“Love Rejoices in the Truth” – Deuteronomy 19:14-21


December 3rd, 2017

Dt. 19:14-21

“Love Rejoices in the Truth”

Aux Text: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

Call to Worship: Psalm 27

 

Service OrientationThe best possible life lived in the best possible community is possible only when the best possible mind is connected to the best possible heart.  God encourages us to rejoice in the truth.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the WeekLove does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 1 Corinthians 13:6

 

Background Information:

  • (v. 14) The land was God’s gift to the whole nation. It was to be divided up between tribes and clans, and even the extended families.  Possession of a share in the inheritance was thus the means of economic survival for each family and also the family’s tangible proof of membership in the covenant people.  Loss of land was a terrible thing, with spiritual as well as socioeconomic consequences.  Encroachment, therefore, by stealthy moving of the boundary stone, was virtually an attack on the neighbor’s livelihood.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 224)
  • (v. 14) Landmarks were regarded as sacred among other nations also; by the Romans, for example, they were held to be so sacred, that whoever removed them was to be put to death. (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 3, 399)
  • (v. 14) In the Egyptian Book of the Dead (Ch. 125 Intro: 13) is the disclaimer by the deceased before the court: “I have not encroached upon the fields [of others]” (Budge 1898, 191).

Among the Hittite Laws (ca. 1300) is this law:  If anyone violates the boundary of a field and takes 1 furrow off (the neighbor’s field), the owner of the field gets the violator’s field.  The violator shall also give 1 sheep, 10 loaves, (and) 1 jug of strong beer and resanctify the field.  (HL 168: ANET, 195).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 572)

  • (v. 14) The territorial imperative was of basic importance in the economy that the Lord revealed through Moses. The land–and private ownership of the land–made possible the most equitable distribution of wealth.  Moses looked ahead to the time when Israel would be settled in the land within the tribal and family boundaries and when these boundaries could be subject to dispute.  The boundaries once allotted in the original division of the land were to be inviolate; so moving a boundary stone was to be strictly forbidden.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 125)
  • (v. 19) Hammurabi’s Code, assembled more than three hundred years before Moses, contained a similar provision: “If one citizen charges another with murder, without the evidence to prove it, then the plaintiff is sentenced to death.”  Such a sentence would have prompted a witness to weigh his testimony carefully, and would have discouraged him, and others like him, from bringing trivial, mistaken, or doubtful accusations.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 178-9)
  • (v. 21) This law of retaliation appears two other times in the OT, in Ex 21:23-25 (expanded); Lv 24:18-20, in both instances cited in connection with cases involving injury or death. The principle is well attested in ANE law and must be seen both there and in the OT as a limitation on tribal vengeance, where a much greater price was exacted (Gn 4:23-24).  Daube (1947, 102), however, says the principle of compensation is old, going back to the earliest period of legal history open to inquiry.  Here it is simply stated that punishment shall befit the crime.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 574-5)
  • (v. 21) The talion principle for false witness, elaborated in v. 21, is well attested in other ANE law codes, although in some cases these codes allow monetary compensation, which the Bible does not. The parade example in the Bible of a person suffering the punishment planned for another is Haman being hanged on the gallows prepared for Mordecai in the book of Esther (Esth 7:9-10).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 574)

 

The question to be answered is . . . Deuteronomy was written to give guidance to the best possible life in the best possible community.  How does God through Moses propose to do this?

 

Answer: God knows that the best possible life cannot come to an individual or community as long as there is greed, hate, evil or lust in the hearts and minds of its citizens.  God ordains legislation that reveals, curbs and then assists reforms of those destructive character traits so we will rejoice in the truth.

 

In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight–a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights.  Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 10)

                   

God hates sin not just because it violates his law but, more substantively, because it violates shalom, because it breaks the peace, because it interferes with the way things are supposed to be.  (Indeed, that is why God has laws against a good deal of sin.)  God is for shalom and therefore against sin.  In fact, we may safely describe evil as any spoiling of shalom, whether physically (e.g., by disease), morally, spiritually, or otherwise.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 14)

 

In sum, shalom is God’s design for creation and redemption; sin is blamable human vandalism of these great realities and therefore an affront to their architect and builder.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 16)

 

Nothing about sin is its own; all its power, persistence, and plausibility are stolen goods.  Sin is not really an entity but a spoiler of entities, not an organism but a leech on organisms.  Sin does not build shalom; it vandalizes it.  In metaphysical perspective, evil offers no true alternative to good, as if the two were equal and opposite qualities.  “Goodness,” says C. S. Lewis, “is, so to speak, itself:  badness is only spoiled goodness.  And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled.”  Here Lewis reproduces the old Augustinian idea that evil “has no existence except as a privation of good.”  Good is original, independent, and constructive; evil is derivative, dependent, and destructive.  To be successful, evil needs what it hijacks from goodness.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 89)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Shalom

 

Love without discipline is indulgence, and discipline without love is tyranny.  (Floyd McClung Jr.; God’s Man in the Family, 77)

 

How does God through Moses promote shalom?:

I-  God exposes the truth of our corrupt hearts and minds by pointing out our greed, lust, envy, hate, bitterness, anger and selfishness.  (Dt 19:14, 15-17; see also: Gn 8:21; Ex 23:1; Nm 35:30; Dt 13:5; 17:6; 32:8; Jdg chpts 13-16; 1 Kgs 21:1-13; 22:34-35; 2 Kgs 9:30-37; Job 24:2-4; Ps 19:7-14; 51:5; 94:11; 119:11, 105; 139; Prv 1:1-7, 23, 25, 30; 5:12, 23; 9:7-8; 15:12; 21:8; 22:28; 29:1, 15, 19; 30:6; Eccl 7:20; 9:3; Jer 17:9; Micah 2:1-2; Jn 3:19; 14:17; Rom 3:9-23; 5:12-14; 1 Cor 2:14; 6:1-10; Heb 4:12; 1 Jn 1:8,10) 

 

It is amazing how many Christians throw away their Christian principles when it comes to property.  They try to annex land that is not theirs even though the annexing is done unfairly.  They stay on in rented houses even though their landlord really needs them to leave.  People who seem to be very kind and devoted to God suddenly turn wicked when there is the prospect of gaining property.  Let us heed the warning of God.  He hates such actions, and those who do it are cursed!  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 477)

 

Why do we need police officers, corrections officers, judges, licenses, custom officials IRS agents U-Scan clerks or monitors, auditors, checks and balances in government?   Because we are not inherently trustworthy.” (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments)

 

The demand for a plurality of witnesses is both reasonable and necessary.  It is reasonable because it reduces the chance of mistaken verdicts, especially where verbal testimony is the only means by which to adjudicate a case.  It is necessary because without it the judge is left to decide between two opinions–the voice of the accused or the voice of the witness–which raises the specter of prejudice and favoritism.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 461)

 

(v. 21) For modern readers this principle appears not only to condone but even mandate a “tit for tat,” “get even” approach to ethics, and in so doing promotes a culture of escalating violence; but they actually intend the opposite.  The laws of talion demand that punishment for crimes against another person be proportional to the crimes committed rather than be more severe.  Rather than promoting vengeance, the principle of lex talionis limited the penalties that adjudicators could impose on offenders.  While this approach may explain Ex 21:23-25 and Lv 24:17-21, the issue in Dt 19:21 is not punishment for crimes involving bodily injuries, but penalties appropriate for those who maliciously seek to have the court authorize harm against fellow Israelites.  Verse 21 fleshes out verse 19.  Since false accusations damage personal relations and the very fabric of the community, this principle provides a means of nipping such social cancers in the bud.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 462)

 

The purpose of the plurality of witnesses (cf. 17:6) is clearly the protection of the accused, especially the protection of the weaker individual from the vindictiveness of a more powerful opponent.  Obviously this precaution could be flouted, as Naboth discovered (1 Kgs 21), but it provided at least some safeguard.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 224)

 

(v. 17) In keeping with the use of the expression “in the presence of the LORD” elsewhere in the book, we should envision the case being presented at the central sanctuary, where participants would be conscious of Yahweh’s supervision of the legal process, heightening the implications of malicious testimony.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 461)

 

Contrary to the popular view, the law does not condone rampant physical vengeance but has precisely the opposite intention.  It is designed to ensure that penalties in law are strictly proportionate to offenses committed–a perfectly proper and still valid legal and ethical principle.  It is very likely that the phraseology was standard and stereotypical, expressing the principle of proportionality, not necessarily intended to be followed literally in all cases (except that of deliberate taking of human life).  Other forms of proportionate compensation for injury (e.g., monetary) may well have been acceptable.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 226)

 

Although it was important to find and prosecute lawbreakers in Israel, this process was less important than avoiding the prosecution of innocent people.  Therefore, every matter involving a crime must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.  Better to allow criminals to escape than to prosecute the innocent.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 234)

 

The offence no doubt covers the sly stealing of areas of arable or pasture land, in terrain where there were no hedges or roads to mark boundaries clearly.  The difficulty of dealing with such a crime in law may explain why the offence is subjected to a curse in Dt 27.  But the prophetic and wisdom sayings cited suggest that the law goes further, to include the deliberate taking over of the land of the poor by the powerful.  This could occur as land seizure in payment of debt, as presumably envisaged in Isa 5:8, or simply by reason of greater strength (Mic 2:2), the moving of the boundary marker being a removal of the evidence of ownership.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 312)

 

Believers are to be known for their truth-telling, not only in everyday life, but especially in a court of law.  For us it should make no difference whether we are speaking under oath (Jam 5:12).  If this is true in cases involving our relationships with outsiders, how much more in our representation of our “brothers and sisters.”  When called upon to testify in private or public, commitment to righteousness demands that Christians speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  There is no place for responses that misrepresent or deflect from the discovery of truth, or pleading the Fifth Amendment to protect oneself and hide the truth.  Decisive action against those who would hurt others through their lies is needed in order to punish the criminal, deliver the victim, and purge the nation of this cancer.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 464-5)

 

Stones (kuddurus) often marked boundaries and they were not to be moved under threat of heavy penalties.  Inscriptions on them appealed to divine sanction and divine protection for the owner’s rights.  The first such stones are found after the time of Hammurabi (ca. 1600 B.C.).  They appear in the eleventh and tenth centuries in Babylon.  Some features of these stones reflect Israel’s covenantal forms/content.  (John H. Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol. 1, 487)

 

II-  God knows confronting wrong along with loving, just, gracious and godly punishment is an effective means of promoting the reformation of a corrupt heart and mind.  (Dt 19:19-21; see also:   Dt 13:12; 17:13; 21:21; 27:17; Prv 1:1-7, 23, 25, 30; 3:11-12; 10:17; 12:1; 13:1, 18, 24; 15:5, 10, 31-32; 17:10; 19:18, 25; 22:15; 23:10-11, 13; 25:12; 27:5-6; Isa 5:8; Hosea 5:10; 28:23; 29:17;  Rom 2:19-13:7; 1 Cor 5)

 

Because God teaches His people and seeks by means of chastisements to bring them back to the good way when they fail to keep His commandments, He must forgive when they recognize the punishment as a divine chastisement and come to him with penitential prayer.”  (Keil & Delitzsch; Commentary on the OT, Vol. 3;  129)

 

Pharisees look for sin.  We don’t discipline for sin but for a lack of repentance.  — Steve Brown

 

This repeats 13:12(11) and is similar to other like statements in Deuteronomy (17:13; 21:21), all of which aver that punishment for wrongdoing and shaming the criminal in public will have a positive effect on the community.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 574)

 

With spiritual discipline, we don’t focus on a child’s behavior; we focus on the child’s heart.   (Floyd McClung Jr.; God’s Man in the Family, 71)

 

Although compassion on an individual level is a virtue, pity extended by the community toward proven lawbreakers would prove to be destructive to communal existence.  The principle of Israelite justice was not built on individual vengeance but upon community concern to honor divine justice and create a just society.  The commonness of statements like verse 21 suggests that Yahweh recognized the reluctance of people to carry out needed actions in the interests of the community (cp. 7:16; 13:9; Isa 13:18; Ez 7:14; 20:17).  The principle to be used was lex talionis: life for life, eye for eye.  The lawbreaker would suffer equally with his victim.  It does appear that in some cases fines could serve as compensation for victims (see Ex 21:22).  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 234-5)

 

He is righteous, he hates sin, and he will punish sin.  So you not have a feeling that this is the one thing that this modern world of ours needs to know?  This world that feels that it can dismiss God, and laugh at him, and break all his laws with impunity.  My friends, is not this the thing we need to preach to the world, that God is holy, that God is righteous, that he hates sin with an eternal hatred, and will punish sin.  That is his own revelation of himself.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Revival, 232)

 

The cases of the boundary marker and the false witness show a deep insight into the inventiveness of human wickedness.  Law aims to be practical and enforceable, but it is framed in knowledge of the human heart.  And the provisions here have a certain prophetic edge, because they reveal the possibilities of corruption.  It is for these reasons that the biblical law codes themselves sometimes shade over into exhortation to the heart, where actions are engendered (Lv 19:18b).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 314)

 

The justice is “poetic,” the malicious person’s intention being turned precisely against himself.  The law of talion, however, also has a strong element of limitation.  Just as importantly, it treats all people as exactly on a par, as do all the laws of Deuteronomy, in contrast to ANE law codes (note exp. Lv 24:22a).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 313)

 

Note how first it is said that they must bring the accuser and the accused before the Lord, and then it says that they appear before the priests and judges.  The human authorities are acting on behalf of God.  This can be directly applied to Christian groups, where those inquiring into the matter are actually representing God.  Paul says that in a sense earthly rulers also are acting on behalf of God when they reward the good and punish wrongdoers (Rom 13:1-5).  This shows what an awesome responsibility judging a case is.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 478)

 

Punishment and pain are the means of healing.  To any one ignorant of medical science, a surgeon performing an operation would seem cruel and unfeeling.  But he cuts down into the living flesh with his keen knife and inflicts the sharpest pain because he knows that in no other way can the life be saved.  In the hands of a benevolent God suffering is surgical.  (Joseph S. Exell, The Biblical Illustrator, 2 Chronicles, 27)

 

“But you must know that God is just as well as merciful!  It is not unmerciful for God to punish men according to His threatenings.  Yea, His truth and faithfulness oblige Him to do it.  God Himself has determined the way and the time for the exercise of His mercy.  If these are neglected, no mercy will be shown.  The very devils may as well hope for mercy as impenitent unbelievers who neglect the day of salvation and do not seek for mercy in a Gospel way.  You cannot take a more direct and dangerous route to turning away the heart of a merciful God from you than by abusing His goodness in strengthening yourselves in rebellion against Him.  This is both a most vile abuse of it and a most unreasonable inference from it.  Paul asks, “shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” and answers emphatically, “God forbid!” (Rom 6:1).  Such a thought is to be abhorred.”  (Owen Roberts; Sanctify the Congregation; 131)

 

Two texts from alter times illustrate graphically how some who falsely accused innocent people were punished with the sentence they had wished on the innocent.  In Daniel 6 Perisan satraps and commissioners fabricated charges of treason against Daniel, for which he was thrown into a pit of lions, as outlined in the policy signed by Darius (6:7[8]).  When this “trial by ordeal” proved Daniel innocent, his accusers and their families were tossed into the same pit.  The narrator observes that before they landed, the lions had torn them apart (v. 24[25]).  Equally dramatic is the case of Haman in the book of Esther.  Having trumped up false charges against Mordecai and constructed the gallows in anticipation of his sentence, Haman himself was hanged from those gallows (Est 7:9-10).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 463)

 

Recognizing how Yahweh’s commands concerning blasphemy are integrated with the laws of talion in Lv 24:13-23, Milgrom notes perceptively that this statement communicates a profound theological message:  Whoever injures a person disfigures the image of God (Gn 1:26; 9:6b).  The law of talion assumes that a crime against a person is a crime against God.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 463)

 

It is necessary for wrong to be punished in order to maintain the stability and justice in any country.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 481)

 

The law of talion (21) has acquired a bad reputation as a kind of byword for vengefulness, in opposition to a spirit of forgiveness.  The principle is sometimes reconciled with Christ’s command to forgive enemies by pointing out that the former has its context in the lawcourt, while the latter is appropriate to personal relationships.  This is only partly true.  A lawcourt, in any society, is obliged to impose penalties laid down, and is not entitled to “forgive;” it might properly show leniency, however, where there are signs of remorse.  Indeed, in certain instances a victim might decide not to press charges, in a spirit of forgiveness.  Sometimes whole societies find that they have no hope of a future apart from a strong movement of forgiveness (as the people of South Africa and Northern Ireland, among others, have found).

