The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward – Psalm 19:7 – 11 (NIV).
Do you know that God is concerned about the details of our everyday lives; especially human relationships, justice, fairness, equity and marital issues touched His very heart.
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behaviour, whenever possible. Societies have laws in order to protect people from the actions of other people. It is therefore impossible for everybody in any society to have absolute freedom. The law puts limits on each person’s freedom in order to protect other people’s freedom. Here are a few examples to ponder over.
“Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every own the Lord your god is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.” – Deut. 16:18-20 (NIV).
It is a serious responsibility to appoint or elect wise and just officials. In your sphere of influence – home, chuch, school, job, etc. are you ensuring that justice and godliness prevail? Failing to choose leaders who uphold justice can lead to much trouble, as Israel discovered.
“If cases come before your courts that are too difficult for you to judge – whether bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults – take them to the place the Lord your God will choose. Go to the priests, who are Levites, and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict. You must act according to the decisions they give you at the place the Lord will choose. Be careful to do everything they direct you to do. Act according to the law they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left. The man who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the Lord your God must be put to death. You mast purge the evil from Israel. All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not be contemptuous again “ - Deut. 17:8-13 (NIV).
“One witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse a man of a crime, the two men involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the Lord before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against his brother, then do to him as he intended to do to his brother. You must purge the evil from among you. The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” – Deut.19:15 – 21 (NIV).
This principle was for the judges to use, not a plan for personal vengeance. This attitude toward punishment may seem primitive, but it was actually a breakthrough for justice and fairness in ancient times when most nations used arbitrary methods to punish criminals. This guideline reflects a concern for even-handedness and justice – ensuring that those who violated the law were not punished more severely than their particular crime deserved. In the same spirit of justice, a false witness was to receive the same punishment the accused person would have suffered. The principle of making the punishment fit the crime should still be observed today.
If a man takes a wife and, after lying with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof or her virginity,” then the girl’s father and mother shall bring proof that she was a virgin to the town elders at the gate. The girl’s father will say to the elders, “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I did not find our daughter to be virgin.’ But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.” Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the torn, and the elders shall take the man and punish him. They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the girl’s father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives.
If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the girl’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done a disgraceful thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you. If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who sleep with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.
If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death – the girl because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you.
But if out in the country a man happens to meet a girl pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. Do nothing to the girl; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders his neighbour, for the man found the girl out in the country, and though the betrothed girl screamed, there was no one to rescue her.
If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.
A man is not to marry his father’s wife; he must not dishonour his father’s bed” – Deut. 22:13 – 30 (NIV).
Paul in Colossians 3:5–8, recognizes the importance of strong rules about sex for believers because sexual sins have the power to disrupt and destroy the church. Sins involving sex are not innocent dabblings in forbidden pleasures, as is so often portrayed, but powerful destroyers of relationships. They confuse and tear down the climate of respect, trust, and credibility so essential for solid marriages and secure children
If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand him over to his master. Let him live among you wherever he likes and in whatever town he chooses. Do not oppress him. No Israelite man or woman is to become a shrine prostitute. You must not bring the earnings of a female prostitute or of a male prostitute into the house of the Lord your God to pay any vow, because the Lord your God detests them both. Do not charge your brother interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but not a brother Israelite, so that the Lord your God may bless you in everything you put your hand to in the land you are entering to possess. If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty. Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the Lord your God with your own mouth.
If you enter your neighbour’s vineyard, you may eat all the grapes you want, but do not put any in your basket. If you enter your neighbour’s grainfield, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to his standing grain” – Deut. 23:15-25 (NIV)
This commandment guarded against selfishly holding on to one’s possessions. It also insured that no one had to go hungry. It was not, however, an excuse for taking advantage of one’s neighbour.
The Christian Life
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name – Deut. 10:18-20 (NIV).
Christianity has not, and does not profess to have, a detailed politicised programme for applying “do as you would be done by” to a particular moment. It could not have. It is meant for all men at all times and the particular programme which suited one place or time would not suit another. And any how that is not how Christianity works. When it tells you to feed the hungry, it does not give you lessons in cookery. When it tells you to read scriptures, it does not give you lessons in Hebrew and Greek, or even English grammar. It was never intended to replace or supersede the ordinary human arts and sciences. It is rather a director which will give them a new life if only they will put themselves at its disposal – C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963).
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