Passage: Exodus 20:22–21:36
Community Group Questions: Exodus 20:22-21:36 "God Cares"
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In our journey through the book of Exodus, we now come to what scholars refer to as the “book of the covenant.” This a group of laws, following the 10 commandments, that were designed to guide Israel in its life as a nation. The book of the covenant extends from Exodus 20:22-23:33, and we will take several weeks to go through it. This week’s study focuses on Exodus 20:22-21:36. By analyzing these laws, we can see very clearly that God cares about the everyday details of his people’s lives.
- Read Exodus 20:22-26. These verses instruct Israel in how to make a “temporary altar” for offering sacrifices to God. Notice that these altars were to be simple and plain (earth, uncut stones, no steps). This would greatly contrast the Canaanite altars, which were tall, with many stairs and very showy. Apparently, God was protecting the Israelites from making their altars in such a way that they might be tempted to make the altar into an idol (see vs. 23). The principle is this: we must never allow the “tools” of worship to become the object of our worship. Can you think of examples today where people worship the means or methods or tools of worship, rather than the God they point to? How can we guard against this problem in our worship lives as Christians?
- In 21:1-11 we see laws about slaves. Take time to read 21:1-6 as a sample of these types of laws. It is important to understand that Hebrew slavery was more like “indentured servitude.” Bible translations often render the word “slave” as “servant” or “bondservant” to capture that difference. Hebrew slavery was a voluntary process whereby a man or woman could “enlist” as someone’s bondservant, contracting to work for a particular length of time (typically 6 year contracts – see vs. 2). In addition to receiving food, clothing, and shelter, every bondservant was paid a contracted fee. Some would go into slavery to pay off debts. Other’s enlisted to move up the social ladder. Others had such a positive experience working for their master, that they chose to remain a bondservant permanently (see vv. 5-6). God’s laws listed here protected the employee (the slave) by ensuring their rights were honored. God’s laws also protected the employer (the master) by making sure the contracts were kept. In light of this, as we read these laws and see that God cares about the workplace, what can we learn about our responsibilities as Christian workers and employers? Read Colossians 3:22-24. In what ways do your attitudes or actions need to grow and mature when it comes to your workplace?
- Exodus 21:12-36 show us God’s heart for restitution and justice under the law. Read the following sample laws from this text: vv. 12-14, 18-19, 22-25, 28-30. An overriding principle in these laws is that, “the punishment should fit the crime.” God makes a distinction between murder and manslaughter, and between accidental harm and intentional. What do these laws show us about God’s heart for justice? What can we learn about the Christian believer’s relationship to the criminal justice system and governing authorities? (see Romans 13:1-7) By contrast, Jesus said that in the area of “personal revenge,” we should turn the other cheek and forgive (see Matt. 5:38-42). As a Christian, how do we know when to appeal to civil authorities for appropriate restitution and justice (in the spirit of Exodus 21), and when to forgive rather than respond (in the spirit of Matthew 5)?
Prayer suggestion: Thank God that he cares about the everyday matters of our lives, including worship, work, and restitution. Ask God for wisdom in dealing the particular situations that members are facing in the weeks ahead.