Today's Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Now these are the judgments which thou (Moses) shalt set before them (the children of Israel).”
Exodus 21: 1
King James Version
“Don’t Disrespect My Daughters”
“Never violate the sacredness of your individual self-respect.”
Do I respect myself?
Have I ever allowed others to treat me in a disrespectful way?
“If you want to be respected by others, the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.”
“In the degradation of woman the very fountains of life are poisoned at their source.”
It is that time in the early summer when Hollyhocks are in bloom all around the little town where I live. If you have never seen a Hollyhock, it is a plant that grows a long stock and the flowers on the base of the stalk open first and are the largest. As you progress up the stalk the flowers get smaller with the tip usually being small buds. The variety of shapes, sizes and colors on one blossoming stalk amazes me. However, it reminds me of the variety found in God’s garden of daughters – we come in different shapes, sizes and colors, too.
God’s original intent, when He planted His beautiful girls in a garden home, is that all His daughters would always be treated with immense respect and tenderness. He wanted His girls to be tended with such care that every one of them would blossom into the most perfect and gorgeous flower.
Sadly, after the disobedience of Adam and Eve and their subsequent removal from Eden’s paradise, we find there has been a great downward spiral in the way God’s girls are treated. As we found out earlier in our studies this year, after just a few generations, men were taking many wives. Even Abraham had a child with someone he didn’t marry, Hagar. By the time we got to Moses, God’s daughters were part of Pharaoh’s slave labor force and worse, were having their baby boys murdered by Egypt’s ruthless ruler.
Life in the slave pits of Egypt wasn’t worth a thing. And when we place little value on the life of others, we begin to place little value on our own.
But there’s more to this tragic history in the life of the Israelites. In Genesis 15: 13, God told Abraham that his offspring would be “strangers” in a land that didn’t belong to them and they would be “afflicted” for 400 years. If we look at the life expectancy at that time, it is possible that the blight of slavery touched 6 generations.
This is difficult for me to even imagine. Generation after generation was born with the knowledge slavery was all that lay ahead for their entire lives.
When the children of Israel left Egypt, all they had known was the slave master’s chains, whips and orders. They hadn’t been in charge of their own lives. They hadn’t been able to make decisions for themselves. They were at the mercy of Pharaoh’s legions of taskmasters.
And when for nearly six generations, a slave-labor mentality was beaten into them, God needed time and training to help His children. What’s more, God needed someone very patient who could lead with gentle, kindness this over 1million person multitude from Egypt to Canaan.
We can’t forget that the only rules the children of Israel had lived under for 400 years were the harsh and arbitrary rules of Pharaoh. They didn’t know how to live any differently.
What I love about the patient, guidance of our Heavenly Father is that He accepts us and takes us as we are. If God had walked in with a whole new way of doing things to people who were wandering in a desert, there would have been total rebellion. If you read through the book of Exodus, you find that these “freed slaves” were constantly boo-hooing about how terrible Moses and God were. They often cried out that they wanted to go back to Egypt and be slaves again. Can you believe it? But I believe you and I may have acted the very same way if we had lived under a hand of tyranny for 6 generations.
So God began with His children where they were and the first thing He needed these people to learn was respect for each other. Beginning in Exodus 21, God tells His children how they should treat each other.
Several weeks ago, one of our Transformation Garden sisters named Sarah wrote me and said she read Exodus 21. She stated, “Today I read Exodus 21: 20, 21(N.I.V.) for the first time. It reads: ‘If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two since the slave is his property.’ Before reading this I assumed that slavery is a sin, but this passage makes it sound like God is OK with slavery as long as you don’t kill your slaves. Oh, yes, and you can beat them.”
If we read this without context, it does sound as though God didn’t have a problem with slavery. However, we must remember, God never intended for ANY of His children to be slaves.
In fact, I don’t believe God ever wanted His children living in Egypt. Remember how Abraham lost faith in God when he hit a famine on his journey to Canaan. Off he went to Egypt and when it came time to leave, he brought gifts with him, including a maid for his wife who was named Hagar – and what a mess that turned out to be. How much better Abraham’s life would have been had he not veered off to Egypt. God could have taken care of the famine problem for Abraham. He took care of the children of Israel on their desert journey by giving them a daily supply of food, called manna.
