One of my friends posted Leviticus 24:20 on Facebook today.
If you break a bone, one of your bones shall be broken; if you put out an eye, one of your eyes shall be put out; if you knock out a tooth, one of your teeth shall be knocked out. Whatever injury you cause another person shall be done to you in return.
I didn’t ask why they posted it, but it’s an odd choice. I’m not assuming anything about the person’s intentions, only looking at how others might look at this Scripture. It’s certainly where we get the phrase, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” It’s a ‘get even’ Scripture – however you hurt me, I hurt you back the same.
In 2 Samuel 11, Nathan tells a parable to King David about a rich man (who ends up being David himself) with lots of sheep who steals the only sheep (who ends up being Bathsheba, wife of Uriah) belonging to a poor man (who ends up being Uriah). David is incensed. King David says there must be revenge. He said that whoever did this to the poor man must die! And (I guess before he dies) must repay the poor man. And not as Leviticus says, a lamb for a lamb. King David says he must repay four times what the lamb was worth! Most of us would agree with David. When we are the one wronged, or when someone we love is wronged, we want revenge. We want payback. We want to get even. And we can certainly turn to Leviticus to justify it. Good for David! Yet imagine David’s surprise when Nathan says, “David, you are that rich man.” Here’s God’s message to you David: “I made you king, I gave you all the wives you wanted and would have given you more, yet you took Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, to be your wife and then had him killed.” David was probably thinking, “On second thought, why don’t we show a little mercy.” That is how it goes. We want justice when we are wronged, but when we are the ones that have wronged others… Then we want mercy and forgiveness.
Leviticus 4:20, an eye for an eye, is not the case anymore. Jesus said forgive them – which may seem like bad news when someone hurts me, but is really good news when I’m the one who hurt someone else. The Lord’s prayer says, God forgive us of our wrongs as we forgive others of their wrongs. And forgiving someone means to truly forgive them, but for those in abusive relationships it doesn’t mean you let them hurt you again. (You may forgive them on your way out the door.)
Every once in a while we see an amazing act of forgiveness. A mother whose son was murdered becomes a mother-like figure to the murderer. A person forgives the person who was driving drunk and killed the person’s loved one. No doubt, you have seen or heard of an amazing story of forgiveness. I have one you may have heard of. There was a man, but not just a man… the Son of God in fact. And He died on the cross so that anyone who accepted His sacrifice would become a child of God. We are the reason He died, yet God forgives us when we ask. As He hung on the cross, Jesus didn’t quote Leviticus 24:20. He sure could have. Instead, He said, “Father, forgive them…” I thank God He forgives me. While that’s the most amazing act of forgiveness you’ll ever witness, sometimes it’s pretty amazing how God can help us forgive. And that’s what He wants to do. He doesn’t want us to get even.
“Heavenly Father, I thank you that you sent Jesus to die and forgive me of my sins. As I remember all the things I’ve done and all you’ve forgiven me for, help me to forgive. I often struggle with forgiveness and I need you to help me. I may even need you to change my heart so I can forgive. Whatever it takes to please you, help me do. Thank you for what you’ve done and what you’ll do. In Jesus’ Name I ask, Amen.
A Great song, “Forgiveness” by Matthew West: