Revenge is a terrible thing! You are driving along at the right speed with the emergency lane on your left and the solid white line on your right when suddenly another vehicle approaches at a high rate of speed behind you flashing his light for you to move out of the way. Clearly he is in the wrong and you as a law abiding citizen are in the right. Because he can’t pass on the left because of the emergency land that narrows to gravel he overtakes on the right, crossing the solid white line. He does this in the face of oncoming traffic and just manages to swerve in front of you missing the first oncoming vehicle. You have to slam on brakes, swerve to the left, going onto the gravel and almost losing control of your car. Your first reaction is anger followed by revenge. You want to climb into his boot and teach him a lesson. O if a traffic policeman was just there to see and catch this reckless driver. As your anger boils you want revenge … because he could have caused a major, multiple car pileup and gets away … and you’re still fuming! You can paint your picture but generally, most of us have had experiences where we want and almost demand revenge because we were or almost injured, a stone sprung up and cracked our windscreen, had an accident, etc. As we progress with Jesus’ teaching we call the Sermon on the Mount, we come to:
Mt 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
1) Is it revenge?
Mt 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’”
Once again our Lord refers backwards to the Old Testament saying … You have heard that it was said. The question is … was it revenge to require an eye for eye and a tooth for tooth? And then, what did this mean? There are three Old Testament passages to reflect upon.
Ex 21:22 “If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”
There is a fight … man on man … and a pregnant woman is affected by these men knocking into her and she give birth prematurely without being injured significantly, payment needs to be made. Should the woman or the baby die, then the perpetrator’s life would be required. If an eye, tooth, hand or foot is lost or there are burns, wounds or bruises … the exact loss the pregnant lady experiences would be required from the offender.
Lev 24:17 “‘If anyone takes the life of a human being, he must be put to death. 18 Anyone who takes the life of someone’s animal must make restitution—life for life. 19 If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him: 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. As he has injured the other, so he is to be injured. 21 Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a man must be put to death. 22 You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the LORD your God.’”
Taking a life implies murder. Killing a neighbor’s animal implies willful. Murder requires death of the offender whilst death of an animal requires restitution. What has been taken must be equaled! Again fighting causing broken bones, loss of an eye or tooth requires the exact requirement levelled against the offender.
Dt 19:15 One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. 16 If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse a man of a crime, 17 the two men involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the LORD before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. 18 The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against his brother, 19 then do to him as he intended to do to his brother. You must purge the evil from among you. 20 The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. 21 Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
Any accusation required two to three witnesses to prevent malicious testimonies. Should the witness be found to be telling lies, he needed to receive the punishment he intended for the one accused. Staggeringly we find that no pity must be exercised with life, eye, tooth, hand or foot lost being exacted from the guilty.
2) No … this was not revenge! Rather this was God’s way of preventing people from committing malicious crimes against their own nation and against any other people’s group. God’s principle is one of love! Consider these verses.
Dt 6:5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Lev 19:18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.'”
God is a God of love and love requires peace and harmony … especially amongst His people. This is the reason He requires two or three witnesses to prevent perjury (lies, false testimony). Should one be guilty of perjury, he needed to be treated as he intended to treat the innocent. God wanted a holy people. That is why He required evil be purge from amongst His people. The treatment of what was lost from a person or what was done to a person needed the exact return payment be made. God wanted “drastic lessons … no mercy” … held before the people as a warning for fair and godly treatment of all because of God is Love and requires His people to practice love. You see, love requires honoring the image and likeness of God in people. God hates fighting, causing injury and death. The general principle is whatever you do to another that causes hurt must be paid for in the same way the offended experienced. The picture is one of someone being malicious or murderous. It has nothing to do with revenge! This is what our Lord was referring to and He now says “But I tell you!” We will pick the text up there tomorrow.
Father, thank You that the Gospel helps me to understand and practice love towards all people. Amen.