1 - 3 Do Not Make a False Statement
1 “You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. 2 You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert [justice]; 3 nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute.
In these verses we have an elaboration of the ninth commandment. Speaking words is not an innocent activity: “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Mt 12:36-37).
Speaking nonsense is already bad, bearing a false report is even worse. The lie is used to conceal the truth. This allows evil to continue to exist and to do its depraved work. For the believer now it is true: “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one [of you] with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Eph 4:25).
The majority of the people around us are motivated by evil and are looking for evil, they want evil and exclude God. What the majority wants is made the norm. That is the essence of democracy. God does not want the members of His people to participate. The straight should not be bent, as is often the case now. The law is adjusted in accordance with what the majority thinks is correct. Because the majority does not take God into account, justice is twisted. We can think of things like abortion, euthanasia, unmarried cohabitation and same-sex marriage.
Justice must have its course. Lowering the level of punishment out of compassion for an insignificant person is just as wrong as giving preferential treatment to someone who is in esteem.
4 Objects Found from an Enemy
4 “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him.
5 Help to an Enemy
5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying [helpless] under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release [it] with him.
Helping your enemy is also proof of a good mind. Indifference does not suit anyone of God’s people who is called to show Who God is. God has not been indifferent to our problems either. He has helped us to unload (spiritual) burdens. In spiritual terms, God also expects us to help people to “unload” their burdens (cf. Gal 6:2; Phil 2:4).
6 - 8 Fair Case-Law
6 “You shall not pervert the justice [due] to your needy [brother] in his dispute. 7 Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty. 8 “You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just.
The warning to be fair is recurring again and again. The person who has to judge – in fact every person has to do with it, not only judges appointed for that purpose – is always in danger of being influenced or of being deceived. Those who allow themselves to be influenced, are open to the prestige of the individual or the acceptance of bribes.
Personal gain should not play a role in the case-law or in the overall assessment of what is law. Anyone who is deceived and is dragged along in a fallacious affair is too accommodating in the story that is made up. In both cases a wrong assessment is made, while God does not justify but condemns the guilty party.
God says: “I will not acquit the guilty. The cross of Christ has given this statement an unimagined and unprecedented twist. Anyone who recognizes to be guilty toward the holy and righteous God, confesses his sins and accepts Christ as Savior, and believes that God raised him up from the dead, is justified (Rom 4:24-25). “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness” (Rom 4:5).
9 Attitude Towards the Stranger
9 “You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you [also] were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Here we have the same prescription as in Exodus 22 (Exo 22:21). Only here more explicit reference is made to the feelings, the state of mind, of the stranger. They know these feelings so well from their own experience because of their stay in Egypt as a stranger. We can think back to the situation we found ourselves in when we were in the slavery of sin, but it is something else to remember how we felt then. If we remember how we felt, we will not oppress the stranger, that is, we will not burden him with what he cannot bear.
10 - 12 Sabbath for Land, Man and Animal
10 “You shall sow your land for six years and gather in its yield, 11 but [on] the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard [and] your olive grove. 12 “Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease [from labor] so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave, as well as your stranger, may refresh themselves.
God prescribes here that the land must have a sabbatical year. Then it should not be worked on. What then automatically emerges is for the poor and the rest is for the animals of the field. This sabbatical year is a test for the people with regard to their obedience and their faith. It seems that they have nothing for themselves and what the country will produce is also for another. Obedience to this commandment will show their trust in God. Faith is needed to act like this. Obedience is always rewarded by God.
The Israelite himself must rest every seventh day of the week. And not only he himself, but also all that is at his service as slaves and working animals. At a time when production rates determine life – something that has always been natural in man – it is important not to be carried away by the desire for more. Greed and unbelief reign. God desires to let people share in His peace and to have fellowship with them. It is good to leave daily business for a moment.
13 Attitude to Other Gods
13 Now concerning everything which I have said to you, be on your guard; and do not mention the name of other gods, nor let [them] be heard from your mouth.
Serving the Lord is evident from the extent to which His desires are taken into account. To know them we need to get to know them. The heart that lives with Him will want to put them into practice. When other gods receive our interest, the Lord and His service disappear from our interest. Interest in other gods starts already with naming their names. Do not take the names in the mouth, do not consider them worthy of pronunciation (Psa 16:4).
14 - 17 Three Annual Feasts
14 “Three times a year you shall celebrate a feast to Me. 15 You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the appointed time in the month Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. And none shall appear before Me empty-handed. 16 Also [you shall observe] the Feast of the Harvest [of] the first fruits of your labors [from] what you sow in the field; also the Feast of the Ingathering at the end of the year when you gather in [the fruit of] your labors from the field. 17 Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord GOD.
Other gods will lose their attractiveness to God’s people and will not be worth their interest if their lives revolve around the feasts that the LORD would like them to hold. Then He becomes the center of their lives. To stimulate this, He wants all men together to appear “three times a year … before the Lord God”. This means that they come consciously in His presence.
The intention is to celebrate a feast to Him, to express their joy in Him and for what He has given. When He sees their joy, His heart is pleased. It is a joy in which He is central. Therefore they will not come with empty hands, but with sacrifices that are pleasing to Him.
The times when all men of Israel have to go to Jerusalem have to do with “the Feast of Unleavened Bread”, “the Feast of the Harvest” or the feast of the first fruits and “the Feast of the Ingathering” or the Feast of Tabernacles. For us it means to lead a life in which sin has no room (Feast of Unleavened Bread), in which is the best for the Lord (Feast of the first fruits), while we honor Him for all the blessings He has given us (Feast of the Ingathering). We may celebrate these ‘feasts’ every time we come together to Him. Then we will not come with empty hearts, but with hearts full of thanks and worship for everything He has given and above all for Who He is.
