Holiness and blasphemy are set side by side deliberately. Jesus had something to say on blasphemy too in Matthew 12:31. The Pharisees justified their stoning of Stephen and the crucifixion of Christ from here. The eye for an eye verses teach: the punishment must fit the crime – no leg for an eyelash! Ancient Israel operated on the practice of compensation for injury. This is advice for judges, not for a mob.
“If anyone injures his neighbour, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth;”
There are a number of places in the old testament that speak to the eye-for-eye mechanic.
Exodus 21 has an expanded list. Eye, tooth, hand, foot, burn, wound and stripe. And it’s speaking with respect to slaves.
Deuteronomy 19 has a smaller list. Life, eye, tooth, hand, foot. This is with respect to crime and witnesses, and false witness. Here is said “Your eye shall not pity.”
Here in Leviticus 24 we see this held up. Take a life, yours is forfeit. Give someone a fracture, you get a fracture. Take out an eye, you have yours taken out.
There is no usury or interest in this law. Fairness was the order of the day. The judges were not to let revenge have its head.
In Matthew 5 Jesus preaches on the mountain, giving His law refreshed, renewed – And He has something to say about the fairness.
He doesn’t undo the “like for like” fairness rule. He pushes it further.
Instead of seeking punishment for the person who wronged you, be a fount of mercy. Turn from raging thoughts of vengeance to hard-won actions of grace.
All of the sermon on the mount is along these lines. This is what God’s law was always pointing to – Go deeper, upgrade your thinking, there’s more to it!
This is a strong word for us today.
Go further than just wanting justice (wanting justice isn’t a bad thing). Go deeper. Push to show grace and mercy.
Because in the end, that’s what was shown to us in and through Jesus. Grace unmeasured and free, mercy where there was none.
* Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank You for Your grace and mercy to us, undeserved.
Thank You for saving us through Jesus’ work on the cross.
Thank You for His resurrection on the third day, defeating death.
Please help us to show mercy and grace to others, as You have shown it to us.