Now think about this. The second time God’s children ended up in Egypt was because Joseph’s envious brothers sold him. Favoritism and jealousy were at the heart of a second trip to Egypt. Who knows what God could have done if the “green-eyed monster” called envy had not torn Jacob’s family apart.
And 400 years later, God stepped in and brought deliverance. But to people who had only been treated like slaves for generations, He had to work step-by-step to replant self-worth in their hearts. So He began with Divers Laws and Ordinances that among other things punished owners for killing a slave. This was a new idea to people who had been on the receiving end of a master’s whip. Israelite lives were worth nothing. And after hundreds of years of being treated like nothing --- you begin to believe this about yourself and others. Remember in Exodus 2: 12-14 when Moses took the law into his own hands and killed an Egyptian, thinking his “brethren” would be thrilled, instead, when Moses came upon two Israelites fighting and wanted them to treat each other kindly, they only retorted, “What are you going to do, kill us, too?” This was the low-level of self-respect for life they had. Getting killed for not doing what Pharaoh wanted meant death. After seeing death as a common practice, especially as a treatment for slaves, God needed to start with the basics. And so here are some of the first things He said these beaten-down slaves needed to learn about the treatment of each other.
1.) “And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do. If she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed: to sell her unto a strange nation he shall have no power, seeing he hath dealth deceitfully with her.” Exodus 21: 7-11, (K.J.V.). While this sounds as though women were chattel to be sold, remember that in Egypt, Pharaoh’s minions could grab any woman they wanted, use her for their evil pleasure then discard her like a piece of trash. God said, “No more!” I can hear the Israelite women breathing a huge sigh of relief. After hearing this law they, for the first time in 400 years, had value, as women.
2.) “If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her… he shall be punished.” Exodus 21: 22, (K.J.V.).
Go back for a moment to Egypt when Pharaoh ordered all Israelite male babies to be thrown into the Nile River. What kind of a life would you have as a pregnant mother worrying for fear that if you had a male baby it could become crocodile food. Now God comes and says, “If anyone lays a hand of harm on one of my pregnant daughters – they are to be punished.” This idea was so new and radical to women who had their babies yanked from them and murdered. Can you imagine the tenderness women at that time were able to see in a God who saved them and their children?
3.) “If a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand, he shall surely be punished.” Exodus 21: 20, (K.J.V.). This statement by God is not an approval of slavery. Instead, God is talking to people, who for 400 years, had been held as slaves. Treated as slaves. Beaten with rods as slaves. And now God says, ‘If anyone treats a slave badly, they are to be punished.” Think about this! This is opposite of what had happened to the Israelites. For hundreds of years, taskmasters had gotten away with beating them under Pharaoh’s tyrannical rule. God now says, “Not in My kingdom.” And to underscore this truth, all we have to do is read what the Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Galatians:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” Galatians 3: 28,( K.J.V.).
As I read and reread Exodus 21, it became clear to me that this is a point of beginning when God delivered His children from generations of slavery. They were so emotionally destroyed that death seemed better than life. Their self-worth in tatters, God began to slowly reveal that battery, beatings, slavery and as we will learn tomorrow, disrespect toward each other was never His way.
From these ‘” baby-steps” in healing the degraded emotions of His children, God built a nation and redeemed His children, who under His tender hand were able to fulfill His purpose. What’s more, God began by helping all of us to understand how beautifully He cares for His daughters – the gorgeous blossoms in His garden.
“God never ordered that women have power over men, instead, He created His daughters to have power over themselves.”
“Outside the hedge of roses
That walls my garden round,
And many a flower encloses,
Lies fresh unfurrowed ground.
I have not delved nor planted
In that strange land, nor come
To sow, in soil enchanted,
Fresh promises of bloom.”
I Was Born to Be
“I was born to be
an evening primrose.
I was destined to
a teacher and
wrapped themselves tightly
around my tender fragile petals
binding and restraining me
until the light of morning
and I have never blossomed.
O God, be with me, as I try to bloom.”
Dorothy Valcarcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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