The Kind of People We Really Are vs. The Kind of God We Serve (It’s a love story you need to know.)

I’ve said some interesting things in parenting. Things I never thought I would need to say. Things like:

“Stop licking your brother’s feet. There will be no licking of feet in this house.”

“Do not eat your boogers. All boogers no matter how big or small need to go in a tissue and placed in the trash can.”

“We do not spit in people’s faces.”

“I’m sorry, but you have to wear clothes.” (I mean, honestly.)

But apparently my children are not above any of these things and well, needed to hear them.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 22:16 – 23:19
Key Verse: “You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.”  Leviticus 20:26


And as I studied the second half of God’s civil laws, I realized God – as the perfect parent, knew we too – as sinful beings – are above nothing. So He went ahead and said the things you’d think would have gone without saying. Things apparently, we needed to hear.

Things like: (And these are all my paraphrase.)

“If you have sex with a virgin, she is now your wife. You need to pay the bride price.” (22:16)

“Have nothing to do with sorcery.” (22:18)

“You can not have sex with animals.” (22:19) (You’d think this was a given.)

“Be nice to foreigners.” (22:21)

“Do not take advantage of widows or fatherless children.” (22:22) (It’s sad God had to tell us this.)

“Do not say disrespectful things about me or any ruler for that matter.” (22:28) (Oh boy.)

“Don’t say lies about people.” (23:1)

Mmhmm, and that’s just a small sampling. There’s more. Go read it if you haven’t yet. Just click here. And God was serious. Many of these laws if broken, were punishable by death.

He then goes on to say, “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him” (Ex. 23:4-5). In other words, “Be nice, not hateful.”

Did He really have to tell us that? Yes, yes He did. It’s not in us to naturally do what’s right. I know, disappointing, but it’s true. Even on our best days, we’re still quite the deplorable bunch. (See Romans 3:9-18 for further clarification on the matter.)

But these laws or judgments or regulations or commandments (whatever you want to call them) go beyond just being nice. They go beyond trying to stay on God’s good side. Beyond trying to follow a few rules. (Beyond trying to keep your blue bulldog name tag out of the doghouse – as was my lofty goal every day of my kindergarten career.)

They go beyond the external to the internal. God’s judgments providing the perfect boundaries to embark each of us on a path of holiness.

The problem is, we can’t do it. No matter how hard we try none of us follow the law perfectly. And according to James 2:10 even if we break just one law, we’re guilty of breaking all of it. (Why do I feel like my blue bulldog just got pinned to the doghouse?)

Our only hope is redemption through Jesus Christ. By grace through faith when we come to Him for salvation, believing in his death, burial, and resurrection, Christ in essence signs his name next to ours. It’s “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Rom. 3:22).

And it’s beautiful. A sacrifice so unconditional we never would have done it. Nope we can’t even pretend for a minute that we would have. Not us, a people who have to be told over and over again to be nice and not hateful.

But our inadequacies don’t mean we’re off the hook. (Get ready for the clencher.) The moment holiness is granted, holiness is expected. To be set apart in God means to be set apart for God. In Leviticus 20:26 God says it this way, “You shall be holy to me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.”

Holiness was expected because holiness had been given. In today’s passage God says it this way, “You shall be consecrated to me.” In other words, because I saved you – you have a responsibility to me. Which reminded me of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you…You are not your own for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Hallelujah redemption wasn’t just for Israel! But that means neither is holiness. Ephesians 1:4 says of believers, “Even as he [God] chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.” (Parenthesis mine.)

We, the deplorable bunch that we are, set apart before the world even began to live and love God. It’s amazing! But how are we doing at it? (I know, I don’t like that question either.) Redemption comes with responsibility. Grace might be free, but that doesn’t mean we have the freedom to live however we want. It means we have the freedom to live a holy life! An expectation not possible apart from Jesus Christ.

You see, to establish holiness in Jesus Christ, is to emanate holiness through of a changed life. The power of the Holy Spirit at work in every one of God’s beloved. Not that we do it perfectly. No, no, step inside my house and you’ll see how flawed I am.

And that’s what gets me. We’re a messed-up humanity. The kind of people who have to be told not to have sex with animals or sleep around or take advantage of widows or join hands with a wicked man or pervert justice. I mean, how awful can we get? Yet, Jesus Christ died for us anyway.

We don’t deserve to worship Him. We don’t deserve to be part of His kingdom. We are unworthy of any sort of invitation. Yet God says, come to the throne. Come and worship me. I have redeemed you. I have set you apart. You are mine. I will put my Spirit within you. I will help you. I will be with you.

Oh it’s lovely, this God we serve, this love story we live. It’s worth living. It’s worth trying. It’s worth every effort I can give. But it’s a love experienced one way and one way only – through faith in Jesus Christ. Who set aside the holiness of heaven, to come and save a deplorable people, like us.

Something I think we should think about.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
As a whole, does the world tend to view humanity as good or bad? What does the Bible say about humanity?
In what ways does the offer of redemption prove God’s love for us? Have you received it? If so, in what situation can you today live out the holiness you’ve been granted by faith in Jesus Christ?

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God’s Design for Society. Maybe It’s Time We Look.

