Read Exodus 21
Focus on verse 1
A society without laws is a society in a state of anarchy. Without some kind of laws that the majority of people respect, the strong abuse the weak, and there is no security. The only constant is fear. In today’s reading Moses records some of the laws God gave to his people to set them apart from other cultures around them. The chapter begins…
Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. (v. 1)
Then he lists laws regarding slaves, laws regarding murder and manslaughter, laws regarding theft, cursing, injury, uncontrollable animals… and this is just the beginning. Some who seek to find fault with the Bible rip these laws out of their context and attempt to establish that God is somehow advocating slavery, or stoning people and that if we no longer keep these laws we are being inconsistent in our application of biblical standards because we pick and choose which laws we obey and which we disregard.
What these fail to realize is that the book of Exodus is written as a narrative, or rather, in the narrative genre. Moses is recording events as they happen simply giving us an honest picture of what God said and what the people did. The fact that God gave them laws regarding slavery does not mean that God has put his stamp of approval on the concept of human slavery. It simply acknowledges that slavery was a part of that culture at that time and that in this context and culture, God was not advocating slavery, but rather was setting rules for slave owners to protect slaves from being abused or treated unfairly. We must remember that the Israelites up to this point had been slaves themselves – they knew nothing else they had no established system of government, no real organization as a society other than what Moses told them to do.
In the context of the Bible as a whole this is just one part of God’s revelation of Himself to humanity. At the beginning of the book we see a less complete picture of God than we see at the end, and the most complete picture is visible only as the Holy Spirit gives us understanding of how all the parts fit together.
As for all those laws… Jesus said “I did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it” – the laws in the Old Testament are still helpful to us if we understand them in their context, but they have since been fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, so we no longer required to keep them as the Old Testament Jews did in order to make ourselves acceptable to God. The New Testament revelation helps us understand how to live in the spirit of the Law which we keep out of gratitude to God because He has accepted us based upon the sacrificial death and resurrection of Christ on our behalf, rather than out of a sense of seeking to earn God’s favor