Good morning! It’s a quiet, EARLY, morning in my house. There’s a gentle snow serenely falling, which belies the freezing cold seeping through my windows. It’s a perfect morning for Bible study.
Today’s reading drew me into Exodus 23. Unlike many people who can read the Bible and just enjoy the Word of God speaking to their spirits, I have lots of questions and feel the need to dig into every word. Luckily, I am blessed to have a Momma who gives me gifts like the JPS Torah Commentary of Exodus for my birthday and was able to seek the answers to those questions and learn wonderful new things.
The first interesting thing I learned from Exodus 23:4-5 is that Jesus’ teachings on loving our enemies wasn’t original, nor was it revolutionary.
“If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. 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.
Though on the surface the verse seems to describe simple actions involving work animals, the context and implications of the verse demand that God’s people should treat one’s enemy with kindness and mercy. This verse finds it fulfillment later in Proverbs 25:21:
Jesus expanded on these ideas. He put them in parables and stretched the public’s ideas on how to live these verses, but they came from God first upon Mt. Sinai when he made the Israelites his people and taught them how to live in a way that reflects His character.
Jesus fulfilled the Torah by showing the world how to live what God had already commanded; it begins with loving God with “all your heart, all your soul, and all your might, (Deut. 6:4-6) and it ends with “love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18).”
Exodus 23:6-9 continues to reiterate God’s earlier demand for social justice (Exodus 22:21-24). He relied on the personal experience of those he brought out of slavery to remember their plight and have mercy on those who find themselves powerless and in need. Like God rescued them from slavery, so they should be rescuers of the enslaved and powerless. He relied upon their experiences to prompt them to righteous action, whereas God is prompted to act because of who He is.
The Jews have a Name for God’s presence: Shekinah (Sh’kee-nah). The Shekinah is the feminine name of God who dwells amongst Her people, who suffers alongside Her people, and who wraps them in Her wings of comfort and peace through their sufferings. The Shekinah suffers with Her children – though God has never been enslaved, through the Shekinah, God has experienced deep suffering.
Think of the depths of your personal heartache. Think of the brokenness you have experienced in your life. When you felt powerless, helpless, unloved, hurt, grieving. Shekinah experienced every single part of it with you, held you through it and suffered as you did.
Think of that suffering and apply it to every person on the planet – of every person’s suffering. Think of those 40+ MILLION people enslaved around the world today: children abused by their parents and siblings on camera for profit in cyber sex trafficking, generational slavery in India, property grabbing in Uganda, forced slavery in Ghana, sex trafficking all over the world – including massive sex trade in the USA- etc. Authorities just arrested 33 people involved in sex trafficking during the Super Bowl. It is real and it is horrific the slavery still taking place around the world today. And each of those 40+ million people have terrible stories for their lives. And each story is endured by the Shekinah. That is the depth of love God has for each of us. That She would endure horror daily, repeatedly, eternally so we do not suffer alone.
Is it any wonder God demands social justice? What are you doing to uphold social justice? An easy, yet powerful way to get involved is through any of the numerous agencies fighting social injustice, like the International Justice Mission. Not all of us can be boots-on-the-ground in the fight against systematic slavery and social injustice, but we can do our part in support and prayer. What social injustice impassions you? You are commanded to propagate justice for the refugee, for the widow, for the orphan , and for the poor (Ex. 22:21-27). How are you upholding justice on their behalf? Get involved. Your actions are necessary and needed.
Shalom to you and your neighbor.