Law of Pledges
We come now to one of the most profound laws of God that has ever been written.
It is a law which sets forth the purpose of the Holy Spirit and reveals the process by which we are to receive the glorified body at the feast of Tabernacles.
Deut. 24:6 and 10-13 says,
6 No one shall take a handmill or an upper millstone in pledge, for he would be taking a life in pledge…. 10 When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not enter his house to take his pledge. 11 You shall remain outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you. 12 And if he is a poor man, you shall not sleep with his pledge. 13 When the sun goes down you shall surely return the pledge to him, that he may sleep in his cloak and bless you; and it will be righteousness for you before the Lord your God.
The practical, earthly application of this law forbids a creditor from taking a millstone as a pledge (security or collateral) for a loan, because in those days the women made bread daily, grinding the flour with the upper and lower millstone. The upper millstone was movable and concave with a hole at the top through which to pour the grain. To take an upper millstone as a pledge was synonymous with taking one’s life as a pledge. This was forbidden.
It was lawful, however, to take as pledge a man’s “cloak,” which was his rectangular shawl which he used to cover himself at night while sleeping. However, the creditor would have to return it to the debtor at night. This law is explained again in Exodus 22:26 and 27,
26 If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, 27 for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for the body. What else shall he sleep in? And it shall come about that when he cries out to Me, I will hear him, for I am gracious.
This law was designed to protect the poor from creditors. Debtors are guaranteed the right to have their garments at sunset. In that way this law is related to the Jubilee, where all debts are cancelled at the start of every fiftieth year on the Hebrew calendar. We also see how God establishes a rest for His people, which is the basis for the Sabbath laws, for this is the stated purpose of returning the cloak (garment) to the debtor at sunset. In the end, all debtors (sinners) have the right to enter into God’s Sabbath rest, which is the Jubilee.
The Holy Spirit Given as a Pledge
Yet there is much more to this law than meets the eye, for in the New Testament we find that God has given us His Spirit as a pledge. For this reason, these laws concerning pledges apply to us on a level that most never contemplate.
If we take this back to the beginning, we understand that God had a divine plan for creation. That plan was to express Himself in this earthly realm or dimension. When sin entered the world through Adam, it did not take God by surprise, for being timeless, the Alpha and Omega, He knew the end from the beginning. And so the divine plan was written before anything was created.
The main focus of this plan was to create man in His image and likeness, and in spite of sin in the world, He has the wisdom and power to overcome the world and to fulfill His original purpose for the earth and for all of mankind.
Sin made men debtors to the law, for all sin is reckoned as a debt. But it was determined from the beginning that Jesus Christ would come to earth to pay for the sin (debt) of the world. The success of the divine plan was thus established at the cross, but each would enter into His rest at different times.
Scripture says that God has given us the Holy Spirit as a pledge. Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:5,
5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge [arrabon].
The word Paul uses for “pledge” is arrabon, which is actually a Hebrew word borrowed by the Greek language.
It is the same word used in Genesis 38:17, 18, and 20, where Judah gives a pledge to Tamar to ensure payment of his debt to her at a later time.
But pledges are given by debtors, not creditors. The creditors are those who receive pledges. So when the Father gave the Holy Spirit to us “as a pledge,” He revealed a most amazing thing. He acted as a Debtor giving us a pledge—as if we were His creditors.
How could this be? What was God revealing here?
God as a Debtor to Mankind
When Jesus paid the debt of mankind on the cross, God suddenly became the great Debtor, and mankind became God’s creditor. This was a great reversal of fortune. Up to that point, mankind had been the debtor on account of Adam’s sin. But when that debt was paid in full, mankind was no longer a debtor.
But how did mankind then become God’s creditor?
We are inheritors of the promises of God. Any time someone makes a promise, he becomes indebted to fulfill his word. God has given us promises; therefore, He is the great Debtor to His word. All of the promises of God that were made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and many others throughout history were designed to make God a Debtor to His own word, legally speaking.
And we are the creditors, the beneficiaries of His promises. In other words, once Jesus paid our debt, we were transformed from debtors to creditors.
What Does God Owe Us?
So what does God owe us, now that Jesus Christ has paid our debt and has made us God’s creditors? It is the glorified body, which is given to us in three stages that are depicted in the three main feast days of Israel. When Jesus fulfilled Passover to pay our debt, God then owed us a glorified body. But that glorified body is in heaven, not on earth. Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:1, 2,
1 For we know that if the earthly tent [body] which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven.
Paul went on to explain that these two “houses” are also likened to garments, for he says it is not that we want to be “unclothed” (i.e., die), but to be “clothed” with that heavenly garment, so that we might receive the glorified body. It is in that context that he tells us that God has given us the Spirit as a pledge.
In other words, our glorified body is the promise of God, but at the present time it is on loan to God in heaven. To secure that loan, He has given us the Holy Spirit as a pledge—a promise to pay. The debt that God owes us is the glorified body, and the laws regulating pledges also regulate this loan.
When Adam was the Debtor
Now here is where Exodus 22 becomes a revelation.
26 If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, 27 for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for the body. What else shall he sleep in?
