Scriptural Gem for June 2017

In Deuteronomy 4:1 we read:  'Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. 
In Ezekiel 36:27 we read: 'And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Have you ever wondered why  different words are used when we read about God's commandments to Israel? As we see above, 'Decrees' and 'Laws' are distinguished from one another. In some translations we find 'Statutes' and 'Judgments' and in others 'Statutes and Ordinances'. All of these are translating the same Hebrew words - 'Chukkim' (Decrees), and 'Mishpatim' (Laws).

So, what is the meaning of these words and how do they differ? Let's look at some examples from Scripture to illustrate the difference: In Exodus 20:13-15, we find, “Thou shalt not murder,” “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and “Thou shalt not steal,” and these are all referred to as ‘Mishpatim’. On the other hand, we find ‘Chukkim’ (Decrees) in Exodus 12:43-47: “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: ‘These are the regulations [‘Chukkim’] for the Passover meal: No foreigner may eat it. Any slave you have bought may eat it after you have circumcised him, but a temporary resident or a hired worker may not eat it. It must be eaten inside the house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. The whole community of Israel must celebrate it.’”

From this we see that Laws (Mishpatim) have a rational basis. The command to not murder or steal is ‘reasonable’ as most people can see the negative impact and consequences of such deeds. Significantly, they do not require faith to obey. Conversely, decrees (Chukkim), do not have an obvious, practical purpose and, often, no reason is given for these decrees. To obey this type of instruction requires faith, a connection of trust to the one who is giving the decree. The response to such a decree will be largely influenced by whether a trust relationship exists. If it does, the response is obedience; but if not, the response is questioning and resistance. 

What is your response when God sends circumstances your way that don’t seem to make sense? Do you require an explanation from God or are you content to trust Him? Consider these situations as an indicator of the authenticity of your trust in God. Lay aside any pride you might have in keeping God’s ‘Mishpatim’ and examine how you are doing with His ‘Chukkim’! Amen.