Introduction: In the original texts of the Bible, none of the chapters have titles. Yet, to help understand the chapters, mankind has added titles. Exodus Chapter 23, however, is a chapter that mankind has struggled to label with a simple title. Most English translations call it the “Sundry Laws.” This suggests that the chapter contains a list of miscellaneous laws that defy any broader meaning. The unfortunate consequence of labeling something with a word meaning miscellaneous is that most people assume that the text is also insignificant. Because most Christians have also been taught that Christ made the Law irrelevant, few Christians study this chapter. This is a sad mistake.
Chapter 23 is a summary chapter for believers to apply both the Ten Commandments and the principles behind God’s civil law to their own lives. Chapter 21 introduced the concept of justice. Chapter 22 showed how justice must work together with righteousness. Chapter 23 shows the outward signs of a person who lives by these principles: a life that is both just and righteous.
Chapter 23 gives seven specific lessons from unrelated contexts to show the outward signs of a righteous person. First, a person who is righteous follows God’s laws on morality. Examples given in this chapter include: (1) truthfulness; (2) impartiality; (3) love; (4) justice; (5) integrity; and (6) compassion. The New Testament reveals that only Christ can make you righteous before God. Yet, that doesn’t mean that you can ignore God’s laws of morality. They are a test of whether Christ has transformed you on the inside. In other words, they are part of the “fruits” of your transformation. Second, from the laws of abstinence during the Sabbath year, a believer today can show the outward signs of righteousness by trusting God and denying themselves. Third, from the laws of the Sabbath, a believer today shows the outward signs righteousness by giving one voluntary day a week (any day) to God. Fourth, from the laws of the three feasts, a believer can honor God by celebrating Him on His three appointed times. Many believers already celebrate the first two of these three feasts during Easter and Pentecost. It is only the third festival, the Feast of Tabernacles, that few believers observe. Fifth, from the sacrificial laws, God reveals that the righteous person lives his or her life as a “living sacrifice” for Him. Sixth, a righteous person is obedient to God. God in turn blesses those who are obedient. Finally, a righteous person stays pure from the unclean things of the world.
(1) Be truthful to others and to God. Lying under oath violates God’s Ninth Commandment (Ex. 20:16; Dt. 5:20). Because a fair and impartial trial system is central to divine justice, God warned against any who might undermine the Ninth Commandment by giving false testimony: “1 You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. 2 You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice;” (Ex. 23:1-2). Perjury, lies, and gossip are amongst the evil sins that God “hates.” “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.” (Prov. 6:16-19). “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight.” (Prov. 22:22). Satan is the father of all liars. When you lie, you are under his influence: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jo. 8:44). Do you rationalize telling small lies? Are you honest to God about the areas where you fall short?
(2) Be impartial by not judging others by appearance or status. A person transformed by God’s righteousness also does not favor people based upon their status or wealth: “3 nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute.” (Ex. 23:3). “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.” (Lev. 19:15). “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (Jo. 7:24). The people of Israel chose Saul as their first king because they liked his outward appearances. He was “a choice and handsome man, and there was not a more handsome person than he among the sons of Israel; from his shoulders and up he was taller than any of the people.” (1 Sam. 9:2). Yet, inside he was not a God-fearing leader. God eventually killed him when he turned to a medium for guidance (1 Chron. 10:13). Do you favor people based upon their wealth or appearance? If John the Baptist came to you in rags and a large beard while eating locusts, would you listen to him?
(3) Be loving toward your enemies. God also requires that you love your enemies. This requirement existed in both the Old and New Testaments: “4 If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. 5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him.” (Ex. 23:4-5; Lev. 19:18). “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;” (Prov. 25:21). “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt. 5:44; Lk. 6:27-28; Rom. 12:20). Jesus led by His example by asking God to forgive the people who had crucified Him (Lk. 23:34). Are you showing love to those who are mean or cruel to you? Are you praying for these people or talking poorly about them behind their backs?
(4) Be just by doing what is right. God also requires that you not pervert justice by causing harm to those in need or the innocent: “6 You shall not pervert the justice due to your needy brother in his dispute. 7 Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty.” (Ex. 23:6-7). God’s requirement that believers be just in their dealings with others appears throughout the Bible (e.g., Lev. 25:1; Prov. 22:2; 1 Thess. 4:6). The chief priests violated this law by relying upon false testimony to convict Jesus: “Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death.” They did not find any evidence to convict Jesus, even though many false witnesses came forward (Matt. 26: 59-60(a)). Do you cut ethical corners when you think no one is watching?
