Sunday, December 28, 2014

Eye For Eye, Tooth For Tooth -- Exodus 21:22-25

“And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no further injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him; and he shall pay as the judges decide.  But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”
 
Here is that famous passage, the words of which we have often heard quoted when we talk about “getting revenge” – wanting equal value compensation for what was taken from us.  From this stems the idea of a ‘victim’ being made ‘whole’ at the expense of the ‘offender’ or ‘criminal’.
Again what we notice is that God knew men would be fighting each other and that often such a fight would involve a woman, one way or another.  Thus we have these verses dealing with just that, and in particular, what is to happen when the woman is pregnant and she loses the child as a result of being injured during the fight between the men.
If the woman miscarries a fetus after being involved in a physical struggle but she herself does not suffer other injury, then only a fine is to be levied.  The ‘life for life, eye for eye’ principle does not go into effect unless the woman herself is further injured.  But we may well ask “What about the baby? Was that not a life? Should not the principle of life for life have applied in this case?”  Good questions.
I do not believe God was ignoring the fetus at all.  Elsewhere in scripture God shows His true feelings about the miracle He creates in a woman’s womb.  Here are some of them:
·      Did not He who made me in the womb make him, And the same one fashion us in the womb? (Job 31:15)
·      Yet Thou art He who didst bring me forth from the womb; Thou didst make me trust when upon my mother's breasts. Upon Thee I was cast from birth; Thou hast been my God from my mother's womb. (Psalm 22:9-10)
·      For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from Thee, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book they were all written, The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. (Psalm 139:13-16)
·      Thus says the LORD who made you And formed you from the womb, who will help you, `Do not fear, O Jacob My servant; And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen. (Isaiah 44:2)
·      Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, "I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself, And spreading out the earth all alone, (Isaiah 44:24)
And if that is not enough to convince you He does not ignore the fetus, the Scriptures also speak of at least five key figures of history who were called from the womb:
Samson:
Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, "A man of God came to me and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. And I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name. "But he said to me, `Behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and now you shall not drink wine or strong drink nor eat any unclean thing, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.'" (Judges 13:6-7, see also Judges 16:17)
Jesus (prophecy):
  • Listen to Me, O islands, And pay attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called Me from the womb; From the body of My mother He named Me. (Isaiah 49:1)
  • And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, in order that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, And My God is My strength), (Isaiah 49:5)
  • Yet Thou art He who didst bring me forth from the womb; Thou didst make me trust when upon my mother's breasts. Upon Thee I was cast from birth; Thou hast been my God from my mother's womb. (Psalm 22:9-10)
Jeremiah:
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations." (Jeremiah 1:5)
John the Baptist:
"For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine or liquor; and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, while yet in his mother's womb." (Luke 1:15)
Paul:
But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother's womb, and called me through His grace, was pleased (Galatians 1:15)

Scripture answers scripture.  Where there appears to be a conflicting idea or thought, we look to the whole of the Bible and see what the overwhelming position on the issue is.  So, in our current passage, the focus is not the fetus but on punishing those who do harm to others.  It is not that there is no punishment for causing a miscarriage, but it is left up to the husband of the woman and the courts to determine what it is.
However, damage caused in the case of men struggling with each other and a woman is injured further, then the punishment reverts to the ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth’ principle.
I was wondering about the point, or points, of the passage.  They didn’t seem to come out as clearly as they do in some of the other passages.  However, on some further reflection and study, I did come up with three:
1.     God again indicates how He comes to the defense of the weak and vulnerable.
2.     God does not support punishment that exceeds the crime.
3.     The victim and the victim’s family matter, but they also have to be reasonable as determined by the courts.
We would do well to examine our current justice systems to see how we are doing in these areas.  A comparative study between countries or cultures would yield some interesting results.



[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

WHEN CALLS THE HEART – SECOND SEASON COMING IN 2015

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The Hallmark Channel has announced, to the glee of many, a “second season” in 2015 for the well-received When Calls the Heart, with no given start date.  To find out what the excitement was all about I viewed on DVD the 11th (out of 12) season one episode entitled Rules of Engagement.  In fact, I sat down recently with my wife, my daughter, (none of us are big TV fans), my son-in-law who prefers action movies, and three of my seven grandchildren (13 and 11 year old girls, and a 9 year old boy) to watch it.  We were all thoroughly engaged throughout it and found it a pleasure to watch and discuss.

