Misunderstanding The Law And The Law Giver

Posted: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 in Deuteronomy, Old Testament
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Deuteronomy 19 (HCSB) “When the Lord your God annihilates the nations whose land He is giving you, so that you drive them out and live in their cities and houses, you are to set apart three cities for yourselves within the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess… You must purge the evil from you. Then everyone else will hear and be afraid, and they will never again do anything evil like this among you. You must not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, and foot for foot.”

For a religion that is undergirded by love, mercy and grace, today’s chapter questions the very fabric of that belief – or does it?

The chapter starts off with Moses’ assurance to the Israelites that God will win them their chosen land. This was spoken long before the Israelites would enter the land and the confidence Moses speaks with is not of one paid to speak the words but rather of one who has witnessed God’s handiwork in his life and in the lives of the Israelites before him.

Cities of refuge (Tower Of Refuge) is something that we covered back in Numbers 35 and I urge you to visit that post to understand the context and while you are at it, also read Joshua 20. The three cities of Bezer, Ramoth and Golan were setup on the east side of the Jordan as referenced in Deuteronomy 4:41-43. This new command given by Moses was to establish cities of refuge on the west side of the Jordan.

In Genesis 9:6 God instructs Noah, ‘Whoever sheds man’s blood, his blood will be shed by man, for God made man in His image’. Today’s chapter re-emphasizes that fact to the Israelites and is the basis for the actions of the avenger of blood, a relative in the victim’s family who is authorized to take revenge.

Our lives are precious to our loved ones but more so to God who created us in His own image. We might point a finger at God about being so judgmental but are we not far worse when we goad our soldiers or movie heroes to inflict far more revenge on our/their oppressors than was meted out to the oppressed? Revenge and un-forgiveness are natural human responses to oppression whereas forgiveness and mercy are responses from God, whose very nature is love.

When I read Moses’ instructions about witnesses and testimonies, I was reminded on Jesus’ judgment (Matthew 26:59-68) by the elders of Israel. Jesus was convicted based on false charges, false witnesses were brought forward to testify against Him but these were insufficient to judge Him as a false messiah. The witnesses’ testimonies did not corroborate and oddly enough, they were not subject to the punishment Jesus was eventually subject to.

Two witnesses came forward and gave testimony of Jesus’ words and when questioned, Jesus did not respond. The reason for this was not that He was in the wrong but because they misunderstood his statement. The sanctuary Jesus said they would destroy and He would rebuild in three days was His own body. He is the sanctuary into which we come to commune with God as confirmed by His words, “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” John 14:6.

Finally we arrive at the point of much contention in this chapter – the call to punish based on the perpetrator’s heinous act. Retribution was limited to the eye for an eye principle but this law was meant to check our desire for revenge, not an authorization to take revenge. Our natural response in such a circumstance is generally from a motive of revenge than from a motive of justice and this is what was being corrected.

Jesus commented on this issue during his sermon on the mount (Matthew 5). He was explaining how He came to fulfill the law and not to destroy it and explained what the real significance of these laws were as against the misinterpretation by the elders of Israel at that time. While He concurred that the law was right, He condemned our use of it to exact revenge on someone who offends us. Instead of exacting revenge when we are wronged, He directed us to love those who oppress us and to pray for them so that we might show His love for humanity.

You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.Matthew 5:43-48

I pray today that you are moved by this passage from a position of doubt and ridicule of the Word Of God to a place of love for it and for the one whom God sent to us to save us by His blood shed on the cross, Jesus Christ.

In His Loving Service,


  1. Debbie says:

    Thank you, Vineet, as you bring us God’s Word and in such a way as to encourage us to love it too! Which I do! 🙂 God bless you and yours! p.s. great pic!

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