[Exodus 23] Exposing Falsehood. In chapter 23 of Exodus we find laws relating to false witness and dishonesty. As believers we are to keep ourselves far from what this chapter identifies as a “false matter.” Spiritually speaking Jesus is our truth. Our truth is a person. Thus, for the believer even things that are factual that contradict the character of Christ are a lie. This chapter addresses how these things are to be dealt with.
[Exo 23:1-33 KJV] 1 Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. 2 Thou shalt not follow a multitude to [do] evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest [judgment]: 3 Neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause. 4 If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. 5 If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him. 6 Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause. 7 Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked. 8 And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous. 9 Also thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. 10 And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof: 11 But the seventh [year] thou shalt let it rest and lie still; that the poor of thy people may eat: and what they leave the beasts of the field shall eat. In like manner thou shalt deal with thy vineyard, [and] with thy oliveyard. 12 Six days thou shalt do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest: that thine ox and thine ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger, may be refreshed. 13 And in all [things] that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth. 14 Three times thou shalt keep a feast unto me in the year. 15 Thou shalt keep the feast of unleavened bread: (thou shalt eat unleavened bread seven days, as I commanded thee, in the time appointed of the month Abib; for in it thou camest out from Egypt: and none shall appear before me empty:) 16 And the feast of harvest, the firstfruits of thy labours, which thou hast sown in the field: and the feast of ingathering, [which is] in the end of the year, when thou hast gathered in thy labours out of the field. 17 Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord GOD. 18 Thou shalt not offer the blood of my sacrifice with leavened bread; neither shall the fat of my sacrifice remain until the morning. 19 The first of the firstfruits of thy land thou shalt bring into the house of the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk. 20 Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. 21 Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name [is] in him. 22 But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. 23 For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off. 24 Thou shalt not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their works: but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images. 25 And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee. 26 There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil. 27 I will send my fear before thee, and will destroy all the people to whom thou shalt come, and I will make all thine enemies turn their backs unto thee. 28 And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee. 29 I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee. 30 By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land. 31 And I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river: for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand; and thou shalt drive them out before thee. 32 Thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor with their gods. 33 They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.
In the previous chapter we dealt with laws concerning the thief. Who is the thief? John 10:10 tells us that Satan is the thief. You must study these things in the light of what Paul teaches us in Ephesians 6 about spiritual warfare:
[Eph 6:12 KJV] 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places].
Our enemy might indeed include flesh and blood people because there are people who will set themselves against you but in spite of this Paul tells us that ultimately and in reality our wrestling is not with men, our wrestling, our true spiritual struggle is with the adversary, that is Satan. What does this tell us? It tells us what Einstein observed, that is, we can’t solve the problem on the level of the problem. We must war on the higher level first, then God will direct us in other things regarding how to deal with difficult people and situations in the natural.
Verse 1 of our chapter speaks of the false report. What is a false report? The false report is discovered when we realize there is a difference between the TRUTH and the FACTS.
[Jhn 14:6 KJV] 6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Our truth is a PERSON His name is Jesus, and He lives in our heart by faith. Anything contrary to the Truth (who is Jesus), anything contrary to Him in nature or character is a lie even if it claims to be factual. The fact may be that you are sick but Jesus is not sickness, He is health therefore the sickness is a lie. The facts may be you are impoverished but the truth is that Jesus became poor so that you could be rich. This understanding couldn’t be simpler. If Jesus cannot be it or do it according to the record of the gospel, then that contradictory thing, person or situation is a lie.
Verse 2 tells us we are not to follow the multitude to do evil. This speaks to majority rule, the idea that might makes right, “everybody’s doing it” and mob violence. Just because you have a consensus of the majority in a matter doesn’t mean you are excused from the Biblical mandate not to follow the crowd. Einstein made the statement that one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. Those who walk alone are likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before. When we follow the crowd v. 2 tells us we are perverting justice.
Verse 3 warns us not to “countenance” or favor a poor man in his cause. What does this mean? Today there is much unrest among the marginalized peoples of the earth. Violence and riots often occur and so-called authorities say we must give allowances for these oppressed people groups. Verse 3 contradicts this. Just because someone is disenfranchised does not give them the right to be excused from doing right or acting rightly. The law holds all regardless of class, race or station in society to the same standard.
