Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
“Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant who is escaped from his master unto thee. He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in the place which he
shall choose in one of thy gates, wherever it liketh him best. Thou shalt not oppress him.”
If a slave from a foreign country heard about the good God of Israel and came to find shelter under His wing, he was allowed to do so without fear of being transported back across the border to their heathen masters. Beyond this, God commanded that these runaway foreign slaves were free to choose where they wanted to live and begin their new life. And God ended this section of the Law by commanding His people never to be cruel to these newcomers to Israel.
These rules demonstrate the love God has toward those who want to come to Him, whoever they are. But one should note that these rules concerning runaway slaves applied only to foreign slaves fleeing from their masters to come to Israel to serve the Lord. Slaves owned by Israelites could not escape from their masters with impunity. Runaway slaves within Israel would be returned to their masters as soon as they were caught, and then they would probably be punished. When the apostle Paul sent the runaway slave Onesimus to his master Philemon, you may remember, he pleaded with his friend Philemon to receive the newly-converted Onesimus kindly.
This seeming contradiction shows us that for sinners and for saints there are differing rules and differing standards that apply. God requires many things of His own people that He would never demand of those who never knew Him. It is part of His being just. Beyond that, within His own family, God holds some to a higher standard than others. Referring to this truth, Jesus said, “And that servant who knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and yet did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:47-48).
When we forget that God holds different people to different standards according to who they are and what they have been given, we run the risk of misjudging people and becoming oppressors to some and overly indulgent to others. This is the importance of “discerning the body”. Without the Spirit’s help in discerning the body, we are doomed to make mistakes, such as the equivalent of returning slaves to cruel masters, slaves who fled foreign idols to serve the true and living God.