Mishpat is a Hebrew word that I learned in school and the word deals with the area of justice or righteousness. My professor added unto this word by telling us that mishpat or the righteousness of God is played out in the context of community solidarity. True mishpat happens when we live in such a way where we prioritize the well-being of the people in our community as a reflection of the centeredness of God in our lives. Today’s passage shows us how a community orientated God is and how He calls upon His people to experience the thriving that God intends for all creation.
NOTES ON THE TEXT
4 But there will be no poor among you; for the Lord will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess— 5 if only you will strictly obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today.
A culture is a way a group of people think, act, and live. One of the aspects of the culture that has God in the center is that there shouldn’t be poor people within the community if the people of God were to STRICTLY obey the LORD. God’s desire is that the community as a whole and not just certain individuals would thrive together. The community that thrives is one that stands on the firm foundation of trusting in God’s goodness to provide for everyone. When we talk about God providing for everyone, there is the realization that the way that God provides is both supernatural or what some people call coincidence and also through natural means when He calls upon His own people to be the miracle in each other’s lives.
It is when we don’t trust in God and follow Him loosely rather than strictly, that things don’t go so well but what I realize about God is that He does take care of your needs and that He doesn’t ignore your desires as well. Yes at times He doesn’t fulfill your desires but I am glad that there were moments in my life where He didn’t because not everything that I ever wanted is actually good for me.
7 “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. 9 Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly[a] on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin.10 You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. 11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
God gives us the idea of how we are to be a loving and united community by showing the type of heart and action that we are to take. We are to not harden our hearts and shut our hand against a person in need. A harden heart is a heart that refuses to connect with other people’s struggle and pain. A hardened heart sees the external circumstances of a person and refuses to care, understand, and do whatever they can to support them but instead judges them. To shut the hand away from the brothers is the outcome of a hardened heart where we do nothing to help another person.
A lot of times we try to justify our hardened hearts when we see other people in pain or poor people. When we see a poor person, we have hardened our heart when our schedule is more important than taking a moment to provide. Our heart is hardened when we assume that they will just do drugs with the provision we give them. We hardened our hearts when we believe that it is impossible for someone to change when they collided with the Holy Spirit in us. I know the context of this passage is in regards to the community of God but what Jesus does in the NT is that we are to not distinguish who our neighbor may be but the bigger question we have to ask ourselves is how we can be a neighbor to everyone else?
This is more than being generous when the time is right but when we have a posture of heart that is like God’s, circumstances do not determine our giving but that we are always ready to give. If you look at verse nine, there is the seventh year where all debts are cancelled. God addresses the potential of temptation of bitterness and crafty thinking where someone is in need and the year of debt cancellation is approaching. Rather than waiting for the debt cancellation event to pass and then give so that the person borrowing is obligated to give back, God calls the person to meet the need right away! This is costly and will require sacrifice to give in such moments knowing that you won’t get back what you have given but then again, this is the type of culture that God calls for in His people; for the people of God to love sacrificially and trust Him extravagantly!
12 “If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold[b] to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you.13 And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed.14 You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress. As the Lord your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today. 16 But if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you,’ because he loves you and your household, since he is well-off with you, 17 then you shall take an awl, and put it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your slave[c] forever. And to your female slave[d] you shall do the same. 18 It shall not seem hard to you when you let him go free from you, for at half the cost of a hired worker he has served you six years. So the Lord your God will bless you in all that you do.
God does not condone slavery!!!! The translation is a little off but the cultural situation involves someone so far in debt that they intentionally sell themselves to someone to pay off debts. It is like indentured servitude. When the person has served their term of service to the master, the master is to not let the person go empty handed but that they are to furnish the former servant extravagantly from their own resources. The idea is that when people interact with the people of God within community and outside is that they leave more blessed than they arrived for God is the source. We are to be a people that seeks to bless, seek to meet a need, but more importantly be the people that reflect God’s nature that goes beyond the minimum to set people up to thrive.
On the foundation of trusting in God, the community is called to look after one another in physical acts of compassion and emotional support.
Do not harden your heart or shut your hand from a person in need but seek to walk in their shoes by understanding them and doing what you can to meet their need.
The Kingdom culture calls for the people of God to love sacrificially and trust Him extravagantly.
We are a people that seek to not simply meet the need but set people up to thrive
When the community of God stands upon the trust and provision of the Lord by obeying Him, we will realize that the culture of heaven seeks to meet the needs of others extravagantly in all areas of life. Let us move away from self-centeredness to God centeredness where that way of life benefits ALL people.