18 Blood and Fat of the Sacrifice
18 “You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with leavened bread; nor is the fat of My feast to remain overnight until morning.
The LORD speaks of “My” sacrifice. What we bring Him comes from Him (1Chr 29:14b). Blood and fat are the central parts of the sacrifice. Blood is life and is for reconciliation. It should therefore in no way be sacrificed together with anything of leaven. How can anything of sin still be present in the work done by the Lord Jesus precisely for the purpose of eliminating sin?
The fat also gets a special mention. The fat speaks of the power of sacrifice. It is reminiscent of the power with which the Lord Jesus made the sacrifice. The fact that it must not be left until the next morning means that it must not become ‘outdated’. We will have to be impressed again and again by the power that led the Lord Jesus to sacrifice Himself to God. It is the power of love.
19 First Fruits and Boiling a Young Goat
19 “You shall bring the choice first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God. “You are not to boil a young goat in the milk of its mother.
The first fruits of the proceeds of the land belong to the LORD. This expresses the right of the LORD to the entire produce of the land. Here is even talk of “the choice first fruits”. They are to be brought “into the house of the LORD your God”. It is completely unnatural to appropriate these “first fruits of the first fruits” for their own consumption.
The instruction not to boil a young goat in its mother’s milk seems to be a lost text, but that is of course only semblance. Everything in God’s Word is in the right place. It is in line with the above. Milk is used to feed and keep the young goat alive, not to connect it to death. It is completely unnatural to use milk in connection with the death of the young goat.
Those who do something like this show a lack of natural feelings. God has given His prescriptions so that man might live by them: ‘Do this and you will live’ (Lk 18:5). That the commandment, which is to result in life, turns out to result in death (Rom 7:10), is not because of the commandment, but because of man himself. Because man is a sinner, he is not able to keep the whole law.
20 - 23 Listening to the Angel of the LORD
20 “Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. 21 Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him. 22 But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. 23 For My angel will go before you and bring you in to [the land of] the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them.
After all the precepts that the people must put into practice when they have arrived in the promised land, God gives a great encouragement here. He gives His Angel to guard them and guide them. He also points to the goal, to “the place which I have prepared”. If He prepares that place, what a good place it should be! And if He guards His people there on the way, and guides them, how certain is the arrival.
The people are responsible to listen to the Angel (cf. Mt 17:5). Only when they listen to Him is the blessing guaranteed. Then God Himself will take upon Himself the protection of His people, and will stand up for them when enemies oppress them. He will destroy their enemies.
By the words “since My name is in Him”, it seems that “My Angel” means the Lord Jesus. The appearance of the Lord Jesus in the Old Testament, i.e. before He becomes Man, is that of an angel, usually referred to as the “Angel of the LORD”. The fact that this is about the Lord Jesus is also evident from the mention of “pardon” (verse 21). To pardon or not to pardon is only the right of God, and the Lord Jesus is God (cf. Mk 2:7-8,10).
24 - 33 God Promises Blessing and Help
24 You shall not worship their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their deeds; but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their [sacred] pillars in pieces. 25 But you shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst. 26 There shall be no one miscarrying or barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days. 27 I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn [their] backs to you. 28 I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you. 29 I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. 30 I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land. 31 I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River [Euphrates]; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you. 32 You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods. 33 They shall not live in your land, because they will make you sin against Me; for [if] you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”
It has been warned not to mention the names of other gods (verse 13). Here is warned not to bow to the gods of peoples who live in the promised land (verse 24). They must destroy those gods completely. These gods are a danger for their service to the LORD their God. Only Him they should serve. He tolerates no other god besides Himself.
Service to Him assures them of food, health, prosperity and safety. He shall bless their bread and their water, and shall ward off disease from them; miscarriage, infertility, and premature death shall not occur. They will live long in the enjoyment of the blessing, without fear of their enemies.
For us it is written in 1 Thessalonians 1 that we have converted from the idols, who we have destroyed, “to serve a living and true God and to wait for His Son from heaven” (1Thes 1:9-10). Serving God is also our calling. We may know that our work for the Lord is not in vain, or without consequence (1Cor 15:58).
The LORD takes upon Himself to rid the land of their enemies. He does not do that in a fast action, but gradually. That is His wisdom. If He does it quickly, the people will never be able to work the whole area at once. Then it will become a wasteland. If they take possession of the land step by step, they can work it quietly. Their work will then keep pace with their numerical growth. That way they will be able to do the work.
This is also the case spiritually. The knowledge of God’s thoughts happens gradually. God does not suddenly open our mind in such a way that we know the whole truth at once. Taking possession of the spiritual blessings is a process, it keeps pace with our spiritual growth. If we have come to know a piece of the truth, we must first put it into practice. Then the Lord gives us to see a new aspect of it, then we discover something again in the Word. Often this happens after we have removed something from our lives, a certain sin or a wrong habit, which has hindered our growth.
That is why, at the end of this chapter, it is pointed out once again that no connection whatsoever is made with the inhabitants of the land or their gods. They are not allowed to let them live there, they are not allowed to give them space. To deal casually with this commandment will turn into a trap for them. We too must not give space in our lives to the world and its idols. It is significant in this context that John concludes his first letter with the call: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1Jn 5:21).