Sovereign Lord, how truly magnificent You are! I praise You for Your majesty, power, goodness, and grace.
Read Exodus 22:1-15
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). We need to put first things first.
The theme today is property rights and suitable punishments for theft. The law here is concerned both for culprit and victim. The principle of restitution seeks to ensure that the crime is punished and the victim adequately compensated both for his or her loss and for the associated trauma. Poverty is no excuse for escaping paying compensation, for if the thief has nothing of value they have their bodies and can be sold for slavery. However, property rights go beyond theft and cover matters such as accidental damage and neglect. A process is established to determine guilt when someone’s property is being looked after by another and they suffer loss. Both an oath before the Lord and careful independent examination of the evidence are used to ascertain the true story behind the disappearance or destruction of someone’s property.
One of the fascinating aspects of all these laws is that they apply to a different situation to that which they were given, anticipating the final destination. The context is a settled agrarian economy where people own land, build houses, grow crops and herd cattle. It is very different from a nomadic people dependent on manna from on high or water from a rock. However, the Lord was clear that the wanderings of the people were temporary and so they needed to prepare for a more settled future in the Promised Land.
While God’s people are to live one day at a time, each full of its challenge and opportunity, yet we are also to be looking ahead and making adequate preparation for what lies ahead. For Christians that also involves laying up treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:20), the only investment with a long-term yield. In all this we are being warned against carelessness or indifference to what belongs to another. Here the principle of neighbor love is applied in a very practical way.
Read Luke 19:1-9. Reflect on the change that occurred in the life of Zacchaeus when he encountered Jesus (keeping in mind the neighbor love concept outlined in today’s passage). Is there someone to whom you ought to make a similar restitution?
Lord, I acknowledge that often my love for others is emotion-based, rather than servant-love. Help me to love in more than just word, but in deeds of love.
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