It is vital that we spend time in God’s Word.
But it’s not always easy.
We read a chapter and we don’t know what to get out of it or even how to start to understand it.
I thought I could try to help you get a little something out of what you are reading by providing you with some questions to ask as you look at the text. Good questions are a good start to understanding. Sometimes there will be more questions, sometimes less.
You can do this!
So, get a notebook, a pen, your Bible, and if you would like some help, take some time to answer the questions, and you may be surprised by all God teaches you.
- Before we look at Exodus 23 today, read Psalm 19:7-11. Obviously this is not only talking about these specific laws we read here, but the instruction from God we find in all of Scripture, but it does apply to these laws as well. What can a study of God’s law do in our lives?
- Now, it’s not always easy! One reason it is not easy is because we are not Israel. And a major purpose of these laws was to serve as part of their constitution. They were designed to help them honor God as a nation. But, even though we are not at the same time in salvation history we can still learn from these laws. We shouldn’t just neglect these other laws, and we shouldn’t apply them directly, instead we need to read them in their context and learn to draw principles from what we are reading.
We are no longer under this law. That’s ok. It doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it. It’s kind of like as you grow up, in your family, your parents had more strict rules when you were younger, like about bedtime, maybe or what you ate, and when you are older, they don’t have those same rules, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look back at those earlier rules, and learn something about your parents, and even learn something about life. Now, how do you do that? A great way to derive principles from what you are studying, someone has suggested, is to follow the following basic general pattern as a start: “1.) By diligent study of the text and context, interpret the original intent of the law to the original audience to whom it was directed. What would this have meant for Israel? 2.) Determine the various substantial (not merely superficial) differences between the original audience and modern audience. How are we different? 3.) Determine the underlying universal principle from the prescription or prohibition. What’s the basic principle? 4.) Filter this principle through the progressive revelation of the gospel and New Testament clarity. Is there anything in the New Testament that helps me understand this principle? 5.) Apply the modified universal principle to life today. How might we apply it to day?”
That’s a lot of information! But read verses 1 through 9 and see if you can use this pattern to benefit from God’s instructions there. Summarize what you have learned about what’s important to God? And why?
- After instructions regarding how to relate to others in verses 1-9, what kind of instructions do we find in verses 10-19?
- The writer describes a six then one pattern in verses 10-12. What are the specifics of this pattern here?
- We might think of this as a practical life tip, and there are some definite practical reasons for these commands we will see here, but if we fit this into the story of Israel, what do you think this patterh has to do with their purpose as a nation? (Think Garden of Eden)
- What practical reasons are given for these commands here?
- God’s laws are good. They are right. They teach theology. But they are also good for us. He shows us grace in giving us His law!
- What does he tell them they must do in verse 13? What does he tell them they must not do? Why?
- In verses 14-17, we learn about several major festivals the nation must celebrate? What are these festivals? What do you think was God’s purpose in establishing these festivals for the people to celebrate every year?
- The next two verses describe how to make different sacrifices since Israel would be doing that when they came for these festivals. And then verse 19 ends with a strange command. This is strange, and yet it is one of the commands that is frequently repeated in the Pentateuch. Why? I am not sure, but it is probably because this was a pagan practice in the nations surrounding Israel. It does humble us as we study the law, becasue we know that God has a good reason for all these laws, and we need to work as hard as we can to understand them, but there are limits to our understanding.
- Who is God sending before Israel in verse 20? How are they supposed to relate to this angel in verse 21 and 22? What questions do you have about that? What is unusual about this angel? What can he do that you wouldn’t think an angel is able to do? What might that tell you about him? Who might this angel point to?
- How confident is God that they are going to be able to enter the land in verse 23?
- What does he warn them not to do in verse 24? And what does he tell them to do? What can you learn from that?
- What does God promise if they do obey him in verse 25-29? How does that connect to the story of what God’s doing with Israel?
- How does God say he is going to drive out the Canaanites? What is the reason he says they must drive out the Canaanites in verse 33?