind the Jews of the blessings gathered from the field. A procession would be formed and as they worshiped they would offer this prayer; “For Your sake, O our God, save now (Hosanna)! For Your sake, O our Creator, save now! For Your sake, O our Redeemer, save now! For Your sake, O You who search for us, save now!” This I believe points to the future as God will one day gather His people into the Millennial Kingdom.
Vs. 19 The prohibition against boiling a young goat in its mother’s milk may have something to do with a pagan ritual in which this was done then sprinkled upon the fruit trees and field to promote fertility. Now the law only spoke of not eating the meat of mammals, which are the only ones that produce milk. Yet, if you go over to Israel you will not be able to have a cheeseburger. So don’t be asking for a “double double”! In fact, you are not supposed to have any dairy products for at least six hours after eating meet. It was wrong to make the mother an accomplice in the death of her child.