Exodus 23 (NRSV)
Justice for All
You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with the wicked to act as a malicious witness.
2You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing; when you bear witness in a lawsuit, you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice; 3nor shall you be partial to the poor in a lawsuit.
4When you come upon your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, you shall bring it back. 5When you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden and you would hold back from setting it free, you must help to set it free.
6You shall not pervert the justice due to your poor in their lawsuits. 7Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent and those in the right, for I will not acquit the guilty.
8You shall take no bribe, for a bribe blinds the officials, and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.
Proverbs 17:23 (New Living Translation)
The wicked take secret bribes
to pervert the course of justice.
9You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
Sabbatical Year and Sabbath
10For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; 11but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild animals may eat. You shall do the same with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.
12Six days you shall do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, so that your ox and your donkey may have relief, and your homeborn slave and the resident alien may be refreshed.
13Be attentive to all that I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.
The Annual Festivals
Israel’s three religious festivals were connected with the nation’s agricultural cycle. The Feast of Unleavened Bread occurred in March or April in celebration of the early barley harvest. Seven weeks later came the Feast of Weeks (also known as the Feast of Harvest, or Pentecost), celebrating the harvest of other cereal crops such as wheat. Finally, the Feast of Tabernacles (also known as the Feast of Ingathering or Booths) celebrated the final harvest and the end of the agricultural season in the autumn (September). (The Reformation Bible)
14Three times in the year you shall hold a festival for me.
15You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread; as I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt.
No one shall appear before me empty-handed.
For us as Christians, Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread mark the time when Christ was crucified and RESURRECTED! Here is my most favorite Easter hymn — “Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Dark Bands,” text put together by Martin Luther and music forever associated with J. S. Bach.
Notes for listening:
1) the chorale prelude, on the organ
2) a short encouragement spoken by Martin Luther!
3) the hymn sung in four parts, with lyrics
Watch and listen for Old Testament allusions — “Here the true Paschal (Passover) Lamb we see” — “See, his blood now marks our door” — “The Word of grace has purged away the old and evil leaven” — “Christ alone our souls will feed; He is our meat and drink indeed.”
16You shall observe the festival of harvest, of the first fruits of your labor, of what you sow in the field.
You shall observe the festival of ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labor.
17Three times in the year all your males shall appear before the Lord God.
18You shall not offer the blood of my sacrifice with anything leavened, or let the fat of my festival remain until the morning.
19The choicest of the first fruits of your ground you shall bring into the house of the Lord your God.
You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.
A modern Jew considers “kosher.”
The Conquest of Canaan Promised
20I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21Be attentive to him and listen to his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him. 22But if you listen attentively to his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes. 23When my angel goes in front of you, and brings you to the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and I blot them out, 24you shall not bow down to their gods, or worship them, or follow their practices, but you shall utterly demolish them and break their pillars in pieces. 25You shall worship the Lord your God, and I will bless your bread and your water; and I will take sickness away from among you. 26No one shall miscarry or be barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.
27I will send my terror in front of you, and will throw into confusion all the people against whom you shall come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you. 28And I will send the pestilence in front of you, which shall drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites from before you. 29I will not drive them out from before you in one year, or the land would become desolate and the wild animals would multiply against you. 30Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land.
31I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates; for I will hand over to you the inhabitants of the land, and you shall drive them out before you. 32You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. 33They shall not live in your land, or they will make you sin against me; for if you worship their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.