【Bible Study】Exodus 23: There Are So Many Snares Around People of God

Pastor Samuel Sharing

Bible Study: Exodus


Good morning, today let's look at Exodus 23. Exodus 23 is one of the most important chapters of Exodus. And the things it talks about are all over the place there are snares. For a Christian to move into the promised land, or for the Israelites to get out of Egypt, they were supposed to march into the promised land. But the problem is, there were so many snares lying around for either the Christians today or the Israelites in Exodus. And it's sad to say that this group of Israelites heard the word of God. These were the people that experienced miracles, signs, and wonders which were never found in history.

Although this was a group of people who had seen the signs and wonders from the mighty hand of our Lord, they were not able to get into the promised land. Do you know why? The problem was there were so many snares around people of God.

And Exodus chapter 23 has listed out all the snares around us so we need to be very careful. If we are not careful, we will be just like those people who thought they were safe. They were easily caught in the snare and became a curse.

So this is the typical issue. If you watch the people around us, some pastors got cancer, and they got pain all over the body. A lot of these sorts of things around us. How to interpret that? It is very difficult to interpret! Is it a blessing? No, no, no, I don't think that is a blessing and there are so many things lying ahead of us. I'm not only talking about just the Christians today but also talking about the people of God, ever since Exodus. Let me tell you if you are the people of God, there are so many snares all over the place.

Snare 1: Favoritism

“Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness. “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit. (Exodus 23:1-3)

When you look at it today, sometimes people tend to be merciful to the weaker party, most likely to show mercy to the weaker ones. But the weaker party may not be in the position to say that they have the reason why they're doing so. While we are talking about this and looking at the world today, why was there such a warning in Exodus chapter 23? We are not looking at it from the justice point of view, not from the word of God point of view, it's from a popularity point of view.

When the politicians are trying to win the votes, they will show favoritism to the poor people in a lawsuit, thinking those people are pitiful and very poor, just like the shooting incident in the US and many other places where countries are fighting against each other. It's all over the place. And you see that is a snare. So we tend to show favoritism to the poor people in a lawsuit. We tend to be siding with the crowd.

Today you will see a lot of things appearing on the Internet. When something happens, millions of people will share their opinions on certain things and tend to side with the cloud.
But a lot of the time, we actually do not know the truth at all, we do not know what the fact is, what they are talking about, just go along with it. We are all influenced by these snares.

As a Christian, try not to follow the crowd as the crowd may not be the truth, the truth may not be in the hands of the crowd. If a certain view is popular then you're going to be very careful.

In the past years, when I ministered to the people who were poor, I realized that they had a lot of bad habits in them. Changing them was a challenging task. I'm not saying this person is poor because he has a lot of bad habits. But I'm saying that many poor people have problems with them.

So I encourage all of you to take note of this before you get into the promised land and do not fall into the snare like this. You thought you were doing a good thing. You thought you might be serving the Lord, but you are actually showing some favoritism to the poor in the lawsuit. This is the snare number one which is not just mentioned in Verse 1 but also mentioned in verse six.

Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. (Exodus 23:6)

You cannot show favoritism and you cannot deny justice. Because the poor or the rich is not a good mark for justice. It's not a decision-making factor at all. The decision-making factor is still something that is associated with the lawsuit itself.

Snare 2: Relationship with your enemy

Let's look at snare number 2. There are plenty of snares all over the place.

“If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it. (Exodus 23:4-5)

These are the cases. Somehow you just happen to meet the case when you walked by and it happened that the donkey was wandering off. And somehow the owner of the donkey might be someone who hates you. It might be your enemy, it might be someone who you were not on good terms with. But God says if you come across this, even if you may not want to, what do you need to do? You need to make a good decision because this is the warning from the Lord. God is actually testing you and me. Let me tell you that now and then, I face this kind of test and I make a good judgment:

"Oh God, what am I going to do? Oh God what am I going to do? I really hate to deal with that person and I don't want to get into that kind of relationship." You and I do not want to somehow have a linkage with the case we just come across where the donkey or camel of your enemies are wandering off and running away. And then you see that and you know what to do: follow the word of God.

If you come across your enemy's donkey wandering off, you return it. If you see a donkey belonging to someone who hates you falling down under its load, do not leave it there but do something about it.

This is snare number 2. Number one is favoritism and do not follow the crowd. In Exodus chapter 23, we are talking about verses 1, 4 and 6. So I would say to you why God listed out all these for us and you need to remember that so many times, God is testing us whether we can get the promised land and testing us whether we walk along with the heart desire of our God. If you happen to come across that kind of thing, make sure you do something about it.

