I tried to imagine what it would have been like to be escorted out of Eden.
When the Cherubim took guard of the Mt. Garden of Eden a lot of things were left behind.
unmatched beauty, Peace, joy, walking with God, redemption, holiness, sabbath and along with all those wonderful characteristics...justice too was left behind the guards.
The world began to grow in injustice and unrighteousness in freighting speed.
Cain killed Abel
Genesis 6 - And God regretted making man because all of the inclinations of mankind's heart were evil all the time.
The flood was sent as a purge...a do over...but it didn't
Deception, theft, slavery and disregard of the needy
Soon infamous Sodom and Gomorrah appeared as proof positive that the world had lost its sense of justice and unrighteousness.
Ezekiel prophet reminded them that they were unkind to the poor
Then for 400 years Israel lived as slaves in the anti-Eden ...with no known sense of holiness, sacrifice and sabbath... justice - They were as far from Eden as you could be.
Then God brought them out...to the foot of another mountain where he painted them a picture of how they could actually return to Eden...today we know this section of our scriptures as the law.
Contrary to popular opinion, the law is not actually irrelevant to our lives. Quite the contrary. In fact, it's a foundational aspect to the entire story of the Bible
The Israelites were being invited into a way of living which would bring them life, joy, peace, provision, and the very presence of God.
The story behind the entire law: God's relentless faithfulness to bring humanity back into the mountain garden of his presence. Back to fullness of life.
First two weeks of the series have been foundational to understanding its purpose but for the remainder of the series we are going to explore 4 grand themes that dominate the rest of the law.
20 Let true justice prevail, so you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
Before we explore the term please note just how important it is made out to be:
So you may live. So you may occupy the land God is giving you.
If you don't let justice prevail you will not live. You will not occupy the land.
So what is it?
Tze' dek, tze' dek - ethical rightness, legal rightness, sometimes even implies charity ...doing the right thing. Sometimes translated righteousness.
It implied a culture without exploitation of people for whatever reason
It implied a free from unfairness, free from inequity
A culture free from want. And a culture obligated to do the right thing for all people.
This is usually interpreted to mean justice and only justice, achieving just ends through just means.
17 ""For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. 18 He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. 19 So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.
Here it is mishpat - 200 times in Hebrew OT
Its most basic meaning is to treat people equitably.
It means treating every person with fairness regardless of race or social status.
It also means giving people their rights.
These two words roughly correspond to what some have called ""primary"" and ""rectifying justice."" Rectifying justice is mishpat. It means punishing wrongdoers and caring for the victims of unjust treatment. Primary justice, or tzadeqah, is behavior that, if it was prevalent in the world, would render rectifying justice unnecessary, because everyone would be living in right relationship to everyone else.
Rectifying justice, or mishpat, in our world could mean prosecuting the men who batter, exploit and rob poor women. It could also mean respectfully putting pressure on a local police department until they respond to calls and crimes as quickly in the poor part of town as in the prosperous part. Another example would be to form an organization that both prosecutes and seeks justice against loan companies that prey on the poor and the elderly with dishonest and exploitive practices.
Primary justice, or tzadeqah, may mean taking the time personally to meet the needs of the handicapped, the elderly or the hungry in our neighborhoods. Or it could mean the establishment of new nonprofits to serve the interests of these classes of persons. It could also mean a group of families from the more prosperous side of town adopting the public school in a poor community and making generous donations of money and pro bono work in order to improve the quality of education there.
N. T. Wright identifies ""justice"" as one of the ""echoes of a voice"" ..."";the voice of Jesus, calling us to follow him into God's new world - the world in which the hints, signposts, and echoes of the present world turn into the reality of the next one.""
Tim Keller: This is why, if you look at every place the word is used in the Old Testament, several classes of persons continually come up. Over and over again, mishpat describes taking up the care and cause of widows, orphans, immigrants and the poor - those who have been called ""the quartet of the vulnerable.""
In premodern, agrarian societies, these four groups had no social power. They lived at subsistence level and were only days from starvation if there was any famine, invasion or even minor social unrest.
Orphans = fatherless
Widows = husbandless
Poor = without resources to live
Foreigner = ger
In Deuteronomy, the ger is frequently grouped with ""widows and orphans,""indicating his status as a helpless and vulnerable person. Justice for the ger, then, involves provision and protection within the community. Because of historical events surrounding the book's composition, such as Assyrian invasions and mass migrations in the late 7th century, it seems best to translate the term ger in Deuteronomy as ""refugee"" or "";exile.""
Throughout the book of Deuteronomy, the ger is listed alongside widows and orphans as a dependent person, vulnerable to poverty, hunger, and abuse. Although he is found throughout the book, ""this stranger is faceless: he has no name; there is nothing to tell us of his hometown; and no reasons are given for his presence in the land"" (Houston 69). Instead, Deuteronomy seems to take the ger's presence in the land for granted, just as one might assume the presence of widows and orphans in a world where the untimely death of breadwinning husbands and fathers is inevitable.
