March 28, 2010
Sermon on the mount, #14

Mercy, restitution and justice

Matthew 5:7 & 38-42.

Safety Is Issue as Budget Cuts Free Prisoners
By Monica Davey

In the rush to save money in grim budgetary times, states nationwide have trimmed their prison populations by expanding parole programs and early releases. But the result — more convicted felons on the streets, not behind bars — has unleashed a backlash, and state officials now find themselves trying to maneuver between saving money and maintaining the public's sense of safety.

In February, lawmakers in Oregon temporarily suspended a program they had expanded last year to let prisoners, for good behavior, shorten their sentences (and to save $6 million) after an anticrime group aired radio advertisements portraying the outcomes in alarming tones. "A woman's asleep in her own apartment," a narrator said. "Suddenly, she's attacked by a registered sex offender and convicted burglar."

In Illinois, Gov. Patrick J. Quinn, a Democrat, described as "a big mistake" an early release program that sent some convicts who had committed violent crimes home from prison in a matter of weeks. Of more than 1,700 prisoners released over three months, more than 50 were soon accused of new violations.

An early release program in Colorado meant to save $19 million has scaled back its ambitions by $14 million after officials found far fewer prisoners than anticipated to be wise release risks. In more than five months, only 264 prisoners were released, though the program was designed to shrink the prison population by 2,600 over two years....

(New York Times, 3/4/10. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/05/us/05parole.html?8au&emc=au)

Monday the 22ed, we heard a news report that proclaimed the fact that there are fewer incarcerated now than there has been in some years. They did not mention that the reason is because of the above.

Modern Prisons

Prisons as a place of "punishment" are unknown in the Word of God. The only prison in Scripture was a "ward" where the lawbreaker was kept until just sentence could be determined.

In Numbers 15:32-36, the man gathering sticks on the Sabbath was put in ward until it was determined what to do with him.
Prisons as a place of "punishment" were identified only with pagan societies. In Genesis 29:30, Joseph was put in prison.
In Luke 12:58, the Lord warns us to make peace with our enemies, or prison awaits us.
Scripture provides no prisons for the thief. He had to make restitution, or work off his debt as a bond servant.

The Lord's "punishment" always fit the crime, death or restitution.

Prisons:

* Destroy the families.
* Costs vast sums of money, as Prison makes the innocent a double victim–the lawbreaker robs the victim of his wealth, and then the state robs the victim of his wealth to support a non-working system.
* Assume that man is basically good, and even the worse offender has an inner light that is capable of self-reformation.

If the Old Testament law of the Lord were followed, as reiterated by our Lord in Matthew chapters 5-7, the prisoner and prison budget problems would be solved, as well as the other problems plaguing fallen men.

Because His law has been completely abandoned or grossly misused, western society is dissolving before our very eyes.

God's law of mercy as stated in Matthew 5:7, and explained in 5:38-42, would solve the prison problem. As the law of mercy, v. 7, has been separated by Christians from its Godly application of justice in vv. 38-42, injustice prevails, along with ever increasing prison costs.

Godly Justice has been replaced today with "what is fair" according to what seems right to fallen men, but there is death in that pot. Proverbs 14:12, 16:25, 2 Kings 4:40. Only the Law of the Lord can define what is just or unjust.

John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

Righteous judgment is defined by God's word.

Contrary to popular belief, the passage in Matthew 5 does not prohibit restitution, nor does it call for a Penal system such as we have today, which claims the State is the injured party. Nor does Matthew 5 spare the guilty party with sentimental, unBiblical love.

Romans 13:3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

It is the responsibility of the Civil authority to make the law a terror to the evil person and a blessing to the just person. The Magistrate was never ordained of the Lord to pamper the degenerate or convert and reform the wicked. That is the responsibility of the preacher of the gospel of peace. Only the law of the Lord can convert and reform the wicked:

Psalms 19:7 The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD [is] sure, making wise the simple.

The civil magistrate is to execute Godly vengeance against the wicked. When he ceases to become a terror to evil, evil will become a terror to society.

Luke 18:2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:

Man fail to enforce the law of the Lord because he fears not God.