Snare 3: Bribery

“Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the innocent. (Exodus 23:8)

There are so many snares around us, and that's why the Israelites could get out of Egypt but were not able to get into the promised land. Being a Christian, you have to be very careful and if you want to get into the promised land, you'd better walk the word of God. Snare 3 is to not accept a bribe.

When you sit on the management chair and if there are disputes below you, then they will come to you. If you are sitting on the chair to make a judgment on who is right and who is wrong, those people will bring a gift to bribe you. Let me put this into perspective, if your monthly salary is $10,000, and they give you $500,000 which is equivalent to 50 months of your salary. When you see that amount of money, your heart starts to shiver, your heart starts to move along with the bribe as the bribe does not normally come with a small amount, it's generally quite a large amount.

Bribery is very common for those people who are involved in lawsuits. To be honest, I do not think the law is trying to protect the poor, it was never developed to protect the poor. In the US, there are a lot of lawyers. These lawyers contribute a significant amount to the GDP of the US. They are always talking about fighting for the cases. So you can imagine how many lawsuits are over there.

If you are involved in a lawsuit, then you are basically competing with how deep your pocket is. Therefore, do not get involved in any lawsuit. I am trying to encourage you to not get involved in this sort of thing. If it happens, then that's an unlucky thing.

When there are humans, and there are lawsuits, there tends to be a bribe. I'm not saying bribery is a common practice in all nations, but it is a common practice for humans. This is snare 3.

So if you sit on the judgment chair, there are a lot of tests, a lot of snares around you. Once you have accepted the bribe your eyes will be blind, and you will fail to see the justice, then you fall into the snare. The snare is a curse.

After people get into the snare, there is a curse and the devil follows them. You need to remember that if the devils go with you everywhere you go, then you have problems. Because everything you do, you have devils with you and mess up what you do and cause you troubles. Even a simple issue will become a lot more complicated.

So you have to know that the Bible is not talking about the moral law, but spiritual law. The spiritual law over here is talking about if you fall into the snake. In the spiritual world, the devil will not let you go easily. There was a time when I was setting someone free, do you know what happened? The devil refused to go out of the person. Then I asked why they refused to leave. The devil told me that the person had done this, had done that... A lot of stories! And the fellow admitted all the stories were true! No wonder the devil refused to go because that is the person who fell into the snare. Whether God is using this snare to test you or the devil is testing you, it makes no difference.

Whether it is a temptation or a test, for a person to fall into the snare makes no difference. At the end of the day, after falling into the snare, the devil will go with you, and God's curse will come upon you. Remember that blessings and curses are one of the most important factors for us to consider. So this is about snare number 4.

Snare 4: Do Not Oppress Foreigners

Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

Do not fall into this kind of test because people tend to bully the weaker ones. If you were studying in the school, you would notice that there was always a group of students ganging up to bully the weaker students. The stronger ones bullied those who were not as strong as them. These people bullied the weaker ones and it was very common in the school. You would see that they would gather together as a group to tease, make fun of, bully and oppress the weaker ones.

“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt. (Exodus 23:9 NIV)

When a foreigner arrives and they are new to the place, you have been living longer, have connections and relationships with people in the place, please remember the command from the Lord. Do not bully, oppress or take advantage of them. If you do not follow the command from the Lord, you will fall into the snare and you will lose badly. What have you lost? You are lost in the blessings from the Lord and the promises of the Almighty God.

You will see all these things happening among us and surrounding us. If you see these things happening, face them and remember it is a test. It might be a temptation if that is the case for you, you will fall into the snare. When you fall into the snare, you know what will happen to you: the devil will come upon you and the devil will follow you wherever you go.

One day, my friend brought his friend with him to see me in my office. My spiritual eyes were opened and I saw a team of the devils, about 20-30 of them. The team of devils was of all different sizes and heights. The smaller ones looked like mini cats or mice and the bigger ones looked like monkeys. They were lining up behind that person. It was a long line like a tail with the whole team following him. Their faces were looking extremely ugly.

My friend started to introduce me to his friend and I asked if this person was very unlucky. They asked how I knew. I told them that I could see the devil was with him. After talking further with him, I found out that he was a Christian. Honestly, I hardly saw a non-Christian coming in with so many devils. This person must have done many things to fall into the snare. He had become a cursed person and lived under the curse.

As Christians, we have to be very careful. We are not talking about this group of Israelites who failed to get into the promised land but those who were wandering in the desert. They were wandering in the desert because their hearts were full of rubbish. Imagine if they were marching into the promised land and certainly they would fall into the snare. Is it common? Yes, it is very common.

Do not take it as a moral law but take it as a spiritual law. If I were to share with those people who are living under the curse to let them know, I would share that when we were ministering to people and setting the people free, very often the devil refused to go. The devil refused to go and would give a thousand and one reasons about that person had done this and that. I had to lead the person to make a U-turn. The mind had to make a U-turn and the mind had to change. The mind had to repent and turn away from the evil doing. This is the fourth snare and the fifth snare is more challenging.

Snare 5: Over exploiting our time

“For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove. (Exodus 23:10-11 NIV)

Looking at verses 10 to 11, you will find these verses illogical. The land produced crops and in the seventh year, for one year, I could not plow the land. If I could not use the land, this would mean there would be no financial gain or money to be made. For six years, you were to sow your fields and harvest the crops but in the seventh year you had to leave the land as to how it was, and whatever was produced would be given to the poor. The poor could eat what was left. Is it logical?

Let me tell you, whether we live better or not has nothing to do with how much money we have. Are you with me? I had seen so many wealthy people and they were full of worries. I had seen many poor people, who worked very hard till they achieved their goal of owning a house, a car, or something they desired. But I did not see an increase in their happiness. Do you notice it?

That's why Our Lord Jesus Christ told us that our life has nothing to do with how much money we own. Over the years of being a pastor ministering to all kinds of people from all walks of life whether they are rich or poor, I carefully observed the problems many people faced. When I ministered to people who were wealthy and they had many problems which we could not understand. They were satisfied and not satisfied with this and that. They were wealthy but their happiness did not increase at all.

Many times, they had many troubles with their kids and they were very demanding. Their expectations of their kids were very high and they did not have a happy family. They have many other problems. They had their business and many other things to look after. About one or two months ago, I was ministering to a person who suffered from cancer and had a very profitable business. He had a successful business but suffered from cancer.

We have to understand whether you live in a big house, small house, big car, small car, luxury car, or family car, it is not going to help with your happiness at all. If people’s eyes were eyed on the money they would be thinking about the last six years of hard work, they sow, plowed the land and harvest the crops. In the seventh year, they had to leave the land unused and continued to pay the rental for the land. They could make money with the land; it did not make any sense to them for leaving the land as it was and not doing anything with it.

“Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed. “Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips. (Exodus 23:12-13 NIV)

“Three times a year you are to celebrate a festival to me. “Celebrate the Festival of Unleavened Bread; for seven days eat bread made without yeast, as I commanded you. Do this at the appointed time in the month of Aviv, for in that month you came out of Egypt. “No one is to appear before me empty-handed. “Celebrate the Festival of Harvest with the firstfruits of the crops you sow in your field. “Celebrate the Festival of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in your crops from the field. “Three times a year all the men are to appear before the Sovereign Lord. (Exodus 23:14-17 NIV)

Did you see that verse 14 and verse 15, mentioned three times a year? Three times a year to celebrate a festival to me and the festival of unleavened bread. You would be wondering how it is going to work. What am I going to do if I have a project to rush? What if I have a contract to fulfill and I am unable to produce it? You will be rushing to work 12 to 16 hours a day and stop all your work going to the festivals. At that time, they had to stop their work and walked about 100 kilometers to the place. The place called Jerusalem or whichever you called it. They had to find time to gather together before the Lord and celebrate the festival. You would be thinking where can I find the time?

If you are supposed to have an enrollment exam, you wanted to do well and performed well. God said no to you and you were to come before God three times a year. Not a day or two days and was quite a lengthy time. Three times a year and altogether it would be taking about 1.5 months to 2 months.

Every week, you will be working for six days and on the seventh day, you do not work. For a person who is making money, how can they accept such an idea? They will be thinking about their business and contract. They will be thinking if I am building a house or renovating a house and I could not leave the project halfway. You can have your own reasons, one thousand and one reasons to argue with God. But that is a snare.

