10-5-15. Exodus 22:1-31. God Cares About The Vulnerable-my devotional

10-5-15. Exodus 22:1-31. God Cares About The Vulnerable-my devotional

Exodus 22:1-31                                                                                             Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse: 22:26-27                                                                                     10-5-15

If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, 27 because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.”


The Law of Moses taught the Israelites how they should conduct themselves before God and before their fellow human beings. The principles surrounding these laws covered very detail of community life. These are not a collection of “nit picky” laws but rather case studies where the principles of God’s laws are put into action. God was taking particular life situations and demonstrating how these laws can be put into action. Think of them as case studies that help to show how the laws of God can be implemented to protect the nation, to organize the people and to focus the nation’s attention on God.


In this chapter we find two themes threading through these laws, responsibility and compassion towards the weak and vulnerable. God requires a sense of responsibility from his people. Part of this requires forms of restitution. Responsibility goes beyond restitution however. God’s people must overcome selfishness and personal grudges to make things right. The second theme is that God’s people must have compassion towards the weak and vulnerable. God is compassionate and hears the cries of the oppressed. He preserves protections for the weak by promoting true worship among his people.


Let’s see God who is concerned about every aspect of community development among his people.


Part 1: Being Able To Make Restitution is Important For Our Dignity (1-15)


This chapter is full of examples about making restitution. “Restitution” is repeated in chapter 22 at least 6 times. Restitution is very important. Restoration is the restoring of something that is lost to its proper owner. These laws will help ease the pain of loss. They help the wronged person to be more forgiving towards the one who has wrong them. They empower a person less likely to do something negative and destructive again. Being able to make restitution preserves the dignity of a person. There needs to be a means to make things right, even for the poor person who has nothing to give, but himself and his labors.


Verses 1-15, “Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep. 2 “If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; 3 but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed. “Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft. 4 If the stolen animal is found alive in their possession—whether ox or donkey or sheep—they must pay back double. 5 “If anyone grazes their livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in someone else’s field, the offender must make restitution from the best of their own field or vineyard. 6 “If a fire breaks out and spreads into thorn bushes so that it burns shocks of grain or standing grain or the whole field, the one who started the fire must make restitution. 7 “If anyone gives a neighbor silver or goods for safekeeping and they are stolen from the neighbor’s house, the thief, if caught, must pay back double. 8 But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges, and they must determine whether the owner of the house has laid hands on the other person’s property. 9 In all cases of illegal possession of an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or any other lost property about which somebody says, ‘This is mine,’ both parties are to bring their cases before the judges. The one whom the judges declare guilty must pay back double to the other. 10 “If anyone gives a donkey, an ox, a sheep or any other animal to their neighbor for safekeeping and it dies or is injured or is taken away while no one is looking, 11 the issue between them will be settled by the taking of an oath before the Lord that the neighbor did not lay hands on the other person’s property. The owner is to accept this, and no restitution is required. 12 But if the animal was stolen from the neighbor, restitution must be made to the owner. 13 If it was torn to pieces by a wild animal, the neighbor shall bring in the remains as evidence and shall not be required to pay for the torn animal. 14 “If anyone borrows an animal from their neighbor and it is injured or dies while the owner is not present, they must make restitution. 15 But if the owner is with the animal, the borrower will not have to pay. If the animal was hired, the money paid for the hire covers the loss.”


Let’s make a quick “fly over of some of these laws.” …


Verse 1. Here we see protection for property owners. Justice is for all people, the poor and the rich. There must be protection for property owners. The wellbeing of property owners creates a stable economy. A stable economy brings blessing to everyone.


Verse 2. God allows protection to home owners from home invaders. Apparently there is justifiable homicide. You can protect yourselves against criminals who invade your home. But you can not use this as an excuse to kill someone. As soon as daylight comes you must choose the alternative to killing. You can call out to the neighbors and they can come and help you subdue the home invader. You can also give the person a chance to flee. This law provided the means to protect the property of others, but there is an onus on the home owner to choose the saving of life as their top priority.


Verse 3b. A person must pay restitution even if that means working for the owner for free. God shows that there is always a way to make restitution, even if the person is dirt poor. Providing a means to make restitution is important to our sense of dignity.


Verse 5. Honor and respect others’ property rights and land claims. You just cannot take advantage of your neighbors.


Verse 6. You can’t claim, “It is not my fault. Things just got out of control.” If you are the cause of the problem then it is your problem. You need to solve the matter.


Verses 7-8. Again, God is concern about personal property. Those in power cannot take advantage of others.

Verse 9. People are subject to the judge. There is the rule of law in ancient Israel. Even rich property owners had to submit to the rule of law. But the system is only as strong as the judges. The judges could be the strongest or the weakest link.


Verses 10-11. Someone protecting someone else’s property does not ensure its safekeeping. The keepers are not responsible for lost or damaged property. The owner can not take revenge on the keeper. Actually, this could save people from exploitation. A person may say, “Can you take care of this for a week?” and then steal it and blame the keeper to get more for themselves. I would advise not to entrust valuable property to someone in the first place.


