Mishpatim is the Hebrew word that translates as "ordinances" and indeed, this portion is filled with many ordinances about every type of activity in which are to be involved or shun. The ones here given have no real defining characteristic; some are about civil matters, other religious and there is no particular order or demarcation between that which is holy and that which is common. This brings to my mind the fact that Muslims have not even a word in any Arabic dialect for "secular." To them, everything they do is as unto their god. Oh, what a testimony of their faith, though misplaced it may be. What if every Christian operated every aspect of his or her life as if G-d was not just watching, but was Personally involved?
As I read this parasha, from Exodus 21:1- 24:18, a few things really leaped off the page. The first was the law of a bond slave. Exodus 21:2-6 tells how a slave, set free by his master may choose to remain with his household all the days of his life. Perhaps, it is because he has been married to another slave or just because his master has treated him so well. You know, when we are set free from the slavery of sin, we are really to become slaves to righteousness. And although whom the Son has set free is free indeed, I submit that we are to recognize that we are married to the very Body of Messiah and that no other master could ever treat us so well. We should consider ourselves bond slaves to our Master. But, notice that a slave could walk around dressed pretty well and no one would really be certain of his status as a slave. But, a bond slave had a distinguishing mark; a pierced ear. No, I am not suggesting that we have our ears pierced to show our devotion to G-d, but I do believe that the people we pass on the street should be able to recognize us as servants of the One who has set us free.
Some of the more fascinating ordinances are found in chapter 22. Verse 17 instructs us not to allow a sorceress to live. What about all of the Palm Readers that line the highways and those who write the Daily Horoscopes that too many Christians read more faithfully than their Bibles? The passage continues in verse 19 to tell us that anyone who brings an offering to these false gods shall also be destroyed, so those who pay for their fortunes to be told are as guilty as those who do the telling!
Verse 27 speaks of those who speak against the anointed leaders of our congregations and of our nation. It says that we shall not curse a leader. How often have you heard our political and spiritual leaders slashed by "concerned Christians?" I know, there have been times when those who are in leadership over us have done such horrible things that it seems "the right thing to do" to blast them. But this is sort of like the commandment to honor your mother and your father. Even when they are wrong, your parents are still to be honored, according to the word of the L-rd and I believe our leaders are to be respected, no matter what!
Chapter 23, verse 13 is one with which most of the Church finds difficulty. At the most holy day of the spiritual year, the Day of the Resurrection of the Messiah, G-d ordained this day to be known as Firstfruits. It was on this day, proscribed in Leviticus 23:10. But, instead, Constantine changed it to placate the Babylonians he had conquered and named this most holy day after the Babylonian fertility goddess, Ishtar! Woe to those who mention the name of a foreign god and elevate her to such a lofty position.
The great promise is found in verse 20, which holds a promise of our Guiding One, "Behold, I am sending an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared." Verily, He has sent One greater than an angel to lead us to the place He has prepared for us. May we follow Him closely and find His resting place soon.