I am often fascinated by how we all respond to Old Testament rules: some we ignore completely and others we blow out of all proportion. Before I started this journey I thought GMG would be much like a group study and I was looking forward to asking all kinds of questions and sharing knowledge with other believers. GMG of course is not like that, as it’s about fellowship while reading the Bible for yourself and communing with God via the SOAKs, rather than a theological, formal study of the Word. I’m glad for the format, for the accountability and the shares. It’s exactly what I needed without knowing I needed it.
I have always found the Old Testament (the Pentateuch in particular, I barely know the rest of the OT) to be difficult as it always made me wonder if I was really living according to God’s laws or if the NT had made me a lazy excuse-wielding believer, well-versed in “christianese”, using “grace” as an excuse to not follow the rules. Having never really prayerfully read through the OT for myself, except a few verses here and there in church, systematically reading through Exodus is a real blessing indeed and strangely I am receiving more insight into the Word and deepening my relationship with God in ways i never thought possible. This would likely not have happened in a bible-study class, where I would have been relying on someone else’s interpretation of Scripture. This is not to negate formal bible study and/or the use of commentaries, but merely to say it’s amazing what God can do if we truly trust Him. I trust Him to reveal His word to me, to give me insight and understanding and to lead me to commentaries if need be – and He always does just that.
So – Exodus 21.
The chapter opens with the rules for dealing with slaves and my immediate thought was – God condones slavery?!? *shock! horror!* I’d always understood Bible-sanctioned slavery to be practised only in cases of war prisoners and yet here God was talking specifically about Hebrew slaves! How could this be? Why would the Chosen people make slaves of their own? I needed help to understand this and so I turned to Google, after a quick prayer. Most of the commentaries I read glossed over the issue – not surprisingly, after all the Atlantic Slave Trade is still a very sensitive and political issue – and I was about to give up hope of finding a useful detailed commentary on the subject when it hit me: God cared about the well-being of slaves, period. He had rules for how they were to be treated, and frankly it’s none of my business. Yep, I said it.
I could embark on a study of slavery or bond-servantship or whatever you want to call it, as it was practiced in that era and in the Bible, but beyond a kind of ‘general interest’ kind of exercise, would focusing on this, right now, serve me? Would it bring me closer to God? Would it give me insight into His plans for me? Was it something I felt God leading me to pursue? I had to answer no to all these questions.
God revealed to me, through my reading of Exodus 21 at around 3am, that the issue of slaves and slavery in the Bible, no matter how interesting it is to me personally, is not one I should expend energy on right now. In other words, the extremely clear message for me from Exodus 21 is: stay in your lane.
This is a very timely message for me. I’m still in ‘new year mode’- making some much needed changes and it’s a challenge to remember to be about my own business and let other people do them. I tend to be very controlling of the people around me and I’m learning the importance of not offering advice unless it’s asked for, and really just not butting into other people’s lives no matter how good my intentions. I need to stay in my lane for real. You know it’s about to get real when God Himself tells you mind your own business and not worry about things that are not your concern. You miss out on the good things in your own life because you’re so busy about someone else’s life, or too busy with things that shouldn’t even be a part of your life anymore.
You see, every time you open your Bible trusting God to speak to you, He does. He just doesn’t always say what you expect in the way you expect.