Verses 4-5 address the treatment of our enemies. If we have it in our power to do good to our enemies then that is what we should do. This likewise was the teaching of Jesus:
[Mat 5:44 KJV] 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Thus, we see that Jesus is not contradicting the Law, rather He is fulfilling the law and rightly dividing its requirements for our own understanding. In verse 3 we see that we are not to favor a person’s cause simply because they are poor, likewise v. 6 tells us neither are we to disadvantage a person merely on the basis that we can get away with it because they are poor and cannot afford to defend themselves. There must be a balance struck in all our dealings. There is no room for partiality for partiality is not justice.
In v. 9 as in the previous chapter we see a warning about treatment of strangers and foreigners in our midst. If we belong to Christ we are not allowed in any way to disenfranchise those different from us by race, ethnicity or origin. This is where political policies come into conflict with spiritual principles. Political institutions are inherently nationalistic and tend to prefer native citizens over those who are not citizens, or not in the majority. While v. 3 tells us that we are not to view marginalized people as having the moral high ground merely because they are disenfranchised, but neither are we to deal harshly with them merely because they are different from us and we can get away with not loving them as we love ourselves.
In verse 11 we see that the land was not to be cultivated in the seventh year but the land was to be allowed to rest. This was so that the poor could come in and take what grew therein for their own need without cost that year concerning that which grew of itself. History records that this law was never obeyed even by David or by Solomon. Is this important? In the prophets we find that God allowed the people to go into captivity one year for every seventh year that they did not obey this command.
In v. 12 the people are reminded to honor the seventh day as a day of rest. God created the world and designed it to rest on the seventh day. Years ago, the Soviet Union did away with taking Sunday off and implemented a ten-day cycle in order to be more efficient. They failed miserably. People had nervous breakdowns. Equipment failed. Productivity went down dramatically till they returned against their will to God’s way of doing things. In this country as well, there was a time that the seventh day was honored and in the church it was a rare thing for a member not to be in services on Sunday due to work obligations. One could make the objection that things have changed but they haven’t changed for the better. Dollar for dollar we are working longer hours for less money than we did in the days when Sunday was a holy day for the majority of the country.
In v. 14 the command is that three times in the year a feast will be made when all the males were to appear before the Lord at the place He would appoint which ultimately was the temple in Jerusalem. Those three feasts were:
1. Passover (Jesus is our savior).
2. Pentecost (Jesus is our Holy Spirit Baptizer).
3. Tabernacles (???)
The first two of the three feast requirements speaks to us of a personal spiritual experience fulfilled in Christ. We cannot speak clearly about Tabernacles other than to say according to the type and shadow that there is yet a personal spiritual experience equal to the new birth and Holy Spirit baptism that the church as a whole has not experienced yet.
In v. 19 the requirement of first fruits is imposed upon the people. They are required to honor God first in all their substance. Has this law been done away with? Many believe that the tithe is not incumbent upon the people of the New Testament because tithing was under the law. We should pause and remember that Jesus didn’t come to do away with the law but to bring about the fulfillment of the law. How do we fulfill the law of the tithe? Jesus said in the gospel of Matthew:
[Mat 5:20 KJV] 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
In the New Testament we should give more than the tithe. What about you? Are you giving MORE than ten percent of your first fruits to God? If this isn’t the case, Jesus states that you will in no wise enter the kingdom of heaven. That’s not necessarily not going to heaven. It refers to walking in the blessing. To be blessed we must exceed the requirements of the law, not legalistically but from the heart. The New Testament covenant does not minimize the law it fulfills it by going beyond the demands of Moses.
In vs. 20-23 the Lord promises to send His angel with the people into the conquest of Canaan. They are warned however that were they to provoke the angel they would be destroyed. Why all of these prohibitions? Because angels know nothing of redemption. They don’t understand perverse speech. They do their job – to protect us but they can be angered and turned against you unwittingly. The chapter ends with a prohibition of entering into any social contract with the nations that were to be displaced from Canaan. This is the principle of separation. Today the church strives to accommodate the world by fashioning itself into something the world can feel comfortable with and recognize. This is why churches turn the lights down low and spend lavish budgets on lighting and special effects. This is what the world understands and seeks after. What is the result? They are not becoming more like us in the church, we are becoming more like them to the point that you really cannot tell a major difference from those who claim to follow Jesus and those who don’t.