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People give the laws in the Old Testament a bad rap. Sure, there are some things that in our particular cultural framework seem barbaric, but there are plenty of things in Exodus 23 that could teach us a thing or two.
Take this section as an example:
You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness. You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit.
What would you say matters to this community?
No one is bigger than the truth. Not the wicked. Not the majority. Not the poor. And Imma go ahead and say not the rich either.
You are to tell the truth at all times. Even if (perhaps especially when?) it is costly. Even when it puts you on the outside. Even when it pits you against the mob.
You tell the truth sucka!
However, I wouldn’t be a responsible part-time satirist if I didn’t mention this one teeny tiny law that makes NO SENSE at all. See if you can spot it.
Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God. You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the fat of my festival remain until the morning. The choicest of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God. You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.
Ooh, did you see it? It was right there at the end.
God is telling them about the three festivals they are to celebrate each year. Then, out of nowhere, comes a commandment to not boil a baby goat in its mother’s milk.
Where did that come from?
I know there is probably some underlying principle about kindness or not practicing magic or something, but why put it there?
Because I Don’t Trust You
The final law of Exodus 23 shows something very interesting about how God views his people.
He doesn’t trust them.
Let me explain: When they come into the land, they are not to interact with, coexist with, or make covenants with the people who already inhabit the land. The reason? God’s people will be led astray by the other people.
Did you ever have friends that your parents didn’t like? Did they tell you that you couldn’t hang out with those friends?
Yeah, this is kind of like that.