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Exodus 21-24: God's Balance

May 24, 2009 Series: Exodus

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Mark 12:28–12:34

Exodus 21-24

May 24, 2009

Sam Ford


A ton of Commandments

The Jewish people have been called “the people of the Book.”  The Jewish faith consists of a series of books actually, beginning with the Bible, then the rabbinical writings like the Mishnah, Talmud, Midrash, Laws codes, commentaries, Literature, legal texts, poetry, prayer  books, even ethical wills recording how parents lived their lives and advised their surviving children.  All of the Jewish writings expressing their way of life are built on the foundation of the 10 commandments. 


  • CIVIC:  Exodus 21.23-25 (laws about reciprocation and restitution)
  • CEREMONIAL:   Leviticus 8 (consecration of priests)
  • MORAL:  Deuteronomy 22.22 (adultery, rape, etc.)
  • STRANGE:  Deuteronomy 25.11-12 (Misc. Laws)


Laws such as these account for 70% of the Pentateuch.  These first five books of the Old Testament contain 613 individual commandments of the Mosaic Law—365 negative ones and 248 positive ones.   Praise God that we are saved by Jesus obedience to the law and not our own.  The Pharisees and the Scribes dedicated their lives to knowing the law.  In particular, the Scribes spent their time studying the Scriptures, as copyists, editors, teachers, and even jurists.  They did this because the books of the Law are the very essence of Jewish spirituality, learning, wisdom, and love for God.  Without it, life for the Jew has no meaning or value. 


In Mark 12, Jesus is arguing with Sadducees about the Resurrection.  If the Pharisees are the Bible thumping fundamentalists, the Sadducees are the Bible-chucking liberals.  The Scribes overhear Jesus tell the Sadducees that they need to read their Bible more and that they are flat out wrong.  The Scribes ears perk up and he asks:   Mark 12.28-34  28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”  Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him.  33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions.


In Jesus response to his question, we see that all of these laws are intended to reveal something about God’s holiness and how we can be holy like him.  As you read the law and see that God cares about minutia like donkeys falling in ditches and what we pay when we steal from someone, we understand that God cares about ALL aspects of our lives.  In essence, all of God’s crimes and punishments, all of his laws, teach Israelwith it means for a people to love God, love their brother, and how to love their neighbor.   



And we want to love all three, but we often fail to love more than one.  We pick and choose HOW and WHEN we love.  In describing Israel, God says Exodus 19.5 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  They are God’s people, they live differently, they are holy nation, they live together, and they are a kingdom of priests, they are to reach others.



Some people make the mistake of loving God and his people only—the brothers.  The sin of the Pharisee was not that the loved God’s Law, it was that they separated from the world completely.  They called people to love God without relationship at all to the extent that they took pride in their spirituality and looked down on the “sinner”.  In Luke 18, Jesus teaches about the attitude of the Pharisees who would thank God in prayer that he was not like all of the sinners.  They Scribes and the Pharisees would hang out reading, memorizing, and singing their Bibles as they ignored the world outside.  Though God made them a priesthood of believers to bless the world, they focused on the fact that they were a holy nation completely separate from the world.  


Fundamentalism – failing to love our neighbor

  1. They love their Lord and their brothers, but fail to love their neighbors.



  1. They can talk about “spiritual” things without having the perceived legalisms, rules, or stuffiness that comes with organized religion.


Parachurch – Failing to love our brother

The problem with relationship only is that they do not see importance in involving them in community of believers.  They would rather spend their time in relationship, doing relationship, having relationship, RELATING and not necessarily doing anything else.   Sometimes those relationships result in sharing the gospel, other times, the person’s ministry transforms into something that in fact ministers to them.  They are no longer on mission for Jesus as much as the relationship becomes the mission itself.  The ‘come as you are’ mentality often degenerates into a “stay as you are” mentality where they become satisfied in the community they have and see no value in joining the body of Christ. They ignore or are ignorant of passages in the Bible, pretty much the entire new Testament, that speaks about the unity of God’s people into one body.  They will talk about being part of the “body” universal a lot, which is real, but never about the church as expressed in a particular gathering.  They love Jesus, talk about Jesus, celebrate Jesus, even in some sense worship Jesus, but they ignore or even distrust the body of Jesus.  They love the word and they proclaim the gospel but never invite, or encourage the individual to participate in a gospel-centered community where they can learn and grow in godliness with others on the same journey.  They love their Lord and love their neighbor, but fail to love their brothers.