(5) Be a person of integrity in dealing with others. Another part of divine righteousness is integrity. God did not want the Jews to accept bribes or act in any way that is not just or right before God: “8 You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just.” (Ex. 23:8). “You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous.” (Dt. 16:19). As our example, God is always impartial and fair in all that He does (Dt. 10:17; 1 Pet. 1:17-19). On various occasions, the Pharisees tried to find evidence to kill Jesus (Mk. 11:18; 14:1; Lk. 19:47; 22:2; Jo. 10:31). They later bribed Judas to betray Him (Matt. 26:15; 27:3, 9). Later, many of these same men judged Jesus during His trial. By giving a bribe, they were just as guilty under God’s rules as Judas was in accepting it. The Pharisees allowed their jealousy and rage at Jesus to undermine their own integrity. The true test of integrity is what you do when no one is watching. Are your business practices and your private conduct an example to others?
(6) Be compassionate to strangers and immigrants. Believers are also mandated to show compassion toward immigrants and strangers: “9 You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 23:9). This commandment appears throughout the Torah (Ex. 22:21; Lev. 19:33-34; Dt. 10:19; 24:17-18). This law also appears again in the New Testament: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Heb. 13:2). In the parable of the good Samaritan, a traveler (who may been a foreigner) was beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the road. Both a priest and a Levite passed by without touching the man. Finally, a Samaritan (who was despised by the Jews) came by and helped the injured stranger. The religious men only had a form of godliness. They did not have a love for strangers and foreigners (Lk. 10:29-37). God cares less about your outward signs of godliness than your heart. Do you do kind things for strangers and for immigrants?
(7) Be led by the Spirit and your faith in Christ. Finally, no matter how hard you may try, your righteousness falls short of God’s standards (Ecc. 7:20; Ro. 3:23). Only by faith in Christ can you be made truly righteous before God: “even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction;” (Ro. 3:22). “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,” (Ro. 4:5). “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’” (Ro. 1:17; Habb. 2:4; Ro. 4:3). When you accept Jesus as Lord and Savior, you become “righteous” as a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). It is the Holy Spirit that will show you how to apply these divine principles of righteousness in your daily life. As a believer in Christ, are you allowing Christ to transform your mind each day to be led by the Spirit and not the flesh? (Ro. 12:1).
The law of the Sabbath year. God required that the Jews allow their agricultural land to lie fallow every seventh year: “10 You shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield, 11 but on the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.” (Ex. 23:10-11). God repeated these rules in the book of Leviticus: “Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year the land shall have a Sabbath rest, a Sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard. Your harvest's aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year.” (Lev. 25:3-5). These rules were so important to God that He later sent the Jews into 70 years of exile in Babylon for failing to observe the Sabbath years (2 Chr. 26:20-21). Today, believers are under no legal obligation to observe a Sabbath year (Col. 2:16). Yet, there are still reasons to observe them voluntarily.
Seven reasons to voluntarily observe the laws of the Sabbath year. Although not required, there are several reasons to voluntarily observe the laws of the Sabbath year. First, allowing the land to lie fallow allows the nutrients in the soil to replenish. Today, farmers observe God’s law by rotating fields and allowing certain lands to lie fallow. Second, this law was also meant to be a time for a believer to be rejuvenated. It is from these passages that the word “sabbatical” is derived. Sadly, outside of academia, few professions still allow for sabbaticals. Third, a sabbatical year off from work was a way to show trust in God to provide for you. Today, you can observe this principle by periodically denying yourself. Fourth, the forced saving for a sabbatical helps to protect people in times of emergency. Fifth, having a year of rest helped create a healthy dependence upon other believers (Lev. 19:9-10). Sixth, a year away from commercial work gave people opportunities to volunteer and help others. Finally, the Sabbath year foreshadows the time in heaven when all will be freed from the curse of having to toil to survive. A sabbatical is a time to give thanks both for what God has given you, to be rejuvenated, and to look forward to heaven.
The law of the Sabbath. Another outward sign of a heart made righteous through Christ is the desire to give one day a week to honor God: “12 Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave, as well as your stranger, may refresh themselves. 13 Now concerning everything which I have said to you, be on your guard; and do not mention the name of other gods, nor let them be heard from your mouth.” (Ex. 23:12-13). The Sabbath is the Fourth Commandment (Ex. 20:8-11; 31:13-17; Dt. 5:12-16). For the unsaved, the penalty for breaking this Commandment is death (Ex. 31:14; Nu. 15:33-36). Yet, Christ came to fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17). Through Christ, your legal obligations were “nailed to the cross.” (Col. 2:14). Thus, “[l]et no man judge you . . . in respect [to] . . . the Sabbath days.” (Col. 2:16). These things are the “shadow” of Christ (Col. 2:17; Gal. 4:10-11). You also have the freedom to observe a day to honor God any day of the week (Ro. 14:5-6).
Seven reasons to observe a voluntary Sabbath. Although not required, there are several reasons to observe a voluntary Sabbath. First, observing the Sabbath (along with the other Commandments) is a sign of your love for Christ. Jesus advised: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; Matt. 19:17; 1 Jo. 2:3; 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). Second, keeping a “holy” Sabbath gives God the opportunity to refresh your body. We were created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). On the Sabbath, God refreshed Himself: “[F]or in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.” (Ex. 31:17). The Sabbath also allows God’s people to “refresh themselves.” (Ex. 23:12). Third, keeping a holy Sabbath allows time to worship and study God’s Word. Fourth, if your church is properly structured, keeping a holy Sabbath can bring fellowship and accountability (Heb. 10:24-25). Sixth, Jesus healed others during the Sabbath (e.g., Matt. 12:9-21; Mk. 3:1-6; Lk. 6:6-11; 13:10-17; 14:1; Jo. 5:1-18). His point was that a holy Sabbath should include volunteering and helping others. Jesus never meant to turn the day into a day for hedonism. Finally, keeping a holy Sabbath allows you to receive a blessing from God. For those who spend the Sabbath seeking after God, He promises great delight: “Then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;” (Is. 58:13-14). He also promises to “bless” you : “How blessed is the man who does this, and the son of man who takes hold of it; who keeps from profaning the Sabbath, and keeps his hand from doing any evil . . .” (Is. 56:2, 5-7). Although you are under no legal obligation to observe a Sabbath, why turn down God’s offer to bless you?
(1) God’s law that people honor Him during His three appointed feasts. Three times a year, God commanded that the people honor Him with a feast of thanksgiving: “14 Three times a year you shall celebrate a feast to Me. 15 You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the appointed time in the month Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. And none shall appear before Me empty-handed. 16 Also you shall observe the Feast of the Harvest of the first fruits of your labors from what you sow in the field; also the Feast of the Ingathering at the end of the year when you gather in the fruit of your labors from the field. 17 Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord God.” (Ex. 23:14-17; Dt. 16:16). The first feast corresponds with the Passion Week when Christ rose from the dead. The second feast corresponds with Pentecost. Third feast, the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles, celebrates when God dwelt with the Jews. Like the Sabbath year and the Sabbath day, a believer is no longer “obligated” to observe these feasts (Col. 2:16). Yet, there are other reasons to observe them voluntarily.
(2) The Feast of Passover /Pesach, Unleavened Bread & First Fruits (The Passion Week) Ex. 12:12-46; Nu. 28:16- 25; Dt. 16:1-8. Celebrating your new life in Christ without sin. Passover was the first of three Feasts that happened over one week beginning at sundown on the day of the first new moon after the spring equinox. The month was called either Nisan or Abib (Ex. 12:2; Dt. 16:1). The purpose of the Passover was to remember that, during the tenth plague, the shed blood of the lamb allowed each family who acted in faith to have death “pass over” their firstborn son (Ex. 12:12-13, 22-23). Jesus was the Passover lamb who allowed judgment to pass over us (Isa. 53:7; Jo. 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). The Passover lamb could have no broken bones (Ex. 12:46). Jesus also died without any broken bones (Jo. 19:32-36). The “people of the community of Israel” slaughtered the lamb (Ex. 12:46). The “people of the community” of Israel also demanded that Christ be put to death (Matt. 27:17, 20-22, 25). The exact year that the Messiah would be “cut off” was also predicted 483 years earlier in the book of Daniel (Dan. 9:24-26 – “69 weeks” with each “day” representing 7 years). The sacrifice also had to die at the appointed place (Dt. 16:5-7). Jesus was the Passover sacrifice who died at the predicted time and the appointed place. If you are thankful for your new life in Christ, this is the appointed time to give thanks.