It all takes place in sleepy Coal Valley, in the Canadian West, where a young Miss Elizabeth Thatcher (played by Erin Krakow) teaches school in a saloon because the local church has burned down.  At the same time a mining company whose owner runs the town is being investigated for an explosion that took the lives of 46 of the Coal Valley miners a while back.

Besides her father, there are two other men in Elizabeth’s life – Jack Thornton (played by Daniel Lissing), the local Royal Canadian Mounted Police Constable overseeing Coal Valley with whom she is deeply in love, and 16-year old Wyatt Weaver (played by Ty Wood) who although brilliant cannot to go to school since he has to work in the mines to help feed his fatherless family (his dad having died in the mine explosion).

Miss Thatcher also has some competition for Jack in the person of Rosemary LeVeaux (played by Pascale Hutton), a woman who had been engaged to Jack but dropped him and now has come to claim him.  There’s also a forensic investigator (Bill), who takes an interest in Abigail.  She runs the local and suffered the loss of her husband and a son in the mine accident.  The ‘bad guy’ that every good film needs is the mine owner and big shot in town.

The script is rich with great lines and dialogue time and time again.  Clearly not an extremely big-budget production as one could see some aspects that could have benefitted from additional research and/or some shooting expertise.  For example, I question the plausible existent of a female church leader back in the 1800’s and the scene where Rosemary jumps on a horse is just a tad phony visually.

But let me take you back to the incredible script.  Thomas Edison is quoted as having said, “We will make electricity so cheap, that only the rich will burn candles.”  That makes the 21st century viewer stop and think.  As did much more in the film.

There’s a wonderful scene where Jack the Mountie is drawing a comet in the classroom, improving on the dismal attempt that Elizabeth had made.  It is a special moment indeed.

From a theological perspective, the movie is more than acceptable, and the only questionable thinking I found in the 85 minute episode was some teaching regarding lost loved ones, which may be comforting to hear, but also deceiving in many cases.

Ah, but back to the script.  When the café owner (Abigail) is challenged by her friend (Elizabeth) regarding the obvious amour that is developing between herself and the forensic investigator (Bill), Elizabeth says, “Maybe you’re not just mourning the past, [a reference to the death of her husband and her son], but looking towards the future as well [a reference to what might be between Abigail and the investigator].”  Is that not what life is all about for many of us who have suffered loss?

At one point the mine owner accuses Abigail’s husband himself of killing the people in the mine, pushing them to take risks because he was paid bonuses based on production rates.  And Abigail’s husband allegedly had personal debts that many didn’t know about.  When Bill asked Abigail about how she was feeling with what had just happened, she replied with a classic, “I’ve been better and I’ve been worse.”  Again, that is life.

The problem with these ‘series’ productions is that they (intentionally and for good commercial reasons) leave you hanging about what happens next.  What did the Judge Jedidiah Black (played by James Brolin) really decide, if anything, about who was really at fault with respect to the mine accident?  Did Wyatt Weaver ever get out of the mine and become famous?  Did Bill and Abigail marry?  You get the idea.

The productions are inspired by Janette Oke’s bestselling book series about the Canadian West.  Neal Dobrofsky and Tippi Dobrofsky are the writers, and the Executive Producer and Director, is Michael Landon, Jr., known to many of us for his memorable roles in the Bonanza and Little House on the Prairies series.

Will I watch it again once it starts in 2015?  You bet.  Either that, or I might as well cancel my cable services for, besides enjoyment of FoxNews (and that even during major political or major news events only), there’s very little for a family of three generations to watch together.


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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

More Laws Regarding Slavery -- Exodus 21:20-21

--> “And if a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished.  If, however, he survives a day or two, no vengeance shall be taken; for he is his property.”
 
