To exploit or not to exploit
By Andrew Chan, PBC, Vancouver, BC
June 20, 2001
18 “A sorceress must not be allowed to live.
19 “Anyone who has sexual relations with an animal must be executed.
20 “Anyone who sacrifices to any god other than the LORD must be destroyed.
21 “Do not oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.
22 “Do not exploit widows or orphans. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, then I will surely help them. 24 My anger will blaze forth against you, and I will kill you with the sword. Your wives will become widows, and your children will become fatherless.
25 “If you lend money to a fellow Hebrew in need, do not be like a money lender, charging interest. 26 If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge of repayment, you must return it by nightfall. 27 Your neighbor will need it to stay warm during the night. If you do not return it and your neighbor cries out to me for help, then I will hear, for I am very merciful.
28 “Do not blaspheme God or curse anyone who rules over you.
29 “Do not hold anything back when you give me the tithe of your crops and your wine.
“You must make the necessary payment for redemption of your firstborn sons.
30 “You must also give me the firstborn of your cattle and sheep. Leave the newborn animal with its mother for seven days; then give it to me on the eighth day.
31 “You are my own holy people. Therefore, do not eat any animal that has been attacked and killed by a wild animal. Throw its carcass out for the dogs to eat.
I believe all of God’s Word is inspired. But some of us maybe less than inspired when they read the above text.
At first blush we may ask, What in the world has that gotta to do with us today? Obviously we don’t put witches/sorcerers to death now, right? There are Christian agencies to lend out money to Christians and charged interest too, so what gives? Didn’t Christ fulfill all the law’s requirements? We’ve governmental agencies now that look after orphans and widows, and since we have freedom of religion we can’t put folks to death for expressing their religious practices and beliefs? So why waste time?
Only because it is still God’s word and it has loads to teach us how conduct life as a special distinct people holy unto God just as Israel was taught in OT days. Their lessons are also our lessons, if we take a deeper look at it.
Facts to remember as we go thru’ this section of God’s law:
1. Grace: Ex.19:4
And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 4‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5‘Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6‘And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” Ex.19:3-6 (NKJV)
19:4 – brings home the fact of grace – it was God’s doing, bearing them on eagles’ wings – speech talks of God’s gentle but firm love acting on their behalf when they did not deserve it. Here Moses is instructed to tell how much God does love them and desires for them to know they have a special place in redemption history, privileged status among all nations. See it also in this next Scripture verse:
7 “The LORD did not choose you and lavish his love on you because you were larger or greater than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! 8 It was simply because the LORD loves you, and because he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the LORD rescued you with such
amazing power from your slavery under Pharaoh in Egypt. Deut.7:7-8 (NLT)
This is not a matter of “do this” and then I will come thru for you and save you. Nor a matter of wow Israel is filled with such nice guys and gals. They are so cute! They are so holy and obedient, never rebel, never use any swear words, wash their hands after they have used the washroom, don’t worship idols, etc. It is just simply GRACE in a big way, there’s no ifs and buts about it. He just wants to lavish his love on people. It’s a special relationship –“brought you to myself.” Not merely being brought out of Egypt to the Promised Land but to God! And today same grace is applied to all who believe in Christ... grace is the way God works! If righteousness could be gained thru’ law, we’ll all be dead in the water, no one can fufill them, not one and Christ’s death means nothing (Gal.2:21, Rom.3:20-28, 5:1).
2. Grace needs a response: Ex.19:5
. 5‘Now therefore, IF YOU WILL INDEED OBEY My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.
Now God saves His people, to have a special relationship, not just for the sake of showing off His power to dominate humans and human governments. Reciprocity is a key to vital relationship. No one likes to have a relationship with things, they don’t talk back, nor feel, nor love, nor communicate in any way. Of all the earth’s peoples God chose them to show the world that God is not just an impersonal force to be used by people who owns light-sabres. We are His special treasure when we do respond to the overtures of grace. That we too are a chosen people in Christ, treasured by Him and behold what love He has for us that we are His called His children (1 Jn.3:1, I Peter 2:9)!
