Wrtten by Rev. Zheng on 21 August 2022
“You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”Exodus 19:6
Three months after Yahweh brought Israel out of Egypt, He led them to Mount Sinai and declared their new identity and mission to them. Together He gave them the Ten Commandments and made the covenant of the law with them.
The priesthood of Israel was affected in two ways. Firstly, Israel is to make atonement for every people and nation that seeks God. The atonement is none other than Jesus the Nazarene, He is appointed as the Saviour of the world before the creation of the world. Secondly, Israel is to be a great nation that witnesses the eternal kingship of Yahweh with the Law given.
It is generally thought that laws are set up to punish people with criminal inclinations. People think that the poor are the most likely to covet, the desperate most likely to steal, and the uneducated to kill…etc. But God’s intention for the law is the opposite, it is to protect the marginalized, not to punish them! Israel was marginalized in Egypt, she was oppressed and persecuted as a slave people. In the eyes of Israel, the Ten Commandments is not a threat but a safety net. In the law is a new society in which every man is respected, cared for and loved.
For instance, the fourth commandment says, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” In Egypt, they worked to exhaustion every day. But in the new society, God ordains a rest day for every man to worship the LORD, even the animal is to rest from work on that day!
The sixth commandment says, “thou shall not kill”. The Egyptians beat them brutally and killed their baby boys. There is no protection for their lives. But in the new society, even a poor man’s life is to be safeguarded by his creditor, “Do not take a pair of millstones—not even the upper one—as security for a debt, because that would be taking a person’s livelihood as security.” Deut 24:6
“Thou shall not steal”. The eighth commandment is not just to protect one’s properties. It is also to prevent one from cumulating wealth on the suffering of other people. “The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” Lev 25:23 In every seven years there is a year in which all debts shall be cancelled (Deut 15:1); In every fifty years there is a year of jubilee, in which all lands shall be returned to the owner according to Moses’ allotment when they entered the land (Lev 25:8). There is no poor man in God’s economy.
Now we begin to understand why the Lord Jesus chose Isaiah 61:1-2 to be his first sermon text at the synagogue of Nazareth:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,”Luke 4:18
God placed the poor, the oppressed, the widows and orphans, and the sojourners at the heart of God’s law! Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, respecting and caring for others is in the blood of Christians’ new life in Christ, it is the outflow of God’s life from our royal priesthood, it is also our life proclamation of the salvation of God!