The reason the civil magistrate has replaced justice with sentimental love is because the pulpits have done the same. The fountain-head of today's lawlessness is in the pulpits of so called "Bible Believing" churches. God's restraint against sin has been removed from the preaching of His word; therefore, the masses of church-goers no longer fear God.

Moreover, there is big money to be made through the modern judicial system: lawyers, contractors building new prisons and the personnel to maintain the prisons.

God is now seen as a great, loving, grandfatherly type person in heaven, Who is controlled by sentimental love. Therefore, He no longer demands restitution. The sad results are seen in a society which offers no justice, and a church which fears not God and eternal retribution against sin.

The pulpits, like the unjust judge, fear not God and His law. They do regard the people who pay their salaries, so they corrupt the word of God to please their hearers.

We mentioned that the 7 beatitudes were illustrated and expanded on in the Lord's message, and the eye for eye, and tooth for tooth expands on or illustrates godly mercy, 5:7. It illustrates God's mercy toward the godly in providing His just reward toward the wicked, which protects the godly.

Mercy can only be mercy when it is shown according to the word of God, and God's mercy demands restitution, including capital punishment. His word defines just restitution. Not requiring just restitution is not mercy but ungodliness.

Restitution is the very central theme of God's word. Without this basic idea of restitution, there is no need for a Sinless Substitute. And as we have seen God's requirement of restitution go by the way-side, we have seen terrible corruptions; not only in society, but in the plan of salvation. The stress of the absolute necessity for the substitutionary death of Christ is now missing in the humanist gospel.

Christian Humanism is the belief that human freedom and individualism are intrinsic (natural) parts of, or are at least compatible with, Christian doctrine and practice. It is a philosophical union of Christian and humanist principles. (Wikipedia)

Christian Humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. (New World Encyclopedia)

Matthew 5:38-42, does not announce a higher standard of spirituality than Moses. Nor is He offering more mercy than did Moses. He is not adding to or taking away from the already given word of God.

As I have mentioned several times, in all of the Lord's sermon here, He is dealing with a misuse of the law of Moses. In this section, he is dealing with personal vengeance—getting even.

We see from his statement here that the law of Moses was being used to justify personal vengeance: eye for an eye... The religious leaders, the Pharisees, were in His audience, as he gives the correct understanding of that law. Their hostility against Him for telling the truth about their false teaching lead to His death.

Our Lord's quote, eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, is found three times in the Law of Moses, Exodus 21:23-25, Leviticus 24:19 & Deuteronomy 19:19.

The Ten Commandments were given in Exodus 20. Then in chapter 21, we have the first use of eye for an eye, as the Lord starts expanding on the law and applying it to life.

21:1, notice how this chapter opens: Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. Judgments is another name for judicial laws. The judgments recorded here in Exodus 21 are the laws that the magistrates were commanded to use when trying a criminal. The private individual was not permitted to enforce these laws. The individual was not free to avenge his own wrongs. Deuteronomy 19:18 & 21 paced enforcement in the hands of public administrators or magistrates.

Quickly, the four applications of this law:

First application: Leviticus 24:19 Also if a man cause any blemish in his neighbor: as he hath done, so shall it be done to him. 20 Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: such a blemish as he hath made in any, such shall be repaid to him.

The law requires equal payment for damage done. In other words, the punishment must fit the crime - not more or less.

Second application: Exodus 21:23 And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, 24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

This passage is surrounded by protection for those under authority—vv. 20-22 protests the servant and the unborn child. Vv. 26ff., protects the servant from an abusive master. Over and over, we see that the law is given to protect the innocent.

V. 20 And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished.

Note that the law does not forbid smiting the servant; rather, it required restitution be made if the smiting went to far. The Lord, knowing sinful nature, assumed that there would be servants who would only work if there was a fear of some kind of physical punishment if they did not work.

Proverbs 10:13 In the lips of him that hath understanding wisdom is found: but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding. 26:3 A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back.

(However, the servant in Exodus 21 was probably a bond servant, working off a debt. He would be inclined to do the minium.)

Servant–the master owns the labor.
Slave–the master owns the body as well as the labor.

Scripture never uses the word slave, for no man can own the body of another man. He can only own the time or labor of that other person.

If the master of the servant, for whatever reason (fit of rage, brutality) maimed the servant, the master had to make it right. Thus, no matter what position one held in society, he was held responsible before God and man for his actions.

Furthermore, the Law of the Lord protected both the servant and the master. The judge could not go overboard in a fit of weak-hearted, sentimental passion toward the servant and give the servant more than what was equal to the damage done to the servant.

Today there is a discussion taking place over "punitive damages". That is, massive payments that go far beyond any just restitution, particularly if the "guilty" party has deep pockets, e.g., coffee was too hot!

Third application: Exodus 21:28-36, not only does God's law hold sin in check, it also holds carelessness in check. Carelessness is controlled by the law of restitution–eye for an eye... Vv. 29, 30, the owner had been warned about his mean animal, but he did not keep it confined and it killed someone. The owner was to be killed.

The guilt of the death was on the owner. The death could not be avenged by a family member, and the owner had been warned.

On the other hand, maybe the death was accidental (carelessness on the owner's part; the animal broke out), so provision was made; the owner could pay a ransom, and he would not have to die. V. 22, the judges determined the amount of restitution, not the injured party.

Note that this application would solve our car accident problems. No matter how drunk a driver was, if he killed someone, his life is forfeited. However, if the accident was truly an accident, the guilty party would be responsible for the results. Insurance has removed that responsibility.

Vv. 33-36, deals further with Preventative law.

Notice here that there was no punishment determined upon the owner of the ox or the owner of the pit until someone was injured.

Deuteronomy 22:8 When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence.

There was no one assigned by the civil authority to go around looking for open pits, unattended animals, nor unprotected roofs. The civil magistrate had no power to do anything until someone was injured.

Of course, today we see humanistic law forbidding anything which might injure someone (or worse yet, which might injure the state), even perceived thoughts and motives, "hate crimes". Seat belts, speed limits, helmets, to name only a few. OSHA goes around sticking its nose everywhere. The FDA, that is to protect our food supply has become a con-game, easily bought off by big companies like Monsanto.

Because the responsibility has been spread around to many through insurance, then everyone is required to pay for irresponsibility.

Oppressive laws passed to protect us from anything that might present a possibility of injury give the state power to snoop everywhere.

God's answer is restitution, and is the only thing that will work. God's word alone provides freedom from oppression. Justice is defined by God as eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth.

Fourth application: Deuteronomy 19:19, 20, provides just restitution for the benefit of society in general. The law, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, protected the peaceful members of society from the violent members of society. The law protected the weak from the evil intentions of the strong.

V. 20, And the rest shall hear this, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such wickedness among you.

Here we see that the fear of just and swift punishment will deter those inclined toward violence. Far from the law requiring eye for eye being harsh and unloving, this law was loving, just, merciful and beneficial. Just restitution provides protection for the innocent, and justice for the guilty. It is the only law which will put away evil from a society.

Let me finish this section, Matthew 5:38-48.

As with the other beatitudes, the Lord's words here in vv. 38, 39, must be understood in their context. Israel was a captive nation under Rome. They had a large amount of self-rule, but were by no means autonomous.

Exodus chapters 21 & 22 spoke to the ones who were about to establish their nation and be in authority, establishing laws and enforcement of those laws.

Matthew chapter 5 speaks to those who were under authority to a foreign power, with very little actual control over making the laws of the land. Our Lord speaks to individuals, telling them how to respond when they are under oppressive authority (turn the other cheek).

Note the context:

Matthew 5:11, 12, the ones addressed here are going to be persecuted for the Lord's sake; they will be falsely accused and reviled. The source of persecution would be from the same ones who persecuted the prophets, the Jewish religious leaders. (Cf. Matthew 23:29-39.)

The required restitution must be made before any peace with man or God can be obtained, vv. 23, 24. Christ tells His hearers to agree quickly with someone they might have a conflict with because there is a chance that person might drag them into a pagan court, vv. 25, 26. It will not be a court of justice, but more like what we know today as a Kangaroo Court. There will be corrupt anti-justice rulings. The result will not be justice in the form of restitution, but prison until the state decides to let you go.

Vv. 38-42, was spoken to those under authority. It prevented seeking an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth from the ones in authority who are persecuting them for their stand for Christ, v. 10.

Matthew 5 is also given against the background of the Pharisees and all they stood for and their corruption of the law. All of the blessings given by our Lord were in stark contrast with what these corrupt teachers were saying.

Setting the Lord's words of v. 39, apart from persecution for righteousness destroys the law and the prophets, v. 17.

Humanistic law attempts to prohibit any dangerous situation from arising (speed limit, 65). Those efforts can only lead to tremendously oppressive and restrictive laws, as well as large armies of police to inspect every area of society, every roof, every hole in the ground and every domestic animal. (Provides jobs and security for untold multitudes of people, at "tax payer" expense.)

On the other hand, Biblical law establishes basic principles to build on. It is based upon responsibility and restitution for the damage done. If my negligence and irresponsibility in any area causes harm to man or beast, I must be held responsible to make restitution, even to life for life. (Reduces government to a very limited roll.)

The bank bailout is a good example of people not being held responsible.

The removal of Biblical law is drowning us in an ocean of laws and 'law enforcement officials.' Why? Because it takes an ocean of laws to restrict every unsafe and stupid practice. (Who defines unsafe? Is the same practice unsafe for everyone? Are there enough laws to protect the idiot from his idiocy?)

China has an effective solution to the drug problem, capital punishment for the pusher. Enforced a few times, and the problem will be controlled.

Obviously, the goal of civil government today is not to bring crime under control, but to increase its control over every aspect of life and thought.

There is another devastating result when humanism removes this principle of restitution from the law of God (Exodus 21:23-25). If, as the antichrist theologians say, just restitution, eye for an eye, is no longer required under the new covenant, then you have no need for a Sinless Substitute to make restitution in place of the sinner before the Holy Father in heaven. I do not know what kind of a religion this leaves, but it is not Christianity (Galatians 1:6).

In other words, all of God's law, including Salvation, is based upon the principle of life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. Without this principle, a gospel (which is no gospel) can be presented which falsely offers Salvation based upon, "Asking or accepting jesus into your heart and life, and trusting him to do that," or, "Turning your life over to the lord," or, "Committing you life to Christ," or any of many false teachings along this line. There is death in that pot to all who refuse to avoid it.

Salvation is impossible unless the sinner is slain by the law of God, Romans 7:7-13.

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? God forbid. Nay, I knew not sin, but by the Law: for I had not known lust, except the Law had said, Thou shalt not lust. 8 But sin took an occasion by ye commandment, and wrought in me all manner of concupiscence: for without the Law sin is dead. 9 For I once was alive, without the law: but when the commandment came, sin revived, 10 But I died: and the same commandment which was ordained unto life, was found to be unto me unto death. 11 For sin took occasion by the commandment, and deceived me, and thereby slew me. 12 Wherefore the Law is holy, and that commandment is holy, and just, and good. 13 Was that then which is good, made death unto me? God forbid: but sin, that it might appear sin, wrought death in me by that which is good, that sin might be out of measure sinful by the commandment.

How can the need of a Sinless Sacrifice to pay the penalty for the sinner be taught, if there is no teaching and understanding of the requirement of restitution?

Conclusion:

1) Although we are forbidden private vengeance, or taking the law into our own hands, this law says that we should insist upon restitution. However, the modern state has taken over as the offended party, though the sin was against the individual. Restitution is claimed by the state, while the victim is not only ignored but penalized.

2) people must be forced to see that all their actions have consequences; especially our children must realize that their actions have results: eye for eye, tooth for tooth.

When this law is removed from the family and the church, the fear of God will be lost in society also.

3) Restitution means that someone must pay for our sins. Either we will, or Christ will. Which will it be?

The only genuine mercy is doing things God's way. Sin and carelessness must be paid for.