3. Grace needs to be extended to others: Ex. 19:6
- And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ This is a freed-up ex-slave community that needs lots of guidance in how to be a community of people that has no slave masters telling them what to do every minute. How does one then extend grace to others as God has done to Israel? Instead of oppressing whips and forced labor, how does one live in the liberating ruler of God’s great love and kindness? Question ought to be asked is - How do you live so that I will be able to emulate the liberating God who has saved me and not cause pain as Egypt has caused me? How can I be a blessing to my fellow ex-slaves and others and communicate to the nations that we are a privileged nation chosen by God of the universe, to be His set apart as representatives (priests) to tell of the grace of God? Remember too we are a "royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people" ( 1 Peter 2:9, NRSV).
Hence the law must be interpreted from point of view of grace. For rules without relationship breeds rebellion (paraphrase of Josh McDowell). We know the law alone kills and condemns! From the grace of God, comes God’s expectation of His special people and Ex.22 is the help God provided to distinguish themselves from the slavish attitudes of their past, to distinguish themselves from the practices of the pagan nations as they relate to one another in the freed-up community of God.
So in God’s rule of grace they are now not to have this one word in their position as God’s representative - “exploitation.” No longer shall they follow Egypt’s ways or copy the ways of the nations! Thye are to be distinct special people loved by God, graced by God’s presence! They are to live out the position of grace and the practice of it is encoded in these rules for the purpose of teaching grace. It is not a guessing game re: How are they to be a called out community of faith that will be distinct from the nations around them? In these verses in the Bible we can get a sense of how to be God’s special people and how it can be fleshed out in a new situation where no one has gone before. The big idea here is for that to occur there must be no room for exploitation of any sort. This can be seen in…
1. Distorted Spirituality (v.18): Spiritual power apart from God is deadly.
Sorcerers basically exploit superstitious beliefs of fearful weak people. E.g. my own mom paid out countless dollars to mediums in Chinese temples to tell fortunes, get “cures” for ailments, buy favors of the gods. Sorcerers distort God’s holy power, removes faith in God from people to faith in people and superstitions. They victimize gullible people who are in rebellion against God, refusing to trust the revealed truth of God. Not that these sorcerers have any real power that rivals God’s, so that they needed be wiped out but that they distort true spiritual power of God for the purposes of their own gain i.e. exploitation. It is not to serve but it is pure dishonest living akin to stealing! To suggest that other “powers” are equal to God’s is an insult to God’s power. Even Paul recognized it as counterfeit, i.e. not real spiritual power but mere deception and lies: 2 Thess.2:9-11 (NLT) says: “ 9 This evil man will come to do the work of Satan with COUNTERFEIT POWER AND SIGNS AND MIRACLES. 10 He will use every kind of WICKED DECEPTION TO FOOL those who are on their way to destruction because THEY REFUSE TO BELIEVE THE TRUTH THAT WOULD SAVE THEM. 11 So God will send GREAT DECEPTION upon them, and they will believe all these LIES. 12 Then they will be condemned for not believing the truth and for enjoying the evil they do.”
Today’s "sorcery" are the lies and deception of those spiritual gurus who claim enlightenment apart from God’s revealed truth in the Bible. Anyone who relies on spiritual "power" ala Egyptian sorcery is on death row. Because they victimize the vulnerable!
