Monday after Quasimodo geniti
Scripture: Exodus 22:20—23:13 (NKJV)
22:20 “He who sacrifices to any god, except to the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.
21 “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
22 “You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. 23 If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; 24 and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.
25 “If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest. 26 If you ever take your neighbor’s garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. 27 For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious.
28 “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.
29 “You shall not delay to offer the first of your ripe produce and your juices. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me. 30 Likewise you shall do with your oxen and your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.
31 “And you shall be holy men to Me: you shall not eat meat torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.
23:1 “You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. 2 You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice. 3 You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute.
4 “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. 5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it.
6 “You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute. 7 Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify the wicked. 8 And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous. 9 Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
10 “Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its produce, 11 but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave, the beasts of the field may eat. In like manner you shall do with your vineyard and your olive grove. 12 Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest, that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female servant and the stranger may be refreshed. 13 And in all that I have said to you, be circumspect and make no mention of the name of other gods, nor let it be heard from your mouth.”
Several years ago there was a popular song titled “From a Distance.” The refrain was, “God is watching us…from a distance.” Sadly, many Christians hummed along and chimed in on this refrain, all the while taking in a song that denies a fundamental truth of Christianity. It ignores the fact that God is intimately involved with His people; as Christ said, “Lo, I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20)
Our text for today shows just how involved God was with the Children of Israel. God went into great detail about how they were to live with each other and with those outside the House of Jacob. God is so concerned about His creation that He makes sure that even the oxen and donkeys could rest on the Sabbath. Every day of the lives of the Children of Israel was to begin and end with their eyes upon God, and never looking to any other gods. By doing so, they would then be able to fulfill their duties toward their neighbors. Luther wrote in the Large Catechism that perfectly keeping the First Commandment would result in a person keeping all the commandments.
The problem is, and always will be this side of Heaven, that we, like the Children of Israel, do not keep the commandments. Fortunately, God does not operate “From a Distance.” He has given us His Holy Spirit in Holy Baptism to work in us every day to bring us to repentance and the forgiveness of sins.