Three Thought-provoking Ordinances

Exodus 20 records God giving the Ten Commandments to the nation of Israel. The chapters that follow contain an assortment of ordinances addressing specific situations. In essence, these were divinely directed applications of the Ten Commandments. Consider the opening three verses in chapter 23.

“You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness” (v. 1). The ninth commandment prohibited bearing false witness against a neighbor. This ordinance warns against doing so because you allowed yourself to get caught up in another’s plot. Whether wicked describes a man’s aim or his unscrupulous means of achieving it or both, the point is, do not be a dupe. Don’t just pick up an allegation and run with it, regardless of where you heard it or whether you would like it to be so. Always be certain your word is truthful.

“You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice” (v. 2). It is easy to follow the crowd. You don’t have to think for yourself, you don’t have to have any courage, and you won’t have to defend yourself. The problem is, the crowd is often going the wrong way (Matthew 7:13-14). In its immediate application, this verse insists that we objectively weigh the facts in a judicial case rather than accept the presumed verdict of the multitude. That principle is capable of a much broader application. Don’t decide right and wrong—in thinking, speech, appearance, behavior, relationships, priorities, etc.— based solely on societal standards; they are often “evil” when measured by God’s standard. Sometimes they even commend what He condemns! Don’t take your “theology” from popular notions, either. God’s word is truth (John 17:17), regardless of what men—even prominent men—may say. “. . . Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar. . .” (Romans 3:4).

“Nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute” (v. 3). Is this one a surprise? We would expect the ordinance to caution against being partial to the rich. The fact is, however, that impartiality goes both ways. The rich are not always in the right, but neither are they always in the wrong. It is quite possible that out of prejudice against them or pity toward those who have less, one might side with the poor man who actually has no just claim. The mere fact that one is poor does not give him a right to what others have.

I understand that we are not under the Law of Moses. The gospel, however, just as certainly requires honesty. These applications call on us to stop and think; and to think for ourselves, rather than blindly accepting whatever we hear.  Give them some thought.

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