“The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1.17).
The grace which brings us salvation brings us life. It takes hell-deserving, living dead rebels against God, and makes us alive in Christ, through forgiveness and the gift of His righteousness. The Law of God is the means by which we explore and express that life, and through the Sprit of God we have the desire and the power to do just that. These diverse laws of chapter 23 enable us to reflect on the Mind of God, and to respond to Him.
Truth and Justice
God always speaks the truth to us, and therefore we speak the truth to one another. We must be alert to the subtle pressures to changes our words in order to win favour, to gain power, or to save our skins in a difficult situation (vv.1-3). And of course, words must pass into action, as we seek to be a blessing even to those who feel at times like a curse to us (vv.4-5). Whoever it is, poor person, disadvantaged alien, or even, wealthy influential person, we must always speak and act with absolute integrity (vv.6-9). Live like Jesus, is the command from these verses.
Work and Rest
Concern for the poor extends to the workplace. God’s people are to be marked by their concern for the most vulnerable. The poor and those employed on the land were the most vulnerable to exploitation. God insists that they are treated with compassion, as these laws teach.
Firstly, there is a working pattern to observe, of of six years’ harvesting and sowing, and one year of leaving the fields unworked. This provides food for the poor, as well as for animals (vv.10-11). This six-and-one pattern must be the shape of the working week (mirroring the Creation Week), to bring rest to those most likely to be overworked. And these laws are not an option: “be careful to do everything I have said to you” (v.13).
Worship and Celebration
Work is not everything. Time must be given to the praise of God as an assembled community, and the celebration of His grace. God stipulates that His people are to remember the three great feasts together (vv.14-17). God is rich in goodness. We His people must take time aside from the rhythms of work and rest, to focus on the God we profess, and to discover again how wonderful He is. Worship is the reorientation of our world to ensure that God is really all in all.
The God who saves is the God who guides. Verses 20-33 are the first indication of all that’s ahead of God’s people. Yes, they will have a land, and yes, they will have to fight their enemies for it. And yes, also, they have One who will guide them and fight for them. They have a great challenge, of refusing the embrace the gods and values of the nations they face. They have the greatest promises that God’s favour will rest upon them (vv.25-26). Who would want less, through Christ, for this world or for the world to come?