Obedience in Justice
Posted November 6, 2022
Lesson 10 Fall Quarter
Lesson Text: Exodus 23:1-9
Golden Text: Exodus 23:7
This week’s lesson moves us into the last unit of lessons for this quarter with this unit of lessons being titled – Obedience in Society. As you know, I am big on preaching to the conduct of the believer as I just finished preaching a series of sermons on being more than fair in our society. We will see the Lord’s instructions for how the children of Israel were to conduct themselves, and we will be able to apply these instructions to ourselves.
Our lesson opens with the Lord instructing the children of Israel not to put their hands with the wicked and an unrighteous witness; they were not supposed to circulate a false report (v.1). So, why do you suppose that God instructed the children of Israel not to put their hands with the wicked and the unrighteous?
Not having part with the wicked
Well, let us consider for a moment who the wicked and the unrighteous are? Those who are truly wicked and unrighteous are those that live in total rejection of God and His instructions. So, in other words, the wicked and unrighteous are sinners.
Another question I feel I must ask is this: can the wicked and the unrighteous be just? Let us consider what it means to be just. Now, to be just is to be proper, fair, and lawful. So, one that is unjust is one that is unfair, dishonest, and faithless. The wicked and the unrighteous cannot be just by God’s standards. The reason being is because the wicked and the unrighteous live in a manner where they choose not to abide by His way.
So, why did the Lord desire for the children of Israel not to join in with the wicked and an unrighteous witness? I believe the answer is very clear to us. God desired for the children of Israel to be as He is — God is both faithful and just. Let us remember the wickedness of the children of Israel around this point in time and how they questioned the Lord and worshiped the calf of gold. God was faithful and just towards them.
Why should the children of Israel have acted any differently than the Lord? This same thing holds true for us today. God is a faithful and just God in how He deals with us and our wickedness. So, the Lord desires for the believer to be as He is – faithful and just. Again, this was a big talking point in my most recent series of sermons that I certainly encourage all of you to go check out if you have not done so already.
Not Perverting Justice
With that understanding in mind, God then instructed the children of Israel not to follow a crowd to do evil, nor were they to take the side that would pervert justice (v.2). Again, I ask, why do you suppose the Lord did not want the children of Israel to follow a crowd to do evil?
These questions may sound rather simple and the answer may seem the more obvious, but I feel that these questions are important for us to ask today. The reason I say this is because there is work to do today that can benefit more than just one group of people. You see, the Lord loves all people and He has commissioned us, as believers, not to serve just some people but to serve all people. We are to minister the good news to all people.
God desired for the children of Israel to treat all people equally. Notice there in the next verse, that God even instructed the children of Israel not to show bias in a dispute to someone just because they were poor (v.3). In essence, if the poor had done something wrong, they should have been held accountable as someone who may have been more fortunate.
Again, this is God being faithful to all people. Think about it, when He gave the world His only begotten Son, did the Lord not give Him to everybody? The children of Israel were, again, supposed to be as their Father who is righteous. For all of us who genuinely believe today, we are to be just as our Lord – righteous. The unrighteous would move in a manner that perverts judgment, and therefore, justice as well.
Doing right by the enemy
Let us remember that the Lord, in the Ten Commandments, commanded the children of Israel to love their neighbor. In the commandments, they were commanded not to murder, commit adultery, nor steal from their neighbor (Ex. 20:13-15). The children of Israel were not to bear a false witness against their neighbor (Ex. 20:16) nor to covet anything of their neighbor (Ex. 20:17).
We will recall that Christ shared with us that loving the Lord with our whole heart is first and great commandments. However, and this is very important, the second great commandment is like the first in that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:36-40). So, all of what we are seeing here today about the conduct of the children of Israel is falling in line with what was commanded in the Ten Commandments.
Taking this love and justice even further, we will see that God had instructions for how the children of Israel were to do right by their enemies. The Lord instructed that if the people came across the lost cattle of the enemy, they were not to simply let it remain lost. No, God called the people to return the cattle of the enemy (v.4). Even more, if the cattle of the enemy was injured, they were to help with the injury (v.5).
So, again, this all falls into line with what Christ taught about loving your enemies, even when they spite and persecute you (Matt. 5:44). This is such a hard ideal for believers to understand today, but the idea is that we are to still show love to those who may not love us. Why should we do this? Let us consider that when the world hated God, He gave the world His only begotten Son.
Not perverting righteousness
The next instructions from the Lord speak to being one that moves to always uphold righteousness. God instructed the people not to pervert the judgment of the poor in his dispute (v.6).
What’s interesting about this is that we just read that the children of Israel were instructed not to be bias to the poor; they weren’t supposed to always take the side of the poor, especially in a matter where they had done wrong. So, what is stated here is essentially what was stated earlier which is to say, be fair in any judgment of the poor. If the poor had done wrongly, they should be held accountable.
If the poor brought something up that was wrong against them, the people were to listen to them and to move fairly on their behalf. I feel like this is something that is greatly missing in our conceited society. As I said all of last month, there are several high minded people that solely live and look out for themselves rather than live and look out for others. We are to be more than fair, we are to be faithful and just — be righteous in your judgment. The way that you and I can be righteous in our judgment is by being one that follows and lives by the Lord’s instructions.
In being one to uphold righteousness, God instructed the children of Israel to stay far from a false matter; not to kill the innocent and righteous. The Lord said that He would not justify the wicked (v.7). So, when one knew that a matter was not right, they were not to stand on the side of what was not right.
This, again, is something that many believers struggle with today – what is right and what is wrong when it comes to dealing with our neighbor. How can we determine what is right and what is wrong? Well, according to scripture, we determine what is right or wrong by whether or not it uplifts another.
So, are you bringing harm to another or are you helping to uplift? If the action that you take is an action that brings harm to another, then you are not doing right by that person, are you? If the action that you take is an action that uplifts another, then you would be doing right by that person.
In not perverting righteousness, the children of Israel were not supposed to take bribes; this would cause them to pervert their judgment (v.8). Righteousness should never be for sale. God’s righteousness cannot be bought.
Lastly, the children of Israel were instructed not to oppress a stranger (v.9); they were not supposed to treat them unfairly. Again, this was something that I preached about in my most recent series of sermons. We, as genuine believers, ought not ever move to burden others to the point that they cannot even move. Again, the believer should be uplifters in our society; never should the believer be one to bring others down.
These instructions which were given to the children of Israel are also instructions, through the teachings of Christ, that we should be living by. If more people would live by these instructions, we would not be seeing what we see happening today in our society.