AN EYE FOR AN EYE
"Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him." Leviticus 24:20
The recapitulation of this item of the Mosaic law arose out of the conduct of a man who was the son of an Egyptian father and a Hebrew mother. His mother's name, Shelomith, is recorded but we know nothing about his father beyond his nationality. It may be of course, that he was dead but it is also possible that while he was content to live with his wife in Egypt he was not prepared to live with his wife in Canaan. Of course as the wife of her husband, it was her duty to live where her husband required but when the exodus came and she witnessed the great trek towards the Red Sea, she went with her people while he remained at home and so another marriage was broken up!
Mixed marriages are condemned in Scripture. Human love is very beautiful but
it is never to be permitted to override the commandment of God. " Be
not unequally yoked with unbelievers," is a command to be obeyed, not
to be ignored. When it is ignored the harvest of it all is bound to be reaped.
There is little use in my pressing this upon those who are married. Marriage
is a secret and mysterious business and the deepest lessons we learn in it we
never tell! It is no less difficult to persuade those who have entered into
a foolish engagement which, if it is in defiance of this law, is a sinful alliance.
There is a strange obsession in sex matters, the law of God, the advice of parents are swept aside and the inevitable day of reckoning is ignored until it arrives! It may be, however, that this word will be lodged in the minds of those still young enough to be wary. Write it deeply in your heart: no matter how bewitching he or she may be, I must not be unequally yoked with an unbeliever. It is quite unfair to the unbelieving partner who hopes that one day Christian susceptibilities will wither and his or her spouse will join in the follies of the world. You as a believer can never do it.
And as can be seen in this case before us, it is a serious business for the children of such a marriage. There is confused counsel on the most important matter of spiritual education and example. One wants Johnnie to go to Sunday School, the other argues that Johnnie ought to be allowed to do as he likes and such contradiction is a bad thing for Johnnie, such a bad thing indeed that eternal note is taken of such a failure in stewardship. This half-caste was brought up uncertain both as to the gods of Egypt and Jehovah. He may have heard his father laud the gods of the Nile and yet his mother had brought him out from Egypt under the aegis of Jehovah.
As a half-caste one of his penalties was that he could not live within the camp. It may be that the struggle he had with the Hebrew was over some breach of discipline. We do not know. It is clear, however, that in the struggle, he blasphemed the NAME. In verse 11 the words "of the Lord " are in italics because they are not in the original Hebrew. The word "Jehovah " was too sacred to be pronounced by a pious Jew. But this half-caste either had no scruples or else he lost his temper. The Scripture is clear, howeve,r " Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain." Swearing is a commonplace in modern speech. It is such a normal feature in some people's talk that the use of expletives has lost its significance.
It is a good exercise to cultivate language, vocabulary and pronunciation as care or laxity in such a matter have their bearing on character. If we do use these words without any serious feeling let us remember that most of them have their origin in religious and spiritual considerations. Then there is swearing as the result of temper, probably the guilt of this man. He may have become exasperated and losing control of himself an evil demon took control of him and made him curse and blaspheme the NAME. It is a fact to be noted well that no Christian should ever be exasperated, much less guilty of blasphemy. If we are guilty of these things let us never be content until we have gained the victory. Blasphemy is the murder of God with the tongue. It is killing God with curses and "the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His NAME in vain." This man was, therefore, put in ward to know what was the mind of the Lord. He was not a Hebrew. Was he to pay the penalty of lapidation? The answer of God to Moses was in the affirmative. The principle involved was breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth and they took him outside the camp and stoned him to death. In this light let us look at this solemn decree of Jehovah. It is-
. THE PRINCIPLE OF EQUITY
The State does not find justice an easy matter. What constitutes just punishment is not easily determined. Is the punishment to be entirely remedial without being penal? When a man has coshed his victim, is the main consideration reformation or retribution? All these questions are much involved and cause us to be thankful that the judge of the whole earth shall do right. Some situations are Gilbertian. A clever financier can get possession of a lot of money, which he knows how to put away secretly. Ultimately he is found out, convicted and sent to prison. At great expense the State keeps him in prison perhaps for 10 years At the end of his time he emerges and settles down to live on his ill-gotten gains. In the meantime his poor victims often having lost all are brought sometimes to penury and poverty. Living with the aid of national assistance they see him enjoying a pleasant environment and enjoying the countryside in his car. Surely if a man has secured wealth in that way one of his duties when he emerges from prison should be recompense to his victims?
