Sunday, May 27, 2012

On 6-3-12 Exodus 23:1-9 will be our Adult Sunday School/Uniform Series/International Sunday School Lesson, herein is my commentary. This lesson is known by some as Rules for Just Living aka Practice Justice.

Rules for Just Living
Practice Justice
Exodus 23:1-9
International Sunday School Lesson
June 3, 2012

Jed Greenough

Folks, sometimes I really do work on these lessons too early in the morning, let me explain.  The first thought that came to my mind when I read today’s scripture was one word, “Really?!”  I mean, really, this even needs saying?  I cannot imagine any that belong to God need to be told to not spread malicious gossip, or lie, or that it is ever right to be a part of a mob thinking that anonymity makes it okay to be in the wrong for any reason.  It seems funny that those who are His would need to be told not to be unjust, unfair or not to be prejudiced.

We could go on but the guilt started to descend upon me as I woke up and I realized that unfortunately yes, this scripture, these laws and rules were needed both then and now.  At the time that these laws were given we should understand that these are the foundations for order of a newly birthed nation and were directed to a whole people, the people of Israel.  Though recently freed from bondage by miraculous means and as one cohesive unit had said they would do everything the Lord commanded, these are the people that were called a stiff-necked people just 9 chapters further along in this book of Exodus.

Stiff-necked people need rules to live by and some will follow God’s commands and some will not.  At best even those that are His will be obedient only part of the time.  When we are stiff-necked we are like a horse that refuses to obey the rider and these laws deal with us at those times.

Of course you will need to go to Exodus 21 and read from that point forward to see the laws God gave to Israel regarding servants, personal wrongs, property rights, Sabbath rules and so on. 

Today’s reading dealing with legal matters are just one more cog in this system that our God of order gave to His chosen people to set them apart from the other nations and this makes me think of one other thing.  This system, in a manner of speaking, was once upon a time the basis for a new country—the United States of America.

We may have slipped a long way as a country but it is still thrilling to think about the country that came into being that still has “In God We Trust” emblazoned on its currency.  That was the faith upon which our country was founded.  America believed in the God of the Bible and her judicial system in no small measure followed the rules laid out by God from the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 to the laws of justice we read of in today’s scripture.

Just like the people of Israel there are plenty of stiff-necked people here too that need to be told that God expects certain behavior and if it isn’t forthcoming there are repercussions.  Just as with Israel the closer we stay on track in following the commands of God the more blessed and protected we have been.  But the further we come from this standard and the more we violate them and denounce and turn our back on them the more punishment we will see just like Israel.

Let’s be frank, we know that as Christians, not just from the United States but united in our faith all over the world that we have seen false reports even in our houses of worship, we have seen Christians who went with the crowd with bad results, and all types of prejudice I am sorry to say.  But you and I can stand for the oppressed.  You and I can defend the falsely accused, stand against the mobs, and be there for the poor.  We can live to not create enemies but mend the relationship with those who have chosen to make us theirs.

Never forget that like Israel who was once an oppressed alien so are all of us.  Just before we read the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 God said this in Exodus 19:6a about Israel, “you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  And we can read this similarly about ourselves  in 1 Peter 2:9-10a, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.”  

Once we “were not a people” so hopefully this gives us all the empathy we need to seek out all the aliens among us, making “disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  Matthew 28:19-20a.

For Discussion:

1.      Citizen of this country or not, please pray for America.  This country has been a mighty source of Christian growth and charity throughout the world and I shudder to think where the world would be without that both in the past and future if we slide ever further away from God.  Discuss.
2.      Discuss the false reports of verse 1 and the damage they do specifically within our churches.
3.      Discuss people’s need to fit in and how we need to be aware of that so that we are not caught up with a crowd that is wrong.  Peer pressure is one aspect of this at any age.
4.      Do you have enemies or does someone think of you in that way.  Ask those within your group to consider that question and then discuss what they plan to do about the situation.
5.      Often times the poor are only thought of as being taken advantage of which is addressed in verse 6 but neither are they to receive favoritism.  Discuss the problems that are created when this occurs, perhaps even in your church.
6.      There are many ways to give or accept a bribe and just because there isn’t money involved doesn’t mean it isn’t just as offensive.  Discuss different types of bribery.
7.      You know that you have heard prejudicial remarks against aliens within your midst and have been silent at times.  Discuss aliens in light of all of us who once were aliens to God in hopes that a new outlook might be achieved.

Upcoming Adult Sunday School Class Commentaries

6-10-12:  Living as God’s Just People Leviticus 19:9-18, 33-37
6-17-12: Celebrate Jubilee Leviticus 25:8-12, 25, 35-36, 39-40, 47-48, 55 or Leviticus 25:8-12, 25, 35-40, 47-48, 55
6-24-12:  The Heart of the Law (Love God; Love People) Deuteronomy 10:12-22; 16:18-20
7-1-12:    Samuel Administers Justice 1 Samuel 7:3-11, 15-17 or 1 Samuel 7:3-17

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved


  1. Very great thoughts on what the lesson mean. "May GOD continue to bless America". Even though, We have our problems. In GOD we must to trust. I mean the one true and living GOD.
    Thank you