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Do What Is Fair

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February 2013
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XToday’s Bible reading: Exodus 21:22-36, 22, 23:1-13 Matthew 24:1-28; Psalms 29:1-11; Proverbs 7:6-23

God continues to give the people of Israel more laws today. These laws were meant to control human behavior both as an offender and an victim. It is human nature to be selfish and to use and/or hurt others for personal gain. Likewise it is human nature to want to get revenge on someone who has used or hurt us. The purpose of all these laws is twofold. First, they are intended to control our normal behavior. Of course, this assumes that we follow them which we aren’t apt to do. Second, the law was issued to show us just how evil we are. If the law demonstrated how we were supposed to behave then who could ever say they were good enough to enter heaven? No one. That is the point. The real goal of the law was to lead us to Christ because the law would demonstrate that we have absolutely no way of entering heaven based on our actions. The only way to heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. 

We read an often quoted passage in the Bible today. Exodus 21:23-25 is the famous “eye for an eye” passage that, for some reason, non believers love to mis-apply. I know. I used to mis-apply it myself. First of all, this verse is not telling anyone to inflict bodily harm on anyone. This verse is also not demanding anyone to seek revenge. What this verse is saying is we are not to seek out compensation that exceeds the loss that we incurred. If we have lost $1,000 we are only to recover $1,000. We are not to seek any more than that. If someone steals our car, they must pay us back a car and nothing more. I can only wonder what our litigious country would be like if our judicial system showed some restraint and instead of catering to our human desire for revenge instead acted in true leadership fashion and limited such desire. But rather than acknowledge human imperfection our government instead indulges it.

There are some situations where God tells the offender to pay back more than was taken (e.g. Exodus 22:1) which would seem to contradict this principle. But meditation on these passages would reveal that in these cases the victim lost more than simply property. Someone’s ox was not just an ox but a means to support oneself. Without an ox the victim could not plow his field. Which means he could not harvest. Which means he could not sell his crops. Which means he would have lost not only an ox but income and would possibly not have been able to support his family.

Some of these laws do not allow the victim to recover any damages. I think this is God telling us “life happens”. If no one is hurt we just need to move on. We’re not perfect and we shouldn’t expect anyone else to be either. Try promoting that in the US today where every little accident is seen as a chance to sue someone and make money.

The bottom line on all these laws is to simply do what is fair. Of course no one should commit a crime. But if (when) they do, the victim should get compensated for his loss and no more. We should not selfishly use such a situation as an opportunity to better our life at the cost of destabilizing society.

Many non believers raise all kinds of objections to the notion that God is good when they see references to slavery in the Bible. But slavery in the Bible is not anything like the slavery that existed in the United States in the 1800s and prior. In the Bible the term “slave” is more aptly translated as servant and the conditions for becoming one are clearly stated in a few places including Exodus 22:3. In this case if a criminal cannot repay his victim he could become the victim’s servant until the debt was paid. There are a few other situations where someone can become someone else’s servant as well. And God gives laws to the “owners” (for lack of a better term) of these servants. They are not to abuse them but are to treat them with dignity and are to care for them. In no way does the Bible promote or condone the modern-day concept of slavery.

Jesus prophesies about the destruction of Jerusalem in Matthew 24:2 today. Less than 40 years after Jesus spoke these words they came true when Rome conquered Jerusalem in 70 A.D. The rest of Matthew 24 deals with a time in the future when followers of Christ will be persecuted and killed (Matthew 24:9) and when sin will be rampant on the earth (Matthew 24:12). Sounds like the world today, if you ask me. But frankly things are only going to get much worse as time goes on.

Beginning in verse 15 Jesus begins to reference the 7-year period known as The Tribulation that is prophesied in a couple of places in the Old Testament, notably Daniel whom Jesus references. We’ll get into The Tribulation in more detail later this year but let me say that this is a time-period that will be like no other on earth. Terrible things will be happening as the world is under the rule of a single leader, commonly referred to as the Antichrist. Bible prophecy is my favorite topic and I have read dozens of books on it. If you are interested in reading more about it I highly recommend any book by Mark Hitchcock. Although there are several authors who write about what the Bible has to say about the future I think Mark’s work is the most thorough and easy to read.

Psalm 29 contains very powerful imagery of the power of God. Remember that Psalms are poetry so their words are not to be taken literally. This psalm describes the voice of God. God can control the oceans and skies with just His voice. The imagery in these verses is of a storm wreaking havoc on normally unmovable objects (e.g. mountains, trees) In verse 11 David (the author of the Psalm) reminds us that God gives power to “His people”. This very same power of God that is described in this Psalm is available to believers. Paul wrote of this in detail in his letter to the Ephesians. Notice also that just as God gives His people strength, He gives us peace to. Just as He can create a storm, He can calm it just as easily.

Proverbs also uses some metaphors today notably a “naive young man… who lacked common sense”. Without even realizing it he was setting himself up for disaster. He falls for the flattery and lies of the seductress and ends up doing things he should not do.  We all know not to go into a bad neighborhood at night. But for some reason this young man walks right into her trap like fly caught in a spider’s web. There was no chance for escape. All this could have been avoided if he had just stayed away from her house. Notice too that he was in the company of some other men. It appears that his “friends” didn’t try to stop him or maybe even encouraged him. That would certainly not make them his true friends. If anyone encourages you to do something that is against God’s will for your life, not only should you not do it but you should no longer consider that person to be your friend.

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