“Be responsible.” How many times have you wanted to scream it at the TV? Or a professional athlete? Or a politician? Or your children? (Hmm, seems I don’t have enough fingers and toes.) For some reason being responsible is not something that runs parallel with our natural desires. Instead, it’s just easier to shrink back and blame someone else.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 21:12 – 22:15
Key Verse: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10


Especially if the elicited result was merely an accident. Right? I mean who wants to take responsibility when you didn’t mean to do it? No one, that’s who. For example, the following is a common conversation I have all the time with my beautiful little blessings:

“Mom, he hit me!” says child A.
“But I didn’t mean to!” says child B.
“Well even if you didn’t mean to, you need to apologize and take responsibility for your actions,” says the exasperated mother.
“But I DIDN’T mean to!!” says child B louder this time.
“It doesn’t matter whether you meant to or not. Tell your brother you’re sorry for hitting him,” says the exasperated mother A LITTLE LOUDER THIS TIME.

Can I get an amen? I know I’m not the only one repeatedly having this conversation. In fact, I’m just sure you’re nodding your head in agreement right now.

Taking responsibility for our actions is not something we like to do, nor want to do, nor take any pleasure in doing, but it’s Biblical. (Surprise, surprise.)  Exodus 21 and 22, our text today, leaves no room for doubt on the matter. In both passages God expounds on the law by giving a list of rules or examples that were to help Israel’s leaders judge cases, usually at the city gate. So beginning with instances of personal injury done to others, like, well, murder the LORD covers an array of incidents on down to the accidental injury of a neighbor’s animal.

These rulings were part of the Book of the Covenant Israel agreed to live by in Exodus 24. It helped them function as a nation. Remember they had been under the not so wonderful example of Egyptian jurisdiction for almost half a century. So it was important God set some new parameters if they were to be His treasured possession and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6).

In every case or ruling the punishment was to fit the crime. There were no million-dollar lawsuits for a cup of spilled coffee. The principle used was Lex Talionis. Described in Exodus 21:23 like this, “But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

However, the only instance we see this play out literally is with murder. If someone purposefully took the life of another, he was to pay with his own life. Yes, the Bible supports Capital punishment my friend. God values the sanctity of life too much not to. Only in the case of an accidental death was the offender’s life to be spared.

Otherwise Lex Talionis was not to be taken literally, especially in matters of personal dispute. If someone cut your ear off, it wasn’t a free pass to turn around and cut off theirs. That’s not what God had in mind as Christ makes clear in Matthew 5. Lex Talionis was to be the principle guide used by Israel’s judicial system (consisting mostly of elders at the city gate). It insured punishment for the offender, all the while protecting them from being unjustly punished.

The idea is appropriate restitution. If you wrong a brother (or sister for that matter), then make it right. If it’s an injury, pay for their time off work and the medical care needed to get better (Ex. 21:19). If you harm your slave – let them go free (v. 26). If you dig a pit and your neighbors donkey falls into it, pay for your neighbor to get a new donkey (v. 34). If your animals graze in your neighbor’s field, make restitution by giving them the best of your own field (22:5).

In other words, BE RESPONSIBLE.

If you make a mess, clean it up! If you borrow a friend’s shovel and it breaks don’t just give them back a broken shovel; buy them a new one, even if it was an accident. If you push someone down, help them up, even if you didn’t mean to send them to the floor.

Be a neighbor. This was God’s hope for his people. And it told the Israelites they served a fair God. A fact I’ve contested with God from time to time when I didn’t get my way, but the revealing of his law clearly paints the portrait of a fair God.

However, enforcing these standards is not the job of the offended, but the official or the judge or the jury sitting inside a sweltering hot courtroom. (I don’t know why, it just seems like it should be sweltering hot in there.) But my personal responsibility is forgiveness and love and peace and kindness that I might be an instrument of righteousness God uses to bring the lost to saving faith. (The heart of what Christ was getting at in Matthew 5.)

So there is responsibility on all sides my friend. No one gets off scotch free. My neighbor might owe me a new shovel, but I owe my neighbor the hand of forgiveness and the decency to not tell everyone in town he broke my shovel.

But the problem is we’ve set aside the example God’s laid out for us in Exodus 21 and 22. One of respect and decency towards one another. One of restitution. One of responsibility. One in which the punishment fits the crime. Our legal system has gone both ways. Handing out victorious lawsuits for vain charges. And/or not handing out insufficient correction for convicted criminals.

Now I may not be able to do anything about the government that oversees me, but I can certainly do something about the God who oversees me. I can honor Him by recognizing his sovereign design for society and model it. I can take responsibility for my actions and teach my children to do the same. I can say I’m sorry even when it was merely an accident. I can buy new shovels when necessary and keep my mouth shut and reign in my heart when required.

I can know God’s word and I can live it myself. Because God’s ways are not old fashion, but expertly crafted for a people He knew would have ample opportunities to say, “I’m sorry,” and make restitution for the error of their ways.

Bottom line – I can be responsible for my heart and mind and actions and reactions. Because living accountable for our actions is not just a fleeting hope we have for our government officials or the professional athlete our kids look up to so much. But it’s the hope of God for all of us.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What do you need to take responsibility for today? And where do you need to extend the hand of forgiveness?
In what ways is God’s design for society upheld today and in what ways is it not?

It's the hope of God

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