Exodus 23 Just Relationships — or Community?

Questions: What is the nature of just relationships? How is that like raising teenagers? “Read More” to pursue answers

Lord, speak to me through your Spirit and your Word, your Body and your Blood;
that I might know you as you are, and manifest the image of Christ
in this world and the world to come. Amen.

Exodus 23:1-33

This chapter appears to have two different aspects. The first half delineates what it means to relate in a just manner to:

* employees
This include both positive commands (‘thou shalt’) and negative (‘thou shalt not’); in particular, some of these groups we are to avoid, yet others we are forbidden to avoid. Similarly, we are forbidden both to unjustly help and to unjustly hurt the poor.

The second part could also be construed as focusing on ‘just relationships’, though in this case it is focused on gods rather than the material universe:

And in all [things] that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.

What I find most interesting in all this is that God is not merely characterizing holy relationships, but also trying to create a healthy community. We can see this from the three feasts that are mandated here:

* unleavened bread
* harvest
* ingathering
I suspect the latter two were traditional in that region, but the first one was new. Regardless, the interesting point to me is the perfect attendance requirement:

Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before the Lord GOD.

It is nearly impossible for me to imagine the communication challenges of that era before electronic media and widespread literacy. The best way to ensure consistent transmission was to have everybody in the same ‘room’, as it were, hearing the same message from the same source. And to be absolutely clear that it was Yahweh, not some other God, that they were listening to.

That is, His concern is to ensure that not only are they holy people, and one people, but His people. In fact, all three of them are intimately connected. Their connection to Him is the ultimate source of their unity, which is what ensures their moral behavior. Conversely, a commitment to acting justly leads naturally to seeking unity, which reinforces their dependence on God.

What’s also fascinating is that God doesn’t just spring this on them for immediate implementation. Instead, he:

1. Models what it is like to live as a localized community under Moses in the wilderness
2. Explains to them how things will need to be in the promised land
3. Gives them an environment gradually increasing boundaries to develop the appropriate habits

By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land

It actually sounds a lot like raising teenagers. Which, I suppose is God’s goal: to turn needy, dependent children into adults who will bless him as they are blessed. Who are not just free to ‘do what they want’, but are rather empowered and disciplined to ‘do what is right.’


God, I confess that I haven’t entirely grown up myself. I too often view my adulthood as license to pursue my own selfish desires, rather than grasping the responsibility to connect in a healthy way with the communities you’ve placed me in: my family, church, neighborhood, and workplace. Help me to live a pure life that I might see your face — and to see your face that I might live a pure life. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

About the Title:

Today’s title is a play on the word just, which can mean either holy or merely.