The law, or what we call Torah in our Torah class…anyway. Torah is the Hebrew word for instruction. You can sit in on a reading of the law and you get to hear the heart of God as expressed to another people. But I want to show you that this is more than just in the law.
The big story of Exodus, again—hurting people, and God comes to the rescue. Understand also, that this is also the story of Genesis. Abraham, wallowing in the muck. God comes down to rescue. People down here, God up here. God will consistently do this. He will come down and pluck them up.
TORAH EXTENDS BEYOND LAW
Super interesting point, and the reason that we can say that Torah extends beyond law, is the way God treats people who are on top and hit people on the bottom. Look at Exodus 17. This is one of those stories I have mentioned before. They get to the mountain, after they do the Red Sea stuff that’s in all the movies – and right before they get to Mount Sinai.
The Amalekites come and beat up the Israelites. Exodus 17:8-9:
“The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites and Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose some of our men, go out to fight the Amalekites, tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand. So Joshua fights the Amalekites as Moses had ordered. Moses, Aaron, and Hur went to the top of the hill. So long as Moses held up his hands the Israelites were winning. But whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. Moses hands grew tired, they took stones and put them under him and he sat on them, and Aaron and Hur held his hands up, one on one side, one on the other. So that the hands remained steady until sunset, and Joshua overcame the Amalekites army with the sword. Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered, and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.’ So Moses built an altar and called it, ‘the Lord is my banner.’ He said, ‘For the hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord, the Lord will be against the Amalekites for generation after generation.’”
And if you read Samuel, if you read in Numbers, in Deuteronomy, the Amalekites will always be mentioned. It’s possible it goes all the way into Esther with Haman the Agagite, which was the name of the Amalekites king. All that’s to say, these guys were very efficient in angering God.
WHAT DID THE AMALEKITES DO TO ANGER GOD
There’s a bunch of slaves that were running for their lives. These aren’t military trained folks, these are slaves. So the Amalekites thought, “Ooh, opportunity. They come out with the plunder of Egypt, we can take it.’” They were up here, the Israelites were down there, and the Amalekites thought we can just hit them. It’s not hitting them while they’re down, it’s just hitting them while they are who they are.
If you want, in the Bible, to find the single most efficient way to anger God, that’s it. It is opposed to the entire project of everything after Genesis 1-11. Genesis 1-11 is people willingly sit down on the edge of the toilet and jump in, just spiral down. Everything else is God reaching in and grabbing them out. So when he watches someone reaching in and holding their head under, that’s it. He comes in and kicks down doors. That’s it. He’s done. It’s antithetical to the Exodus story, we’re they’re actually throwing babies in water. God’s like, “That’s it. I cannot have this.” It’s the ultimate example of the weak being taken advantage of by the powerful. The powerful willingly standing above the weak and not pulling them up is incompatible to the project. That part will run all the way through scripture.
You cannot advocate the gospel, you cannot advocate the God of scripture, and push people down. If you want to advocate, if you want to love like the God of the Bible loves, you rush in and pick them up. This is why Jesus gets so irritated with the Pharisees. It has to be central to the way you think. Part of the evidence that it isn’t central to the way we think, is you don’t look at the Amalekites and get angry. What would be more angering to you is that Israel disobeyed, right? Israel disobeyed and kept the food overnight like they weren’t supposed to. That says something about you—it says something about me—that the part I’m offended about isn’t the Amalekites, but I’m mad at the Israelites keeping the food overnight.
“If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you fallen down under its load, don’t leave it there. Help him up.”
This is part of what they are required to do if they are to be this people that is separate. If someone is against you, you pull them up. If someone is low, you raise them up.
It is part of the very message of this text. If you are to be holy as God is holy, you get a demonstration of this in this story. Watch how God behaves towards his people. In Genesis, you get to see it towards individuals, in Exodus you’re going to see it en masse. You have to mimic that behavior.