The Israelites are still gathered and God is giving them some laws to live by. These aren’t the flat-out DON’T rules, these are IF YOU DO IT THIS WAY, WHAT THEN? rules. If you buy a servant, set him free in the seventh year–unless he has taken a wife, then do this, unless the wife was also one of your servants, then do that. I have to confess that for me it’s kind of easy to get lost in all the rules and laws here. I’ve read these two chapters and a few that come after a couple of times now, and every time my mind begins to wander partway through.
I haven’t managed any really deep thoughts about these two chapters, but these things did occur to me as I read and studied and checked footnotes:
(1) God is very specific. I’m sure there’s a reason for that, but I’m not sure whether He’s so specific because He knows that if He isn’t, we’ll start changing things, making stuff up as we go, rationalizing, generalizing, applying the rules differently for those we like and those we don’t. We manage to do that even after God has been specific. Imagine what a mess we’d make of it if He hadn’t laid down the law.
(2) this particular scripture in Chapter 22:
29 ¶Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of thy sons shalt thou give unto me.
This is a lesson I’ve learned a few times in my life. God doesn’t say, hey, it’s okay, tithe when it’s convenient for you. Give me what’s left over at the end of the year. Catch up when you can. He says Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits . . .
And (3) as He always does, He follows the rules with a promise. Here’s what I ask of you. If you don’t do what I’m asking you, here are the consequences, but if you do, here are my promises. Here’s what I will do for you if you will obey my word in this matter.
And here’s the thing: God will not fail to keep His promise. God can’t fail to keep His promise. So if we’re not getting the blessings we think we deserve, we can be sure that either the time isn’t right yet, or the failure is on our side.
At the end of these chapters, God calls Moses to come to Mount Sinai for another chat. A cloud descends over the Mount and Moses is kept cooling his heels for six days before God speaks to him. The last thing we’re told in Chapter 24 is that Moses stays on the Mount for 40 days and 40 nights.
There’s a lesson in this, as well. There’s meaning in everything God has included in the Bible. Even when God calls us to do something, we shouldn’t expect that everything will be revealed to us in a flash. He might keep us cooling our heels for a while before He speaks to us again.
Patience. Obedience. Acceptance. Humility. They’re recurring themes in the Bible. And God doesn’t repeat Himself because He couldn’t think of anything else to say. If He repeatedly tells us that something’s important, we have to know He’s doing it for a reason. We have to know that it’s when we lose hold of those traits that we start making messes of the world around us. We start searching for solutions on our own. We move off God’s path and onto our own. We start thinking we know best, and start rationalizing our decisions. And that way lies heartache.
Every single time.