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EXODUS 21 AND MATHEW 5- AN EYE FOR AN EYE…
When the Bible speaks of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, what first comes to mind? Is it God’s wrath and punishment? Or His love and compassion? If it’s wrath and punishment then you’ve been misdirected. You are on the wrong side of things. You are thinking with man’s wisdom. The wisdom of the natural man who has not been through the “renewing” process of Rom.12:1,2 that Paul says is needed in order that we might have the “mind of Christ”.
A process that Paul says in 2Tim.2:15 comes by studying to show yourself a workman who is approved of God who needs not to be ashamed. A process that is necessary for every man. So that as Jesus said in John17:3 he can really know the true God and His Son for eternal life.
When we read Ex.21 where God gives instructions saying “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” what we see is that this is to make a person whole who has been harmed. And to punish the offender only when the harm done was caused intentionally.
We also see in Ex.21 that when the Bible speaks of an “eye for an eye” this is in reference to the master- slave relationship. For example vs.20,21 where God says, “And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.
Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.”
And vs.23 that says, “And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake.”
Why is it different for the master if his servant continues a day or two before he dies? It’s different because it reveals intent. Because had the master intended for the servant to die he would have continued beating him till he knew for sure he had died.
But, because it was not his intent that his servant die, but only that he be punished, he stopped the beating before he died so that the servant lives, even if he only lived for only a while. And the response is the master is not to be punished. This shows that as it has always been with God, it is the intent of the heart that is the determining factor.
This shows why in this relationship, even as the slave is considered the property of the master(“his money”), God gives him rights to compensation when injured for the purpose of making him as whole as possible from his injury.
These rights are given to teach both the master and the slave that love is what makes men whole. The master gives the slave what he needs. And the slave sees the master provide what he needs to make him whole. Instructing both about the freely giving and freely receiving qualities of God’s love.
And when we see Jesus quoting from Exodus21 in Mt.5 He gives instructions for these same people who are under the law to show them the same thing. Only this time He expounds on the principle that was being taught giving more clarity that formerly the Israelite may have missed.
When Jesus says “but I say unto you” He is contrasting the instructions He Himself gave in Exodus21 with the instructions He is giving them now. This is not to say that His instructions here were contrary to those He gave in Exodus. But, only that a new clarity is given. That it is because God IS love that He gave these instructions in Exodus in the first place.
And because God IS love Jesus told them “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”
Jesus is showing them here how to think and behave as those who have “the work of the law written in their hearts” like Paul spoke of in Rom.2. Not “the letter”, but “the spirit of the law”. So what Jesus is telling them is what they must do as natural men that are children of God to express love toward God and one another as God does.
But, Paul tells us that the law was “weak through the flesh”. This was because it only dealt with the natural man. People who had not yet been born of the Spirit as New Covenant believers have. So they had no spiritual part in them to comprehend the spirit of the law. But, only that in carrying it out in the natural even then their relationships are blessed by the show of love. Even if that wasn’t their intent.
These were people whose natural mind could not perceive the things of the spirit as Paul taught in 1Cor.2:14. People who Isaiah said in Is.55:8,9 only thought as natural men and not as God does. This is why the “ministration of condemnation”, the “ministration of death” found in Paul’s teaching in 2Cor.3, was only temporary. Because it only dealt with natural man. As Paul said in Gal.3:19 it was only to be their covenant “till the seed should come to whom the promise was made”.
But, why only till then? Because after the seed has come to whom the promise was made men can now be born of His Spirit. Born again to be spiritual men as Jesus was when He came. Men that have the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Spirit. Able now to love as God does. And not only as a natural man.
Men are not made Gods in the same way that Jesus was and is God as the apostate word of faith preachers say they are. But, men are made spiritual so that we can relate to God in spirit and in truth as Jesus told them they must in John4:24.
So in the weakness of the flesh because the flesh thinks only in terms of works, men found themselves obeying the letter, instead of comprehending the spirit of the law. That which Paul called “the work of the law written in their hearts” in Rom.2:15. Which is to love as much like God does as the natural man can.
But if they had spiritual understanding, an eye for an eye would never have been understood by them to be retribution or punishment. Instead they would have seen that it was God’s love making the way for an injured man to be made whole. And the law’s adherence for these natural men would have been a blessing and an easy thing to do.
This is also why in an earlier part of Mt.5 Jesus said He came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it. And that “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Because as natural men who were under the law they needed to live according to it’s precepts. But, these precepts were to be understood as the expression of God’s love for them and one another. And not just the drudgery of a mandated obedience to them.
Jesus continues in Mt.5 explaining how people who love and care about others as God loves and cares about us should behave. Saying, “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Can you see the “eye for an eye” in what Jesus has said here? It’s right there in the “love thy neighbor”. It’s right there in the “bless them that curse you”. And it’s right there in the “do good to them that hate you”. It’s there because this is what it takes to make one whole who has been injured by the world and blinded by satan.
It takes people who are willing to allow God’s love to work through them so He can deliver those who are in need. This is why after these sayings Jesus exhorted them saying, “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect(which is the KJV’s way of saying mature and grow up by learning to love as God does), even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
So from now on if we have thought of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” as God’s wrath and punishment we must no longer do so. But, instead we must “be perfect even as our Heavenly Father is perfect”. Growing up into the spiritual man that God has called us to be. Perfect and wanting nothing as James said.
Doing this by the renewing of our minds in the hopes that we will know the love of God. The kind of love that is what makes men whole who have been injured by the world and blinded by satan.
If you are one who has been injured and blinded, then God’s love is here to make you whole. John3:16 says He came because He loves us so much that He wanted to make deliverance from these things possible for all who will believe in Him to have eternal life. And John3:17 says He came not to condemn but to save.
So will you believe in Him? Will you confess Jesus as Lord? Will you believe in your heart that He has raised from the dead? If you will then pray with me now to thank Jesus for the power of His great love that delivers all who will trust in Him to complete wholeness.
Dear Jesus, thank you for joining with me in my death. So that I can join with you in your eternal life. I confess that you are Lord. And I believe you have raised from the dead. Thank you for saving me from death to eternal life. From mortality to immortality. Help me to know your love. And to show that love to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
If you prayed that prayer with me then welcome to God’s family. Now when you read the Bible do so with the intention of renewing your mind to think as God thinks. So that you can have the mind of Christ to love as God loves. Trust the Holy Spirit and He will lead you and guide you into all the truth. See you there or in the air!
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