Faith of Jesus Daily Devotional - Day 19
Previous Context: devotion:Matthew:5:33-37 Oaths
You have heard it said? Of course you have heard it said because it is written Law (nkjv@Exodus:21:22-27 nkjv@Leviticus:24:19-20 nkjv@Deuteronomy:19:19) God's written Law. The question is how it is being taught. Let us consider the purpose of law more fully.
Note: Please note that I am making a slight distinction between the Law/Ten Commandments for all mankind and the Law/Hundreds as prescribed in Leviticus and Deuteronomy for the nation.
Salvation has not come because of the Law minus Christ because the Law for us is mostly heartless and robotic; salvation has come because of Grace which is everything but that. What we have here is the law of a nation more than anything, laying down the foundational principals of what is right, what is wrong, how a just nation is to conduct itself when a citizen or group of citizens in the right has been wronged. What authority has the state? What can it sentence that is fair and just to the parties involved and at the same time a deterrent to continued wrong behavior for the society as a whole. There is only so much to a law that the people are going to be able to tolerate without it being too oppressive, especially as a nation becomes more and more godless as Israel had done many times before.
We have seen in previous passages that Law has become ineffective at slowing the external societal ills such as murder/adultery/legal ought/divorce/falsified oaths. More concerning it has had even less productive application internally with the deeper personal spiritual issues of anger/lust/hate and defamation/the want to divorce/the binding of one's soul to one's word. It should be evident by this that the Law is not in place to fix the problem but to make it fully known. Should the law be made more stringent in order to become more effective? Likely that would have the reverse effect; thus is shown the heart of man in general.
The history of the nation of Israel more than sufficiently proves to us that the people are not brought closer to God by the Law, closeness to God brings them closer to the Law. But that is not the way the Law is being taught; the Law to them is everything and their traditions and rituals have made the Laws that much more unbearable for the people to keep.
What is God doing?
Jesus earlier said that He has not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but has come to fulfill them; not one jot nor tittle shall pass from them. In this case the Law is addressing the topic of fair and just retribution. For the nation, the Law has been set at a level that the majority of citizens and judges can willingly agree to. It is fair and just and not too oppressive while providing an adequate level of deterrence. What Jesus is calling individual believers and His Church to do is to exceed that level of common righteousness with a level of righteousness that only those who knew Him and were so touched by Him would willingly submit themselves to for His names sake. Exceeding means to go above and beyond. This is true of all the topics of this sermon we have and are soon to address.
What is man doing?
The missing component in the Pharisee's righteousness is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. It is the imputation and overwhelming influence of His person and righteousness that makes us to vastly exceed even their most zealous but uninfluenced mark. By denying His person and influence outright they are abruptly converting all of their precious observances/works into something utterly distasteful to the Most Holy God of Israel.
We have examples in the historical record that while the Law is the Law, perfect and just for what it was intended to accomplish, there have been men such as David that saw the Law as the common point and that in His closer relationship to God it behooved him to act on a better plane of righteousness (at least in his brighter moments). He had every legal right (even popular support) plus numerous opportunities to extract retribution from king Saul for all that Saul had wrongfully done to him in his often times madness. David chose not to extract it. We have the patriarch Joseph's exceeding example as well.
Not everyone can be expected to forgo what is their common right; most will not, some will even take it to the other more violent extreme. That is why this exceeding concept is not demanded of us, it is volunteered for. Not for any bonus points earned towards salvation, but for Christ's name sake. This is who He has shown Himself to be, this is who we in sincere adoration become.
What does this passage tell us about the about the commands and faith of Jesus that saints are to keep/guard?
The common Law certainly must be kept. Not only kept but exceeded by us saints in Christ. Not only kept as in a personal obedience to, but kept as in being guarded and protected by us from those that would seek to destroy/alter them. That is true for the common Law of a nation, it is also true for the Ten Commandments. Especially though this keeping is true of the commandments issued by Jesus Christ Himself as they where given Him by God His Father HIMSELF. God the Father has given us to Him as HIS love gift. God the Father has given Him to us that we might become that gift to Him. Our closeness to Him draws us closer to HIM which in turn draws us closer to the patient and voluntary obedience to His commandments and His faith. His commandments, when resultant from our deep and continuing acquaintance/acknowledgement of Him, are the keys to fulfilling all in all and so becoming that blessed city of light on a hill.
Next: devotion:Matthew:5:43-48 Love for Enemies