EXODUS 22:1 – 24:18 and MATTHEW 20:1–34
The Lord continues the series of sensible judgements and laws that may arise throughout the course of life. These laws compliment the 10 commandments that were spoken earlier in Chapter 20. For those who would be in the position of a judge these judgements would prove useful. In fact, many of them are helpful today in assessing certain matters. I would like to highlight a few verses that stand out.
In verse 17 we see the power and authority of a father where he is in a position in keeping his daughter from being married. In today’s environment the role of fatherhood is mocked and maligned. When you see true fathers in a church or nation you will see stability and minimized lawlessness. You will see strong marriages and families. God is a loving heavenly Father and He loves being a Father in addition to being very good at being a Father. He protects and watches out for His own. We know that the last verse in the Old Testament speaks to a restoration of fathers to children but it also refers to the restoration of Father God to His people. I believe we will see an expression of God, as the loving heavenly Father in a way never seen. It is important to see this so that we know we can approach Him as Abba (daddy) Father.
In verse 18 the Lord makes very clear what He thinks about witches. He likens rebellion to the sin of witchcraft as seen in 1 Sam 15:23. I guess that should help us to know how God sees rebellion. We need to pray that God would keep us from ever being given over to rebellion in a church context. The fascination with the occult and witchcraft is indicative in how far the world has digressed. The Word the Lord shares here is short and clear cut.
In verse 20 we have a warning that reflects the 1st Commandment in not making sacrifice to other gods. The Father’s heart is again expressed in verses 22-24 where His care for widows and orphans is seen. The supplementary laws provide added insights into God’s character. They reinforce and enhance our understanding of the 10 commandments that have been given earlier. God deeply cares for those who are fatherless as well as for aged widows without husbands. This has not changed through the years. I believe God’s heart is touched and moved when compassionate care is provided to those in need.
The danger of spreading or being a part of a false report is stated in verse 1. This is exactly what Judas did at the time of betrayal. This is something that is commonly seen when a church split takes place. Usually one person becomes the key agitator who then seeks out others who are offended or perhaps feels the same way. The last strongholds to be taken at the time when David took Zion was that of the Jebusites. They were known for being discord sowers. The Lord makes clear that he hates those who sow discord.
Pro 6:19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
The 2nd verse is similar in that we are not to walk with a multitude who practices wickedness. As a believer we must engage the world and seek to be salt but knowing when to keep separate from the world’s allure. This can be a fine balancing line for the church as we shall see later in Exodus. We are not to walk in the counsel of the ungodly. We are known by the company we keep bearing in mind that likes travel with likes. There are sensible laws of courtesy expressed in verse 4 where God’s people are instructed to look after one another’s welfare.
Laws concerning the Sabbath are revisited in verses 10-12. The laws of Rest even apply to the land. A property can be sown with seed for 6 years but in the 7th it needs to rest. I fear we have lost the essence of what the Sabbath truly represents. The Sabbath was given for man. It benefits man when it is kept. The nature of Satan is one of restlessness where he is constantly scurrying about here and there.
Isa 57:21 There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.
This is sadly seen in much of life today. In honouring the Sabbath we honour God. This results in the reestablishment of purpose in our lives. It strengthens family and helps us to refuel from the week that has passed and get prepared for the one to come. God works in cycles. You see it in the 24 hours of a day, the seasons of the year etc. It is from this position of Rest where God can move above and beyond within one’s life. We must link the Sabbath Rest with the Rest seen in Heb 4. Failure to enter into this Rest will lead to the danger of unbelief.
Heb 4:9 There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
Heb 4:10 For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his.
Heb 4:11 Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.
If we do not appropriate the blessings of the Sabbath we will never enter into the fullness of what God has purposed for the church. Without rest we will remain reliant upon on our flesh which will then limit God in being able to move.
We are introduced to a mighty Angel in verses 20-23 that will go forth on behalf of the children of Israel. The Lord warns that this Angel is to be obeyed and not provoked. He will go before Israel and on their behalf do battle with their enemies represented by the Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites. The warning is stern in that he is not to be provoked because the Lord’s name is in him.
This small portion of scripture gives a window into the role of angelic realms. There are degrees of angels and it is clear that this one is significant. God’s kingdom has an administration that helps ensure that God’s pleasure is carried out. This will be seen in greater detail when we get to Ezekiel. He, like the Apostle John had revelation concerning the throne of God. Around the throne were seen 4 living creatures. John and Ezekiel describe them differently but they are the same. They move with precision and speed in carrying out God’s desire. We also see the person of the Holy Spirit very much involved in this picture.
Eze 1:12 And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went.
This appointed Angel of God for Israel is mighty and not to be trifled with. This journey will have great symbolism seeing that it captures the journey in the life of a believer. This Angel brings both comfort and a sense of the Fear of the Lord. Stepping out of line of the Angel’s leading will have consequences.
The Lord gives a call to Moses, Aaron and two of his sons as well as to 70 of the elders that they separate from the people and draw near to God. We then see the call to Moses to draw even closer. (vs 2) There are reasons why Moses can draw nearer to the presence of God as opposed to the others. Moses was prepared; he had previously experienced the holy presence of God at the burning bush. We will see within the soon to be established priesthood a division of ranks among the priests. There will be some who will be able to stand before Him in the office of a priest (Sons of Zadok in Eze 44). There will be other priests whose primary ministry is to people only (Eze 44). This is a significant occasion that will have an eternal application. The people still make their intentions known that they will do what the Lord says. (vs 3, 7) At this point they had not yet disqualified themselves from becoming priests. (Exo 19:6). This will soon change when the Law will be put to tables of stone.
