April 26

“The priests, the sons of Levi, shall come forward, for the Lord your God has chosen them to minister to him and to bless in the name of the Lord, and by their word every dispute and every assault shall be settled.” (Deuteronomy 21:5)

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” (Matthew 18:15-16)

We are considering God’s words first because they are superior to our words in speech and writing, which we will concentrate on next. The two passages above represent a consistent emphasis in the Old Testament and the New Testament (as we would expect)—to use our words to resolve conflicts with other Christians. In both passages, there is an implication to have God’s words in mind when doing so. In Old Testament times, the Levites were not only to settle disputes but to minister and bless in the name of the Lord. When they were resolving personal differences, they were also blessing and ministering to their covenantal brothers and sisters. John Gill wrote, “every controversy between man and man respecting civil things, and every stroke or blow which one man may give another; and whatsoever came before them was tried by them, according to the respective laws given concerning the things in question and were not determined by them in an arbitrary way, according to their own will and pleasure.” (1)

Decisions made by the Levites were to reflect God’s instructions to them, for God’s glory.  The Levites were to base their verdicts on God’s words with the same tone that the Lord used when he gave those commands to their leaders. Moses dishonored God when he struck the rock in anger verbally rebuking the people instead of speaking to them graciously as God had instructed. It is vitally important to use God’s words and commands appropriately.

In the Matthew passage, Jesus instructed his disciples to talk with believers who have sinned against them, quickly and personally. (See Matthew 5:25.) Jesus implied that it should be done reasonably and calmly, with the intention to help them repent and be reconciled in their relationship with God and with you. In the Matthew passages, Jesus was teaching his disciples about the characteristics of the kingdom of God, to encourage their kingdom community. Everything is aimed at resolution and reconciliation. If one person fails, he is to take another; if they fail, they are to include others who will act as witnesses. It occurs to me that having witnesses provides accountability for the one offended, encouraging reasonableness and even grace toward the offending party, so as not to go off “half-cocked” in anger. (2)

Will you work out your differences with others according to the Lord’s instructions? Will you encourage others to do the same? “Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” (2 Thessalonians 3:15)

(1)   Gill, John, Exposition of the Bible on Deuteronomy 21:5, www.biblestudytools.com/ commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/deuteronomy-21-5.html.

(2)   Half-cocked is an American idiom meaning to speak or act prematurely or without thought.

 

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