Monday, 1 June 2009

God does not change

"Let's get one thing clear; God is not changeable. He does not suffer from moods or depression. There is no "shadow of turning"; the Bible says, with Him.

That means that He does not have double standards. It also means that we cannot do things behind His back as it were. We are always in His sight. He is faithful and consistent.

There are examples, of course, of God's kindness and mercy in the Old Testament. The law of Moses, strict as it seems, was founded on very merciful principles. If it had been kept properly, it would have resulted in a clean, caring and just society. Provision was made for everyone down to the very poorest of the people. Even the humane treatment of animals was provided for.

Why then was there this idea of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth? How does this square with the very different teaching of Jesus? Did not Jesus tell us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us?

Yes, he did. Indeed it was Jesus himself who invited us to make this comparison. He first mentioned this difference between established teaching and his own word.

We need to know first, however, what the "eye for an eye" idea meant. This is not the licence to retaliate that it sounds to be. It was concerned with the operation of justice.

Think back to the last argument you heard. It probably began with something quite trivial. Before long, however, it escalated. Something was said that evoked a retort. That provoked another comment which, in turn, led to a slightly stronger reply. Gradually the two sides forced each other further apart. Each answer became a little more extreme. Soon people were saying things that were exaggerated and which later might be regretted.

That is always the case. Human nature always has to go one better (or one worse). The tendency is to hit back harder. "He has blacked my eye, I'll black both his:"

It was exactly that which the law was designed to prevent. It was not so much a permission as a restraint. First the wrong had to be established. When that was done, punishment had to be administered. But the punishment must fit the crime. It was not literally the gouging out of eyes, but a just measure of punishment.

Jesus plainly said that he did not come to destroy the law. He did not change it to mean something else. What he did do was to take the principles of the law a step further.

For example, he pointed to the law which said a man must not murder. Jesus looked at what gives rise to murder. He considered the root cause. He said that a man should not be angry with another. If a man controls his anger he will not commit murder.

Jesus drew attention to the commandment not to commit adultery. Again, he saw that the basic failure of man in this sin was his lust. Jesus instructed that a man should control his lust. He taught that the desire and planning of such an act was wicked. It was as bad as the act itself if only the opportunity to carry it out was missing.

So with the law which permitted a punishment equal to the crime. The law restricted the retaliation. It was far better, as Jesus taught, if man could overcome his desire to retaliate altogether. He should love his enemies and do good to those who hated him. Vengeance should be left to God. He will see that true justice is done ultimately."
Brother John S. Roberts
The Bible, the Lord Jesus and You
God Does Not Change