2. Distorted Sexuality (v.19): Abuse of sex is road to death.
Exploit animals for sex? Even thought of it, is revolting! Yet is is written down to tell how serious a sin is when sex acts occur out of the boundaries of God’s will. To have sex outside of God’s order is about exploitation - here we find example of going as low as exploiting helpless animals. Sex is beautiful and precious as it is God’s design for an intimate relationship. It not good for man to be alone so God created Eve, not a baboon for Adam and to distort this design is saying that the Creator did not know what he is doing. To have sex outside of His design is real slap in the face of the Creator, an act of rebellion worthy of death! That there is now sexual deviancy that goes down to the level of an animal act reflects not merely bad taste and despicable but it also reveals the hunger of humanity for love/intimacy/relationship and the distortion of sex with other unspeakable acts is to degrade this aspect of humanity. It does not reflect God’s heart and ways. It only reinforces the sinful notion of using things for purpose of exploitation and self-gratification with no concern for real human community nor for God. It does not reflect how God wants people to enjoy real love and intimacy. There can be so much enjoyment within God’s design of love and intimacy (see Song of Songs for example). So no going after fake feelings of fulfillment when there is truth and beauty and real love and intimacy available. Even in the NT we get this same teaching: “ 3 Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. 4 Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes—these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.” Eph.5:3,4 (NLT)
3. Distorted Salvation (v.20): Setting people free rather than oppression is God’s way.
Concept of pagan sacrifice - to appease vengeful angry gods who threaten destruction or to extract favors from the gods - sense of oppression. Exploitation of people’s fears and need for security whereas God of the Bible frees up to a loving relationship – see Ex.19:3-6 bearing them on eagles’ wings and “brought you to myself.” Salvation comes from the Lord alone! To sacrifice to another god, is to credit the deliverance from Egypt to others gods – that’s a real insult to God! Further, no need to sacrifice to other gods, the salvation story of the Exodus has already occurred. To sacrifice to others gods, to worship other gods, is a rejection of the Exodus story. It trivializes what He has done. It shows no appreciation for God who deserves all the credit for why they are now able to be away from oppressive rule of Egypt. He is the One who is to be worshipped exclusively. Today many like to think of other ways to God, but Jesus is clear that only way to God is through Him (John 14:6).
4. Distorted Support (v.21-27): Help those who cannot help themselves.
There is a sense that God only helps those who help themselves. This is an idea from hell. The Exodus story once again destroys this popular view of life. If it were true, God would have never swoop down on eagles’ wings and rescue Israel. Christ would never have died for sinners who cannot help but sin. Grace would have never been a word that is used in the Christian faith. That is why to offer help to others in trouble, the foreigner, widow, orphan, penniless instead of exploiting their condition is to mirror the grace of God that they have experienced personally. So live it out!
5. Distorted Speech (v.28): Speak well of people especially those in authority.
Exploitation of those in authority – because they are in the public arena, leaders often vulnerable to all sorts of verbal attack. Exploiting those who in public (leaders) and blaspheming God put together in same sentence, interesting eh? I think it is because God’s Word is primarily transmitted through leaders. That is why when David had the opportunity to kill Saul, he is sensitive enough to not allow his feelings cloud his judgment, so he refused to kill Saul. To reflect God accurately as God’s special people in this world, they need to learn to respect authority. The putdowns need to be cut out from out vocabulary. But criticizing leaders these days is an Olympic sport. Good example is: Stock Day’s troubles in Canadian Alliance Party , do u think he can lead well now, with all that public criticism/bickering? Heb.13:17 (NKJV) writes: “17Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” When you criticize and tear down the leader who is doing his duty, you will gain little, you’ll likely be as miserable. See how Stock Day’s troubles now reflect badly on the whole Alliance Party.
That is why Paul I believe under the Spirit’s inspiration needed to pen these words as Eph.4:29 (NLT) records: “29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
And then verse 30 continues that God is grieved when such words are used “30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.” So Paul makes it clear what is God’s intention verses 31-32: “31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Our speech ought to reflect who we are in Christ who loved us and gave Himself for us.
6. Distorted Sacrificial Giving (v.29-30): Giving is a reminder of God’s heart.
To withhold giving is clearly not reflective of the exodus God who gave Himself to free His people. It shows no understanding that God has freed His people. No recollection of exodus story – where firstborn of Egypt died and sacrificed and Israel set free. “You shall not delay to make offerings…” v.29 (NRSV) Oh yes, the sin of procrastination easily comes and trip us up. The priests do depend on sacrificial giving for their livelihood, and to not provide generously and on time for the welfare of the priests is to exploit them. Ephesians 5:1, 2 (NLT) says: “Follow God’s example in everything you do, because you are his dear children. 2 Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins. And God was pleased, because that sacrifice was like sweet perfume to him.” Greed is not often brought to the fore in materialistic world, where greed is encouraged but heed these words (Eph.5:5-6, NLT):
“ 5 You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or GREEDY PERSON will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a GREEDY PERSON IS REALLY AN IDOLATER who worships the things of this world. 6 Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the terrible anger of God comes upon all those who disobey him.”
