Through the Bible in 90 Days: Day 6
Read: Exodus 15:19-28:43
Verse that stood out: "Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt" (Exodus 23:9).
About here, the going starts to get a little rough in attempts to read the Bible through. The Ten Commandments are fairly interesting, mainly because there are just ten of them. But from here on out, law after law, tedious specification after tedious specification can tend to wear the modern reader out. All the ancient rules for daily living and descriptions of religious paraphernalia seem so far removed from our day to day lives. Not only that, some of the rules seem either outrageously weird or worse, yet, immoral in themselves.
It helps to remember that these many laws were written to a specific culture and time, and the laws that seem quite regressive to us, might have appeared incredibly liberating to the original hearers. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth sounds pretty great if the previous law had been a life for an eye. I find the best way of reading all these ancient laws is to look for such redemptive movements. That is, I look for places in which God's redemptive character shows up in these ancient laws, even if it's only a glimpse of what would later be revealed in Christ. When I do that, I start to find God throughout these tedious texts.
For example, in 23:9, I see something introduced into the "law" that is almost unheard of even in today's legislation, empathy. "Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt." God is challenging his people to carry out the law not with an unyielding sense of justice, but rather, to approach the application of the law in others' lives with a healthy dose of mercy. We've not quite arrived at Jesus admonition to "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," but we're getting closer. "Don't oppress" is not the same thing as "Welcome in," but a redemptive move has clearly been made in the right direction.