I’m reading Exodus at the moment, and once you get into chapter 20 and beyond, the laws for the Israelites come thick and fast. Some of them seem harsh and alien to us, but I think it’s important to remember that the Israelites lived in a different place to most of us, in a very different time to all of us and in a very different culture to all of us. It’s also important to remember that as far as I can tell from my reading of the first two books of the Bible, the Israelites had no formal legal system of their own prior to Moses’ reception of the Law on Mt. Sinai, therefore it should be no surprise that the laws are so comprehensive and cover all aspects of life. These chapters are an example of God’s moral provision for his chosen people; he was setting out a way for them to live that would be in accordance with his diving perfection. As it was impossible for them not to sin, he gave the Israelites sacrificial laws as well as social laws that would allow them to become spiritually clean.
However, the point of this blog isn’t to discuss the minutiae of God’s laws, I want to point out a verse that shines through and means so much, even today. What we as Christians see in the old laws is moral guidance that was clarified by Jesus and sacrificial requirements that were fulfilled by Jesus – the majority of them can only be understood properly once we look at the picture of God given by the New Testament as well. That said, there is one verse that, for me, reveals something of God’s true nature and is a verse that Christians can look to as much as Orthodox Jews. It’s this:
Exodus 22:22-24 – Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless.
That says to me that God cares deeply about the most disadvantaged people. Amidst all these laws and statutes about debts and murders and religious ceremonies, God tells us that he cares especially for the most broken, the most helpless. He cares so much that he will personally see to it that justice is done when crimes are committed against them. If you’re in a helpless position and God doesn’t seem to be doing anything, wait on him and he will deliver you; justice will be done.
I think there is yet more to take from this as Christians trying to live Godly lives. It is mentioned here and several times in the New Testament that God cares for the ‘widows and the fatherless’ i.e. those with no other support in their lives. Shouldn’t we, as followers of God, look to help these people too? Should we not look to meet their needs and care for them, as God does? This is a promise to the helpless and a call to the people of God, a call not to disparage the weak in society, a call to fight for them. Will we answer?