Exodus 23

Sunday Morning Bible Study

November 18, 2007


We’re in this section of Exodus called “The Book of the Covenant”.  Moses has already been given the Ten Commandments.  God is now giving Moses a few more details on what those commandments were all about.

:1-9 Laws of Justice

:1 "You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.

false report

Hey, I gotta tell you – I got a very important email the other day … It was about this guy whose neighbor, a young man, was home recovering from the trauma of his friend’s aunt who took her kids to a Burger King restaurant in a major city and they all got bit by snakes in the ball pit.  Anyway, he decided to forget his troubles by having a few stiff drinks at Mulligans, and the next thing he awoke in a hotel bathtub full of ice and he was sore all over.  When he got out of the tub he saw a note on the mirror saying that HIS KIDNEYS HAD BEEN STOLEN by Bill Gates, and he could only get them back by dialing 9-0-# and forwarding 5000 emails to a dying girl at Disney World.

THIS IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE!!!  I got it from the internet …

Did you know that it’s okay to check on things before you forward them to your friends?  You aren’t doing anyone a favor by forwarding some of these things.

If you hear a juicy piece of news about someone, don’t pass it on if you don’t check the truth of it first.  It’s hard to stop the damage once a false report (gossip) gets out.


The Gossiper
A woman repeated a bit of gossip about a neighbor. Within a few days the whole community knew the story. The person it concerned was deeply hurt and offended. Later the woman responsible for spreading the rumor learned that it was completely untrue. She was very sorry and went to a wise old sage to find out what she could do to repair the damage. “Go to the marketplace,” he said, “and purchase a chicken, and have it killed. Then on your way home, pluck its feathers and drop them one by one along the road.” Although surprised by this advice, the woman did what she was told. The next day the wise man said, “Now go and collect all those feathers you dropped yesterday and bring them back to me.” The woman followed the same road, but to her dismay, the wind had blown the feathers all away. After searching for hours, she returned with only three in her hand. “You see,” said the old sage, “it’s easy to drop them, but it’s impossible to get them back. So it is with gossip. It doesn’t take much to spread a rumor, but once you do, you can never completely undo the wrong.”
Author Unknown / Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul Copyright 1997 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Kimberly Kirberger

: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.

follow a crowd – peer pressure. Your mother probably told you:  “If everyone jumped off a cliff, would you follow them?”


Follow the right crowd

There’s something in our human nature that wants to “belong”. We wanted to be accepted by others.
Peer pressure can be a very strong, influential factor in our lives.
Dr. Dobson tells of a study done at a University where a teacher supposedly was testing a group of students on their perception. A group of students was shown two drawings of lines. One line was definitely shorter than the other. The group was asked to choose which line they thought was shorter than the other. But in the study, everyone in the group was told ahead of time to pick the wrong line, all but one student. When the teacher pointed to the longer line and asked who thought the line was shorter, everyone raised their hand except the one student who wasn’t “in the know”. In almost every time they ran the experiment, the “unclued” student eventually went along with the rest of the crowd, even though they knew they were wrong.
Sometimes peer pressure can be good.  Having good people around us can help us stay on track with our life.
But sometimes peer pressure can be bad.
(Prov 1:10 NKJV) My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent.
We often are looking around us to see what other people are doing.

What is “fashion” about?  It’s knowing what is acceptable and trying to conform to it by dressing in a certain way.


In “Preparing for Adolescence”, Dr. Dobson tells a story about peer pressure that goes something like this:
Suppose you are about 14 years old, and you are in that crazy time of life when you are searching to find out who you are and what you want to be like.  You get a call from some of the older guys at school who want to know if you want to hang out with them.  Of course you say, “Sure”.  This is the opportunity of a lifetime.  As you climb into the car, you get the seat in the back left hand corner behind the driver.  You’re a little nervous as the car is driving down the street, hoping that you’ll fit in with these older, “cooler” guys.  There you are cruising down the street when boy who is driving pulls a bottle out of his pocket and takes a little red pill out and pops it into his mouth.  He passes the bottle to the boy on his right, who takes a pill out and pops it into his mouth.  As he passes the bottle to his right, you begin to realize what’s happening.  They’re taking drugs, speed.  You know it’s wrong, but these are the big boys.  You begin to get a little nervous as the bottle is passed to the boy in the back seat opposite you.  As each guy gives in and takes a pill, the pressure builds on you.  The next boy seems a little nervous, but the other guys tease him and tell him not to be a big baby.  The boy pops a pill into his mouth and passes it to the boy sitting in the center seat in the back, the one next to you.  As the boy starts to open the bottle, you begin to wonder how you’re going to handle this.  What are you going to say?  Would it really hurt that much if you just gave in this one time?  You’ll probably never have to do it again.  But what you don’t know is that once you’ve crossed the line the first time, it gets easier and easier to cross it each time you are tempted.  What will you do?  The bottle is handed to you and everyone is watching …

Follow the right crowd.

