“Whoever steals a man and sells him and anyone found in possession of him shall be put to death.” -Exodus 21:16
So this verse comes in the middle of a list of laws that we start to see at this point in the book of Exodus. And the reason I read this one, and want to lead us to pray according to it, is because in Exodus chapter 21 you start to see a lot of mention of slaves and slavery. And there’s a ton we could talk about here that we don’t have time to go into in just a couple of minutes of a podcast episode that’s mainly prayer. But I do want to point out that whenever we see the word “slave” or “slavery” in the Bible, we always need to make sure to look at the context of what that slavery involved in the picture of Old Testament slavery among God’s people.
Oh God, we ask that you would show your grace to us by bringing justice to those who are enslaved.
So again, we don’t have time to go into the details of it, but I would just suffice to say for now that the picture of slavery in the Old Testament, while not ideal and not according to God’s original design, while it was a product of the fall in the world, was still very different from the picture of slavery in the history of the United States, which was more akin to what God clearly speaks against down in verse 16: “Whoever steals a man and sells him and anyone found in possession of him.” This kind of trafficking of buying and purchasing people, whom you steal in order to make a profit, was clearly, without question, unequivocally commanded against in the Old Testament and [this was] reiterated in the New Testament. This is, after all, one of the core commands in Exodus chapter 20, “You shall not steal.” And that’s any kind of property, all the more so, people.
And so, I read this because of the reality of [the] stealing of people and selling of people that is still happening today. That’s not just a thing of the past. And it’s horrible that it is a thing of the past, but it’s also horrible that it’s a thing of the present—that children, girls and boys, are stolen from their homes and sold in different ways. This happens in so many different places around the world, and it happens in the United States. I think of multiple stories of people I know who have experienced this kind of horror in this world. And so I want to lead us to pray in light of Matthew chapter 6. And Jesus, how you taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
God, we pray right now, in light of Exodus chapter 21 for your justice to come. God, we pray for an end to slavery, to trafficking, trafficking for all kinds of different reasons and all kinds of different people, especially children, in all kinds of different places. God, we pray for your justice to come.
God, we pray for the rescue of those who have been stolen and sold like this. God, we pray for the success of those who are working against trafficking. God, for ministries that are working against that, for law enforcement officials that are working against that.
God, we pray for traffickers. God, we pray that you would stop them. God, we pray that you would bring them to repentance . . . [that] you’d bring the turn from their sin. God, we pray that you’d save them from their sin. God, we pray that you would . . . if they will not repent . . . that you judge them . . . [that] you’d bring their sin to an end. God, we pray. We pray for an end to stealing and selling of people. God, even as we think about how that’s taken place in history and effects of that. We think about how that’s taking place right now.
God, we pray your kingdom come, your justice come, your mercy [to] reign on those who are being trafficked. God, we pray for those who are oppressed and enslaved right now. God, that you would bring them freedom, physical freedom and ultimately spiritual freedom, [that] they would know your love. God, you’re the defender of the weak. You work on behalf of the oppressed and enslaved. God, we pray that you’d work on their behalf. We ask for your grace and your mercy for them. God, we pray for those who have been through that, [who have] come to know your love, your grace, and your mercy . . . and come to know freedom. God, we pray that you would give continual grace, healing balm for the wounds in them and their lives and their relationships.
God, we hate sin in this world. We hate the effects of sin in this world. We hate the stealing and selling of people in this world. And we can’t wait for you to come. Lord Jesus, come quickly. Please bring and end to this and help us to work toward that end—to work for justice and freedom for those who are enslaved.
We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.