Tuesday, July 19, 2016

We're all foreigners, widows and orphans (gospel-shaped ethics in the Law)


I'm reading Exodus with my seven year old. In chapter 2:23-25 we read:
 The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.
The LORD acts and says in chapter 4:
 22 Then say to Pharaoh, “This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I told you, ‘Let my son go, so that he may worship me.’ But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.”’
Which, through the defeating of the Pharaoh brings the people to worship God. There, before being taught of the LORD's beautiful means of atonement through the types and shadows of the Tabernacle and Priesthood they're given some hard-hitting case law to help them build a community life that reflects the heart of God, being "holy as I am holy..." The tone is very much one of ensuring care and accountability and confession before God.

This includes in chapter 22 these poignant word:
21 ‘Do not ill-treat 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.
The gospel-shaped motivation here is stunning. You were foreigners, so treat foreigners well - though you were oppressed, show care. The focus on foreigners, widows and orphans is all about those who cannot provide for themselves - human beings in our basic sinful condition, in need of one of who can provide for us. We may wear a facade of competency but we are more dependent than we are independent.

And, if you don't show mercy to those in need, then when they cry out you'll be to the LORD as Pharaoh was, for he will hear their cry and put you to the sword. A strong warning. And a reminder that receipt of salvation is intended to turn us inside out toward others. Christian faith should never result in us forgetting where we've come from and all that the LORD did in rescuing us as we cried to him... Then let us love because he loved first loved us. So simple, and yet I am so sinful, selfish, stubborn and prone to stuff up. The Word of God cuts deeply, and this divinely inspired case law is no exception - calling and turning me to the LORD.

In the end, a Christian, a follower of Jesus, is one who cried to the LORD and was heard by the LORD - and O how he heard! How magnificiently, how wondrously, how cruciformly, how lovingly in Christ... a love accompanied by the gift of the indwelling Spirit who opens our eyes to Christ, and teaches us a new way to be human.

Image - Creative Commons - Nicholas Vigier

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