Mishpatim – “Judgements”

Shabbat Shalom. This week’s parasha is Mishpatim, which means “Judgments” and covers Exodus 21:1-24:18.

In the previous parasha, our people were given the Ten Commandments by the Lord. We continue in chapter 21 with additional laws given by Adonai. Starting with the laws regarding Jewish slaves and servants. Chapter 21 also contains how to handle different situations such as injuries to people and livestock. The first half of Chapter 22 deals with the theft of animals, food, and possessions. It also contains laws regarding how to use courts to settle theft. The second half of the chapter goes into various laws about your responsibility as a citizen of Israel to treat others with care and respect. 

Now we arrive at Chapter 23, which contains many points for us all to reassess how we interact with others in our lives. Verse 1 commands“Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.” A takeaway from this is if you hear a rumor about someone, whether it be someone you know or someone in a public sphere, let that rumor die with you. DO NOT SPREAD IT. Another term for this is gossip. 

Verse 2 and 3 says “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, 3 and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit.” For us today just because your news source says something and it agrees with your preconceived ideas, it does not mean you are right. In politics we tend to think that the majority is right, but what the majority thinks isn’t necessarily true. Verses 4 and 5 discuss that if your enemy loses anything and you find it, you are to return it. An example of an “enemy” today might be a neighbor that just gets on your nerves or a family member. We should do the right thing and help them in a way that is safe and appropriate. Verses 6 through 9 go through more examples of how we are to show Justice and Mercy to others.

The next section of 23 is the Sabbath laws. We are commanded to work six days and on the seventh rest. Everyone was to rest including servants. After six years of sowing and harvesting fields, the land was also to rest in the seventh year. The Lord promised us that we would be able to survive this seventh year. Chapter 23 ends with God’s angel preparing the way for our people to cross into the promised land. 

In Chapter 24 our people confirm the covenant with God. Everyone agrees to follow the laws that Adoni gave to them. Moses took the blood from the offerings to God and confirmed the covenant in verse 8, we read,  “Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words”. In verse 12, the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.” The chapter ends with Moses going up the mountain to be with the Lord.

As we look at parasha Mishpatim, we are given a list of laws. Many believe these laws do not matter now because we are no longer under the Mosaic Covenant, but the Lord still wants us to treat people fairly. When we read the laws about how to treat others in this parasha it convicts us and shows our hypocrisy. We pretend to be right with Adoni on the outside but have a sinful heart that only cares about ourselves on the inside. This points to a bigger issue that we all struggle with day-to-day and moment-by-moment, having a pure heart pointed towards God. The Lord wants more than the external practice of religion. Following the Lord is more than checking off a list of laws in this parasha. 

We read in Matthew Chapter 5 when Yeshua is giving His sermon on the mount, in verse 8, Yeshua says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Holiness starts on the inside and moves outward. We have to examine ourselves to see if we are acting with pure hearts or if we are just caring about ourselves.

How can we receive pure hearts? The first place to start is to turn back to the Lord. Only God can give us pure hearts. Next, we need to look honestly at ourselves. Those sins that I stated in this parasha, sins like gossip, division, and maliciousness. We have to look deep inside ourselves in an honest way and ask the Lord to help us deal with these issues if we have them. We must follow the example of 2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” 

If we turn back to the Lord and deal with our hearts, Shema will be a community that rightly calls on the Lord in the way that He loves. These can be hard things to do, but we can look to Yeshua first and remember the sacrifice and covenant He made for us when times are hard. We can remember that we are living our lives right now out of that gift that was given on the cross. This is where our hearts and minds need to be focused instead of being tossed back and forth by each distracting story that comes across our news feed. Then we can show the world around us that Yeshua truly transforms our lives both inside and out. As our time this morning ends, my prayer for us all daily is Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” May the Lord expose our true hearts and renew us through Messiah Yeshua. 

Shabbat Shalom.