With regard to murder, the Scriptures are quite clear. The man who sheds blood before God has surrendered his right to live. "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth," is the solemn judgment of God and where a State refuses to acknowledge this Divine decree as all other decrees of God, crime and wickedness will increase to its confusion and instability. What God has joined together no man can, with impunity, put asunder.
By the time of our Lord it would seem that this injunction, as others, had
altered its character and become the basis for personal revenge and that application
of it was never intended. Certainly the Christian cannot, nor would he desire
to invoke it as an authority for a private grudge. If we are smitten on the
one cheek by an enemy there is to be no retaliation. The servant of the Lord
must not strive. Unjust suffering patiently borne is one of the mightiest instruments
God has in His people for the furtherance of His grace and power amongst men.
But as a social measure, for the preservation of society and for the cultivation
of the highest respect for the rights of others this law is in line with the
principle of equity.
It is also--
. THE PRINCIPLE OF THE FINAL JUDGMENT
The dead are to be judged by their works. Eternal judgment follows the law of Moses. We are to receive in the body the things done in the body. Even now if a man shall abuse his body he is bound to pay the penalty in the same body that he has abused and that is but a prelude to final judgment. "The wages of sin is death." Death is the inevitable effect that proceeds from the commission of sin. Nothing but obedience to the will of God can save us from death and when we prefer to indulge our sin we pursue our own disintegration. The first consequence will be death in the separation of soul and body, then entrance into the realm of death when the soul will be under the complete domination of the powers of death. The third step will be the judgment of the Great White Throne and finally there will be the sentence of the second death--a judgment too mysterious to be defined but clearly determined in Scripture. Any detached view of hell wherein we think it impossible for a God of love to send His creatures to such torment is misguided. God does not send anybody to such conditions. He wills not the death of any. Whether the final judgment be everlasting or determined by an age of Scripture, whether hell fire be literal or symbolic no question arises concerning God. Anything that any human being suffers in the world to come will be precisely and exactly the fruit of his own action and thought based on the solid principle of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." The man who refuses or ignores God's mercy demands of God that he shall be judged on his own merits. If he have deprived another of an eye or a tooth he is prepared to be so deprived himself. That is the condign justice he demands and it will be the same justice, no more, no less, that he will receive.Finally it is:
THE PRINCIPLE OF CALVARY
There is no greater miracle in the universe than the forgiveness of sins. God being what He is, redeemed the world before He created it. The universe with which God is dealing, the creatures He has brought into being, the destiny He has for them all make remission of sins by an edict impossible. The State dare not forgive crimes. If a man should commit murder and apologise to the magistrate it would be ludicrous to set him free. Yet some think that forgiveness of sins is like that! God is not imprisoned in His universe, He is not fast bound by arbitrary law and what He does He wills, but in such a world as He has created the remission of sins, forgiveness and cleansing are all governed by the law of " an eye for an eye." Nothing can alter the law of sin and death except this, that in the blood shed at Calvary God has a secret of transmission. So that in the death of this just Man, His Only Begotten Son, your sin and mine are transmitted to Him, and while judgment falls, as fall it must, it falls not on the guilty sinner but on the obedient Son.
Calvary is the place where this fixed principle operated in grace and mercy. There God can and does forgive sin but only as the guilt and its penalty are transferred by a Divine act to His Own Son. Hence God is to be judged as to His character not in the inevitability and terror of this judgment of an eye for an eye but in the grace that transfers the judgment from the rebel to His
obedient Son. It is for the sinner, therefore, to acknowledge himself to be a rebel in God's sight and as such worthy of a death that is inescapable. In the light of Calvary let him renounce his sin and confide all the issues between him as a sinner and God the judge of all, to the merits of that deep mystery in the precious blood of Jesus. Where a man truly from his heart does this, God will give him the spirit of praise and thanksgiving and he will rejoice in Christ His Saviour. It is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth but in mercy and grace the judgment is passed from us to Him! What a miracle is the forgiveness of sins!What a privilege to be rejoicing in such a Saviour!
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