How are you at following directions? Usually, it is not a struggle for me, but when I went to the doctor yesterday I found out I wasn’t following the prescription! “You are supposed to take one pill twice a day,” the doctor said. “I’ve been taking two pills once a day. Does that count?”
As you can imagine, it wasn’t satisfactory. There’s a reason he prescribed one pill twice a day and not two pills once a day. I was not at liberty to modify the prescription to fit my preferences. Exodus 21-24 and many more chapters are filled with prescriptive instructions. “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Exodus 21:24). God desired his people to live equitably. This would have been strange to this eastern culture because the scales of justice tipped in the favor of some because of their social status. The rich and powerful ruled, but God insisted there was a ruling force which superseded the high-rollers in society. “Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him” (Exodus 23:20-21).
The painful detail of the prescription can be overwhelming, but notice how God does not levy rules aimlessly. Everything God does is calculated while considering infinite factors in the equation. “I will not drive them out from before thee in one year” (Exodus 23:29). Does this strike you as peculiar? God knows what He is doing. There is a reason he has a precise prescription and a specific schedule. He knew if the Israelites cleared the land it would become unmanageable for them. As they grew in number and as they remained faithful to their calling, God would extend the borders of their land.
This passage brings to mind the prayer of Jabez: “Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!” (1 Chronicles 4:10). This prayer request hasn’t changed much for most people. However, you cannot expect to receive such blessings unless you follow the prescription. In our present-day revelation of Scripture, we do not follow the letter of the law, but rather the spirit of the law. Where the old covenant was “eye for eye” and “tooth for tooth,” Jesus said, “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain” (Matthew 5:38–41).
Follow the prescription. What exactly is the prescription for us today? “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10).