:3 "You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute.

We might think that it would be tempting to give a rich person preferential treatment in a court case.  Here the idea is that you also don’t give a poor person preferential treatment.

Don’t play favorites – whether favoring the rich or the poor.

:4 "If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again.

Return the stray dog.

: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.


No Rest For The Weary

A pastor walking down a country lane and sees a young farmer struggling to load hay back onto a wagon after it had fallen off. “You look hot, my son,” said the pastor. “why don’t you rest a moment, and I’ll give you a hand.” “No thanks,” said the young man. “My father wouldn’t like it.” “Don’t be silly,” the pastor said. “Everyone is entitled to a break. Come, sit down and have a drink of water.” Again the young man protested that his father would be upset. Losing his patience, the reverend said, “Your father must be a real slave driver.  Tell me where I can find him and I’ll give him a piece of my mind for working you so hard!” “Well,” replied the young farmer, “he’s under this load of hay.”

Don’t just help people you like, help out people you don’t like.

:6 "You shall not pervert the judgment of your poor in his dispute.

Verse 3 was warning not to take the side of the poor if he is wrong.  Here the warning is to not neglect the justice that is due to a poor person.

:7 "Keep yourself far from a false matter; do not kill the innocent and righteous. For I will not justify the wicked.

do not kill the innocent – I can’t help but think of what abortion does.  We believe that the Bible teaches that life begins at conception.  When a pregnancy is terminated in an abortion, an innocent life is being ended.

Last night the two presidential candidates were interviewed by Pastor Rick Warren on TV.  When addressing the issue of abortion, both candidates were asked, “At what point does an unborn child gain the rights of a person”.

Mr. Obama replied that it was a tough question and that the answer was “above my pay-grade”.
Mr. McCain replied, “life begins at conception”

The Bible says,

(Psa 139:13 NKJV)  For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother's womb.

(Jer 1:5 NKJV)  "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you…

:8 "And you shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the discerning and perverts the words of the righteous.

bribeshachad – present, bribe

Sometimes it’s hard to be objective when you are the one that is going to benefit from a decision.

: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.

stranger – I know this is a complex problem, but I wonder if this doesn’t apply to our nation’s illegal immigration problem.  However we resolve this as a nation, may we not be guilty of oppressing the “stranger”.

:10-13  Sabbaths

: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.

Here we see the concept of a Sabbath “year”.

The Israelites were supposed to give the land a rest for a whole year after farming it for six.

Part of this issue has to do with “crop rotation”.  Science tells us now that it’s a good thing to let the land lay fallow once in a while.

Part of this has to do with helping the poor – but not with a simple handout – they still have to go work in the field to get their food.

Apparently the Israelites did not follow this law.  When they were taken away as captives to Babylon, one of the reasons was to give the land the rest it had been missing (2Chr. 36:21)

(2 Chr 36:21 NKJV)  to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths…

: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.

Learn to take a day off.

: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.

Don’t even mention the names of other gods. Just focus on God.

:14-19  Annual Feasts

:14 "Three times you shall keep a feast to Me in the year:

There will be three major “feasts” for the nation of Israel.

These would be times when all the men of Israel were required to “appear before the Lord”, eventually meaning that they were to travel to Jerusalem.

The feasts have value on several different levels.

They had a tie to the calendar in regards to agriculture.

They served a prophetic purpose as well.

:15 "You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread (you shall eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded you, at the time appointed in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt; none shall appear before Me empty);

:16 "and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field.

:15 the Feast of Unleavened Bread

This feast took place in the month of Abib, between our months of March and April.

Agriculturally, it was related to the time of the barley harvest.

