Sunday April 22nd
We live in a nation governed by laws. But some of those laws might leave you wondering who thought them up. Here are 12 of the strangest laws on the books:
In Alabama - residents are committing “unlawful bear exploitation” if they train a bear for the purpose of bear wrestling.In California - Any frog that dies during a frog-jumping contest can't be eaten.In Iowa - Anyone trying to pass off margarine as real butter is guilty of a misdemeanor. (I can’t believe it’s not butter! I can’t believe I’m going to jail for saying that!)In Minnesota, any game in which participants attempt to capture a greased pig is illegal.
In New Hampshire -It's illegal to collect seaweed at nightIn New Mexico - "idiots" can't vote in state elections.In North Carolina, bingo games can last only up to five hours.
In Oregon - Leaving a container of urine on the side of the road is a Class A misdemeanor.In South Carolina - A male over the age of 16 can't falsely promise to marry a woman.
In Utah, no one may hurl a missile at a bus — except "elected or appointed peace officers"
In West Virginia - Anyone who hunts with a ferret will face a fine of $100 and 10 days in jail.In Wyoming, you can't "detach" more than one-half of a sheep's ear.
As we look at Exodus chapter 22, which is collection of various additional laws for the people of Israel, we may find that some of these could strike us as odd also!
Verse 1 says:
“If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.”
That one makes a lot of sense, because paying back five times more than you stole should help to discourage thievery. But this next one might seem a bit trickier:
2 “If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. 3 But if the sun has risen on him, there will be bloodguiltiness on his account. He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.
Here’s what’s being expressed by this law - The killing of a burglar at night did not incur guilt on the home owner, since confronting the burglar in the dark could endanger the homeowner’s life. But a daytime thief was easier to identify and stop, therefore killing him was not justified.
Now verse 4 I can’t quite understand, if it’s connected to verse 3:
4 If what he stole is actually found alive in his possession, whether an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double.
Do you see why I’m confused? Who has to repay double, the dead thief? (I never realized that there were zombies in the Bible!)
There must be something in Hebrew grammar that I just can’t figure out. So let’s simplify this one to something simple: “Don’t steal stuff because someone might kill you!”
Verses 5 through 15 are all about property rights regarding fields, animals, fire, accidents, and lending stuff out:
5 “If a man lets a field or vineyard be grazed bare and lets his animal loose so that it grazes in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard.
So if your goat eats my crops, you owe me your crops!
6 “If a fire breaks out and spreads to thorn bushes, so that stacked grain or the standing grain or the field itself is consumed, he who started the fire shall surely make restitution.
I’m sure that Smokey the Bear liked that one!
7 “If a man gives his neighbor money or goods to keep for him and it is stolen from the man’s house, if the thief is caught, he shall pay double. 8 If the thief is not caught, then the owner of the house shall appear before the judges, to determine whether he laid his hands on his neighbor’s property. 9 For every breach of trust, whether it is for ox, for donkey, for sheep, for clothing, or for any lost thing about which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before the judges; he whom the judges condemn shall pay double to his neighbor.
So if you lend me your hammer and I tell you “someone stole it from me” when you ask for it back, but you see it in my toolbox, then I owe you two hammers!
10 “If a man gives his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep for him, and it dies or is hurt or is driven away while no one is looking, 11 an oath before the Lord shall be made by the two of them that he has not laid hands on his neighbor’s property; and its owner shall accept it, and he shall not make restitution. 12 But if it is actually stolen from him, he shall make restitution to its owner. 13 If it is all torn to pieces, let him bring it as evidence; he shall not make restitution for what has been torn to pieces.
One time my roommate asked me to watch his cat, and it got hit by a car because I let it outside near a busy street.
It wasn’t “torn to pieces” but it was definitely flattened, and I had some “splaining” to do when my friend got back from his trip!
14 “If a man borrows anything from his neighbor, and it is injured or dies while its owner is not with it, he shall make full restitution. 15 If its owner is with it, he shall not make restitution; if it is hired, it came for its hire.
This one seems to say that if you and I are together, and I’m throwing a Frisbee with your dog, and he run into a tree and dies, that’s not my fault, because you were there and you didn’t tell me to stop.
