“I am Yahweh.” This was a declaration pregnant with meaning. To say, “I am Yahweh” is to say, “I am the sovereign God who freeely entered into covenant with your forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who elected and saved you unconditionally. Therefore, out of gratitude, you shall serve me.”
Christianity Is Not Oppressive
Last time we considered the reality of oppression and true liberation. In this final essay in the series we must consider what are the moral and ethical consequences for those who, by the grace of God alone (sola gratia), through faith alone (sola fide), have been liberated from oppression.
Under the Old Testament, the Lord who redeemed and liberated his church consistently instructed her (the church) to live in light of that gracious redemption. E.g.:
‘You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the Lord. ‘You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning. You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am Yahweh (Lev 19:11–14; modified from the NASB).
The entire chapter is bracketed by the declaration: “I am Yahweh.” This was a declaration pregnant with meaning. To say, “I am Yahweh” is to say, “I am the sovereign God who freeely entered into covenant with your forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who elected and saved you unconditionally. Therefore, out of gratitude, you shall serve me.” We know this is what it signifies because the end of the chapter says this:
You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin; I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt. You shall thus observe all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them; I am Yahweh’”(Lev 19:36–37; modified from the NASB).
The ground of Yahweh’s command to the Old Testament church was the same as his command to the New Testament church: the gracious salvation he performed for us who could not save ourselves:
- “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Ex 22:21; NASB).
- “You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Ex 23:9; NASB).
The Lord’s Old Testament people were redeemed by grace alone, through faith alone. They were to respond to that grace by being gracious to those within their midst:
“You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns. You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he will not cry against you to the Lord and it become sin in you (Deut 24:14–15; NASB).
The prophets prosecuted the OT church for oppressing the poor in their midst: “The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice” (Ezek 22:29; NASB). See also Micah 2:2, Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5.
Remember, the OT church was also a nation-state. The USA, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands or no other post-canonical state, not even the “Holy Roman Empire” is or has been God’s national, covenanted people since the expiration “of the state of that people” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 19.4). The command to relieve the poor thus was not a command that can be transferred from national Israel to post-canonical states.