If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.Exodus 23:3-4
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus shows how what is important for living in God’s world in God’s way is not the rigid, legalistic obeying of ‘rules’, but recognising and acknowledging the principles on which these rules are founded. Likewise, in 2 Corinthians 3:6, the Apostle Paul distinguishes between the ‘spirit/Spirit of the Law’ and the ‘letter of the Law’.
What do YOU do if you are short-changed in a financial transaction? What do you do if you are given TOO MUCH change? What do you do if you come across something valuable that seems to be just ‘there for the taking’? Do you live by the children’s ‘Finders-Keepers-Losers-Weepers’ rule? Are you pleased when an honest, caring person has found something valuable you have lost, and has gone to considerable trouble to discover its rightful owner and return it?
Do you think the right attitude in all these circumstances is covered by Jesus’ blanket statement in the Sermon on the Mount: “However you want people to treat you, so treat them” (Matthew 7:12)? Is the best attitude any different if you know the other party is someone who has taken advantage of you in the past, such as a known enemy, or a shopkeeper or petrol station with a reputation for overcharging? Is this covered by Jesus’ blanket statement,“Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44)?
And [Peter] went outside and wept bitterly.Luke 22:62
Poor Peter! He had tried so hard to remain faithful to his Lord. His promise not to deny him was very heartfelt and genuine, and in his own strength he had every intention of keeping it – especially when Jesus had thrown down the gauntlet and predicted he wouldn’t! We, too, fail in our witness to our Saviour when it is inconvenient or unpopular or dangerous to declare openly our allegiance to him. We, too, feel like weeping bitterly when our failure is exposed. It is very comforting to know that Jesus didn’t give up on Peter, but reinstated him and entrusted him with great responsibility (John 21:15-19). Let us take hold of the promise of 1 John 1:8-9!
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. …”Job 38:4
Much of the advice Job’s four ‘comforters’ gave him was sound, orthodox theology – but it didn’t fit Job’s case! It was clear to him that his suffering could not be explained by the simple formula: ‘God is all-powerful; God is good; God is just; God punishes the wicked; God blesses the upright’. Now, when God himself finally speaks we might have expected him to fill Job in on the details of the debate with Satan that only the reader is privy to in Chapters 1 & 2. Such an explanation would have set Job’s troubled mind at rest quite easily. But instead, the patient sufferer is asked to be content with just letting God be God without an adequate explanation! Things happen in our lives, too, that we don’t understand – and, worse still, that we can’t explain to a watching world. Sometimes we have to be content with letting God be God. We weren’t there when our loving God put together his Salvation-Redemption Plan.
If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels of silver to the master of the slave, and the bull must be stoned.Exodus 21:32
This statement in the Mosaic Law sets the value in monetary terms of a slave – ‘thirty pieces of silver’! Zechariah makes a scornful, oblique reference to this passage in talking about Israel’s rejection of their shepherd (Zechariah 11:12), and then its real significance is seen in the amount Judas was paid to betray his Master, the true but rejected Shepherd of Israel, the Servant-King (Matthew 26:15). Jesus, God’s eternal Son, took on the ’very nature of a servant’ for us (Philippians 2:7) and gave his life that we might live; he has every right to demand of us, as a condition of discipleship, to be ‘a slave of all’. “… whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45).
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.2 Corinthians 10:4
What are the ‘weapons of the world’? Are they not things like gossip, manipulation, anger, revenge, spin, putting the worst construction on the motives of those who oppose us or just upset us, etc? If only we could say with Paul that we don’t use these ‘weapons’, and say it with a clear conscience! Too often we let our fallen nature get the upper hand when we come into conflict with others, even those close to us, even those we love dearly – a harsh word, an unkind word, or perhaps no words at all! So, what are the weapons Paul is encouraging us to use – the ones that actually win wars in the spiritual battle in which we are constantly engaged? Are they not things like love, and kindness, and gentleness, and patience, and forgiveness, and acceptance, and encouragement, and putting the best construction on the motives and actions of others? Paul says these things are what will demolish strongholds with divine power!