Nepaug Bible Church - http://www.nepaugchurch.org - Pastor's Prayer Meeting Lesson Notes - http://www.nepaugchurch.org/pm/pm20030108.htm
DEUTERONOMY: GETTING OTHERS TO BE VICTORS, NOT CASUALTIES
Part XIX: Discipling Others On Respecting Everything Belonging To Their Neighbors
Lesson: (1) Moses taught Israel to RESPECT both the TANGIBLE as well as the INTANGIBLE assets of their neighbors. (2) He did so by making the punishment of the charges they brought against their neighbors apply to themselves if their charges were proved to be false. That way, the people were forced to value their neighbors and their reputations as much as themselves in fulfillment of the spirit of the Law, Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:35-40. (3) Also, in CONTRAST to the law of vengeance of the Ancient Near East, a law allowing a man to kill another for merely injuring him in some way, God had Moses administer the law of lex talionis (law of retaliation), or equal injury on the wrongdoer for wrongs suffered by the victim. That way, every man's assets were treated as equal to every other man's.
- One of the commandments of the Law dealt with not coveting a neighbor's possessions, cf. Exodus 20:17.
- Well, what a neighbor possesses covers not only tangible assets, but intangible ones as well, and God wanted His people to respect tangible as well as intangible assets of their neighbors.
- Moses' exampled how to disciple others to respect everything belonging to their neighbors as follows:
- Discipling Others On Respecting Everything Belonging To Their Neighbors, Deuteronomy 19:14-21.
- Just before his death, Moses addressed the people of Israel on their need to keep the Mosaic Law to enjoy God's richest blessings, Deuteronomy 1:1-5.
- One segment of that address dealt with respecting everything that belongs to one's neighbor. We view that section for insight on discipling others to respect all that belongs to their neighbor, Deut. 19:14-21:
- Moses told the people of Israel to respect the tangible landmarks of their neighbors, for moving a landmark to acquire more land was essentially stealing the possession of one's neighbor, Deut. 19:14.
- However, one can steal not only a tangible asset like land from his neighbor -- he can also steal from his intangible reputation, something that harms his relationships with others: accordingly, Moses gave strict guidelines on respecting a neighbor's intangible reputation as follows, Deuteronomy 19:15-20:
- In order to respect the intangible reputation of one's neighbor, one's neighbor was to be presumed innocent by others until he was proven guilty. Hence, Moses ordered there be at least two credible witnesses of wrong before a man could be punished for that wrong, Deuteronomy 19:15.
- However, a rift might occur between two men where one charged his neighbor with a wrong while the neighbor likewise claimed he was innocent. Hence, Moses gave directions on handling such a situation with fairness to all involved as follows: (a) Since the charge affected the defendant's intangible reputation, an important asset, it needed to be resolved; accordingly, both men were to appear before the Lord and His priests and judges at the tabernacle, Deuteronomy 19:16-17. (b) These priests and judges would make inquiry before the Lord Who in turn would reveal who was right and who was wrong, Deuteronomy 19:18. (c) If the man bringing the charge was proved to be a false witness, then the punishment for the crime he was charging his neighbor had to be inflicted against himself as a warning to others witnessing the proceedings, Deuteronomy 19:19-20. The punishment was to be administered without partiality and with fairness: instead of one man being allowed to take vengeance by killing his neighbor for an injury done to himself, God instituted a law of lex talionis (equal retaliation): exactly the wrong suffered by the victim had to be administered to the inflicting, guilty party, Deuteronomy 19:21. (d) In this way, reputations were as preserved as were tangible assets out of full respect for one's neighbor, Deuteronomy 19:20.
Application: (1) In discipling others to respect what belongs to their neighbors, we need to tell our disciples to view their neighbors' assets as they do their own: what one values materially or in an intangible way, others should respect in the same way and to the same degree in their neighbor. (2) Then, to impress a subordinate with this truth, we can administer equal punishment for wrongs done. (3) In it all, we should communicate the need to value one's neighbor as he does himself!