“There YHVH made laws and rules of life for them, and there he tested them.”-Exodus 15:25
Because after reading this post, your understanding of Scripture is about to reach a level that will leave about 99% of your Bible study peers including most Christian pastors in the dust.
And if you’re a Christian pastor, no offense at the last statement but congratulations to you as well, because your understanding of Scripture is about to reach a level that will put you head and shoulders way above your peers as well.
We’re going to take a good look at the three words “laws”, “rules” and “testing” that appear in verse 25 in Exodus 15.
It’s very important to understand the proper meaning of these legal terms because they contain important nuances that are buried or completely lost in our English translations.
What’s happening at this point in Exodus is that God is now in the process of forming Israel’s government.
Let’s start by taking a good look at the definitions of “laws and rules”.
The Hebrew words for these are CHOQ and MISHPAT.
These two words are NOT synonymous.
First, CHOQ means a prescribed task or rule.
It refers to the basic “do’s & don’t’s” that all members of society are expected to abide by to ensure harmony and safety for all its citizens.
So CHOQ has the same sense of what today we would call a law.
For example, “Though shall not drive over 60 miles per hour on this highway” would be a CHOQ.
On the other hand, MISHPAT is a JUDICIAL RULING.
Using the example of speeding on a highway, let’s say you were brought before a judge so he could look at your case and make a decision.
First, the judge would analyze various factors such as the time of day when you were driving, whether you were intoxicated or not, whether there was maybe a family emergency that had you rushing to get to the hospital, and/or whether or not the highway itself was very crowded, etcetera.
After taking a good and fair look at all of these factors, the judge would come to a FINAL DECISION or RULING.
This final decision or ruling would be a MISHPAT.
Therefore, a MISHPAT is a result of a CHOQ being broken.
Or to say it in proper English, a ruling (MISHPAT) is a result of a law (CHOQ) being broken.
Can you see now how the typical English translation of “laws and rules” can be a bit misleading because it doesn’t reflect the proper nuances contained in the Hebrew?
It would be much better to say “laws and judgments” in English.
Let’s now move to the word “testing”.
It’s also very important that we have a proper understanding of this word because we are told several times in BOTH the Old and New Testament that God is going to “test” His people.
The Hebrew word for “testing” is NACHA.
NACHA refers to the PROCESS of trying a case.
Going back to my highway speeding example, NACHA would be the trial procedure itself.
It is NOT the law (CHOQ) and it is NOT the final ruling (MISHPAT).
It is the decision-making PROCESS that occurs in between the breaking of the law and the final judgment administered by the judge.
Can you see how this is totally different than what has been taught in most churches concerning what “testing” really means?
In most churches, “testing” is made out to be something that God does to us so that we can prove our faithfulness to Him.
In other words, God Himself tempts us to sin so that we can prove ourselves worthy of being one of His.
Again, biblically, that is NOT what the word “testing” means.
“Testing” is the 100% fair and perfect decision-making process or judging process the Lord administers AFTER you have broken one of His laws.
Now when was the last time you were taught that in church?
Probably never because as you can see the “testing” of God is directly connected to His “Law” which the church generally (and mistakenly) teaches has been done away with.