21 ""You must not mistreat or oppress foreigners in any way. Remember, you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. 22 ""You must not exploit a widow or an orphan. 23 If you exploit them in any way and they cry out to me, then I will certainly hear their cry.
If they cry out to me you're in trouble
19 ""Cursed is anyone who denies justice to foreigners, orphans, or widows.""
And all the people will reply, ""Amen.""
You deny them justice and you will be cursed.
""You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it's like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. 10 ""Plant and harvest your crops for six years, 11 but let the land be renewed and lie uncultivated during the seventh year. Then let the poor among you harvest whatever grows on its own. Leave the rest for wild animals to eat. The same applies to your vineyards and olive groves. 12 ""You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working. This gives your ox and your donkey a chance to rest. It also allows your slaves and the foreigners living among you to be refreshed.
Leviticus 19:33-34 - Treat them like family! 33 ""Do not take advantage of foreigners who live among you in your land. 34 Treat them like native-born Israelites, and love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
And if you wonder if this theme of justice for the quartet of the vulnerable carries on through scripture...
And the rest of the bible is replete with more echoes of justice...
9 The Lord protects the foreigners among us.
He cares for the orphans and widows,
but he frustrates the plans of the wicked.
9 ""This is what the Lord of Heaven's Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. 10 Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.
And Jesus of course...
Matthew 25:41-45 41 ""Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ""Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn't feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn't give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn't invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn't give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn't visit me.""
44 ""Then they will reply, ""Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?""
45 ""And he will answer, ""I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.""
One other thing from the mouth of Jesus is fascinating to me...
Matthew 23: 13,23
""Woe to you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people's faces. You won't go in yourselves, and you don't let others enter either. Woe to you hypocrites! ...you ignore the more important aspects of the law - justice, mercy, and faith.
The application for us is obvious and unambiguous ... the kingdom of God, Eden...is a space full of justice.
We must create it
We must own it
We must live it
We must stand for it!
But before I wrap this up...
The problem passages:
Exodus 21 ""These are the regulations you must present to Israel...
2 If you buy a Hebrew slave, he may serve for no more than six years. Set him free in the seventh year, and he will owe you nothing for his freedom. 3 If he was single when he became your slave, he shall leave single. But if he was married before he became a slave, then his wife must be freed with him.
4 If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave and they had sons or daughters, then only the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master.
7 When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she will not be freed at the end of six years as the men are. 8 If she does not satisfy her owner, he must allow her to be bought back again. But he is not allowed to sell her to foreigners, since he is the one who broke the contract with her. 9 But if the slave's owner arranges for her to marry his son, he may no longer treat her as a slave but as a daughter.
10 If a man who has married a slave wife takes another wife for himself, he must not neglect the rights of the first wife to food, clothing, and sexual intimacy. 11 If he fails in any of these three obligations, she may leave as a free woman without making any payment.
20 If a man beats his male or female slave with a club and the slave dies as a result, the owner must be punished. 21 But if the slave recovers within a day or two, then the owner shall not be punished, since the slave is his property.
What do we do with these?
It may be hard to believe but this was progress
Original culture: slavery with many abuses
Only thing that constrained abuse was the destruction of property
Mutilation of slaves was of no consequence in ANE
Beatings were owners prerogative
Bounty for lost or runaway
The ethical arc - redemptive movement - ethical trajectory - the direction that the biblical spirit is moving
The Redemptive spirit of the text indicates an ethical trajectory that pushed preliminary movement toward eventual absolute movement.
Colossians 3:11 - In this new life, it doesn't matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
Colossians 4:1 - Masters, be just and fair to your slaves. Remember that you also have a Master - in heaven.
Absolute movement vs. preliminary movement
But what I want you to hear is how the justice ... indeed is an echo of the voice of Eden...calling out from behind the walls of the...turn and look at the walls and listen for the call...and let's open the doors of the mountain garden and invite the vulnerable in...and cry out the words of Jesus:
18 ""The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19 and that the time of the Lord';s favor has come.""(Eden)
Eden where tzedak and mishpat create shalom!
This church is a Kingdom Church
We are Kingdom people...we are Eden people...
We are not content in ""waiting for soul rescue while we live for fat city""
We are not satisfied in huddling on top of first mountain where we sanctify the American dream...this church is compelled to climb the 2nd mountain of Destiny as we push one another toward the summit of the mountain Garden of Eden.
Where the most vulnerable of society are protected
Where the most marginalized of our world are brought near
Where the most oppressed of humanity are set free
We will return to Eden: Where Justice rolls on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream!