“Love in Lending+” – Deuteronomy 24:6-15

February 18th,  2018

Dt. 24:6-15

“Love in Lending+”

Aux Text: Luke 6:27-36: ; James 5:1-6

Call to Worship: Psalm 112

 

Service Orientation: The world promotes social Darwinism . . .dog eat dog . . . survival of the fittest.  God promotes grace, forgiveness as well as honoring and loving your neighbor as yourself.  Which world do you want to live in?

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done. — Proverbs 19:17

 

Background Information:

  • (v. 8) Leprous diseases translates a word that probably did not indicate leprosy proper as known today (Hansen’s disease). It seems to be a general term for any kind of infectious skin problem, characterized by scaly or flaky flesh, roughness, redness, or itch.  It is one of the tasks of the priests, like public health inspectors, to diagnose and deal with such outbreaks (lv 13-14).  Deuteronomy characteristically reinforces its advice with historical warning (Nm 12).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 257)
  • (v. 8) The NIV footnote explains that the Hebrew word for leprosy “was used for various illnesses affecting the skin–not necessarily leprosy.” Moses used the same word to describe mildew or mold on clothing (Lv 13:47-52) or a house (Lv 14:33-53).  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 225)
  • (v. 8) Presumably Moses gave the Levitical priests instructions about scale disease in the wilderness, which is perhaps what later becomes codified in Lv 13-14. In Leviticus we observe the priests functioning as a kind of “health department” within ancient Israel, being responsible for the diagnosis of scale disease and declaring a person cleansed from it.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 685)
  • (v. 8) It is the only instance of such a law in Deuteronomy, the extensive regulations occurring rather in Lv 13-14. It echoes the limitations set out in 23:1-8[2-9], and to that extent is concerned with the integrity of the people in a ritual sense.  However, the law is almost all “motivation,” the real interest falling on the need for Israelites to obey the decisions of the central court, presided over by the priests and judges (cf. 25:2; 17:8-13).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 361)
  • (v. 9) When the example of Miriam’s affliction with leprosy is invoked, with the consequence of her temporary exclusion from the assembly (9; cf. Nm 12), the point seems to be that failure to obey the court (and thus Yahweh) is what excludes, not the skin disease itself. (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 361)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What does God teach us about how we are supposed to treat those who are not at the top of the intellectual, social, emotional, physical or economic ladder?

 

Answer: We are not to exploit, humiliate, or treat other human beings inhumanely.  Especially when they are down already.  People are created in God’s image and likeness and we are to treat them as such:  no matter how they appear, behave, or what status they don’t have.  

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Honor

 

How are we to honor those who are the least of these?:

I-  We are not to make the vulnerable even more so.  (Dt 24:6, 8-9, 14-15; see also: Lv chps 13-14; 19:13; Dt 23:19-20; Ps 15:5; 112:5; Prv 19:17; 22:22-23; Lk 6:30-38)

 

If a man was in such a desperate financial state that he had to ask a fellow Israelite for a loan, it was wrong for the lender to put such pressure on a poor man that he could lose his daily bread of his ability to work.  Such an act could turn a temporary misfortune into a permanent tragedy.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 224)

 

Often the poor have to wait until the end of the week or month to get paid.  Therefore, they have to borrow money from unscrupulous money lenders who lend them money with very high interest.  This begins a process of bondage from which they will never escape.  Another problem is that often the poor spend in a week what they were paid for the month because they have not learned to use money responsibly.  This law shows us that God has thought about the circumstances of the poor and has given laws appropriate to them.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 550)

 

Probably this call to be careful is because the lack of care could result in an epidemic.  There were no doctors in those days, and the people had limited medical knowledge.  So they are commanded to take the patient to the Levitical priest who should have better knowledge.  He will give instructions about what to do.  We can see that the issues involved here are ethical ones.  Therefore, this exhortation is not out of place in this chapter.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 552)

 

The regulation of credit and debt in any society is one of the touchstones of humaneness or oppression.  Lending (as distinct from simply giving) to those in need is commended in the OT (e.g., Ps 15:5), but such is human greed and callousness that the power of lenders to squeeze and exploit their debtors calls for control.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 256)

 

He, then, is as cruel, whosoever takes in pledge what supports a poor man’s life, as if he should take away bread from a starving man, and thus his life itself, which, as it is sustained by labor, so, when its means of subsidence are cut off, is, as it were, itself destroyed.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 123)

 

24:14-15.  The interest in economics continues with this law regarding proper treatment of workers.  The law is concerned that the conditions of work should be fair and not exploitative (the translation, do not take advantage of, is far too weak; the Hb. Word means to oppress by robbery or fraud, as it is properly translated in the parallel law in Lv 19:13) and that the payment for work should be prompt.  The OT shows remarkable interest in the welfare of working human beings and even working animals (cf. the sabbath commandment and 25:4).  This law refers to a particular category of workers who were likely to be poor and needy, namely, hired laborers.  These were people who had no permanent (i.e., basically residential) employment, but were hired for short-term jobs, and were often paid a daily wage.  They were therefore more vulnerable and easily exploited than slaves, for whom owners had a legal and economic duty of care.  Since daily pay was essential for daily food, any delay in payment meant immediate hunger for the worker and his family.  Hence the urgency of verse 15, and hence also the point of the generosity of the vineyard owner, whose decision to pay a day’s wage for an hour’s work recognized the need of the man who had to feed his family regardless of how long he worked (Mt 20:1-15).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 258-9)

 

Having challenged his hearers in principle not to take advantage of day laborers, in verse 15 Moses explains what he means:  day laborers must be paid at the end of the day in which they perform their services.  He concludes with four reasons why they should do so:  (1) The hired hand is destitute, having offered his services because he has no independent access to wealth.  (2) The man has worked all day in anticipation of payment at the end of the day; he must not be disappointed.  (3) Heartless, failure to pay will cause the hired man to cry to Yahweh against his employer (cf. 10:18; Ex 22:27[26]).  (4) Failure to pay will render the employer guilty of a crime.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 569-70)

 

Presumably the creditor could name the article he wished to take as a pledge.  The mill (consisting of two stones; a heavy lower one and a more portable upper millstone) was perhaps a tempting object to take away, because it was such an essential article in every household, and the debtor would soon be desperate to retrieve it.  So Deuteronomy here bans such a practice totally, in order to protect the poor.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 134)

 

If the upper stone was taken, the mill could not be used.  Without the mill, they would not be able to make bread, which was an essential part of their daily food.  Of course, if the lender takes the mill or millstone as a pledge, the borrower would return the money soon.  A conscientious Christian lender must think of the welfare of the borrower and try to ensure that his life is not ruined because of the loan he takes.  That is the Biblical way, even though it sounds strange to our ears today.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 547)

 

The law thus protects the poor who borrow from lending conditions that actually worsen their plight rather than alleviate it.  The moral force of the law is still powerfully relevant to the need for legislative controls on unscrupulous forms of lending.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 256)

 

Millstones were used daily in homes to grind grain in preparing meals.  To take a millstone as collateral for a debt would deprive a person of his daily bread (“living”).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 259)

 

24:6.  Israel was permitted by God to take collateral to enforce payment of a debt, but certain items were off limits in this regard.  No one could take a pair of millstones. . . as security because to do so would be the equivalent of taking a man’s livelihood from him.  These stones were worked in pairs.  They consisted of a large base stone that remained stationary and a smaller upper millstone that was turned against it.  Even the removal of the smaller stone would put a miller out of business, since the lower stone was useless by itself.  In this way, God sought to clothe his command to love one’s neighbor in practical garments.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 282)

 

II-  Never regard another human being as nothing more than a tool or commodity.  (Dt 24:7, 14-15; see also: Ex 21:16; Job 24:9; Jam 5:1-6)

 

The motivation clause, “for that would be like taking a life itself as security,” points up the discrepancy between the value of a life and the need to protect one’s loan.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 361)

 

Kidnapping was a form of theft and murder because by removing a person from the community, it cut off a fellow Israelite from the community of God’s people and from the promised covenant land itself.  Kidnapping dealt with persons as if they were merchandise.  (John H. Walton, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol. 1, 499)

 

The death penalty would be exacted of one who kidnapped a brother Israelite for involuntary servitude under the captor or as merchandise to sell.  The victim’s free life was involved; so the death penalty was decreed for the culprit–life for life.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 147)

 

Still more threatening to a caring society was the person who removed not a person’s source of income but the person himself.  One who was caught kidnapping one of his brother Israelites was subject to the death penalty.  Whether his intent was to treat the captured individual as a slave or to sell him was irrelevant.  Such a callous disregard for the value of another person was an evil that could not be tolerated.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 282-3)

 

People, especially women and girls, from desperately poor backgrounds are taken away with the promise of employment and are forced into prostitution, sex slavery, and forced labor.  People are taken from rural areas to urban areas and from poorer nations to nations that are more affluent.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 551)

 

Western countries, where movements that won rights and protections for workers had Christian origins, often exhibit callous and exploitative practices in this sphere.  Wage councils, which regulated minimum wages for lowest paid workers in Britain, have recently been abolished.  Employers keep workers only up to the point at which they would have statutory rights and quickly lay them off with impunity.  Small firms with a few local workers are forced out of business by large firms who deliberately delay payment of bills for work done.  Part-time workers are denied many benefits.  To be actively concerned about rectifying such abuses is a question not merely of party politics, but of fundamental biblical ethical categories of righteousness and sin.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 259)

 

III-  Don’t humiliate people when they are already humiliated.  (Dt 24:10-11, 14-15; see also: Psa 15:5; 112:5; Prov 19:17; Mt 5:42; 25:31-46; Lk 6:30-38)

 

Deuteronomy is determined to protect the poor not only from commercial exploitation (hence the ban on interest), not only from life-threatening pressures from lenders (hence the ban on taking essentials in pledge), but even from invasion of their privacy.  Human dignity matters.  Poverty robs a person of so much, but the poor should be allowed to control what they still own and should be given respect in their own homes.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 257)

 

One reason, surely, for not allowing the creditor to enter the house of the debtor is that this would further humiliate someone who already feels a sense of humiliation.  Daube (1969a, 34) says:  “To have the creditor inside the home, for the purpose of collecting his security, would be the most down-putting, dishonoring experience for the debtor and his family.  The handing over outside preserves appearances. . . (and) formal disgrace is avoided.”  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 686)

 

This at first seems strange in our culture where the Western understanding of privacy is not a premium value and people go in and out of houses freely.  We saw this happening in the ministry of Jesus (see Mt 26:7).  As the lender has power over the desperate borrower, he could go into the house and demand something from the house, demeaning the borrower in the process.  He is in a very vulnerable situation and is at the lender’s mercy.  But he is a person made in the image of God.  The lender has the responsibility of protecting the borrower’s honor.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 547)

 

I think of the poor in need who come and ask for something that they could legitimately receive but that if given at this time would require a little extra work by the people administering the process.  Some poor are not educated enough to fill out a form properly.  How good it would be if the administering officer goes that extra mile and fills it out for him.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 550)

 

He provides against another iniquity in reclaiming a pledge, viz., that the creditor should ransack the house and furniture of his brother, in order to pick out the pledge at his pleasure.  For, if this option were given to the avaricious rich, they would be satisfied with no moderation, but would seize upon all that was best, as if making an assault on the very entrails of the poor:  in a word, they would ransack men’s houses, or at any rate, whilst they contemptuously refused this or that, they would fill the wretched with rebuke and shame.  God, therefore, will have no pledge reclaimed, except what the debtor of his own accord, and at his own convenience, shall bring out of his house.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 123)

 

Verses 10f. are typical of Deuteronomy’s blend of realism and challenge.  They accept the reality of poverty and debt and the necessity of loans.  But they seek to mitigate the harshness of that reality by inculcating an ethos of compassion and respect, which, while not a matter of enforceable legislation, insists on preserving the humanity and dignity of every member of the community.  Those who work among the world’s poor realize that the answer to exploitation is not “charity” alone.  More important than material help is the recognition and affirmation of the dignity of poorer people, often through enabling and empowering them to exercise some measure of discretion and control over what they do own.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 257)

 

Elaborating on Ex 22:25-27[24-26], Moses sets the context and presents the case as a general principle.  Whereas in the earlier text the loan involved silver and prohibited Israelites from capitalizing on the misfortunes of others, here Moses casts the net more broadly and seeks to limit the psychological damage caused by economic stress.  He prohibits creditors from intimidating debtors by entering their houses to demand the pledge.  Instead, lenders are to stand outside and wait for borrowers to bring them the pledge.  As elsewhere, the goal is a community built on ethical values of trust and compassion.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 568)

 

IV-  Treat people righteously, as creatures created in God’s image . . . because they are.  (Dt 24:12-13; see also: Gn 1:26-27; 9:6; Prv 22:22-23Mt 25:40, 45; Jam 5:1-6)

 

The image of God in which man was and is made has been variously explained in detail. Although scholars may differ on the nuances of the phrase, there is general agreement that it has to do with dignity, destiny, and freedom.

The assertion that man is made in God’s image shows each man his true dignity and worth. As God’s image-bearer, he merits infinite respect. God’s claims on us must be taken with total seriousness.  No human being should ever be thought of as simply a cog in a machine, or mere means to an end.

The assertion points also to each man’s true destiny. Our Maker so designed us that our nature finds final satisfaction and fulfillment only in a relationship of responsive Godlikeness—which means, precisely, that state of correspondence between our acts and God’s will which we call obedience. Living that is obedient will thus be teleological—progressively realizing our telos (Greek for “end” or “goal”).

Also the assertion confirms the genuineness of each man’s freedom. Experience tells us that we are free, in the sense that we make real choices between alternatives and could have chosen differently, and theology agrees. Self-determining freedom of choice is what sets God and his rational creatures apart from, say, birds and bees, as moral beings.  (James Packer, Your Father Loves You)

 

If the pledge was to be returned so quickly, was there any point in taking it at all?  Possibly not, from the lender’s point of view.  But it has been suggested that the very basic and physical nature of the pledge would prevent the borrower from entering into several separate loan arrangements (he could not give his cloak to more than one lender), and thus getting entangled in multiple indebtedness, to the detriment of borrower and lenders alike.  Whether or not this was a subsidiary economic purpose of the law, both Exodus and Deuteronomy focus on the primary moral obligation, which is not merely a horizontal matter of compassion for a fellow human being, but a fundamental vertical duty to God, that God takes very seriously (negatively in Ex 22:27b, positively in Dt 24:13b.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 258)

 

The Mishnah expands the present ruling to forbid holding a pillow overnight and a plow during the day.  Garments were commonly given as pledges (Prv 20:16; 27:13), and those who callously seized them from the poor came in for strong censure (Amos 2:8; Job 22:6).  Ezekiel considered the restoring of a pledge, together with other righteous acts, to be life-and-death issues for the creditor (Ez 18:7, 12; 33:15).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 687)

 

The powerful person is to be sensitive to the needs of the weak person and make allowance for those needs.  But does this not violate principles of responsible lending?  Moses seems to think that this so-called violation actually becomes righteousness to the lender, as the second part of verse 13 says:  “And it [restoring the pledge] shall be righteousness for you before the LORD your God.”  Here is an instance of what we have called generous justice.  Our righteousness must be like God’s righteousness, in which mercy and grace are important aspects.  A holy person is one who has a special concern for the needy.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 548)

 

The God who had saved Israel from slavery, it is inferred, was one who was the special protector of the poor and the weak in society who lacked the means or the ability to care for themselves.  The whole economy existed not for the special benefit of the strong, but for the purpose of supplying need, which meant that special attention must be given to the welfare of the weak.  Hence the focus of attention in the law is not on the rights of the strong but on those of the weak which the strong are inclined to neglect or deny to their own profit.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2, 476)

 

V-  God judges those who do not treat humans as creatures created in His image.  (Dt 24:7, 9, 13b, 15b; see also: Dt 17:7, 12; 19:19; 21:21; 22:21; Mal 3:5; Jam 5:1-6)

 

Most people do not care to go out of their way to help the needy because they think there is nothing to gain from doing so.  The rich, however, are influential, and people would be afraid not to help the rich.  What Moses is saying is that there is everything to lose by not helping the poor.  We provoke the Lord God Almighty to anger and expose ourselves to his awesome punishment.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 550-1)

 

When a creditor deals humanely with a debtor, “it will be righteousness in the eyes of the Lord” for him.  When an employer fails to pay his worker, “it will be sin” in him.  The deliberate parallel pattern of words is unmistakable and illustrates Deuteronomy’s covenant ethic.  Employment legislation is also divine torah.  Workers’ rights are responsibilities before God.  Unjust pay and conditions are not just social problems, they are sin against God.  For this reason, OT prophets can direct the judgment of God against those who fail to pay workers properly (Jer 22:13f.; Isa 58:3b), and a NT apostle can do the same with equal vehemence (Jam 5:4).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 259)

 

Moses admonishes us that this tyranny on the part of the rich shall not be unpunished, if they do not supply their workmen with the means of subsistence, even although no account shall be rendered of it before the tribunals of men.  Hence we infer that this law is not political, but altogether spiritual, and binding on our consciences before the judgment-seat of God; for although the poor man may not sue us at law, Moses teaches us that it is sufficient for him to appeal to the faithfulness of God.  Wherefore, although the earthly judge may absolve us a hundred times over, let us not therefore think that we have escaped; since God will always require of us from heaven, whatever may have been unjustly excused us on earth.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 114)

 

Moses calls for careful attention to the voice of experience, charging the people to remember what happened to Miriam on their journey out of Egypt (Nm 12:10-15).  This reminder suggests that the real concern here is not the skin disease but the importance of heeding the instruction of the priests (cf. 17:8-13; 25:2).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 568)

 

Uzziah, Judah’s king for more than half the eighth century, B.C., did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, strengthened the kingdom’s borders, completed numerous public building projects in and around Jerusalem, and commanded an impressive army.  But his power led to sinful pride, and when he tried to usurp the priests’ role in the temple, the Lord struck him with leprosy; he “had leprosy until the day he died.  He lived in a separate house–leprous, and excluded from the temple of the LORD” (2 Chr 26:1-21).  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 225-6)

 

The point made in the narrative there, and what the people are told to remember here, is that Miriam was stricken because of Yahweh’s anger.  She, along with Aaron, had slandered Moses on account of his Cushite wife, but their greater misdeed was to challenge Moses’ authority as Yahweh’s spokesman, wanting for themselves a share in that authority.  As a result, Miriam was stricken immediately with scale disease and had to be put outside the camp for seven days.  The divine disfavor she incurred was comparable to the disgrace suffered by a child whose father had spit in his face.  Later King Uzziah was stricken with scale disease, which in his case stayed with him the rest of his life.  He incurred divine disfavor for burning incense on the temple altar, which only the priests were permitted to do (2 Chr 26:16-21).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 685)

 

Nm 12:1-15 describes how Miriam (the ringleader) and Aaron challenged Moses’ authority.  Miriam, for her part in this rebellion, was stricken with leprosy because of her resistance to divinely established authority.  Although the command to deal cautiously in handling possible outbreaks of disease is important in itself, it also serves as the stage upon which the larger issue of authority is addressed.  God will not deal gently with challenges to those whom he has placed in authority.  Although Moses was meek (cp. Nm 12:3) about defending himself, God was not, and would not be in the future.

Therefore, the Levites were not to be challenged in diagnosing cases of leprous diseases (cp. Lv 13-14).  Once they had issued their findings according to what God had commanded them, their words were to be followed carefully (cp. Heb 13:17).  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 283)

 

Twice the people were exhorted to exercise special care to follow the commands of the Lord regarding infectious skin diseases or other malignant infections in the houses, etc.  the experience of Miriam illustrates the dire results of disobedience–the consequences for those who contracted leprous diseases (Nm 12:1-15).  The reference to leprous diseases presupposes acquaintance with the legislation of Lv 13-14.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 147)

 

We cannot be sure what lesson Moses intends us to get from remembering Miriam’s leprosy.  Could it be that Moses is saying that if such a high person in society as Miriam could get this, then normal people, too, could get it and we should be alert to the possibility of infection?  Another possible application is that just as Miriam broke out with a leprous disease, we also could get sick if we go on making false accusations against people (Nm 12).  We make a similar application from 1 Cor 11:28-30 where Paul calls on people to examine themselves before participating in the Lord’s Supper and then says, “For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 553)

 

Worship Point: Worship the God Who loves you enough to protect and honor you no matter how far down you get or how depraved you might become.

 

Gospel Application: Jesus demonstrated the extent we should be willing to sacrifice for the sake of others when they are down.  He forgave and paid the debt we could not even begin to pay.  (Mt 6:14-15;18:21-35; 2 Cor 8:9)

 

Heidelberg Catechism questions 13-19

Q12.  According to God’s righteous judgment we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after:  how then can we escape this punishment and return to God’s favor?

  1. God requires that his justice be satisfied (Ex 23:7; Rom 2:1-22). Therefore the claims of his justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or another (Isa 53:11; Rom 8:3-4).

 

Q13. Can we pay this debt ourselves?

  1. Certainly not. Actually, we increase our guilt every day (Mt 6:12; Rom 2:4-5).

 

14Q. Can another creature—any at all—pay this debt for us?

  1. No. To begin with, God will not punish another creature for what a human is guilty of (Ezek 18:4, 20; Heb 2:14-18). Besides, no mere creature can bear the weight of God’s eternal anger against sin and release others from it (Ps 49:7-9; 130:3).

 

Q15. What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?

  1. One who is truly human (Rom 1:3; 1 Cor 15:21; Heb 2:17) and truly righteous (Isa 53:9; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26), yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God (Isa 7:14; 9:6; Jer 23:6; Jn 1:1).

 

Q16. Why must he be truly human and truly righteous?

  1. God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for its sin (Rom 5:12, 15; 1 Cor 15:21; Heb 2:14-16); but a sinner could never pay for others (Heb 7:26-27; 1 Pt 3:18).f

 

Q17. Why must he also be true God?

  1. So that, by the power of his divinity, he might bear the weight of God’s anger in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life (Isa 53; Jn 3:16; 2 Cor 5:21).

 

Q18. And who is this mediator—true God and at the same time truly human and truly righteous?

  1. Our Lord Jesus Christ (Mt 1:21-13; Lk 2:11; 1 Tm 2:5), who was given us to set us completely free and to make us right with God (1 Cor 1:30).

 

Q19. How do you come to know this?

  1. The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise (Gn 3:15); later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs (Gn 22:18; 49:10) and prophets (Isa 53; Jer 23:5-6; Mic 7:18-20; Acts 10:43; Heb 1:1-2), and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law (Lv 1-7; Jn 5:46; Heb 10:1-10); finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son (Rom 10:4; Gal 4:4-5; Col 2:17).

 

“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

 

You thought our national economy is bad.  Our spiritual economy has been in a depression for thousands of years.  Our debt is astronomical (see 18:24).  We should all be embarrassed–red in the face because of how much we are in the red–personally and corporately!  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 170)

 

We do not want any favors.  We want to do it ourselves.  We want to pay our own debts.  So our pride hates forgiveness.  According to John Stott, “We insist on paying for what we have done.  We cannot stand the humiliation of acknowledging our bankruptcy and allowing someone else to pay for us.  The notion that this somebody else should be God himself is just too much to take.  We would rather perish than repent, rather lose ourselves than humble ourselves.”  (Rebecca Manley Pippert, Hope Has Its Reasons, 110)

 

We must, indeed, be more than iron-hearted, unless we are disposed to such liberality as this, when we understand that, although the poor have not the means of repaying us in this world, still they have the power of recompensing us before God, i.e., by obtaining grace for us through their prayers.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 123-4)

 

“Jesus gave up any right to independence, he was born in a borrowed manger, preached from a borrowed boat, entered Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey, ate the Last Supper in a borrowed upper room, died on a borrowed cross and was buried in a borrowed tomb.” (Leighton Ford; Transforming Leadership, 33)

 

Spiritual Challenge: See people as God sees them:  Creatures created in His likeness and image.  We are to treat them as such.  (Mt 25:40, 45)

 

An implied threat is also conveyed, that if the poor man should sleep inconveniently, or catch cold through our fault, God will hear his groans, so that our cruelty will not be unpunished.  But if the poor man, upon whom we have had compassion, should be ungrateful, yet, even though he is silent, our kindness will cry out to God; whilst, on the other hand, our tyrannical harshness will suffice to provoke God’s vengeance, although he who has been treated unkindly should patiently swallow his wrong.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. III, 124)

 

Actually this law implies that when we help the poor in any way, we should not do so in a way that makes them feel small.  This happens often, and because of that social workers are often intensely disliked by the people they help.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 547-8)

 

THE DOCTRINE of “RECIPROCALITY”:

 

• The measure you use, it will be measured to you – Mark 4:24

 

• If you forgive others God will forgive you – Matthew 6:12

• Proverbs 19:17: as you give to the poor God will give to you

• Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

• Luke 6:37-42 (heavy content in this passage)

• Matthew 7:1-5

 

This response to the poor promotes a healthy relationship between creditor and debtor and pleases Yahweh.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 569)

 

So What?: If Christians would live out God’s law the world would be a much better place.  If everyone lived out God’s law we could have heaven on earth.

 

JESUS:

GRACE CHAMPION

 

 

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