Read Exodus 23:9. What is God’s message to Israel here?
As newly freed slaves, the Israelites knew what it was to be oppressed, exploited, and marginalized. And while they celebrated their freedom, God was concerned that they not forget where they had come from, what it was like to be excluded, and what He had done to rescue them. He instituted the Passover as a memorial event and an opportunity to retell the story: “With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Exod. 13:14, NIV).
Read Exodus 22:21-23. How important was the memory of their own slavery in the instructions about how the people should treat the least fortunate in their new society?
Barely had the echoes died away after the giving of the Ten Commandments when Moses is called to spend more time with God, who gives him detailed instructions as to how these grand commands should be lived out in Israelite society. Even before the instructions for building the tabernacle, God gives three chapters of laws about such things as the appropriate treatment of slaves, laws that would have stood out in stark contrast to the treatment many of the Israelites had experienced. There were laws dealing with violent crimes, laws related to property, laws for everyday living, and principles for establishing courts to implement these laws and to administer justice (see Exodus chapters 21 to 23).
Prominent among these laws was concern for fellow citizens in this new society, as well as concern for the outsiders and those most vulnerable. These people were not to be exploited; they were even given rights to access food in ways that would respect their dignity, such as gleaning leftover crops from the harvested fields. Such treatment for “outsiders” and foreigners was not common in the ancient world. Even today some seem to forget the important moral principles found here regarding the treatment of others.
|What memory in your experience makes you more compassionate and concerned about the suffering or injustice of others?|