Here are two verses that are hard for us to identify with if we live in the western hemisphere today. They talk of slavery and ‘striking one’s slave’. For us slavery was indeed abolished, or at least made illegal, many, many years ago.  This is a text therefore where we have to consider two aspects of meaning. First, there is the historical contextual connotation and then the modern-day implication. There is a need for such an approach often in Scripture. The difficulty is in discerning where exactly one has to do that and where not.  Being human, we will not always be right and thus our interpretations sometimes turn into significant theological differences that not only cause great disagreement among believers but also tarnish the name of Christ.
As a layperson I have often followed four steps in determining if I am dealing with one of these passages.  First, it is talking about something that does not exist today in its simplest form? In this case, it is talking about slavery, which has, for all intent and purposes, being abolished.  Secondly, if it is talking about something thing that does not exist today as described, is there something that has taken its place, that is, has evolved as a modern day version of what it is talking about?  If so, we then apply the teaching to that.  Third, if nothing can readily be identified as a modern-day version of the original as written in the text, then is there an application that can be applied that is in keeping with the rest of Scripture? And finally, if the answer is ‘yes’ to this last question – what is it?
So, we turn now to the historical context of these two verses.  Clearly, the Israelites had servants or slaves.  And God had specific rules as to how they were to be treated.  Mistreatment by slave owners was to be punished, but with the understanding that the servant was indeed owned to a point by his/her master.  It is in this context that God reiterated the punishment for taking another person’s life in the context of slavery as well.  That is, God’s esteem for life itself transcended one’s right to do with a slave as he/she wished.
That itself is an important concept for us to keep in mind.  I have often maintained that the world would get along just fine if each of us agreed to and adopted a “hierarchy of principles”.  The chances of that happening are zero for the world, but it is something that I have found useful in my own life and how I view what the world does or does not do.
But what exactly is the modern-day purpose for these two verses?  Well, we can easily move to the arena of today’s “employer-employee” relationship.  And while there are laws in many jurisdictions, there are still places where workers are taken advantage of and misused or mal-treated.  These verses would say to us, “be careful that you are not depriving your workers or servants of the very joy of life and the opportunity for improvement” by what you are paying them, your awareness of their family needs, etc.
Whereas the assumed punishment for historical slave masters killing their slaves is death, in our modern application of this verse, we can only hope for the labor laws to bring judgment upon an employer who mistreats employees.  And this goes on all the time.  As Christians we are to assist those that are in essence slaves in their places of work however we can – be it through improving legislation, representing them, being sensitive to what may be happening that we know is not right, and being brave enough to speak up against it.  Child labor comes to mind, as does poor working conditions, unacceptably low wages, and not enough time off to rest physically, be healed, or be with one’s loved ones.  Many employees turn to unions, if they can, to help them because we have not done the job.
[Note: I am not for a moment suggesting that we all support all labor unions.  On the contrary, I find most labor unions to be self-serving and holding their own members’ as hostages to their goals.  What I am suggesting is that we not close a blind eye to workplace evils.]
Returning to the historical context, we see that if his/her master hits the slave and the slave survives, there is no vengeance or punishment imposed on the master.  The rationale being that sometimes a master has to take strong physical corrective action if a slave is not doing his/her job properly or disobeying.  And if the master had to make a payment, to whom would he/she pay it, as he/she is the owner of the slave?  He/she would end up paying him-/herself.
In a society and time where slavery had been the practice, God is pushing the envelope of change in the Old Testament.  In the New Testament, the more appropriate and loving/caring master-servant relationship is commanded of employers.  (For more on this, read Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Culture Analysis by William J. Webb, Intervarsity Press, 2001.)
Why did God say if the slave survives “a day or two”, then no vengeance is to be taken?  Why such a short range?  What if the slave died three days, or a week, or a month, after being hit?  Does the master get off without punishment?
These are tough questions for which I have no easy answers.  The closest explanations I can find are the following:  First, we can assume that the master did not strike the slave with the intention of killing him or her for that would have meant a great loss of a slave he/she had paid good money for.  Second, if the slave did die after a day or two, the master would indeed have suffered a financial loss that would be significant.  Both are plausible, especially when considered together.
We do not always have the answers to the questions that arise in Scripture.  But if we dig hard enough and ask for understanding, God gives it to us either through others parts of the Bible or through our own thinking that is not contrary to the rest of His Holy Word. 
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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.