Let me share with you my view, I have been setting apart this time for the Lord. At the end of my 10 years, 20 years, and 30 years, what do I short of? I set apart Sunday for the Lord and I do not short of anything. Do you know what am I trying to say? I am giving you an example; I am an IT engineer and on one Sunday while I was celebrating the festival with a whole team of Israelites like in Exodus chapter 23. I received a phone call from my workplace that the server went down and the network went bust. What am I going to do? Should I leave it unattended? What do you think? It is very challenging, right?

At one stage, I had a friend who invited me to his wedding ceremony or solemnization on Sunday. What did I do? Let me share my view and you may not agree with me but that is how I practiced. You can compare what you practiced and what I had done. Did you notice that I did not attend a wedding ceremony, attend a wake, or funeral? I would never say to the Lord, “I am sorry that I have to attend a wedding, funeral, moving house, or housewarming. I do not give God one thousand and one reasons for not setting that time apart for him.

Do you know many people think it is perfectly normal not to attend the church service on Sunday because of all their perfect reasons? They would tell me “Pastor I cannot do this and I cannot do that.” I have been declining all these invites since I accepted the Lord at the age of 20 plus until now. If your wedding happened to be on that day, I am sorry I cannot attend it because I am committed to the Lord. Do you do this? Let me share with you my view if you do not set apart the time for the Lord, you will easily fall into the snare and you are going to pay for the price.

For these 30 years, every Sunday for about 1500 Sundays, I have never missed a single day on coming before God. All the Sundays are the days that I committed to the Lord. I will not sacrifice my Sundays for a wedding ceremony, housewarming, someone moving house or someone had passed away. So what? I do not want to fall into the snare and up to today, I set apart my holy day. The holy day is not to travel but is my commitment to God. That is me.

Look at what I have done and what you have done? Look at my result, I am yielding. Compare my commitment to the Lord and your commitment to the Lord. What do you think? For the six days, I suppose to work and on the seventh day is the day I committed to the Lord. For the six years, I was supposed to sow in the field, harvest the crops, and during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. That is the command from the Lord. Then I will obey!

Why am I doing this? I am obeying the Lord’s command because I take the blessing and the curse very seriously. On that day, I accepted the Lord and was baptized in the name of Jesus, I told myself I want to be a resounding Christian and not a lousy Christian.

What about you? I really got to challenge you on what you have done, you are paying for your own price and the price is going to be heavy. The devil will nail you down and if that devil did not want to do it, God will send more devils. I hope my message can wake you up. Lay down everything and come before God. Did it make sense to you? So what if you did not attend the wedding? Why I came to this earth is not to attend your wedding. Come on!

Do not get into this kind of temptation. Do not fail the test God has given to us. Deliver us, Lord. There are plenty of people lying ahead of you and you got to pay a price for that.

When I was young, I know I live for the Lord. I'm not living for someone. If someone quite far related asks me to do something, so what? A friend of mine said: "Oh brother, I'm going to get married and my wedding ceremony is on this day. Could you come and attend my wedding?" I told him: "Sorry, my brother, I committed that day long ago." "How long ago? I'm telling you one month before the ceremony. Is one month not enough for you to plan?" "No. From 20 years ago I committed to the Lord!" What is the problem with this? When I got into trouble, where are these people? No one was there, but my Lord was there with me.

Did you hear that or not? Can you hear that kind of determination in my heart? Then what kind of people are you? You could question yourself. Whether you believe it or not, I got to tell you this is a snare. This is really a snare.

Three times a year, I put down the project. I put it down. What if the server dies on Sunday? After the Sunday service I can attend to it, right? What is the problem? No problem at all! Let me tell you one thing: When I am determined, when I make such a decision, my server never goes down on Sunday. Are you with me? Because God is protecting what I do. The server works perfectly on Sunday! On Monday I can work. But on Sunday, God is working. That's right. God is so real in my life. You know what? I don't want to fall into the snare.

Do not come to the Lord empty-handed. (Exodus 23:15)

You got to bring a lot of gifts, offerings, and tithings to the Lord, you know? How do I do tithing? I have computed all my tithes. Do you know how much is that? Easily more than 20% of my income. When I only made a very low salary, I made it easily above 10%, before tax, before CPF. Are you with me? The CPF is eventually deposited into my CPF account and I cannot touch it. But I still bring 10% to the Lord for the CPF. You know what? I made a good deal! I made a good deal. I bring gifts to the Lord. And every time I bring them to the Lord, do you know what I have decided? Someone treats the tithe as if this is a small tip for the waiters in the restaurant, right? They may give 10 dollars to the waiter because to them 10 dollars is like peanut. But I never do this sort of thing to the Lord. How can I give tips to the Lord? If I bring the amount to the Lord, I will bring this to the extent that somehow my heart will feel the pain until I say: "Oh, that's quite a bit, man! That's a lot of money."

