The book of Exodus falls into two main parts. The first part has to do with the exodus itself, which gives the book its name. The second part deals with those early months of Israel’s desert wandering, during which God gave them three types of law: the moral law, embodied in the Ten Commandments; the civil law, having to do with their civil government; and then finally the ceremonial law. 

Chapter 23:1-9 concern justice in the courts. Bribes were common in the ancient Near East. They pervert justice, and should be rejected. All of the other statements in this chapter have to do with Sabbath laws and festivals (see 23:10-19). We might think that when we look at these laws having to do with Sabbath observances and festivals that they really belong with the ceremonial law. That is true, they do. And they are repeated later, especially as we study Leviticus. But they are included here, and the reason they are included here is that they concern justice for the land, justice for animals, and even justice in regard to God. 

The second category are laws relating to personal injury: homicide, physical injuries such as being kidnapped, maimed, or even hurt by words, and injuries caused by animals. The first part of this section makes a distinction between murder, which is intentional, and manslaughter, which is an accidental killing without malice or premeditation (see 21:12-14). Murderers were to be put to death. That’s not because the Bible treats life lightly. Quite the opposite! We are the ones who treat life lightly. The Bible treats life with respect because people are made in the image of God, such that if somebody murders another, he must be put to death. It’s as serious as that. 

Regarding these three views—the traditional approach, dispensationalism, and reconstructionism—as different as they are, they do agree on two things: the ceremonial law has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and that the moral law applies today in some way, though each has a different understanding for how this should be done. I maintain that the traditional approach is the best because it believes that the covenant does continue from the Old Testament into the New, while also recognizing that there are changes that have come through the work of Christ.

Yesterday we looked at one view explaining the usefulness of the law in our own time. Today we look at the other two. The second view is that of dispensationalism, which makes a very strong contrast between the dispensation of law (the Old Testament) and the dispensation of grace (the New Testament).