“Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them: If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing. If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself; if he comes in married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master has given him a wife, and she has borne him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free,’ then his master shall bring him to the judges. He shall also bring him to the door, or to the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him forever.”
Exodus 21:1-6 NKJV
In Exodus 21 and thereafter talks about statues. God gave commandments to the people of Israel so that He may be with them. Commandments are the standard of righteousness. They are the central code of righteousness. It is like the stump of a tree. They were taught about what would happen to them if they disobeyed. They were given the Law and the specific rules and regulations of the Law, which detailed what the consequences were if they disobeyed them.
For example, it said, “Do not steal.” So, what happens if one steals? The consequences of such an action are laid out from verse 1 in chapter 21 all the way to chapter 23. We only read up to verse 6 because we do not have time. From reading this, we can understand what is the standard of God’s law and His judgment.
Every country has its laws. Members of parliament make laws. How do you determine what a particular country is like? You can find out by examining their legislation. Through their laws, we can figure out what kind of country it is and what the nature of the people might be like. What does God do when He sees unrighteousness? He is teaching them what He will do when they disobey the law.
So, what God is trying to reveal through this is that there will be consequences if man sins. Prior to this, people did not know that there were consequences to their wrongdoings since they did not even know what was wrong. Then they were told, “Do not murder. You must not murder anybody. If you do, there will be consequences.” What happens if you commit murder? You also will die. That is why one will not murder because he is afraid of dying.
The first thing God gave them were commandments, and these are called statutes. When the people answered that they would obey these, what did God give them? He gave them regulations. Regulations explain the way to redemption. Instructions on how to offer sacrifices are essentially the way of being redeemed. “If you sin you will die”. Yet, it does not end there. “The consequences of your sin is fearsome but you have the chance to redeem yourself.” He is teaching us that we have a chance to be forgiven of our sin.
So, in the present, we come to realize what sin is. Not believing in Jesus is a sin. What is the result of that sin? It is eternal destruction. One goes to hell. But there is a way to life. Since Jesus redeemed man from his sin, if one believes that, he can be saved. This is the rule or the law that God is teaching. Without this fundamental law, man would not be able to understand the gospel no matter how many times it is explained to him. That is why Jesus also came to the earth at a generation when the legal system was well established. He came when people had a more civilized mindset and a certain level of understanding. He came when they were able to accept and consider the gospel. He gave them regulations, and through them, we can come to understand God’s nature.
There is an increase in sexual assault in our country. The other day I heard the news of a person who murdered someone. He raped and then murdered that person. Originally those offenders are given life in prison. But he was released on bail. He was released. After he got released, he did it again. He was put on trial again. If he was supposed to get life imprisonment but get released on bail, he should be sentenced to life imprisonment, shouldn’t he? Or he should be executed. But he was given 18 years imprisonment. It is outrageous. It was on the news as an outrageous trial.
What was the reason for the sentence? The judge reasoned that the victim was this man’s girlfriend. But her feelings for him had changed, and they broke up. So, he raped and killed her out of anger. The judge took that into consideration, saying that the man should not be isolated from society for that since he was very hurt by his break up with his girlfriend. That is why the judge sentenced him 18 years in prison. Just hearing that is absolutely maddening.
It is outrageous, isn’t it? It is so far from the law in the Bible. Because of this law back then, people could not dare sin. When the law is upheld and abided by, society is improved, and it becomes easier and better for people to live. The people of Israel had been trained with the basics, so the nation was not fearful or distressed of such offences because they do not occur very often. When we look at even our close neighbor Japan, the rate of fraud committed in our country is two thousand times more than in Japan. So, Japanese people hardly commit any fraud. But in our country, it is so common.
With the trials like the one that I previously mentioned, we would normally criticize the judge. The media slams the judge, saying that the judge does not understand unless his own family goes through the same. But it is not solely the judge’s fault. What else is accountable? It’s the law. Who makes laws? The members of parliament. Hence the blame is all on the politicians. But since people are simple-minded, they only criticize the judge. Some people like to put all the blame on the police. But the police cannot do anything about it. It is the law that was made wrong. Because that is the law, the judge can only make decisions based on the law. So, do not criticize the judge. Blame the politicians instead. The problem all starts with the members of parliament.
Then who elects the members of parliament? People did. They elected those politicians with such a mindset. Why do those kinds of people become members of parliament? Their election campaign targets the people’s preferences. It’s the people that brought it upon themselves. It’s paternalism. In our country, there is a lot of legal paternalism. People keep changing based on emotions.
In Western countries, presidential candidates fight each other over their policies. There is more fierce competition than in our country. We often criticize negative campaigning, and it is an issue in our country. But it is actually worse in the US. They attack each other brutally. It is a bloodbath. You wonder if they are even allowed to do that. But they do not get emotional about it. They have strict policy-focused campaigns to bring down their opponents, which is part of their strategy. Yet, for us, all the ads and campaigns are emotion-driven.
The reason their campaigns are emotionally driven is because the people are emotion-driven. That is why even the laws are made in that way. Hence, the legislation of a country will show that country’s tendency. In our country, there is so much injustice within the legal system. So many areas that are not backed by law. Even with the recent bushfire in Gumi and the pollution caused by it, thousands of people needed to be treated in hospital and could not go home. Something similar also happened in Germany a few days ago. Yet, the whole situation was under control within just six hours or so. Not one person was hurt. In those situations, who do we blame? We blame the firefighters or the city council, or the police. We blame them for why they could not prevent the situation or send help right away. But it is none of their faults. It is the law that is the problem. When such situations arise, the law needs to have the protocols outlined to respond to those situations. But this is not happening in our country.
