Equal Justice for All
The Lord said:
1 Don't spread harmful rumors or help a criminal by giving false evidence.
2Always tell the truth in court, even if everyone else is dishonest and stands in the way of justice. 3 And don't favor the poor, simply because they are poor.
4 If you find an ox or a donkey that has wandered off, take it back where it belongs, even if the owner is your enemy.
5If a donkey is overloaded and falls down, you must do what you can to help, even if it belongs to someone who doesn't like you.
6 Make sure that the poor are given equal justice in court. 7Don't bring false charges against anyone or sentence an innocent person to death. I won't forgive you if you do.
8Don't accept bribes. Judges are blinded and justice is twisted by bribes.
9 Don't mistreat foreigners. You were foreigners in Egypt, and you know what it is like.
Laws for the Sabbath
The Lord said:
10 Plant and harvest your crops for six years, 11but let the land rest during the seventh year. The poor are to eat what they want from your fields, vineyards, and olive trees during that year, and when they have all they want from your fields, leave the rest for wild animals.
12 Work the first six days of the week, but rest and relax on the seventh day. This law is not only for you, but for your oxen, donkeys, and slaves, as well as for any foreigners among you.
13Make certain that you obey everything I have said. Don't pray to other gods or even mention their names.
Three Annual Festivals
(Exodus 34.18-26; Deuteronomy 16.1-17)
The Lord said:
14Celebrate three festivals each year in my honor.
15 Celebrate the Festival of Thin Bread by eating bread made without yeast, just as I have commanded. Do this at the proper time during the month of Abib, because it is the month when you left Egypt. And make certain that everyone brings the proper offerings.
16 Celebrate the Harvest Festival each spring when you start harvesting your wheat, and celebrate the Festival of Shelters each autumn when you pick your fruit.
17Your men must come to these three festivals each year to worship me.
18Do not offer bread made with yeast when you sacrifice an animal to me. And make sure that the fat of the animal is burned that same day.
19 Each year bring the best part of your first harvest to the place of worship.
Don't boil a young goat in its mother's milk.
When our first parents rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) they ceased to be God-centered in their perspective but instead attempted to make sense of life from their own perspective. This was a fatal mistake and one we continue to make. We need God’s perspective if we are going to live wisely – which is another way of saying that we need to be God-centered instead of relying solely on our own judgment.
This passage is composed of three parts. First there are laws governing the administration of justice, then there is instruction about observing God’s Sabbath both weekly and annually, and finally there are rules for the observance of three annual festivals: Unleavened Bread, Harvest, and Ingathering.
But what is of particular interest is that these laws and instructions assume that God is at the center of all things. He is at the heart of our very existence. He is the one who defines right and wrong, how our lives are to be lived in reference to him, and how we are to celebrate his works in redemption and providence.
As sinful people we too easily forget this. We live as though life is all about us – our happiness, peace, and prosperity. But this is not the biblical perspective and we will never find the meaning and joy we crave until we recognize this. Life is about knowing, serving and loving God. Many years later Jesus put it this way: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, who you have sent.” (John 17:3). The sooner we acknowledge this, the better!
Heavenly Father, Forgive us for the times when we have forgotten that life is found in you and in you alone. Re-focus our minds and hearts and fill us with your Spirit so that we might fulfill your purpose for our lives. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.