It was a feast that had an historical tie to the Exodus from Egypt, connected and equal with the feast known as Passover – celebrated by the sacrificing of lambs, and painting the doorposts of your house with the lamb’s blood.

The unleavened bread was related to the fact that on the night of the first Passover, the people had to leave Egypt so quickly that they didn’t have time to allow their bread dough to be leavened, so they ate unleavened bread.

Prophetically, it was related to the coming of the Messiah, the Lamb of God who would give up His blood so our sins could be “passed-over”.  It was no coincidence that Jesus died at the Passover.

:16 the Feast of Harvest

This feast took place fifty days after the Passover.

Agriculturally it was related to the time of the wheat harvest (Ex. 34:22), when the firstfruits of the wheat harvest were offered up to the Lord.

During this feast two loaves of fresh wheat bread were offered to the Lord as an offering of “firstfruits”.
Because this feast took place fifty days after Passover, or, a week of weeks, it was also called the “Feast of Weeks”.
The Greek word for fifty is “pente”, so the feast is known in the New Testament as “Pentecost.
Prophetically, this is the day when the “first-fruits” came, when the church was born through the coming of the Holy Spirit.  It was no coincidence that the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost.

:16 the Feast of Ingathering

This feast took place in the autumn, our September-October.

Agriculturally it took place at the end of the harvest time, when all the crops had been gathered and were stored for the winter, hence the “Ingathering”.

This feast had another name as well, the “Feast of Tabernacles” or “Feast of Booths” (Lev. 23:33-36), when the Israelites were to build little shacks out of branches and camp outside for the week, to remember the forty years in the wilderness when the people lived in tents (or “tabernacles”), when the people lived with God.

Prophetically, this Feast has yet to be fulfilled.  It is a picture of when Jesus comes again and rules on the earth for 1,000 years, when God will “dwell” with men.

Did you know that God wants to “dwell” with you?

I like the fact that God was building into the culture of the nation of Israel these feasts that would give the very hints of what was coming – Jesus.

:17 "Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord GOD.

:18 "You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread; nor shall the fat of My sacrifice remain until morning.

leavened bread – Leaven is a symbol of sin.  Don’t mix sin with your offerings.

This doesn’t mean you don’t come to church if you have sinned this week.  But it means that when you come to church you come to God for forgiveness and cleansing.

fat … morning – When you offered an animal as a sacrifice to God, the fat always was God’s part. Fat was considered part of the best of the sacrifice, the best always goes to God. Isn’t ice-cream made of “fat”?

The point is – be sure to give God His part. Give Him the best part. Don’t hold on to the things that you’ve promised to give to God.

:19 "The first of the firstfruits of your land you shall bring into the house of the LORD your God.

firstfruits – the concept of offering God the first part of your harvest was a way of acknowledging that He was the one who made it possible for you to have the harvest.

This is a principle in giving back to the Lord, recognizing that He was the one who has allowed you to earn an income.

:19 You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk.

Several possibilities:

1.  Canaanite fertility rituals - involved cooking young goats in their mother’s milk.

Perhaps God doesn’t want our worship to look like the junk that the world does.

2.  Confusing life with death – milk is something that is supposed to give life.  Don’t use it to end life.

3.  No cheese burgers.

This law is thought to be the basis for the Jewish dietary laws which prohibit combining dairy and meat products. The concern is that you might be consuming the meat of a baby cow while eating the cheese made from the mother’s milk.
In other words, you won’t find cheeseburgers in Israel.

:20-33 The Angel and the promises

:20 "Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.

an Angel – who is this “angel”

angelmal’ak – messenger, representative.  We think of an angel in terms of those creatures that look like men with wings – a special type of God’s creation.

It might refer to an actual angel like Michael the archangel (Dan. 12:1).
It’s possible that this might have been Jesus Christ, before He took on human flesh.  Jesus appeared several times in the Old Testament and is referred to as “The Angel of Yahweh”, or “The Angel of the Lord” (Gen. 16, 22, Ex. 3)

:21 "Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him.

Don’t mess with the angel.  Pay attention to what He says.

:22 "But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.

:23 "For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off.

Remember that the people right now are camped out at Mount Sinai.

Amorites, etc. – these are the people that inhabited the land of Canaan, the geography of the nation of Israel today.

:24 "You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their works; but you shall utterly overthrow them and completely break down their sacred pillars.

sacred pillarsmatstsebah – pillar, mastaba, stump

Some have said these might have been male fertility symbols.