God’s law is perfect and covers even the finest things. It even intricately protects the weak. The Law has a progressive attitude toward the disadvantages. If we read chapter 21:1, it says, “If you buy a Hebrew servant, he shall serve six years; and in the seventh he shall go out free and pay nothing.” Do we have a law like that? You cannot find anything like it in any society in the world at present. There is no law like it. If the servant worked six years, he could walk out as a freeman in the seventh year. He is free. He gets a fresh start. He is given the opportunity to start again. If he came in by himself, he would go out by himself; if he came in married, then his wife would go out with him. But if his master had given him a wife, then he must leave by himself. That is fair. Because the wife was given to him by his master, yet if he loves his wife and has children whom he loves and does not want to part with them and wishes to serve his master who has been considerate to him, they can make another agreement. The man pledges that he will never leave but serve his master.
In that case, his wife and children are his. And he will need to pierce his ear. So, he would stand by the doorpost, and his ear would be pierced using an awl. That is a sign that he would be his master’s servant forever. That is what ear piercing means: that one would be a servant forever. That is where it comes from. It is the mark of a servant. Even nose piercing is similar to what we see some Arab women have. Likewise, oxen and bulls get nose rings so that they can be controlled. Once the servant’s ear is pierced, he decides to serve his master forever.
In the same way, we make a promise to God. I will be Your servant. If you do not want to, then you do not; you can leave by yourself. But if I want to receive the blessing God is giving and wish to be His servant, I must sign an agreement, and my ear gets pierced. In other words, I receive the Holy Spirit. I get baptized and then receive the Holy Spirit. From then on, I become a servant eternally. In this way, God gave freedom for the servant to leave. We can see God’s benevolent nature in this. It is His basic nature.
If one is oppressed or under some domination, He does not want that to continue. Instead, He says, “You’ve worked hard,” and when the time comes, He allows them to leave freely and get a second chance to start anew. We can see similar laws hereafter. It demonstrates the fundamental nature of this God.
There is something called the redemption of the land. As they live amongst each other, some will become poor while others will become rich. In the beginning, the land of Canaan was divided and portioned among the people of Israel when they first entered. But after some time, some people that became poor would sell their land to another and be left with no property or become enslaved by someone else. If this happens, for generations, that family will remain poor without any land while others have lots of land. But when it is the 49th year (seven times seven) in the year of release, all the land which made some of the people rich while others poor will be restored to the original owners. They get the land they had in the beginning. And they start all over again from zero.
Thus, even for the poorest person, despite being poor all his life, when it is the 50th year and time for him to give inheritance to his children, he would not pass down the poverty to them. Everything will be restored so that they start anew in the same way God apportioned in the beginning. So, you can understand God’s nature through this, can’t you? He does not want people to be left in a state of despair. What does He always give? He gives hope and a new opportunity all the time. A new opportunity to start anew. Regardless of the despair one is facing, even if he is a sinner, even if he is a slave and oppressed, He wants to give them a new chance again and again. Thus, He gives them a second chance every seven years and again every fifty years.
However, did the people keep this law or not? They did not. This is what God wanted of them, but the people did not obey His law because of their own greed in the end, He punished them and scattered them. They were not holy as God wanted them to be. They were not following God’s will. It is His nation that should take after His nature. But instead, they resembled the devil’s nature more, which is why God scattered them. And then, they realized they needed to obey the Law and started to keep the commandments strictly and observe the year of release. It was when they were obeying God’s Law strictly and following it that came whom? That is when Jesus came.
As they were diligently observing the Law, Jesus came. Although they were following the Law to the best that is possible for man, they still killed Jesus. So, regardless of how man tries to draw near to God and take after His nature, man ended up killing the image of God that finally appeared before them. Thus, even if man’s righteousness might be impressive, he will only become an enemy of God.
Anyway, we can understand God’s nature from the Law. We may at first think of the Law as fearsome, yet when we look into it more closely. We find out about God and how considerate He is of the sinners and the weak so much that we cannot find even a similar law in any country right now. Hence, we must not misunderstand this God who is full of compassion. Do not think as though God is always condemning us, wanting to torment us and never give a second chance. Rather, always receive a second chance from our God, who continues to give us a new opportunity.
Even if we may not have done well so far, we can do well. And that is what God is pleased with. “Lord, I will always seek a new opportunity from God. I will always repent and rely on the blood of Jesus to have a new hope. Though I may have been disobedient until yesterday, I will obey from today.” This renewal of our hearts is what God is pleased with. God is pleased with a somewhat brazen faith. Let us pray that we will always receive the new opportunity God gives us.
Holy God who came to us. Since You have shown Your grace upon us, help us to receive this grace by which You give us a new chance every day. Help us not to reject the second chance but always start anew. We lack, we are without power and wisdom, we are lazy and wicked, but we want to be victorious by obtaining that chance the Lord gives. Fill us by the Holy Spirit now. Fill us with the power and life to overcome every weakness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on October 25, 2012
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team