Social justice is a HUGE topic today, and one that Christians cannot turn a blind eye to.
Having spent a few weeks looking at the social justice laws in the Book of the Covenant (Exodus 21-24), and interpreting them through the lens of Christ's teachings, I think there are some really important things we can learn by surveying these laws. This post will introduce the idea of these social justice laws within the context of Exodus, and show why they matter for us as Christians. These laws begin with Exodus 21:1, “Now these are the judgments (laws, rules) which thou shalt set before them.”
Exodus begins as the continuation of Abraham’s story, whom God chose to be the father of a great nation, and to whom he promised people and land. In covenant with Abraham, God prophesied that his descendants would be enslaved for 400 years, and after that they would be brought back to the land of promise.
Exodus opens by connecting us to that story and conveying how the Israelites got to Egypt because of Joseph, but were eventually enslaved by the king of Egypt. The LORD raised up Moses to be their agent of deliverance, he led them out of Egypt, and on their way to the Promised Land. As God constructed his nation, he gave them laws to govern their relationship with him and with others- that’s what the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) and Book of the Covenant (Exodus 21-24) are all about.
This section is book-ended with covenantal vows. Exodus 19:5 sets the scene for the giving of the 10 Commandments and Exodus 24:7 describes Israel’s agreement to the Book of the Covenant- “Then he took the Book of the Covenant & read in the hearing of the people. And they said, “All that the Lord has said we will do, & be obedient.”
A covenant is an agreement like a contract, but the nature of it is different. If you don’t think so, trying not paying your cell phone bill and see what happens! There are four general ways contracts that differ from covenants (adapted from a Gary Chapman article):
1. Contracts are often made for a limited period of time; but a Covenant is permanent
2. Contracts often deal with specific actions; but Covenants make promises
3. Contracts are based on an "If..., then...," mentality; but a Covenant is based on love
4. Contracts are motivated by the desire to get something; but Covenants are for the other person
Now, since many of us are married, have experienced marriage, been to a wedding, etc… It’s not hard for us to grasp the concept of covenant, but we live in a contractual society, and sometimes we mix up these two ideas. You would be appalled to attend a wedding ceremony where the couple made a contract with each other rather than covenantal vows.
If you take out the trash today, then I’ll wash the dishes…
If you’ll sweep the floors today, I’ll unload the dishwasher…
If you’ll do this, this, & this, then I’ll love you… But if you don’t keep up your end of the bargain, then I’ll find someone else who will.
The word “covenant” is a technical term referring to the imposition of an obligation upon another; so on the basis of their obligation to God, Israel said her “I DO’s” & God gave them the vows to keep.
All the covenants were types, or shadows, of God’s covenant with Christ and through Christ. What he said to Israel in Exodus 19:6, you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation; is what he says to all his people in Christ.
1 Peter 2:9–10, But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
The mercy we have obtained is through Christ, and Christ taught “whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). The Golden Rule says Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It is an ethic of reciprocity found in many human cultures and religions, but a more apt description of it says- do unto others as they would do unto you, but do it FIRST!
Christ’s rule is so much better than the Golden Rule, or the get-them-first rule. It says “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). The law of Christ means that the people of Christ should be concerned for the well-being of others.
That concern should be for 4 things:
- God is the One who SAID it- follow justice, & justice alone… (Deuteronomy 16:20)
- God is the Just Judge, and we will all meet him- we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10)
- God’s Justice is meted out in and through Jesus- “behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute justice and righteousness in the earth” (Jeremiah 23:5)
- Because of Jesus, we should act justly toward others- He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
Tim Keller said that “Many Christians think of social justice as an optional interest, not as an essential characteristic of those the Lord loves and delights in.” God’s justice will come to bear in Jesus, but it reigns right now through his people. So let this be our prayer-May justice reign through us so that it reflects the rule of God within us.
QUESTION: Is God ruling in you through the person and work of his Son Jesus?
Post is adapted from the sermon- Dawn of Justice, http://www.oasisarlington.com/media/podcasts/dawn-justice