Here is where we must go back in time prior to Jesus’ death on the cross. When Adam sinned, he and all mankind became debtors to the law, for all sin is reckoned as a debt. What happened when Adam incurred this debt? He lost his covering and became “naked” (Gen. 3:7). In other words, God took our “cloak as a pledge.” In other words, Adam was the debtor who was required to give up the glorified body to the Divine Creditor against whom He had sinned.
Our Garment is On Loan to God
Once Adam’s debt was paid at the cross, God was required by His own law to return that garment to us. According to the law, it is now rightfully ours. However, He has not yet returned it to us, Paul says, for that garment is yet in heaven. We are yet walking in our earthly tent, in which “we groan, being burdened” (2 Cor. 5:4).
So the glorified body, which God originally took as a pledge on the debt for Adam’s sin, is now essentially on loan to God, for which He has given us His Spirit as a pledge—with a promise to pay back this loan. This is the metaphor that Paul uses, and it is based upon the law of pledges in Deuteronomy 24 and in Exodus 22.
How soon must it be returned? The law says only, “you are to return it to him before the sun sets.” People are naturally impatient, of course, and so, as creditors, some want to go to God’s house in heaven and take back their pledge by force. But the law forbids this, saying in Deut. 24:10, 11,
10 When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not enter his house to take his pledge. 11 You shall remain outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge out to you.
Hence, it is unlawful for us to “go to heaven” to obtain our glorified body. Creditors may visit debtors in their homes, but they cannot enter for the purpose of taking back a pledge. So also, we may be taken by the Spirit on a heavenly visit, but no one is allowed to do so for the purpose of obtaining the glorified body.
Likewise, when we die, our spirit returns to God for an extended visit, but we cannot obtain the glorified body at that time either. By law, we are only allowed to lay claim to it outside of God’s house—that is, on earth. This is why there is a resurrection of the dead. It is the time and place to receive the glorified body according to the law.
Hence, we read where Jesus says in Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me.” By law, Jesus must bring the pledge out of his house in order to give it to the creditors.
What about timing? When will He give back the pledge? The answer is “before the sun sets.” The Hebrew text reads more literally, “when the sun comes.” At sunset the sun seems to come to earth. This prophesies of Christ’s coming to earth for He is the “sun of righteous-ness” (Mal. 4:2). It is therefore a prophecy of the coming of Christ.
So we conclude that we have not yet received the glorified body, even though it is rightfully ours. Our debt was cancelled through the feast of Passover when Christ died on the cross. We then received God’s pledge (the Holy Spirit) at Pentecost. God acknowledged His debt to us but chose to wait until the sun of righteousness comes before returning the “garment” that He owes us by the debt of His promise.
In other words, the feast of Tabernacles has a future fulfillment. Meanwhile, we should not try to lay claim to it in an unlawful manner. We cannot obtain it by entering God’s house in heaven and laying claim to it by force. We are required to wait outside until He brings it.
Law of Wages
In Deut. 24:14 and 15, Moses continues his speech with a related law, saying,
14 You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your countrymen or one of your aliens who is in your land in your towns. 15 You shall give him his wages on his day before the sun sets, for he is poor and sets his heart on it; so that he may not cry against you to the Lord and it becomes sin in you.
Here God gives another definition of oppression, this time in terms of paying wages in a timely manner. Once again, Moses emphasizes equal treatment between countrymen and aliens living in the land. It is part of loving your neighbor as yourself. Oppressed people, including aliens, are given the right to appeal to the Divine Court for justice.
As always, this law expresses the heart of God and reveals His dealings with all of us who labor for Him in the Kingdom of God. Paul tells us in Eph. 6:7-9,
7 With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. 9 And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.
Though we may appear to serve men, in reality we are on God’s payroll. Even men’s slaves are claimed by God, who holds masters accountable for their treatment. God often sees fit to subcontract our labor to men.
I learned this many years ago during my wilderness experience. I knew that I was called to the ministry, and so at first I chafed over the fact that I was forced to work in the world system, laboring to produce things that seemed unimportant to me. My heart was not in it, and so it seemed to me that God was wasting my time year after year. But eventually, I learned that I was not as important as I had thought, and that God had the right to subcontract my labor to anyone that He wished. I then came to treat my supervisors as God’s appointed ones.
During that time, I came to a deeper understanding of His provision. The miraculous ways in which He provided for the needs of my family taught me that I was truly on God’s payroll, no matter where I worked or for whom. In fact, I discovered that in the times when I was unemployed, the provision was greater than when I was employed! When life does not make sense, it is because we do not yet know God as we should.
The ultimate reward (paycheck) is the immortal, glorified body. It is the type of body that Jesus had after His resurrection, where He could go to heaven or come to earth at will. The timing of this payment for services rendered is foreshadowed by Moses in this law in Deut. 24:15. The will of God says that payment should be rendered “before the sun sets,” (NASB). The Hebrew text uses the same wording as we saw earlier in verse 13, “when the sun goes down.” It is a reference to the sun coming to the earth (sunset).
Moses will have more to say later about God paying us for our labor. But for now the principle laid down in verse 15 shows us that the ultimate payment, or reward, for our labor will be given when the Sun of Righteousness comes to earth. This is, of course, in addition to the daily provision that He gives us prior to that final day.