There was one time when I took out all my cash and I only left with 3-digit in my bank account. The true figure is about $300.00 left in my bank account. I donated all the rest. At the end of the day, the blessing is more important than the cash in your pocket.

Snare 6: Fool Around with Offerings to God

OK, snare number 5 is the serious one. Let's talk about snare number 6:

Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast. The fat of my festival offerings must not be kept until morning. Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God. Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk. (Exodus 23:18-19)

When you make an offering, you got to follow the word of God. You need to see if this is acceptable to the Lord. Do not try to fool around. Do not bluff the Lord.

See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and listen to what he says. Do not rebel against him. He will not forgive your rebellion since my name is in him. (Exodus 23:20-21)

The Lord sent the Angel to go with us. If we did not follow or we did not pay attention to listen to what the Lord says and then rebel against the Angel, do you know what will happen? The Angels can be not so forgiving.

Snare 7: Showing Mercy to The Enemies of God

If you listen carefully to what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you. My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out. (Exodus 23:22-23)

If you are a very nice person, when you hear this, what do you think? "Oh Lord, the land is OK! The Hittites, so what? The Canaanites are OK. We can stay with them together! Oh my God, how pitiful these people are! How pitiful it is to chase them out! And where are they going? If they go to the South, the Egyptians occupied there. If they go to the North... All of the places are occupied by people. Where are they going? Oh God, don't be so harsh!"

Do you want to do that? Come on. God says I will be an enemy to your enemy. And are you going to be the friend of the enemy of God? Are you going to be the enemy of God? God wants us to be merciful and we are supposed to be merciful, but not to be merciful to people who are enemies of God. Are you with me? A lot of time people mix it up. They mess up the whole concept. That's why the concept of "mercy" becomes a snare. They did not pay attention to what God had been saying to us.

OK, there's snare number 7 and then number 8, number 9, and there could be snare number 10! If you read, you can read it on your own. What I'm trying to say is that do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against the Lord because worshiping of their gods will certainly be a snare to you. Are you with me?

Some people may think: "Oh, what problem could there be with worshipping their gods? It's OK! What is the problem? You see, they are making a good living! They can live pretty well! We can come together, right? My son can marry their daughter. Then my daughter can marry their son. It's OK!" Is that really OK? Be very careful. If you worship their gods, you will follow their customs. So sorry, you're falling into that snare now.

Conclusion: Follow The Standard of God

Have I listed enough snares for you? I listed the snares down and I alert you. I got to warn you. I got to highlight all these things to you so that you can bear that in mind. A little snare can cost a lot, right? Our God is the Holy God. So review! Review our hearts and review our minds I'm not saying "Renew" yet. Review first. Without reviewing how can we renew? We got to get all the dirt out of our minds.

Sometimes people say: "Oh, this pastor is so demanding! This pastor has set such a high standard!" Come on! The standard is not set by me! It is set by God! And I just want to explain to you: this is a standard of God. Are we going to follow the standard or not? Right? The problem is this: do you want to be living under the blessing, or living under the curse? We need God. You and I need to change! You and I need to change the norm. We thought that is the norm, but that is not the norm. That is the snare!

There is no norm. The only norm is the word of God! Although the standard can be so high, so difficult to achieve, let me tell you: God is not going to lower the standard at all! You are not in the position to negotiate with God. We cannot negotiate and I'm not in the position to negotiate: "Oh God! Can we do this? Can we do that?" Yes, you can jump to the snare. You can bite the bait. You can get caught by the devil. That's so bad. But I told you that long ago.

If you want to be a Christian, I encourage you to be a sound Christian, to be a top-notch Christian. If you want to be a Christian, you'd better set a standard like what God has set up for us. This is not the moral law. This is the spiritual law. This is the spiritual law governing the day of the Exodus and also the law governing the day of the 21st century. Either you want to follow, or you don't follow.

And I see so many people living under the curse. And I see there are so many. When I tell people: "You are living under the curse!" They say: "That is not the curse! Curses will not come upon me for no reason!" Yes, there are reasons. There are plenty of reasons. Wake up! Waking up is the most important!

I hope my message to you is clear and sound. May the Lord bless you! And I really hope you get into the promised land to gain access to all the promises in Christ! Amen!

See you next week.

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