God’s people are expected to reflect God’s character. This is what defines and guides the daily actions of our lives as believers. In the first half of today’s passage, God clearly lays out a sort of character code for the Israelites that is in line with what he values throughout the entirety of Scripture: justice, honesty, mercy, hard work, and rest. Every day, we have a chance to honor God with how we live. And as you will see in the second half of the passage, God stops at nothing to protect the people who worship and obey him.
- How would you describe your character? How would your friends or co-workers describe your character?
READ THE WORD: EXODUS 23 (ESV)
23:1 “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. 2 You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice, 3 nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his lawsuit.
4 “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.
6 “You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in his lawsuit. 7 Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and righteous, for I will not acquit the wicked. 8 And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.
9 “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
10 “For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, 11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.
13 “Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips.
14 “Three times in the year you shall keep a feast to me. 15 You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty-handed. 16 You shall keep the Feast of Harvest, of the firstfruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field. You shall keep the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor. 17 Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the Lord God.
18 “You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the fat of my feast remain until the morning.
19 “The best of the firstfruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God.
“You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.
20 “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21 Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him.
22 “But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.
23 “When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, 24 you shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces. 25 You shall serve the Lord your God, and he will bless your bread and your water, and I will take sickness away from among you. 26 None shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. 27 I will send my terror before you and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28 And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. 29 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land. 31 And I will set your border from the Red Sea to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates, for I will give the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”
English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- Based on this passage, what was the expected character of God’s people? How does this reflect the character of God?
- Describe the three feasts outlined in verses 14-16. What was the purpose of the feasts?
- What are three specific actions God took to protect the Israelites as they moved into new lands?
- How has God shaped your character over the past year?
RESPOND TO GOD
The Old Testament loses many modern readers because of verses like Exodus 23:19: “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.” Ok… We too easily dismiss these dense passages because some of the ideas and commandments don’t seem to translate to our daily context. But we must remember that all of Scripture speaks to the character of God, and as believers, we are called to reflect his character. In this passage, God beautifully demonstrates how he expected, and still expects, his people to be filled with mercy, justice, generosity, honor, and compassion. Those character traits never go out of style.
- Pray that God would mold your character to be more like his.