Is This a Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 5

We continue our consideration of whether Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount was a “new” teaching. Were concepts like turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and love your neighbor uniquely Christian concepts that were foreign to the Law of Moses? No.

Let’s look into this further.

In the Old Testament, was it okay for the Jew to repay eye for eye and tooth for tooth? (Matthew 5:38-42)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
(Matthew 5:38-42)

Remember first of all that Jesus is not fighting against or correcting the Law of Moses but correcting the hypocritical and carnal applications of the Law taught by the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:17-20). The Law would be fulfilled and nailed to the cross by Jesus, but He was not in this Sermon trying to correct or improve upon it.

In the Law of Moses, God made clear distinctions between murder, accidental death, self-defense, vengeance, capital punishment, etc. Not all killing was murder. But God did teach very plainly that the mindset that should guide His people is to love their neighbors and their enemies, and not to take vengeance for themselves.

The Law of Moses did say, “eye for and eye” and “tooth for tooth,” but in context God was teaching about how civil authorities were to administer punishment and fines for crimes. The Law of Moses in this case was not telling individuals that they could personally dole out retribution, but apparently that is how some, for carnal reasons, had applied it.

Notice the passage below. See the context of “eye for eye” was “as the judges determine.” It was the congregation as a community that administered punishment, not the individual (Leviticus 24:16-23).

“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. “When a man strikes the eye of his slave, male or female, and destroys it, he shall let the slave go free because of his eye. If he knocks out the tooth of his slave, male or female, he shall let the slave go free because of his tooth.
(Exodus 21:22-27)

This principle is very consistent with the New Testament. The Christian, just like the Jew,  is not allowed to take vengeance, because that is God’s realm. Sometimes, many times, that punishment comes through the hands of civil authorities.

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 19:18)

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19, Paul is quoting from I believe Deuteronomy 32:25).

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
(Romans 13:1-5)

You can see from these Scriptures, God (Jesus) expected the Jew to keep from retaliation. Vengeance was to be left up to God, and punishment was to be left up to the authorities. Jesus was not introducing a new standard of conduct that He did not always expect from His people.

More to come later..

Is This a Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 1

Is This a Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 2

Is This a Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 3

Is This a Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 4

 

Trust the Line

Last Friday, Shane Blackmer wrote about our need to “Hold the Line.” Today I want to write just about about the “line” itself.

My son, Joseph, and a friend, Noah, were working last week to put gutters on our garage. This garage is older, it wasn’t built properly, and clearly has some foundation issues; because of this the roof sags.

When Joseph and Noah snapped a chalk line across the fascia board, an optical illusion occurred. If you looked straight at the garage, the line looked like a frown, it looked much higher in the middle and lower on the ends. But the line wasn’t the problem. If you went over to the edge of the roof and looked down the fascia board you could clearly see that the line was straight as an arrow.

The line wasn’t the problem, it was the building.

I believe there is a lesson in that! We may have built our lives on the wrong foundation, or we may not have taken the care to upkeep ourselves spiritually. As a result, lives become crooked and sag, just like that garage. In fact we may become so crooked that we begin to think the line (God’s word and standard of authority) is the problem.

Trust the line. There is nothing wrong with the line. God’s word is straight; we are the ones who need correcting.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways (Psalms 119:15, ESV).

“Fix your eyes” on the line. Use the line to help point out what needs to be corrected in your life. His commandments are true (Psalm 119:142,151), sure (Psalm 119:86) and they are right (Psalm 119:128,172).

Let Them Measure the Pattern

“According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it” (Exodus 25:9).

Moses was commanded by God to make the tabernacle according to the “pattern,” God’s pattern (See also Exodus 25:40; Numbers 8:4; Acts 7:44). Everything God told Moses to do had a specific point, because God was looking forward to Christ and His church. The Hebrew writer taught that the things of the Mosaic law, tabernacle, sacrifices and priesthood served as a “copy and a shadow” of the heavenly things (Hebrews 8:5).

