For this article, I was searching the internet for how a new government is formed. Although I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, this link covered the basics. Two essentials are first defining who the rulers are and second, what the rules are. When a people or national group is conquered, typically the old government is ousted and a new one is installed. But what I want to feature is the matter of the rules that are made. These rules become “the law.” Sometimes the law-makers are very short-sighted and make decisions that later come back to bite them, either because they were too rigid or because they were to loosely defined. Typically most “respectable” rulers agree that murder, theft, and other things are wrong. Also, normally, one does not expect there to be a lot of “mercy” built into the law. It is left up to the judges to decide the gravity of each infraction. Agreed so far?
Please note that I mentioned two perspectives of law. The first is the cold fact that “this is the law.” The second is individual, circumstantial application of the law. For example, we all agree that stealing is wrong. But what if it is done by a single mother who steals food, not for herself, but to feed her infant. Most people I know would have mercy on that woman, especially if it is established that she truly had no honest means to acquire the food (such as money). However, there is probably some likelihood that such a person would still have to appear in court. Now, courts are manned by judges that are imperfect people too. Some tend to view the law very sternly and show no mercy whatsoever. Others, have learned that being a truly wise judge calls for compassionate consideration of the circumstances. The law may not have compassion and mercy built into it, but the judge should have the wisdom to know when to apply such mercy.
So what is the point? I want to set the groundwork for insight into what some have called the harsh Mosaic Law, e.g. “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” Actually, the Mosaic Law was NOT as harsh as some have accused it of being. Specifically, Jehovah God was not merciless as some have accused him of being. As some of you know, I have a schedule for reading the whole Bible in one year. I am currently in the book of Exodus, having just finished chapters 21-24. You will notice that the context of the Mosaic Law was the installment of a new government. The “leaders” had already been designated (Jehovah, Moses, the chieftains). Next were the laws. Open this link, click the symbol just before chapter 1, and scroll down to “20” (which is a chapter summary). You will see mention of the 10 commandments. Then, as you continue to scroll down for the summaries of chapters 21 through 23, note that the first line for each is “judicial decisions.” This was the formation of the Mosaic Law with all its rules. Again, going back to my illustration, would you really expect that the official laws would build into them a lot of leeway, or would you expect it to be very defined as to what was right and wrong?
Indeed, from a judicial viewpoint, “eye for eye and tooth for tooth” is what we would expect for a fair system. But what if you were on a construction site with a fellow worker, turned while carrying a plank and accidentally smacked him in the face, knocking out a tooth? Did the Mosaic Law make any consideration for accidents? Yes, it did. So contrary to those that find fault with God and his laws, God is completely fair. But this is not the end of the matter.
Another accusation that some make against the Bible is how completely different Jesus was in handling matters. Yet he made it quite plain that he did not come to do away with the law, but came to fulfill it. While reading about the “judicial decisions” in the book of Exodus, it dawned on me that making laws and the wisdom to know how far to enforce them are two different things. That to me is the difference between what we read in Exodus and what Jesus said. Truly, by preaching mercy, he wasn’t advocating removal of the law. He was helping us appreciate that cold, heartless application of the law was never what God intended.
Over the years I have repeatedly encountered those who claim that “the God of the old testament and the God of the new testament were two different individuals. I have repeatedly provided them a list of both mercy and firmness in both “testaments.” They are quickly silenced.