7. Distorted Supping (v.31): If it is good for the dogs, then it’s not good enough for God’s people.
It is unclean to eat stuff that is torn to shreds by wild animals. Who knows what kind of diseases could be carried by these wild beasts? God’s people won’t live long enough to be His special priests and holy nation on earth if they were to practice eating food that’s fit be thrown out i.e. for the dogs. Principle here is to eat healthy – don’t exploit your own body and take it for granted. Give attention to healthy eating habits. Vulnerable folks gorge themselves fill their emptiness just to feel good about themselves or some become bulimic or aneroxic. Need to be aware food can also lead to exploitation of our God created bodies. Yes, we enjoy good food, but don’t just eat anything without any restraint! How many have destroyed themselves by unhealthy eating practices? We are to be a consecrated set apart holy people, and how can we be distinguished as such if our eating practices does reflect any respect for God’s holy temple? Therefore, as Eph.5:17-20 (NLT) teaches us: “ 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but try to understand what the Lord wants you to do. 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, let the HOLY SPIRIT FILL AND CONTROL YOU. 19 Then you will sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, making music to the Lord in your hearts. 20 And you will always give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Really need to think through our habits, am I filling life whether it be eating or drinking, exercise, movies, internet, video-games just to kill off boredom, exploiting things for our titillation, not understanding God’s will for my life and not letting the Spirit have full rein in me? Practically, am I filled with just the stuff for the "dogs" and not the stuff that’s really good, praiseworthy, pure (Phil.4:8)? Am I just exploiting my body that’s built as the temple of God’s Spirit? OR am I living for the glory of God even with what I consume physically, mentally, spiritually?
A lot of what is said in 22:18-31 has to do with exploitation. The choice is up to us to exploit or not to exploit. To follow God is to avoid exploitation of any sort. There must be no room in our lives for it.
God chose the weakest of nations (i.e. Israel) to love, instead of exploiting her or bullying her. Shouldn’t that be the case for God’s people to reflect His Kingdom as priests and a holy nation? Shouldn’t that be the case for us as well? Recall the teaching of Paul to live a life worthy of His calling, after his splendid treatment of grace through faith in Christ (Eph.2:8-9) he spoke of (Ephesians 4:1-7, NKJV)
“ 1I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. 7But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”
When we who have experienced freedom and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, serve each other well, bear with each other with love and patience, with the gifts He gave us, I believe we will become a magnet to draw the unchurched. For how can we be relevant to the unchurched if we are so irrelevant to each other, exploiting one another. When we love as Jesus loved us giving up His life for us, forgiving us, accepting us, and follow His command to love one another, the world will come to know that we are genuine in our faith as His disciples (John 13:34,35). Imagine a place free of criticism and where you feel encouraged instead of being put down, free of exploitation instead of always hiding your true self fearing others will take advantage of you, and feel secure and safe instead of fearing if someone will turn on you? That’ll be so COOL! Final caution, God does not like His church being exploited, we are not to bring ruin and anyone who does exploit will have to answer to God himself:
16 Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? 17 God will bring ruin upon anyone who ruins this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you Christians are that temple. I Cor.3:16-17 (NLT)
Let us seriously consider living out faith in the community of God’s people, with the love and grace of Christ, giving a good witness of the temple of God together so that others can hear our reputation as truly Christ’s radical disciples. As Paul writes in Eph.5:15,16, 21 (NLT), “ 15 So be careful how you live, not as fools but as those who are wise. 16 Make the most of every opportunity for doing good in these evil days… (i.e. no exploitation) 21 And further, you will submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”