This same expectation of building after the pattern was placed upon King David as he began all the preparations for the temple which his son Solomon would build.

“All this,” said David, “the LORD made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, all the details of this pattern” (1 Chronicles 28:19).

In contrast to the obedience of Moses and David in following God’s pattern, there was a king years later named Ahaz who disobeyed God by seeking another pattern. He traveled to Damascus, and met with the King of Assyria. He came back with a pattern for a different altar and had it built (2 Kings 16:10).

During the days of Ezekiel the prophet, God’s people were in complete defiance of His laws, and because of it God punished Judah through the kingdom of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple and took thousands of the people of Judah into captivity. God looked forward, though, to the days of their return and the days of the Messiah. Through Ezekiel, God called His people back to the “pattern.” If they would examine the words of God which contained that pattern, they would hopefully be ashamed of their sins and turn back to God (Ezekiel 43:10).

Let Them Measure the Pattern

“Son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern” (Ezekiel 43:10).

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul served as a pattern for us in many ways:

  • In his salvation (1 Timothy 1:16). The longsuffering and grace extended by Jesus to Paul serves as a pattern for all who will believe in Jesus Christ.
  • Through his life and character (Philippians 3:17; 4:9). Men like Titus and Timothy were also to serve as a pattern in their behavior (1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7).
  • The doctrine and sound words he taught (2 Timothy 1:13). These were to be taken by men like Timothy and taught to others so that the pattern of sound doctrine would be repeated for generations to come (2 Timothy 2:2; 1 Corinthians 4:17).

God has a pattern that He wants us to follow. How we are saved. The way we behave and talk. Our worship to God. It is important for us to examine the Word and to find that pattern of sound words and follow it. As men and leaders in homes and churches, we are to have the courage and love for Christ to lead others in following God’s pattern, which first and foremost comes by living the pattern ourselves.

Do all that is in your heart

Listen to your heart. Follow your heart. That is the advice that is often given to people in a number of different avenues of life. Do all that is in your heart.

In some areas, everyone would agree that this bad advice. For example, if your friend comes up to you and says, “I am thinking about robbing a bank,” you wouldn’t respond with, “Listen to your heart and follow it.”

But what about when someone seeks to do what is clearly in our minds a “good work” for God? Would we see a problem with giving the advice, “Do all that is in your heart”?

Read the following interaction between King David, Nathan the prophet, and the Lord.

Now when David lived in his house, David said to Nathan the prophet, “Behold, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.” And Nathan said to David, “Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.” But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in'” (1 Chronicles 17:1-4).

Put yourself in Nathan’s sandals for a moment. Here is the man after God’s own heart, King David, and what does he desire to do? What is in David’s heart? He wants to build a temple for God! David is humbled by God’s blessings. He is observant and sees how he is living in a palace, while the ark of the covenant is still housed in the tabernacle (movable tent).

For me, I can see how Nathan quickly responded the way he did. Sure, David, go for it! God is with you! Do all that is in your heart! Who wouldn’t want to be a cheerleader for David in such a situation? Isn’t this a good work for God?

Do all that is in your heart

The problem with that is this: Nathan didn’t ask God first. Nathan gave the religious green light to David, but God came to Nathan and told him to go back to the king. Nathan gave approval for David building the temple, when God didn’t want David to build the temple. Solomon, David’s son, was going to build this sacred house for the Lord.

Here is a quote from a dear sister in our congregation as we were studying this text on Wednesday night in Bible class.

“Before we follow our heart, we should go to God and make sure we are following His heart.” Amen, Linda.

Let God and His word, not our hearts, define what a good work is. The heart is deceitful, Jeremiah wrote (Jeremiah 17:9-10), especially when we are considering how to live for, serve and worship God. Our intentions, like David’s, may be pure and noble. God honored and richly blessed David for having this in his heart. However, for David to be pleasing to God, he had to follow God’s voice and allow Solomon to build this temple.

Let us “do all” that is in God’s heart, not ours.