Part 2: True Worship Enshrines Protection For The Vulnerable (16-31)


If you examine the following verses there appears to be a two themes here, promoting and preserving true worship and protecting the most vulnerable within society. These themes are actually related. You can not have the protection of the vulnerable without preserving the true worship of God.


Verses 16-31, “If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. 17 If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins. 18 “Do not allow a sorceress to live. 19 “Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal is to be put to death. 20 “Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the Lord must be destroyed. 21 “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. 22 “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. 24 My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. 25 “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. 26 If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, 27 because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate. 28 “Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people. 29 “Do not hold back offerings from your granaries or your vats. “You must give me the firstborn of your sons. 30 Do the same with your cattle and your sheep. Let them stay with their mothers for seven days, but give them to me on the eighth day. 31 “You are to be my holy people. So do not eat the meat of an animal torn by wild beasts; throw it to the dogs.”


Again, let’s take a brief fly over of the laws in this section….


Verse 16. Don’t take advantage of the vulnerable.


Verses 18-20. Protect the vulnerable by dispelling the darkness that keeps people from coming to God. Don’t worship anything other than the Lord.


Verse 21. God warned the Israelites to not treat the aliens unfairly because they themselves were once aliens in Egypt. It is not easy for a person to be uprooted and find themselves in a country that is not their own. They feel alone, vulnerable and out of place. There are strangers in every society. There are refugees. There are new arrivals at school. There are immigrants from other countries. We need to be sensitive to their struggles, and reveal God’s love and mercy to them. We need to be kind and generous. After all, it was God who was kind and gentle to us and redeemed us from our empty way of life. It is also God who brought the alien into your midst in the first place in order to reveal the Gospel to them.


Verses 22-27. The law emphasized fairness and social responsibly towards the poor. God wants the weak the poor to be treated well and given a chance to restore by wealth that may have been taken from them.  The cloak is an example of protecting the rights of the poor. For the poor, the cloak was one of their prize possessions. The cloak was expensive, time consuming to make and rare. The poor person would need their cloak to live in this world. To deprive a person of their cloak was to deprive a person of their clothes and shoes today.


Verse 29. The Israelites were not to tarry in giving their offerings. The first of the harvest was to be dedicated to God, the provider of all things. Giving God the first portion of our income demonstrates that we have put God first place in our lives.


Verses 21-27. Don’t take advantage of the vulnerable and the weak. These people can be exploited and not speak up for themselves. Protect them.


Verses 28-31, Do continue to worship God in spirit and in truth. Show the way to God to others by living a sincere life of faith. Take steps to show the way to God. Make the path clear. Show the work that this is the way to the Savior. Walk in it and be blessed.


There are different categories of the vulnerable in society. Look at the following verses…


17, “If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay

        the bride-price, and she shall be his wife.”

19  “Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal is to be put to death.”

21, “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”

22, “Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless.”

25, “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a

       business deal; charge no interest.”


The vulnerable are the young women, animals, immigrants, the widows, the orphans, and those indebt. In any society there is a tendency for the strong to take advantage of the weak. This is how things operate in a fallen world. God implemented laws to protect the lives, property and dignity of weak people and even animals.


Why care about the vulnerable? Caring for the vulnerable will take effort. The motive is rooted in faith and in the identity of the God whom we worship. God cares about the vulnerable. Verse 27 reads, “…When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.”  Concern for others rests on God’s mercy and compassion. And another reason is that we are God’s holy people. (V. 31a) Caring for the vulnerable is about who we are as believers. If we consider ourselves as God’s holy people then caring for the vulnerable is what we do.



God wants to preserve the protection of the vulnerable by promoting and protecting and preserving true worship among his people. Maintaining true religion in society is the way that God uses to protect the weak and the vulnerable, those who can not speak up for their rights. True worship infuses into society notions of love mercy justice and preserves these things from generation to generation. These principles speak for the weak. True worship enshrines them.


Take away religion and would we care is the virgin is treated with dignity? Would we care about the abuse of animals? Would we care about the rights and welfare of foreigners living among us? Would we care about the plight of the orphans? Or about giving poor people a break and lending them a helping hand?


We can see the benefits of Christianity with the preservation of rights for the migrant workers, and for the rights of the unborn child and the rights of the homeless. We see the Pope telling congress to take care of the poor and the environment. (Sept 2015) The poor are not herded off to the poor house. These things are protected because they are enshrined in the Judeo/Christian Biblical faith. The word of God, from the Bible, has been infused into pour culture. The Gospel has a preserving effect.


There will always be the vulnerable among us. They are a blessing from God. We as God’s holy people need to care about their rights and protections. It is more than just protesting observed injustices and it takes more than just passing secular laws. We can do this best by preserve and infusing true and right religion throughout our society.


Prayer: “Lord, thank you for caring about justice and protections for the vulnerable. Help us to have the same concerns as you do. May these protections be enshrined through the propagation of the Gospel.”


One Word: God cares about the vulnerable. So should his holy people.


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