Yet lawcourts are bound to uphold the standards that undergird a society’s laws.  It is those standards to which the law of talion makes a firm contribution, by asserting the irreducible sanctity of human life.  There is no other currency into which human life may be translated.  The prince or tycoon must take the consequences of his destruction of the pauper.  This is the absolute difference between biblical and other ancient laws.  It can remain a bulwark in a modern society in which human life is, in many ways, regarded as a disposable or tradable commodity.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 314)

 

Compassion flows of His goodness and goodness without justice is not goodness.   God spares us because He is good, but He could not be good if He were not just.   When God punishes the wicked, Anselm concludes, it is just because it is consistent with their deserts; and when He spares the wicked it is just because it is compatible with His goodness; so God does what becomes Him as the supremely good God.   This is reason seeking to understand, not that it may believe but because it already believes. (A. W. Tozer; The Knowledge of the Holy, 88)

 

III-  The truth of loving and effective application of this passage is revealed by Jesus.  (Dt 19:21 & Mt 5:38; see also: Ex 21:23-25; Lv 5:1; 24:18-20; Dt 32:35; Mt 5:38-42; 7:12; Rom 12:19-13:7; 1 Cor 6:1-10; 1 Cor 5 & 2 Cor 2)

 

Some have drawn from this the mistaken notion that Jesus was dismissing Dt 19:21 as an example of inferior morality.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Jesus prefaced his remark by saying, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Mt 5:17-18).

His intent was to correct the common misuse of Dt 19:21 to authorize personal retribution.  The passage was never intended to be used in such a manner.  He substituted for the common misinterpretation the correct one, emphasizing gentleness when wronged.  Societal justice is a state rather than an individual function.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 237-8)

 

Jesus didn’t reject the principle embodied in this law, but he condemned the misuse of this law as an excuse for personal revenge.  In private relationships he appealed to the higher law of love, which he modeled throughout his life.  St. Paul, quoting the OT Proverbs, suggested a surprising way of “getting even” with those who hurt us:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head” (Rom 12:20).

If someone injures us, it isn’t necessarily our privilege or our responsibility to demand compensation.  God doesn’t grant private citizens the liberty of personal revenge.  The responsibility for deciding the proper punishment for crime remains with the governing institutions God has placed over us.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 180-1)

 

The Lord Jesus negated the Deuteronomic rule in Mt 5:38-42 and substituted for “eye for eye, and tooth for tooth” the turning of the other cheek.  It must be remembered, however, that Deuteronomy is the law that the officials of the nation were to follow to protect the public, punish offenders, and deter crime.  Jesus spoke to individuals about violence against themselves personally.  One must not take the law into his own hands, returning evil for evil.  Such action should be referred to the officials responsible before God to adjudicate and to punish offenders.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 126)

 

Indeed, as stated later in the song of Dt 32 (v. 35) and in Paul’s words in Rom 12:19; Yahweh reserves the right to vengeance for himself.  Believers’ response to abuse is to be characterized by forgiveness, leaving the revenge factor in the hands of God.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 465)

 

Though false condemnation is a really bad thing, those who are falsely accused must remember that great people of God have been falsely accused throughout the ages.  They did it to our own Lord in a court of law (Mt 26:59-61) and to some of his great servants such as Stephen (Acts 6:11-13) and Paul (Acts 16:20, 21; 17:5-7; 24:5; 25:7, 8).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 479)

 

We tend to contrast lex talionis with Christ’s statement in the Sermon on the Mount:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Mt 5:38, 39).  Here Jesus seems to be abrogating the lex talionis principle.  But we must remember that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is talking about personal revenge, not about legal systems.  We need to forgive those who hurt us for our own healing from the hurts they inflict.  We leave the repaying part to God to handle.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word:  Dt, 481)

 

If we try to control our family’s thoughts and behavior, we are not leading through the fear of God.  We’re trying to lead through dominance, and God doesn’t use that method.  (Floyd McClung Jr.; God’s Man in the Family, 76-7)

 

Distrust everyone in whom the impulse to punish is powerful!  — Freidrich Nietzsche

 

(Ex 21:26)  This law also served as a restraint in cases where the disciplinarian might be inclined to be excessive in administering punishment.  Jesus did not deny the validity of this principle for the courtroom, but He denied its use in personal relationships (Mt 5:38-42).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 222-3)

 

In the NT, Jesus tells people not to use the lex talionis principle (Mt 5:38-41), but he is referring simply to insult and other minor indignities.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 576)

 

The law says that people can be convicted of a charge only if it can be demonstrated “beyond reasonable doubt” that the person is guilty.  Sometimes the judge knows that a person is guilty, but he is acquitted because it cannot be proved beyond reasonable doubt.  That is the risk one has to take in order to avoid being influenced by false accusations.  In a Christian group, the leaders, after much prayer, have to leave it in the hands of the sovereign God to help them in a situation where sin is not proved.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 477-8)

 

Abuse is unfair, extreme, and degrading.  It’s unduly harsh, unnecessarily long, and totally inappropriate.  When you drag children’s feelings through the mud and kick them when they’re down, you’re being abusive.  The result?  A soiled self-esteem and scars that often last a lifetime.  Actions like that are not discipline; they’re abuse.  And abuse doesn’t grow out of love; it stems from hate.

Discipline is fair, fitting, and upholds the child’s dignity.  Discipline is built on a foundation of justice.  It isn’t capricious or arbitrary, so the child should have a good idea of the punishment that will be meted out if parental boundaries are willfully and defiantly violated.  This form of correction strengthens rather than shatter the child’s self-worth.  Discipline is rooted in proper motivation–love and genuine concern–not in anger or expedience.  (Chuck Swindoll, The Strong Family, 56)

 

WHY DO CHILDREN REBEL?

Cause                                                                                         Effect

When a father does not fulfill promises…                            His children get wounded spirits

When a father does not admit he is wrong…                       His children lose confidence in his leadership

When a father refuses to ask for forgiveness…                 His children react to his pride.

When a father does not have right priorities…                  His children feel that he is too busy for them.

When a father is too strict in discipline…                            His children have their spirits broken.

When a father gives too much freedom to his                    His children see freedom as a

Children…                                                                                 form of rejection

When a father neglects his parents…                                   His children do not honor the counsel of their grandparents

When a father puts his parents in a nursing home            His children are taught to reject older people

for the sake of convenience…

When a father does not love his wife…                               His children take up offenses for their mother.

When a father neglects God’s Word…                                 His children reject the authority of God and the Bible.

When a father sacrifices his family for a better                   His children develop a temporal value system.

retirement…

When a father disciplines in anger…                                    His children have seeds of bitterness.

When a father delegates his children’s education             His children cease to respect him as a teacher.

to others…

When a father does not teach his children how to            His children feel frustrated and rejected.

please him…

When a father focuses on the outward appearance          His children feel inferior and reject themselves.

of others…

When a father is impatient with his children… His children seek approval from friends.

When a father has inconsistent standards…                       His children are challenged to be successful in avoiding the consequences.

When a father lets his wife assume spiritual                                           His children may regard religion as childish when they grow older.

leadership…

When a father does not have personal convictions…      His children accept excuse in excess what their father allowed in moderation. situational ethics and convictions…

(Bill Gothard; Men’s Manual, Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, 1979).

 

I have known many unhappy men who believed that “strength” meant “control”.  They believed that being the spiritual leader meant they were the spiritual dictator.  They acted as though every decision that needs to be made was theirs to make, as though they were the order-giver, commander-in-chief, and head despot.

That, however, is not strength; it is actually a form of acute weakness. Men who believe they need to control every aspect of their family’s lives are filled with fear.  They are afraid to let others succeed, they are afraid the world could get along just fine without them.  At bottom, they are afraid to let God be God and are unwilling to live by faith in a sovereign Lord.

Several phrases often betray such men, demonstrating their lack of strength and glaring weakness.  Phrases such as: “Don’t talk back to me!”  “Don’t question my authority!”  “Do it because I said so.”

The problem with such phrases is that they simply demand rather than affirm the child and then explain what is wrong on the basis of a principle.  Being strong does not mean:

 

• covering up our failures

• suppressing our feelings

• demanding our own way

• having no close friendships

• making all the decisions

• controlling everyone’s behavior

• leaving religion to women

It may be that this problem of control comes out most strongly in the issue of discipline.  How we discipline our children demonstrates more about our own character than we may care to admit.  Controlling, dictating dads don’t make good disciplinarians, and they don’t produce healthy, God-fearing children.  It takes strength to discipline in a godly way, and controlling dads don’t have it.

Godly discipline takes place in a home only when it takes place in the heart of a man.  Discipline is the overflow of a vital, growing relationship between a man and his God.  We cannot discipline our children if we have not disciplined our own walk with God.

Spiritual discipline is not a set of rules; it grows out of a relationship.  It is not behavior modification; it is inspiring in our children an inner desire to please God.  It is not being the lord of the manor; it is leading your family out of the relationship you enjoy with the Lord of glory.  (Floyd McClung Jr.; God’s Man in the Family, 69-71)

 

Worship Point:  Worship the God of the Universe Who loves you enough to confront you and encourage change to take place so you can become all you were created and designed to be as one in God’s image and likeness.

 

Gospel Application:  Jesus absorbed the full punishment we deserved.  By seeing the grace of Jesus and having faith in Jesus we can be transformed into one like Jesus.  (Rom 12:1-2; 2 Cor 5:17)

 

What the world needs is not knowledge; it is not teaching; it is not information; it is not medical treatment; it is not psychotherapy; it is not social progress; it is not punishment, even.  It is none of these things.

What men and women need is a new heart, a new nature, a nature that will hate darkness and love the light, instead of loving the darkness and hating the light.  They need an entire renovation, and, blessed be the name of God, it is the very thing that God offers in and through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  The Son of God came and took unto himself human nature.  He united it to himself in order that he night give us that nature.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones;  God’s Way, Not Ours: Isaiah 1, 67)

 

If you want to know the blessings of God, the blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the blessings of the Christian gospel, the first thing you must do is admit that you have no claim at all upon them, that you do not deserve them, that actually you deserve nothing but punishment and hell.  If you are still trying to defend yourself, if you still feel that God has not been fair to you, that God is unkind to you or that God has kept something back from you, you are not a Christian; you are still in the position of rebellious Adam and Eve; you are in the position of the Pharisees.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones;  God’s Way, Not Ours: Isaiah 1, 91)

 

If I am the problem, what is the solution?  If you educate me, you will get a smart sinner.  If you discipline me, you will get a disciplined sinner.  If you refine me, I become a refined sinner.  If you give me more religion, I will be a religious sinner.  Whatever you do with me, you cannot change what I am, and what I am is the problem.  (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 71)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  See the truthfulness of your corrupt heart apart from Jesus.  See the love of Jesus for you in spite of your depravity.   Rejoice in the truth:  in God’s love, grace and mercy in allowing you to see your sinfulness so your understanding of God’s love, grace, mercy and forgiveness might be more real.  (Ps 119:11, 105; Prv 6:23; Lk 7:47; Heb 4:12)

 

If you don’t see the absolute holiness of God, the magnitude of your debt, the categorical necessity of God’s just punishment of your sin, and therefore the utter hopelessness of your condition, then the knowledge of your pardon and deliverance will not be amazing and electrifying!  —Tim Keller

 

Gospel repentance is not a little hanging down of the head.  It’s a working of the heart until your sin becomes more odious to you than any punishment for it. — Richard Sibbes

 

Some people think that after a national disaster men and women will reform.  ‘Surely,’ they say, ‘when people have had to go through a thing like this, they will be pulled up.  They will see the folly of the way they have been living and will come to their senses.  They will live a new life.  There will be a better land, and a better way of living.’

What utter rubbish!  Men and women in the grip of sin never reform as the result of punishment and suffering; that is where they show that they are perverted and foolish.  No, the power of sin is so great that it dulls people’s memories.  Immediately after they have sinned, they are filled with shame and say, ‘I can’t possibly go through this again–that would be inconceivable.’  But by the next morning it does not seem quite so bad; the morning after that, it is still less bad; and in a week’s time there was nothing at all wrong with it!

And not only can sin paralyze the memory, it can twist facts; it can manipulate them, and prove anything it likes.  Sin can manipulate our reason and vitiate all our argumentation.  It will inflame our desires; it will paint beautiful pictures; it will put on rose-colored spectacles.  It will also paralyze the will so that when temptation comes again we forget all about what we felt and do the same thing once more.

There is no need to argue about this.  If you do not agree with my exposition of the biblical teaching concerning the power and depth of sin, let me ask you this one question:  Why do you keep on doing that thing that gets you down, that thing you are ashamed of?  Why are you always down?  Why are you in this conflict that the apostle Paul speaks of?  There is only one answer:  the power of sin is greater than your power.  Sin is the greatest power in the world, with one exception, and that is the power of God.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones;  God’s Way, Not Ours: Isaiah 1, 63-4)

 

God at His expense, a far greater expense, at an infinite expense, will take anyone.   And your record means nothing.  And your social-economic record means nothing.  And your standing means nothing.   You come into the feast of the Son not by being fit; but, by admitting you are not fit, and by letting the Lord clothe you. . . .

