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

 

It will not be well with the wicked

Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil. Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life, yet I know that it will be well with those who fear God, because they fear before him. But it will not be well with the wicked, neither will he prolong his days like a shadow, because he does not fear before God.
(Ecclesiastes 8:11-13)

It may seem that the wicked get away with their wickedness, but as Solomon reminded us here, it will not be “well” with them in the end.

Read it again, “Though a sinner does evil a hundred times and prolongs his life…but it will not be well with the wicked.” There is no “getting away with it” when it comes to God. But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out (Numbers 32:23).

Many times in the Scripture, we see God’s people groaning and lamenting over the wickedness done around them. They, like God’s people today, wonder why God lets it go on and when God’s going to do something about it. It is especially hard when the good people suffer so much at the hands of these wicked people. But remember that God is very aware both of the righteous and the wicked. He will eventually deliver those who fear Him, and He will bring swift justice on those who do not fear Him.

Here is a passage from 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 that once again brings comfort to the righteous that God will take care of them and He will punish those who do not fear God.

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering–since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

Warning: Graphic Biblical Punishment

“So after all this the Lord smote him in his bowels with an incurable sickness. Now it came about in the course of time, at the end of two years, that his bowels came out because of his sickness and he died in great pain. And his people made no fire for him like the fire for his fathers. He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years; and he departed with no one’s regret, and they buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.” II Chronicles 21:18-20

I read the passage above and I just cringe at the thought of what King Jehoram went through. When Elijah is pronouncing God’s judgment he says in verse 15 “you will suffer severe sickness, a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the sickness, day by day.” So day by day for two years Jehoram suffered until he died in “great pain.” In my opinion, this might be the worst recorded death in the bible. But notice that the passage said “So after all this”. The Lord started by invading Judah and carrying away all the king’s possessions together with his sons and his wives, leaving only his youngest son. The youngest son was only spared for the sake of David.

But even after all this, I think the saddest part of the story might be the people’s reaction. They built no fire for him, they did not bury him in the tombs of the kings and “he departed with no one’s regret”. “No one’s” would even imply his own son showed no regret.

What could this man have done to deserve such a fate? How could a king of Judah fall so low that his own people wanted nothing to do with his funeral? You can read the details earlier in the chapter but in verses 12 and 13 we are told that he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and caused Judah to play the harlot like the house of Ahab did and he killed his own brothers to secure his kingdom. He killed his brothers “who were better than you”. Verse 6 highlights that he walked in the way of Ahab “for Ahab’s daughter was his wife.”

The easy response for me would be to say “well I’d never do those things” or “what a terrible person…glad I’m not like him”, but I think there is something I can learn.

1. Walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, just like Ahab – Who influences me? What company do I keep? Do my friends and close associates draw me closer to God or pull me farther away? Young man, that special lady you’re dating, does she encourage a life of faith or of idolatry?
2. Caused Israel to play the harlot – What is the result of my influence on others? Are people encouraged when they are around me? Do I stimulate love and obedience to God in the lives of others? Or do I teach people how to chase false gods like wealth and entertainment and pleasure? Does my example show discontent and complaining?
3. He killed his brothers to secure his kingdom – “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (I John 3:15-17). I can honestly say that I’ve never, ever considered murdering anyone. But I have closed my heart to a brother. I have ignored the needs of my brother when I could have helped. I’ve chosen to keep a safe distance so I wouldn’t be aware of their pain and their struggle so that my comfortable, tidy life wouldn’t be disrupted.

I can read passages such as this one in II Chronicles 21 and walk away feeling superior or I can take it as a warning, evaluate my life, and strive to me more like Jesus.