It is important to follow the thread of events over the next few chapters because it establishes a pattern that will be seen throughout the Old and New Testament, culminating into the reality of the New Covenant.
The primary focal issue will be that of the Law. It begins here. What will soon transpire will be a separation among the children of Israel. It is a separation that is still playing out today within the church. It will revolve around the Law. In verse 12 Moses is called up the mountain for the purpose of receiving the two tables of stone (Law) which he will then teach to the people. This mandate has never ceased among the responsibilities of the priests. Sadly, the Law and the teaching of the Law is marginalized more than ever in lieu of “ear itching” doctrines that circumvent (by-pass) God’s established will (2 Tim 4:3). The problem that Moses faced is a problem seen throughout Biblical history right up to our day. There needs to be an arising of the priestly teaching ministry. Priests like Ezra, Joshua and others need to emerge in these last days. It is an essential in order to help make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:17). What makes us think that we are somehow exempt from the Law giving roles of these priests, seeing that we are nearing the end? There will be an emerging priesthood that will soon come to the forefront. We will closely examine the role of Moses here; as we do, let us remember Ezra and let us incline our hearts to be like these priests, to have the privilege of coming into His holy presence, to know Him in a greater way so that we can represent Him faithfully.
Ezr 7:6 This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him.
Ezr 7:10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
It is here where Moses is being called up the mountain to receive instruction from God as well as to receive the Law. As he did the glory covered the mount. One can only imagine what this must have been like for Moses as well as for the children of Israel. The children of Israel will now be without their leader for the next 40 days. At the onset the people stated that they would do whatever the Lord speaks. They still can qualify to become priests of God. What will they do over these next 40 days? It is here where they will be tested. This season of proving is one each of us go through in some measure. It is often said the true essence and character of a person is revealed when nobody is watching. This truth, as we all know, still applies.
The familiar parable of the 11th hour worker is covered in verses 1-16. The Lord introduces this parable by likening it to the Kingdom of God. There have been many interpretations given concerning it. I feel to draw a point or two from the last verse of the parable.
Mat 20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
There is a real indictment here upon the workers who were first hired and borne the burden of the day. Logically, it would seem that they should receive a greater compensation than those who came on board in the last hour. This is one of the worldly principles that is at variance with the kingdom of God. I feel the Lord is sending a strong warning concerning those who have been in the kingdom for an extended period who still maintain a worldly mind-set. The kingdom is about God and serving others and looking after the welfare of others. The fact that these early workers were looking after their own interests and not celebrating that others were able to benefit at a later hour, indicates a heart flaw. If this heart flaw is not dealt with it will stymie spiritual growth.
The Apostle Paul saw himself as a debtor to all men; his heart was consumed in meeting the needs of others. This kingdom parable is a sad picture of what exists in much of the church today. The warning is clear, many are called but in the end, few are chosen. We not only want to be called, (like Moses while in Egypt for his first 40 years) but we also want to be chosen (Like Moses was in the land of Midian from 40-80) in addition to being found faithful like Moses was when he led the Children of Israel from Egypt to the brink of Canaan (Rev 17:14). Moses at the age of 40 sensed his call as a leader. He could have been self-serving while maintaining his privilege in Egypt; displaying an attitude as seen in the workers who bore the brunt of the day in our parable. He chose rather, to identify and give himself to a people who had yet to know the message of deliverance that was to come. He even paid the price of another 40 years in preparation for this role. We can say that Moses is the exact opposite of those early hour workers. The parable is an indicator that will help us understand what it takes to not only be called but to also be chosen. It is hearing God, and allowing God to work in a heart allowing ones interests to be more focused on others than oneself. The example that Moses sets for us helps to put this kingdom parable into right perspective.
The Lord then gives a vivid, clear cut description of what will take place at Jerusalem (vs 17-19). These words, though clear will be lost on the disciples when they begin to come to pass. Things will happen quickly. It is vitally important that we be meditators of the Word of God, His promises and the things the Lord has done in the past. It needs to get deep in our spirit because we will need to draw from that reservoir when things begin to move. This is especially true in these last days. We may have a working knowledge of things to come but are we prepared for the reality of them?
The Lord again addresses the subject of what constitutes greatness. In another counter cultural response he states that the key to greatness is learning and doing the role of a servant. This really is a complement to the parable seen earlier. A servant has their focus on another and not themselves. This is an issue and it’s a problem among His disciples. Let us not think that it does not happen today. It does! We sometimes allow reputation and pride to get in the way. There is an “I’m a man or woman of God “type mentality that has spread like a cancer throughout the church and it still is growing. It is a cancer. Jesus had to address this at the time of the Last Supper among His own disciples.
Luk 22:24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
Try to imagine how Jesus must have felt. His time was near in going to the Cross, to take upon Himself the sin of all mankind. This was to be the fulfilment of something the Father had ordained before the foundations of the world (Rev 13:8). Yet, what was the mood of His disciples? They were bickering among themselves as to who was the more anointed, more gifted or the one worthy of more honour. To be frank, most of them were clueless to the reality of the moment. They were striving among themselves while being blinded to the bigger picture. They should have been supporting and encouraging the Lord in what was to become His darkest hour. How did the Lord remedy this major concern?
Joh 13:3 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God;
Joh 13:4 He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
Joh 13:5 After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
Jesus had now been given all authority, He had all power and could have exploited that power if he chose to do so. This is the kind of power that the disciples would give anything for. So what then did the Lord do? He bent down on his knees and washed their feet, modelling the role of a servant. This is the key to true power and authority. This seems to be the primary theme being addressed in this chapter of Mathew. Its message must not get lost on today’s modern church.