December 4, 2022 | Doug Sauder
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“Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. Do not take advantage of the widow or the fatherless. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it by sunset, because that cloak is the only covering your neighbor has. What else can they sleep in? When they cry out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.”—Exodus 22:21–27 (NIV)
In today’s passage, God uses a word to describe Himself, which means we better pay close attention because it’s of vital importance: compassionate.
Compassionate (Hebrew: channun): Gracious. This word is used 13 times in Scripture and is exclusively used to describe the Lord, specifically to how the Lord has grace, compassion, and regard for those who are oppressed, mistreated, or vexed in some capacity by injustice. It tells us He sees, hears, understands, empathizes, and gives grace to the marginalized and downtrodden—and the evidence is found all throughout Scripture, including here in these social responsibility laws.Do not mistreat a foreigner.
Do not take advantage of widows and orphans.
Do not take advantage of people in need.
Do not abuse the kindness of others.
You see, because God is gracious/compassionate, He’s also a defender who loves justice (Isaiah 61:8) and an avenger (1 Thessalonians 4:6) who rights wrongs. Like with Abel’s blood, which cried out to Him for justice, the cries of the oppressed reach the ears of the Lord, and His justice and judgment will come upon those who participate in the suffering and oppression of others.
Now, in this passage, He’s specifically addressing how He would deal with His covenant people of Israel, but the point remains and is true across the board. God hates injustice and, when all is said and done, His justice will prevail. And for both the Israelites then and the Church now, we’re called and commanded to be like God, to love what He loves, hate what He hates, and live in imitation of His character and example.
In the Gospels, Jesus gives us a vivid, crystal clear example of what it looks like to be compassionate and gracious toward others, revealing the lengths to which we His children are to go. It’s not enough to simply not charge interest if we loan someone money, we should be gracious to someone in need without expecting repayment (Luke 6:34). And forget about borrowing someone’s cloak, “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also” (Matthew 5:40 NKJV). He exhorts us to go the extra mile with people, to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors, and He shows us how to care for the sick, the downtrodden, and the outcast. He tells us through James that “pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you” (James 1:27 NLT). And of course, the ultimate example of His compassion was the cross, where He bore upon Himself the full weight of the justice and wrath of God in order to make the mercy and grace of God available to all who would receive it!
So today, Christian, remember how seriously your Lord takes compassion, and remember how deeply He hates injustice and abuses. Take heed and be sober-minded, walking in the steps of the Lord with the fear of the Lord.
Pause: What do laws like these show us about the character of God? What do Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount and throughout the Gospels show us?
Practice: Be compassionate as the Lord is compassionate! Consider ways you can show compassion, care, and generosity to someone in need this week.
Pray: Father, today I pray these words from Psalm 86. I thank You that You are “are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.” I praise You who is “forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you,” and I pray, “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me.” Amen.
Danny Saavedra is a licensed minister who has served on staff at Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.