Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Second Sunday in Lent: Exodus XX.18: Dt. 25:11-19

Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, you have sent your Word into the world in Jesus Christ, and your Word is the Truth and the Life and the Way. Grant to us eyes to see and ears to hear that might love the Truth and hate all lies, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

We noted last week that the ninth commandment insists that all of our words are oaths, sworn testimony, and therefore truth and justice are closely aligned. Justice is the insistence that the truth be told and justice enacted. People with good names are those who defend the truth and the good name of their brothers. Moses continues here to insist that God’s people must love the truth and equity even when it is not easy.

Just Measures
Dt. 25:11-19 is concerned with being honest and fair in our dealings. The passage opens with the wife intervening to help her husband in a fight, and there are fierce consequences for this action. This is probably because she is acting like an Amalekite. They took advantage of Israel’s weakness by attacking the stragglers in the rear ranks when they were tired and weary (25:18). The Amalekites are to be destroyed, and therefore those who act like them are to receive strict punishments. The prohibition may also be related to the previous section where God requires Israelites to defend the inheritance of their brothers (25:5-6). Seizing the genitals of a man is to striking at his inheritance and ability to raise up heirs. All of this is tied to the requirement that God’s people deal openly and honestly in all their dealings. They must use just measures even in the middle of a fight or a sharp business dealing. And this is so that God may give them long lives in the land (25:16). Yahweh calls such dishonest dealings “abominations,” and abominations are only fit to be destroyed.

Remembering Not to Forget
The next portion of the text begins with the exhortation to remember (25:17) and ends with the command not to forget (25:19). They are to remember in order that the remembrance of Amalek and his injustices may be blotted out. Remembering is tied to truth telling which means that forgetting is a form of dishonesty. Forgetfulness is culpable; it is for forgetting that Israel will later undergo God’s judgment (e.g. Hos. 2:13, 13:6, Is. 57:11). If a man says that he will perform some task, and he forgets, he has not only forgotten, his forgetfulness has become a lie. This is why God instituted memorials, feasts, and rituals all over Israel’s culture so that they would not forget Him or his law (e.g. Num. 15:39, Dt. 5:15, 6:8-9, 16:2-3). Furthermore, the primary “remembering” is to destroy the injustice of Amalek. Israel is to study and rightly understand history in order to do justice in the present.

Conclusions and Applications
Do not forget to blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. This means that you are called to war with injustice and deception. A righteous man hates lying (Pr. 13:5) because God hates lying (Pr. 6:16-17). A great deal of injustice is perpetrated through dishonesty and lies. Therefore we are called to hate lying and to pray and worship against all dishonesty and deceit (Ps. 59:12-13, 120, 144:11). Worship in Spirit and in Truth accomplishes this.

Not only must we hate it out there; we must hate it in ourselves. True repentance from dishonesty means telling the truth; it means confessing all sins honestly and naming them rightly. In particular, we must confess our dishonesty to those we have lied to. Short of confessing our lies, we are still making peace with an enemy of God.

Last, we must recognize that Jesus is the Word of God, the Truth of God. God sent his Truth into the world to save us from our lies and deception. Truth has come to set us free (Jn. 8:32). Man without Christ suppresses the truth in unrighteousness and exchanges the truth of God for a lie (Rom. 1:18, 25). But this is slavery. But the Truth of God has suffered and died for our lies, and his blood cleanses us from all sin (1 Jn. 1:6-7). It is in that freedom that we are called to bestow liberty on the captives of sin around us. But our culture has turned upside down and backwards. They refuse to call sin by its name and thereby enslave the world, but we are called to a ministry of grace and mercy.

In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!

Closing Prayer: Almighty and kind Father, we ask that you would teach us to be a people who love justice and hated all deception. Grant us honesty in all our dealings, and give us grace that might bestow freedom upon one another as we love and tell the truth.

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