(3) The Feast of Unleavened Bread / Jesus’ Time in the Grave. The quick departure of the Jews did not afford the time required to bake leavened bread (Ex. 12:34, 39). To celebrate God’s deliverance, the Jews celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread over seven days (Dt. 16:3-4, 8). No yeast was used because leaven is a symbol of sin (1 Cor. 5:6-8; Gal. 5:9). The “matzo” or bread was also without yeast (which normally adds to the taste) to remind the Jews of their “affliction” while in bondage (Dt. 16:3). For the Jews, the bread without yeast over seven days symbolized an attempt to make a break from the sins in their past. It also symbolized the importance of acting quickly upon God’s calling in one’s life. Jesus was in the grave during part of this festival. Through Christ, you are freed from your old sins. If you are thankful for your freedom, this is the appointed time to give thanks.
(4) The Feast of First Fruits/ Jesus’ Resurrection. On the 17th of Avivi / Nisan, God also saved the Jews at the Red Sea (Ex. 3:18; 5:3, 14). Out of gratitude, the Jews brought their “first fruits” or their best of their barley harvest to God. On this day, Jesus also rose from the grave and became the “first fruits” for those who were once dead (1 Cor. 15:20). Out of gratitude, are you giving Christ the “first fruits” of your time, talent and treasure?
(5) The Feast of Weeks/ Shavuot (Pentecost). Give thanks for God’s revelation, the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church by serving God. Exactly 50 days after God saved His people from death at the Red Sea, He revealed His will for their lives through the Ten Commandments (Ex. 19:20-25; 20:1-21; 34:22; Lev. 23:15-17; Nu. 28:26-31; Dt. 16:9-10). This became the “Feast of Weeks” or “Shavuot”. It happened on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, ranging from mid-May to early June. This was also the birth date of modern Judaism. The Ten Commandments made up God’s wedding contract with His bride. The Jews remember the day by committing to serving God. They remember that they previously made a vow by promising: “All that the LORD has spoken we will do!” (Ex. 19:8). Yet, they broke their wedding vow when they then built and worshipped the golden calf (Ex. 32:1-6). For Christians, the wedding contract has not been finalized. Before Jesus left, He promised that He would leave us with a Helper to teach us His will (Jo. 14:26). Exactly 50 days after Jesus’ death, God revealed His will for our lives by pouring out the Holy Spirit unto His believers (Acts 2:3). This day was also the birth date of the Church. Because Shavuot occurs 50 days after Passover, Hellenistic Jews and later Christians gave it the name “Pentecost”, which in Greek means the “fiftieth day.” If you are grateful for God’s Ten Commandments or the insights you receive from the Holy Spirit, this is the day God appointed to celebrate and give thanks.
(6) God’s requirement that believers observe Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. Dt. 16:13-17; Ex. 23:16; 25:8; 34:22; 29:44-45; Lev. 23:33-43, Nu. 29:12-40; 31:10-13 – Celebrate that Jesus dwelt with us and will one day dwell with us again. Sukkot was the last of God’s holy days. This festival lasted eight days and began on the 15th day of the month of “Tishrei” (Lev. 23:39). It was the most joyful of all. It celebrated when God came to dwell or “tabernacle” amongst us (Ex. 25:8; Dt. 16:13-15). It also foreshadowed both when Christ dwelled with us and when He will again “tabernacle” with us during His Millennial reign. This Feast celebrates God. It is a “perpetual statute throughout your generation. . . ” (Lev. 23:41). If believers already observe the first two feasts during Easter and Pentecost, why not observe this third feast? There are several reasons to do so voluntarily.