There are many people . . .who say, “Yes, I don’t believe like the Pharisees.  That idea that you earn your place.  I don’t believe in a god of wrath.  I don’t believe in a god who punishes people.   I don’t believe in a god like that.   I believe in a god who accepts everyone just as they are.  Now, if you believe that, with all due respect; you’re coming in without a wedding garment.  (Tim Keller, Merit or Mercy)

 

It happens all the time, often for good reasons.  We think that there has to be more discipline, more obedience, more holiness and more sanctification . . . and all of that is true.  It is just that those things don’t come from effort, they come from being free and loved.  (Steve Brown; Living Free, 171-2)

 

God justifies the ungodly.  And that means that when you are justified, when you are absolutely righteous and loved, absolutely accepted, in yourself you are absolutely unworthy, absolutely sinful, you’re ungodly, and therefore there is within you absolutely nothing that is the basis of this justification.  Nothing!

Now, people have a lot of problem with that.  They say, “O my goodness!  I’ve got to be good a little bit.”

I once had someone say to me, “If I believe what you believe I would have no incentive to live a good life.  And by the way, there are plenty of people who have said that to me over the years.  If I believe that I was totally saved, and it had nothing to do with the way that I lived, if it was completely free then I would have no incentive to live a good life.

And here is the proper (I think) response:  If when you lose all fear of punishment, you also lose your incentive for living a good life, then the only incentive you had to live a good life was fear.  See, if when you lose your fear, you lose your incentive to be good, then the only incentive you had to be good was the fear.

And here is the ironic thing.  The fear is selfish.  Fear is always selfish.  Because I might lose, this might happen, that might happen; I’d better be good.  But what is goodness?  Goodness is unselfish living, unselfish service to God, unselfish service to be poor, unselfish service to my neighbor.   I’m scared that I might be lost unless I’m, good, but what is goodness but being unselfish.  But don’t you realize that’s incredibly selfish.

When you live a good life so that God will bless you and take you to heaven, it is by definition not good.  Because it is all for you.  All for you.  Your not helping the poor, you are helping yourself.  Your not helping God, you are helping yourself.  This is the reason why the Belgic Confession, an old reformation document from the 17th century puts it like this:  “Far from making people cold toward living in a holy way, justifying faith so works within them that apart from it they will never do a thing out of love for God but only out of love for themselves and fear of being condemned.”

Did you hear that?  Let me tell you what that is saying.  Put on your thinking cap.  And don’t laugh too much when I tell you.

If you think your good deeds are good.  If you think your unselfish good deeds are good, they are no good.   In other words, if you think they are good and God owes you something then they are not by definition, by your own definition, your selfishness is really selfishness.

But if you say all my good deeds are worthless.  I need to be saved by grace.  I am saved by grace.  Now I want to please God.  I want to resemble God.  I want to delight God.  I want to be near God.  Well, how do I do that?

By serving Him.  By serving other people.  But, if you think your deeds are good, they are no good.  But, if you think that your good deeds are absolutely worthless and you are saved by grace that makes your deeds good.  If you think they’re good they’re no good and if you think they’re no good they’re good.   If you think they’re worthless, but you are doing them just to please God, then they’re actually pleasing God.  (Tim Keller message, Justified by Faith)

 

So What?:  You will never be transformed without the renewing of your mind which is most likely to take place in view of God’s mercy, grace, love and forgiveness for you. (Rom 12:1-2).  Then you can rejoice in the truth.

 

How foolish to think that righteousness can come by the law!  Does anyone still believe that prohibition can prohibit!  I do not think that the combined resources of the United States Army and Navy could keep gambling, liquor and prostitution out of our country.  Prohibition has never prohibited, and law has never been a deterrent to sin.  The human heart will go any length to satisfy its desires.  Law is necessary, not to prevent the lawless from sinning but to provide for their punishment and our protection.  True righteousness comes not from law but from the love of Christ under grace.  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, God’s Freedom, 135)

 

When Jesus calls NT believers to turn the other cheek toward those who abuse them rather than to retaliate with “eye for eye and tooth for tooth” vengeance (Mt 5:34-42), he does not establish a new ethic.  Rather, he reminds his followers that those who bear the name of God live by a distinctive ethic.  We do indeed insist that society and the courts uphold the rights of all citizens and protect all from social predators.  However, with respect to our own personal relationships, instead of retaliating when our own rights are violated (which may be our legal right), righteous Christians will turn the other cheek and forgive their enemies.  They count it a privilege to be persecuted for the sake of righteousness, knowing that this is the mark of a citizen of the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:10; 1 Pt 4:12-19).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 465)

 

JESUS:

THE WAY TO SHALOM

 

 

 

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