On the other hand, a “mastaba” might make more sense.  A “mastaba” was a place where the Egyptians buried their dead before they came up with the pyramids.

:25 "So you shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you.

:26 "No one shall suffer miscarriage or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.

God promises to bless His people if they will simply obey Him.

:27 "I will send My fear before you, I will cause confusion among all the people to whom you come, and will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.

:28 "And I will send hornets before you, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite from before you.

hornetstsir‘ah – hornets

I did some extensive research.  The Hebrew word actually means “hornet”.  Now it might refer to some sort of an insect.  There are some scholars that think it refers to the Egyptian army.  But my extensive research discovered another type of hornet that just might do the trick, the AMC Hornet.  Now what do you think would drive out the Hivites faster, a bug or a hornet???  It does say “drive out”…  J

:29 "I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the beast of the field become too numerous for you.

:30 "Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land.

God promises to take care of their enemies, but He said He wouldn’t do it quickly.

It would take Joshua seven years to conquer the land of Canaan.

If the inhabitants left too quickly, the land would be overcome by animals.


Little by little

I think the Promised Land is a great picture of the kind of life that God wants for each of us.
For some people, when they accept Christ, the change is huge and it’s overnight.
But don’t be discouraged if you find you still have a long way to go.
The tortoise and the hare – we still want to be like the hare.
Dieting – you have to go slow.  slower is more realistic
Amy Carmichael in expressing her desire to become like the Lord Jesus said this:  “If in dealing with one who does not respond, I weary of the strain, and slip from under the burden, then I know nothing of Calvary Love.  If I have not the patience of my Savior with souls who grow slowly; if I know little of travail till Christ be fully formed in them, then I know nothing of Calvary Love.  If I avoid being ‘ploughed under’ with all that such ploughing entails of rough handling, isolation, uncongenial situations, strange test, then I know nothing of Calvary Love.”
What’s important is that you keep moving forward, not backward.

:31 "And I will set your bounds from the Red Sea to the sea, Philistia, and from the desert to the River. For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you.

The eastern border would be the Red Sea, probably the Gulf of Aqaba.

The western border would be the Mediterranean Sea, the sea of the “Philistines”.

The southern border would be the desert of the Sinai.

The northern border would be “the River”, the Euphrates.

When you overlay the borders of Israel and its neighbors, you see that Israel ought to be covering the nations of Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria.  My lines are a bit arbitrary, but you get the idea.  The nation of Israel came close to fulfilling these boundaries under King Solomon, but you could make a case that they have yet to dwell in all that God has promised them.

:32 "You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods.

:33 "They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me. For if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you."


Don’t compromise

The Israelites were not to be too friendly with the Canaanites.
One of the reasons God was going to give Israel the land of Canaan was because God was sickened by the wickedness of the Canaanites, and it was time for their civilization to end – God was bringing judgment on them.
(Col 3:5-7 NKJV)  Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. {6} Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, {7} in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.
When members of the Christian cross-over hard rock band P.O.D. were asked what their proudest accomplishment in 2000 was, they answered: “We just stuck to our guns and our faith, and didn’t let the world corrupt us. We’re a rock band, but we have something to say, and not everyone wants to hear it.”
The influential London Times was one of Abraham Lincoln’s fiercest European critics during the Civil War. After he announced the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves, he was condemned by the paper as “a sort of moral American pope,” destined to be “Lincoln the Last.” But three years later, after Lincoln’s assassination, the paper realized his greatness, eulogizing, “Abraham Lincoln was as little a tyrant as any man who ever lived. He could have been a tyrant if he pleased, but he never uttered so much as an ill-natured speech.”
Mark Galli, managing editor of Christianity Today; source: Thomas Bailey and David Kennedy, The American Pageant, ninth edition
As Christians, there may be times when we have to take a stand for what is right.  We might lose friends.  We might be called names.  But hang tough, God is on your side.
Daniel’s friends Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-nego were a part of one of the most amazing miracles.  They were thrown alive into a burning furnace that killed everyone that got near, and yet they survived (Dan. 3).
But don’t forget how they got there.  They refused to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue.  They refused to compromise with the world.  They stood upright when everyone else buckled.  They resisted peer pressure.
They saw victory by taking a stand.