(7) Seven reasons for Christians to voluntarily celebrate Sukkot. Christians are not required to observe God’s holy days (Col. 2:16-17). In the same way, a person is not “required” to observe a birthday or anniversary. Yet, there are some things that you do voluntarily to show love or appreciation. Out of devotion and not obligation, believers also have several reasons to give thanks at this appointed time. First, at this time, the Jews gave thanks that God dwelt with them (Ex. 40:34). This the appointed time to give thanks that Christ dwells in you and gives you a new life. This is also a time to give thanks that you will dwell with Him in heaven (Rev. 22:5). Second, the Jews used this as an opportunity to celebrate their freedom. Indentured servants and debts were freed on this day (Dt. 15:1-3). This is an opportunity to give thanks that Jesus freed you from bondage to sin. Third, the Jews celebrated that God provided for them food in the wilderness. This is an opportunity to celebrate Jesus’ provision for you (Matt. 6:25-34). Fourth, the Jews celebrated the water of life that God gave them in the wilderness (e.g., Ex. 15:25-27). This is an opportunity to celebrate that Jesus provides “rivers of living water.” (Jo. 7:37-39). Fifth, the Jews celebrated that God was their pillar of light in the wilderness (Ex. 13:21-22; 14:19). This is the time to give thanks that Jesus is the real light of the world (Jo. 8:12). Sixth, this festival normally required a staggering 215 expensive animal sacrifices (Nu. 29:12-39). This is a time to celebrate that Jesus was the one-time sacrifice that freed us from the obligation to sacrifice animals to have our sins forgiven (Heb. 10:14). Finally, if you celebrate this Feast “your God will bless you. . .” (Dt. 16:15). Even if you are not required to observe this feast, is there any reason to turn down God’s offer to bless you? So where can we observe this feast? In the past, the Temple was God appointed place for all three festivals (Dt. 16:16). Today, God’s Holy Spirit dwells within us instead of a physical temple (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:22). Also, “where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” (Matt. 18:20). Thus, the appointed place of worship is not a “place” but a “gathering” of believers in Jesus’ name (Heb. 10:25). Thus, honor Christ on these days with other believers out of love and not obligation.
(1) Keep yourself free from sin. Another part of being righteous before God involves living a life without sin: “18 You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread;” (Ex. 23:18(a)). Although Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial laws, believers are told make “spiritual sacrifices” for Him (1 Pet. 2:5). This includes living your life as a “living sacrifice” for Him (Ro. 12:1). The life offering is a sacrifice of thanksgiving: “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” (Heb. 13:15). The “leaven” in Exodus 23:18 is a symbol of sin (1 Cor. 5:6-8; Gal. 5:9). By telling His people not to offer leavened bread, God was telling each believer to offer a life of gratitude without sin. Is your life a holy and living sacrifice to God?
(2) Don’t delay in giving your best to God. Another part of making yourself a living sacrifice is acting without delay in giving the best that you have to God: “nor is the fat of My feast to remain overnight until morning. 19 You shall bring the choice first fruits of your soil into the house of the Lord your God.” (Ex. 23:18(b)-19(a)). The “fat” or the best part of the sacrifice that created flavor belonged to God: “[A]ll fat is the Lord’s.” (Lev. 3:16; 4:8; 7:3; 9:10; 9:19; 17:5). The priest who ate the fat was to be “cut-off” from the Lord (Lev. 7:25). We are to offer up the best of our lives, our fat or our first fruits. By telling the people not to delay until morning, God was telling them not to delay in giving God the best of their time, talent, and treasure. These are again outward signs of the inward transformation of a person made righteous through Christ. Are you delaying in giving your best to God?
(3) Stay sanctified from the unholy practices of the world. Three times, God advised “You are not to boil a young goat in the milk of its mother.” (Ex. 23:19(b); 34:26; Dt. 14:21). This prohibition was arguably aimed at preventing the Jews from observing Canaanite religious practices. In Canaan, if one wished to gain favor with a deity, he or she would slay a young goat in milk and present it to the deity (Source: The Ras Shamra tablets, Archeology and Bible History, by Joseph P. Free. pg 105). Orthodox Jews now interpreted this to prohibit serving animal meat with cheese. They cannot even be served on the same plate. This is why a cheese burger is not considered Kosher by Jews today. Yet, this interpretation is incorrect. Abraham once served a meal with meat and cheese (milk and curds) (Gen. 18:7-8). The real lesson behind these verses is not to follow the practices of the world while worshiping God. Are you mixing the things of the world in your worship of God?
