14–20 February 2016.
The Old Testament law contains 613 commands, but as we see in the gospels (e.g. Matt 22:34–40) Jesus gives us only two: love God completely, and love your neighbour as yourself. In today’s text, we see some concrete examples of that second command. In verses 21–27 we have important laws about caring for the weak and needy around us, for protecting people who are especially vulnerable.
Verse 21 begins by mentioning foreigners. Foreigners are in a dangerous situation because they don’t have family and friends to depend on. And because they don’t speak the language well or know local customs, it is easy for others to take advantage of them. Many Taiwanese who have lived overseas have experienced this problem. And anyone who has been to a market here in Taiwan knows that there is often one price for the Taiwanese and a different price for foreigners. But here God forbids this type of abuse.
Verses 22–24 then talk about caring for widows and orphans. They are also at risk because they too have no family to defend them, no one to care for or protect them. And so because they are so weak, others think they can take advantage of these vulnerable widows and orphans.
Finally in verses 25–27, the law mentions the poor. The poor struggle everyday just to survive, but get abused in so many ways by the rich. What little they have is taken away from them, and their lives are destroyed by the rich who charge interest on the money they lend. So here God forbids the charging of interest, and forbids abusing the poor.
People may think: “Is oppressing the weak and poor, or charging interest really so bad? It’s not like we’re killing people!” But in vv. 23, 24, and 27, God himself repeatedly gives us the frightening answer. When the vulnerable are oppressed, they will call out to God in their suffering – and God promises that he will hear! No other commands come with such a severe warning and frightening threat. That’s because God is a God of mercy and compassion, a God who always stands with the vulnerable. And he demands that we do the same too.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis