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February 12: Exo 22 | Psa 75-76 | Mark 8

Reading 1 - Exo 22:1-9

"If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep... If the stolen animal is found alive in his possession--whether ox or donkey or sheep-- he must pay back double. If a man grazes his livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in another man's field, he must make restitution from the best of his own field or vineyard... If a man gives his neighbor silver or goods for safekeeping and they are stolen from the neighbor's house, the thief, if he is caught, must pay back double... In all cases of illegal possession of an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or any other lost property about which somebody says, 'This is mine,' both parties are to bring their cases before the judges. The one whom the judges declare guilty must pay back double to his neighbor" (Exo 22:1-9).

Restitution varies here according to several factors. First, restitution varies, depending on whether the stolen animal is recovered. Second, restitution varies according to the value of the animal, especially with regard to the productivity of the beast. If a man's ox was stolen, the fields could not be plowed, the wagon pulled, or the grain threshed. Thus, a stolen (and not recovered) ox was to be paid for fivefold, while a sheep only fourfold. In Lev 6, the sacrificial system provided a means for the thief to repent, to make restitution, and to obtain forgiveness. In the New Testament, Zaccheus demonstrated his repentance by restoring fourfold what he had wrongly taken (Luke 19:8-10).

Restitution kept the offender out of prison, and kept him in society. It also enabled him to make his offense right by repaying the victim of the crime in a way that replaced the harm by a positive benefit. Thus, both the offender and the offended could live together, both with a sense of justice and human dignity. Today, most often, the victim receives little or no compensation, the offender makes no restitution, and is forced to live apart from society, at a price society is penalized to pay.

Restitution is a corrective, but not a cure for the crime of stealing. The Bible clearly prescribes the cure, especially in the New Testament. Crime would have the thief get ahead at the expense of one's neighbor. Justice would have one person gain while, at the same time, the other party gained equally. Jesus Christ teaches that we should be willing to sacrifice our own interests if that benefits our neighbor: "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you" (Mat 5:42). "And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same thing. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men" (Luk 6:32-35).

Christ calls for nothing less than a complete reversal of the attitudes and actions of the thief: "Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need (Eph 4:28).

The thief does not wish to work, but rather to live off of others who work. The thief looks upon the needy as the vulnerable, whose weaknesses he may very well use to his advantage, and thus to prey upon them. The Christian must put away laziness and go to work. The Christian views the needs of others as the opportunity to manifest the love and grace of God to men, and thus reaches out to help, giving of his own resources.

Reading 2 - Psa 76:10

"Surely your wrath against men brings you praise, and the survivors of your wrath are restrained" (Psa 76:10).

"Surely the wrath of MAN shall praise thee" (AV). God has always directed man's wrath to His own ultimate glory -- a chief example of this being the crucifixion of His Son (see Act 2:23,24; cp Isa 53:10). In like manner, the hatred of Joseph's brethren for him worked out at last to the glory of God and their own salvation (Gen 50:20). And Pharaoh's opposition to God's deliverance of Israel finally resulted in God's Name and power being declared throughout the earth (Exo 9:16; Rom 9:17). And finally, in the Last Days, Gog's enmity for Israel and her God will have the same result (Eze 38:22,23; 39:7).

The second phrase reads, in the AV: "The remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain." This means that the few survivors of God's wrath are now restrained or quiet -- having no more wrath of their own to vent.

Reading 3 - Mark 8:34

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Mar 8:34).

"To deny one's self is more than self-denial; it is to say 'No' to the very self with its tacit assumption of a right to the life we possess; it is to repudiate the ego which claims a right to go its own way. Man has no right in life, and therefore no right to use life as he pleases for his own ends; and the meaning of the saying was to be demonstrated fully and finally when Jesus himself went voluntarily to surrender his life. He deliberately substituted his Father's will for his own, saying, 'Not what I will, but what Thou wilt'; and when his life was ended in the darkness of death his own will was extinguished in oblivion" (LG Sargent, Mark 120).


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