I think we can see why these laws were important for the people of Israel, because in a farming culture, crops and animals were very crucial to their survival.
And if there weren’t laws regarding how to handle property disputes, then chaos could occur, possibly leading to violence.
Even in our court system today, there are 2 distinct types of courts – criminal courts, which are for law-breakers, and civil courts to settle property issues and other personal matters.
Then verse 16 deals with a very sensitive kind of interpersonal issue:
“If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must pay a dowry for her to be his wife. 17 If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the dowry for virgins.”
This verse was probably the origin of what came to be known as “shotgun weddings”. You got the girl pregnant, so now you need to “do the right thing” and marry her. That is, unless her Daddy says “get lost, you loser!” In that case, just make sure that you pay your child support!”
The next three verses list different reasons why people might deserve capital punishment:
18 “You shall not allow a sorceress to live.
19 “Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death.
20 “He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the Lord alone, shall be utterly destroyed.
Those are three very different crimes, but each one was considered to be a justifiable cause for the death penalty!
The next section, from verses 21-24, has to do with how to treat widows and orphans, and those who are foreigners:
21 “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 22 You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. 23 If you afflict him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry; 24 and My anger will be kindled, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.
God expected the people of Israel to be kind to strangers, since they had been strangers in Egypt. And that last verse surely shows us how serious God is about the treatment of widows and orphans!
If we look at James 1:27 we can see that this concern remained important to God all the way through the New Testament:
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
God’s concern for those who are weak and vulnerable has never changed.
God continues to show his concern for the treatment of the poor in verses 25-27:
25 “If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest.26 If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, 27 for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in? And it shall come about that when he cries out to Me, I will hear him, for I am gracious.
Do you see what those verses are saying? You can’t take away what little a poor person has and claim that its the interest on what they owe you.
Verse 28 equates God’s authority with those whom He has placed in positions of authority:
28 “You shall not curse God, nor curse a ruler of your people.
This verse is actually quoted by Paul in Acts 23:1-5
“Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, “Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.” 2 The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in violation of the Law order me to be struck?” 4 But the bystanders said, “Do you revile God’s high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I was not aware, brethren, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”
You see, Paul didn’t realize that Ananias, who had ordered the guards to smack him, was the High Priest.
As terrible as his actions were, Paul knew that he must still respect the authority of his position.
And it was Paul who wrote in Romans 13:1 “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”
The next two verses are a reminder not to withhold tithes and offerings from God:
29 “You shall not delay the offering from your harvest and your vintage. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me. 30 You shall do the same with your oxen and with your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.
In our PBI course on Theology and Life we talked about how God doesn’t “need” out tithes, but we “need” to tithe in order to be in a correct relationship with God.
And the final verse in this chapter is what I like to call “The Vegetarian Verse”!
31 “You shall be holy men to Me, therefore you shall not eat any flesh.”
Actually, it says more than that, which is why we always tell you to read every verse in its full context!
The complete verse says:
31 “You shall be holy men to Me, therefore you shall not eat any flesh torn to pieces in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.
Or a more modern translation might be – “Don’t eat roadkill – it might make you sick!”
When we look at this list of laws, we can understand that God was trying to guide His people towards holy, healthy, righteous living. These rules were for their good, not just to frustrate them.
As New Testament followers of Jesus, we also are being asked to not only know God’s ways, but to do them.
We see this in James 1:22-25
“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.”
It’s not enough to hear God’s Word or to know God’s Word – we are called to DO what God’s Word says!
I want you to think about what verse 25 says about “the perfect law, the law of liberty”
Liberty means freedom. And laws tend to limit or restrict my freedom. So how can there be such a thing as “the law of liberty”?
I believe it means this:
God gave me a free will. I can use it to obey Him or to disobey Him.
If I use my will to disobey God, I may feel that I am walking in freedom, but I am actually walking in bondage to my own selfish desires.
The only way that I can walk in true freedom is to take my free will and turn it back over to God – to submit my will and my ways to the higher calling of His will and His ways!
When I am able to say “Not my will, but yours” then I become truly free – Free from selfishness and self-centeredness – free to serve – free to truly live!
That’s why James describes the law of liberty as “the Perfect Law”
I don’t know about you, but God’s law suits me perfectly!