Week 1 – Lessons from the Law
Day 3 – The Purpose of the Command: Deuteronomy 24:17-18
Yesterday we mentioned, almost in passing, God’s purpose for ministry to the fatherless, the widow and the stranger. Today we will go a little deeper into it. Deuteronomy 24:17, 18 says:
“Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the fatherless; nor take a widow’s raiment to pledge: But thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee thence: therefore I command thee to do this thing.”
Have you ever poured your life into someone only to have them completely turn around and forget all about you? Forget that you gave them everything you had. Forget the mess that you helped them out of, or the trials that you helped them through. It is easy to do that as a Christian. It is easy to forget the things and the condition from which God delivered us. It was easy for the Jews to forget this too, even as they were still in their first few days of travel outside of Egypt. Even with that pillar of cloud hanging out in front of them, they quickly forgot. Unfortunately, we often have to see portraits of the awful in order to remember the beauty of the good. God knew that His people needed a reminder, and so He built one right into their law, explaining its purpose as He went.
What did it mean to be a bondsman in Egypt? It meant you were a slave and worked for the Pharaoh. It meant long days making bricks in the hot sun. It meant bearing heavy burdens. It meant building treasure cities for the Pharaoh. It meant such sighing and groaning under the weight of the bondage that the cry came up before God. It meant beatings. It meant affliction. It meant that just because he didn’t want there to be too many of your people the Pharaoh could command your babies to be killed. It meant you were not free.
The same is true for every sinner ever to walk the earth. In John 8:34, Jesus made this very clear. He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.” Romans six makes this picture very clear. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness…for when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death…for the wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:16, 20, 21, 23a. Just as the slavery of Israel most likely ended in the death for many Jews, the bondage of sin is a bondage unto death.
God did not leave Israel in their bondage. He brought them out at great cost. The redemption of Israel from Egypt would stand for all ages to come as a picture of God’s plan of redemption from the debt and bondage of sin. As such, blood must be shed. I know that sounds very blunt, but it is true. Hebrews 9:22 tells us that without shedding of blood there is no remission for sin. This is because, as we find in Leviticus 11:17, the life of the flesh is in the blood and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). As God brought His people out of Egypt, He also set up the Passover. Each family was to kill a spotless lamb and to put its blood on the doorposts of their house. As the angel of death then came, it would see the blood and pass over them. From that point on we see the system of sacrifices put in place and carried out throughout the history of Israel.
Jesus is our Passover Lamb. His blood was shed on the cross. It paid the penalty, the redemption price, for our sin, setting us free from the bondage of sin. God doesn’t want us to forget. He wants us to remember both the amazing price that was paid, and that from which we were delivered. The best way for this to happen was for us to have a reminder.
God called upon His people to care for the fatherless, the widow, the stranger because it would remind them of the bondage, oppression and affliction they had faced before He set them free. His desire is the same for us. No, most of us were not physical slaves under some cruel taskmaster, but all of us have been slaves to sin. We may not have felt the affliction that a widow or orphan has felt, but we have felt the cruel affliction of the bonds of sin. All of us have been strangers, alienated from God, and, as citizens of heaven, are now strangers in this world. God’s command is not without purpose. It is meant to keep ever before us the amazing redemption that we have in Christ.
Should we not desire, as one set free, to see others set free as well?
Up Next: Day 4: The Pocketbook – God’s Plan for Provision