Liberalism – Failing to love our Lord

These people fall in love with culture. These individuals, groups, even churches are so intentional about loving the culture that they bring it right into their church and, instead of allow God to filter culture, culture filters and shapes God.   At some level, churches need to stop pretending like it’s 1955 with regard to the culture of their church BUT they should continue to act like its 33 A.D. with regard to the gospel.  Churches that love their neighbor and their brother can fail to love their Lord.  They convert people to their community and even to good works but neither their community or their good works are defined by Scripture.  It is the ultimate “come as you are” community that degenerates into a “stay as you are community.” They do what the culture does so much so it is difficult to discern the differences between the two.  In essence, they bring a false gospel of accommodation out of fear that the true gospel will be to confrontative.  By seeking to bless people as they are, the fail to call them to a repentant faith that transforms them.  They love their brothers and their neighbors, but fail to love their Lord.


Loving people through the GOSPEL (Love our God, neighbor, and brother)

When we fail to love our LORD, neighbor, and brother simultaneously, we bury our mission in one of three roles.  We either call people to people to repentance without relationship, relationship with repentance, or we redefine relationship and repentance to suit our desires.  In order to truly be a worshipper of God, we, as individuals,  love our LORD, OUR NEIGHBOR, and OUR brother at the same time.  How?


Love for God:  We love God not when we recognize the proper use of the law.  It shows us what it means to love God and, in turn, love people, and that we fail to do both.  Namely, the law exists to show us our sin, because sin is breaking the law.  We must recognize that the law is good, but we it cannot save anyone because everyone BUT Jesus is a lawbreaking sinner.  Jesus alone perfectly fulfilled the law.  When he died, perfect sinless Jesus was punished for our failure to meet the law, in our place, as our substitute.   He took our sins through his DEATH and gave us the righteousness of his perfect obedience in his resurrection.  This is what is called, the GOSPEL—the most important thing Paul writes in 1Cor 15.1-8. 


And in Romans 1.16, he says, the POWER for salvation is the gospel.  Romans 1.16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.  And 9 chapters later, Paul writes that people are saved when the hear the gospel.  Romans 10.17  17 So zfaith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.  Just participating in thechurch ofGod will not be salvation.  Just having relationships with the lost will not save them.  There is not inherent power relationship will not save, but it will make possible the communication of the gospel. 


Love for our brother:  And those who believe the gospel, believe that they are not good people but broken, rebellious evil people who have been saved by God’s grace, gather together to worship everything that God has done.  That is the church.  We covenant with one another in mutual submission and behave like a family.  Those who declare Jesus as Lord are brothers and sister in Christ.  There is no other time, no other place where we can gather like we do once a week (our Sabbath day of worship), to honor God, to worship together, and to experience:

1)      Learning: built up in their faith as we open God’s Word

2)      Experiencing: knitted together in community

3)      Equipping:  so they can faithful engage those in the culture with the gospel which experiencing gospel transformation in their own lives.

4)      Learning: Learn about our God as we speak truth

5)      Service:  Serve one another Grow together in love

6)      Fellowship: Encourage one another

7)      Accountability: Confess with one another


Love for our Neighbor: But we do not just stay in the church.  We cannot ignore our neighbors around us who live in the various cultures around us.  We go out, as God has uniquely gifted us, and given us passions, and opportunity to evangelize in our personal contexts.   Call to being missional is not a call for the church, its events, or happenings, but for the people to livg and speak the gospel regardless of the pressures to compromise the truth or to conceal its power within the safety of the church.  It is to unleash the gospel to transform and reform culture as a google of missionaries everywhere.  Many people wonder or ask questions like, “What is the church doing…” or “How is the church going to reach XYZ?”   What we have to do is delineate the role of the “church” and the role of the individual. 


The church is responsible to train and send out missionaries into the world, it is not the missionary itself. 1Peter 2.9  9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  We need to see ourselves as priests, as mediators between the gospel and men.  It is a call to look at our lives through the lense of the gospel: 

  • Different look at your Authority & Empowerment
  • Different look at your Gifting & Passions
  • Different view of your Time & Resources
  • Different view of your Context asMission
    • Parents
    • Employees
    • Neighborhoods
    • Recreation




z Gal. 3:2, 5

More in Exodus

July 19, 2009

Exodus 40: God's Dwelling

July 12, 2009

Exodus 37-39: God's House

July 5, 2009

Exodus 35-36: God's Builders