(1) God’s promise to protect you from enemies. Another sign of a righteousness is obedience. (Jo. 14:15; 15:10; Matt. 19:17; 1 Jo. 2:3; 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). Obedience does not bring salvation (Eph. 2:8-10). Yet, God promises to reward believers on Earth when they are obedient (e.g., Lev. 26:1-13; Dt. 28:1-14). Amongst the many conditional blessings for those who are obedient, God promises to an angel to protect believers from their enemies: “20 Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. 21 Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him. 22 But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” (Ex. 23:20-22). God repeated this promise of protection throughout the Bible (e.g., Lev. 26:7-8; Nu 10:9, 35; Isa. 54:17). His help allowed Gideon to defeat thousands of enemy soldiers (Jdgs. 8:10). His help also allowed Jonathon to defeat the Philistines (1 Sam. 14:12). His help also allowed David to kill Goliath (1 Sam. 17:50-58). Every person faces a spiritual enemy. Some also face physical enemies. Is there any reason to turn down God’s offer of protection?
(2) God promises to guide you. Another blessing that comes from obedience is God’s guidance: “23 For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them.” (Ex. 23:23). When you are obedient, God can hear your prayers and guide you (Jam. 5:16). When you act righteously, your prayers are a sweet aroma (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3). Conversely, when you openly sin, your prayers may be “hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7; Jo. 9:31; Ps. 66:18; Prov. 28:9; Isa. 1:15). The reason for this is that sin cannot be in God’s presence, and He “cannot look on wickedness.” (Hab. 1:13). No matter what you do, God will never leave or forsake a saved believer (Heb. 13:5; Dt. 31:6). Yet, God is not obligated to act upon your prayers and guide you if you are in open rebellion against Him.
(3) God’s promise to provide for you. If the Jews remained obedient in worshiping only God, He also promised to provide for them: “24 You shall not worship their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their deeds; but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their sacred pillars in pieces. 25 But you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water;” (Ex. 23:24-25(a)). Jesus also made a conditional promise to provide for His believers: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:31). Although seeking after God’s “righteousness” is not a condition of salvation, why turn down Jesus’ offer to provide for you?
(4) God’s promise to heal you. If the Jews were obedient, God also promised to heal them of any illness that they might have suffered from:“ and I will remove sickness from your midst. 26 There shall be no one miscarrying or barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.” (Ex. 23:25(b)-26). It is through Jesus that we are healed: “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” (Is. 53:5). Again, if obedience and faith can bring healing, is there any reason to turn down Jesus’ offer?
(5) God’s promise to confuse your enemies. When you are obedient, God also promises to cause your enemy to fear you and be confused: “27 I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28 I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you.” (Ex. 23:27-28). For example, as the Jews prepared to invade the Promised Land, Rahab told Joshua’s two spies that the Canaanites feared Yahweh because He defeated Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea and the armies of two different Amorite kings in Jordan (Josh. 2:10-11). Again, if obedience and faith can cause your enemies to fear you and be confused, why turn down God’s offer?
(6) God promises victory “little by little.” Although God promises victory, He does not promise to instantaneous give you everything. To keep you humble and dependent upon Him, He only promises victory “little by little”: “29 I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. 30 I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land. ” (Ex. 23:29-30). The size of the enemies in the Promised Land later caused the 10 Jewish spies to feel like “grasshoppers” (Nu. 13:33). They feared that they could not dislodge the “giants” all at once. Yet, God never promised to defeat their enemies all at once. Do you expect God to give you everything at once?
(7) God’s promise through victory to expand your borders. God also promised that He would expand the Jews’ borders to as far as the Euphrates in Iraq if they were obedient: “31 I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you.” (Ex. 23:31; Gen. 15:18-21; Dt. 11:24-25; Jos. 1:4). God again later promised to “enlarge” the Jews’ borders if they were faithful (Dt. 12:20). Only because of a lack of faith and a lack of obedience, the Jews never realized the full extent of God’s promises. If you are obedient and faithful, God will also expand your borders.
Fellowship with things of this world may “snare” you in your walk. Finally, an outward sign of a righteous person is seen when someone tries to stay pure from the things of the world: “32 You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods. 33 They shall not live in your land, because they will make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” (Ex. 23:32-33). After entering Canaan, many Jews begin to include the local gods in their worship to cover their bases (2 Kgs. 17.24-34). If you love the things of the world, the love of God is not in you (1 Jo. 2:15). Likewise, if you fill your body with unholy things, eventually your whole body will become dark (Lk. 11:34). The definition of true religion also requires that you avoid being stained by the things of the world: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (Jam. 1:27). Are you taking steps to keep your mind free from the snares of the world that might pull you off your walk?