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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Barcus

Justice and Fairness- Exodus 23:1-12

Have you ever played the game “Name That Tune?” The person hears the first few notes of a tune and tries to guess the name of the song. To be successful, requires being very familiar with different types of music and the ability to recall quickly and accurately to identify each sound. Today's lesson is similar to “Name That Tune” but would be better called “Name That Philosophy.” Many philosophies today are fighting for predominance. Unfortunately none of the philosophies are new. Through the news, social media, and sadly some centers of higher learning, a large part of our society have been raised with no real idea of right or wrong. They lack discernment because they are unaware of God’s instructions. Our children and even worse, the church, now think in relative terms. They prefer to conform, comply, and follow whatever society decides is acceptable. The problem is, this is exactly the opposite of biblical teaching.


The commandments, referred to as the 10 Commandments in Exodus Chapter 20, were just the start. The verses in today's lesson are part of chapters 21-23 in Exodus that explain social and legal laws for the children of Israel. The common modern day thoughts on social and legal laws are based on humanism, secularism, relativism, favoritism, and tolerance. As you read the lesson below, use the definitions provided for a comparison to the biblical directives given by God.

Definitions (2022 Merriam-Webster, Inc,):

Humanism- a doctrine , attitude or way of life based on human interests or human values, especially a philosophy that usually rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individuals dignity, worth, and capacity for self realization through reason (their own-not God’s).

Relativism - a view that ethical truths depend on the individuals and groups holding them. What may be true for you is not necessarily true for me.

Secularism- indifference to or rejection or exclusion of religion and religious considerations.

Favoritism- the showing of special favor, partiality, being a favorite

Tolerance - sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices different from or conflicting with one’s own; the allowable deviation from a standard.

1 Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.2 Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment:3 Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause.

God through Moses had already said that “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16) These first few verses in Chapter 23 add a little dimension to the application. Do not give, agree to, or participate in a false report, story, depiction, explanation, or accusation. God’s people should stand against and not participate in anything that is untrue. Putting “your hand to” is like shaking hands, agreeing, or conspiring together to be untruthful, dishonest, hurtful, or unfair. Don’t repeat a false rumor. Don’t repeat anything that tears down instead of builds up. Don’t help someone by validating a lie. Don’t let popularity or politically correctness decide what you do instead of doing what God says is right. Don’t do wrong things just because the crowd prefers it. Don’t decide your course of action based on the status of the person(s) involved (poor, rich, the boss,etc.). Relationships should be based on what God thinks rather than what friends, coworkers, or family think. Conduct yourself according to God’s instruction. Think for yourself. Apply what God’s word says and stand on his truth. Stand out in a crowd.

4 If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again.5 If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.

So, is it possible we don’t pray about certain things because we already know the answer? Maybe we don’t want to do what we know God has said he will require. The truth is a christian usually knows what to do; the Holy Spirit is ever present to guide and direct our actions. There is always a choice. The pull of our insecurities, how to get ahead, impressing the boss, or desire to fit in as socially acceptable, may be stronger than our desire to stand firmly on God’s word. In today’s society, the consequences may not only be for bad decisions but are often also severe when making a Godly decision. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. (John 3:19-20)

An enemy doesn't like you. Someone that hates you would not help you with anything. The choice is to act like the world or do as God instructs. That makes a christian stand out in a crowd. Jesus said 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? (Matthew 5: 44-47) To quote a very dear friend “it's easy to love the ones that are easy to love. You must learn to love the ones that don’t even love themselves.”

6 Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause. 7 Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked.8 And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous.9 Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

God always has a lot to say about the poor and the wicked. What appears unnoticed and unpunished is kept on record by God himself. He warns us that taking gifts causes us to forget to use right judgement. Gifts blind us by puffing up our pride. Flattery also has a way of turning us away from following truth. Scripture also says, He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.(Proverbs 20:19) The Bible is full of real life down to earth instruction and warnings on how to conduct our life. Compare these with the cultural philosophies of the day. Notice the by-products of doing things God’s way are much different than what you see from those who exclude God. Just a few more references to review:

  • Proverbs 14:31 He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.

  • Proverbs 21:13-Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.

  • Proverbs 22:22-23 -Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.

  • James 2:5-9 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

  • Proverbs 6: 16-19 - These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

  • Romans 1:28-32- And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

10 And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof:11 But the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, and with thy oliveyard.12 Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed.

Rest. God created for six days and rested from his work on the seventh. He instructed Israel to let the land rest in the seventh year. He told them to refresh and renew on the 50th year as the year of Jubilee (after seven times of seven years). They could celebrate. As far as we can tell, the children of Israel never celebrated a year of Jubilee but doesn’t it sound like a great idea! We rarely rest any day. 28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.(Matthew 11:28-30)

Suggested Discussion

  • Is standing on God’s word political/social suicide?

  • Can one individual make a difference?

  • Does love your neighbor as yourself mean that you have no boundaries?

  • How can we apply “do not oppress the stranger?”

  • Jesus is our Sabbath - how does he give us rest?

Thank you for studying with us!

God Bless!


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