Laying Down the Law [Exodus 20:1-17]

Here's some important information you may want to consider: in Oklahoma it is illegal to have a sleeping donkey in your bathtub after 7:00 pm. 

Six o'clock is fine. Not seven.

It's easy to poke fun at the dumb laws of other states, so let's bring it a little closer to home.

Did you know it is illegal in Washington State to harass a sasquatch? It's punishable by fine and/or imprisonment. Did you know it is illegal in WA to buy a mattress or meat of any kind on a Sunday? There's also a law on our books that says it is mandatory for a motorist with criminal intentions to stop at the city limits and phone the chief of police as he is entering the town...

Like that's going to happen.

We like to judge yesterday's decisions with today's wisdom. There must be a story behind each of these crazy laws mentioned above, but we like to poke fun at them anyhow.

We do the same thing when we read some of the 'crazy' laws we read in the Old Testament. All of us agree, the 10 Commandments are pretty straight forward counsel for our lives. But what about stoning a bull to death that gores someone or returning your enemy's wandering donkey? [Yes, they are in there.] It's the civil laws that leave us scratching our heads, mainly because we are judging them through today's lenses. 

When the Israelites came out of Egypt, God not only had to teach them how to be his people again, he also had to give them civil laws to govern their lives together. God is not the author of confusion, so he wasn't about to let a bunch of self-serving anarchists eat each other alive on the way to the Promised Land. 

So he gave them examples of how to apply God's laws to the kinds of cases that commonly arose in those days. Sure, Exodus 21-23 make us squirm now, but let's be careful about jumping to any unholy conclusions about God. He gives them laws about how to treat indentured servants, give opportunities for the poor, make commercial restitution, and lend without being predatory. 

God wants his people to honor him by honoring one another. Lawlessness only looks after self. And this leads us to a very important and consistent biblical theme for righteous living: whatever you have received from God, you must give to others.

You were set free, so do not oppress. You were forgiven, so forgive. You received mercy, so be merciful. You are loved, so love. 

God's justice flows from his goodness. As his goodness pours into our lives, his goodness must flow from us. This is how God wants us to live in society.