I invite you this morning to turn with me again to Matthew Chapter 5, Matthew Chapter 5. And we are examining verses 43 to 48. This is such a key passage, so filled with truth and importance for our lives that we’re going to spend a few weeks on it. I believe God has some very special and important things to say to us, to me, through this.
Let me read for you verse 43 to 48 of Matthew Chapter 5, and you follow as I read. “Ye have heard that it hath been said thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors the same? And if ye greet your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the heathen so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
As you know, if you’ve been with us for any time, Matthew presents Jesus Christ as king. Each of the gospels focuses on a different element of the life of Christ, a different facet of His very character. And Matthew’s point is that He is the king. The king of the universe, the monarch of the earth, the king of Israel, the anointed of God. And Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience, primarily, because he wants them to realize that the very one Jesus of Nazareth, whom they rejected, is none other than their Messiah. The one of whom they said we will not have this man to reign over us, is none other than the anointed king.
Matthew’s purpose then in all of the pages and chapters and verses of his gospel is to present the kingliness of Christ. We have seen how he has done that already in the first five chapters. He began by discussing His royal birth, coming at the end of a royal lineage. He discussed his adoration by Persian kingmakers known as the Magi who recognize this one as king. He talked about His baptism in which God approved of Him as the anointed one. He said, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”
We see Matthew present his kingliness as he presents His defeat over the reigning monarch of the earth, Satan, as Satan comes three times against Christ, and all three times he is defeated and finally vanquished. We see His kingliness and His miracle power, as He has power over the physical world to heal, to raise the dead, to give sight to the blind, and hearing to the deaf, and voices to the dumb and feet to the lame. And all of these things are Matthew’s efforts to present the majesty of Jesus Christ. Finally, as we comes to Matthew Chapter 5 and 6 and 7, he presents the standards of the king’s kingdom.
If He is a king, then what are the rules of His kingdom? What is the manifesto of the monarch? What are the standards by which those in His kingdom live? And we have the incomparable Sermon on the Mount, presenting those very standards. And the key note that I wanted you to remember all through this is that the standards of the kingdom of Christ are not the standards of the world. In fact, Jesus sets them in contrast with the system of His day.
He shows how inferior Judaism is to the true standards of His kingdom. And we’ve already talked about the fact that the Jewish people have taken the divine standards of God and lowered them to their own level. And then by keeping their substandard rules, identified themselves as righteous, with a righteousness they themselves had invented. In other words, they lowered the standard and accommodated themselves to it. Jesus comes and lifts it back again.
He doesn’t change the Old Testament. He doesn’t set it aside. He reaffirms it and says, “Your standard is here; God’s is up here.” And so, in our study of Chapter 5, we have seen how he has done that. And he’s done it by a series of six contrasts. He contrasted, first of all, in verse 21 and following, their view of murder with His, then their view of adultery with His, their view of divorce with His, their view of swearing with His, their view of retaliation with His, and, finally, their view of love with His.
And here we are at the apex, really people, because the apostle Paul was exactly right under the inspiration of the Spirit when he said, “The greatest thing is love.” And Jesus saves this for the ultimate contrast. Jesus saves this for the final statement. That the epitome of the disparity between the standards of His kingdom and the standards of His day can be seen in the difference between the nature of loves of the two. That’s the final contrast.
Yours, verse 43, “You have heard that it hath been said – ” which is a…simply an introduction to those rabbinical teachings passed down to them. “Your system has said thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, love your enemies.” Now you see there the disparity don’t you, between a low level, substandard religious ethic and that which is God’s? Now, as we’ve studied the texts all through Matthew 5 from verse 21 on, we have simply stated there are three features in each that are the major thrusts. The Jewish viewpoint, the Old Testament viewpoint and the viewpoint of Jesus.
Let’s go back and review very briefly the tradition of the Jews, verse 43. And you’ll remember two weeks ago that I said that it all starts out good, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor.” That sounds good and that’s always the way it is with any system that wants to infiltrate the truth. Any system that wants to become a substitute for the truth must contain a portion of the truth. Therein lies the deceit. Therein lies the subtlety.
That’s why we find in Ephesians 4 that spiritual babes are tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine. Because whenever there is an encroachment upon the truth by Satan, he invariably wants to maintain something of that truth to provide a common ground to lead people into the perversion. And so it all starts out so well, “thou shalt love thy neighbor.” But as I told you, there are two problems. They left out something and they added something.
They left out “Thou shalt love thy neighbor – “ what’s the rest of it – “as thy self.” And they added “and hate thine enemy.” They left out “as thy self” because of pride and they added “hate thine enemy” because of prejudice. They didn’t feel they wanted to love anybody as themselves. And they wanted the right to be justified in their vitriolic hatred toward everybody who wasn’t a part of their little group. So conveniently, they dropped something and conveniently they added something, and thus they came up with a perversion of God’s standard. And that’s precisely what Jesus attacks.
And what Jesus is saying to these Pharisees and scribes and those who agreed with the system is that your system no matter how intellectually convinced you are, your system is inadequate to redeem you. You are not God’s people. You have not met the standard. You are sinners. And, consequently, He offers Himself as the Savior, knowing full well that no one comes to a Savior that he does not know he needs. And so really, it’s a message about sin.
They thought that because they didn’t murder, they weren’t sinful. They thought that because they didn’t commit adultery under their definition, they weren’t sinful. They thought because they divorced and made sure they did the paperwork, they weren’t sinful. They thought that because when they swore by the name of God they kept their word, they were okay. And they thought because they retaliated equivalently, that they were all right.
But Jesus says you’ve missed the point. If you hate somebody, that’s as good as murder. If you look on somebody, that’s the same as adultery. If you divorce for non-biblical grounds, that’s evil. And if you don’t keep your word no matter what you swear by you’ve sinned. And so He undercuts their whole security. And here He says, you think you love and what you love is everybody in your little group that agrees with you. And then you have license to hate everybody else. And you’re not even willing to love the ones you love the way you love yourself, which leaves room for yourself indulgent pride. That’s the Jewish tradition.
Now we move from that to the second point that we’re looking at and that is the teaching of the Old Testament. From the tradition of the Jews we see implied behind us the teaching of the Old Testament. What did the Old Testament teach? Did the Old Testament say anywhere hate your enemy? No. Did it say love your neighbor? Yes. Well, what is the sum of the teaching of the Old Testament? Well, we kind of got started in it last time. Let me just remind you of this. There is a statement in the Psalm, in Psalm 139, where David says “I hated them with a perfect hatred.” That is the only justifiable hatred in the Bible. That is the only justifiable reaction to an enemy in the Bible.
And it is based upon the same heart attitude, the same mentality as Psalm 69:9, where David says “The reproaches that have fallen on you have fallen on me; zeal for your house has eaten me up.” For example, the Bible says it is wrong to be angry, but there is such a thing as righteous indignation. True? Jesus said we are not to be angry with one another and yet Jesus made a whip. What’s the difference? Jesus never got angry with people who personally offended Him, but Jesus got angry with those who defiled the glory of God.
We have the right to react in indignation when God is dishonored, but not to react in retaliation over personal injury. Now the same thing is true in regard to this kind of thing with our enemies, with hatred. We should have a perfect or a righteous hatred for those who are the enemies of God. And David said “I hate them with a perfect hatred.” And right after that, do you remember what he said? “And God,” he said, “search my heart, try me, and know me. Know my thoughts that there is no wicked way in me.” In other words, God I hate them with a perfect hatred and if you search my heart, you will know that my motive is your glory, not my own personal injury.
There is a place for that. There is a place for zeal for the holiness of God and the sacredness of His truth and His person. And the Old Testament will tolerate that, but it will not tolerate any kind of evil attack, any kind of bitterness or anger or resentment or hostility towards someone who brings against us a personal injury. We have no place for personal hatred out of pride or prejudice, no matter what has been done to us.
You see the Jews define neighbor in a very narrow way, but the Bible defined it in a very big way. The word neighbor is the issue. The Jews said neighbor is the one who believes the way we believe. And you remember, I told you how they cursed the rabble mob who didn’t know the law. And they despised the ignorant Galileans. Who were they from that isolated place? It was just their little group. But hate your enemy never came from God’s truth in the Old Testament. They put as an accommodation to their pride and prejudice.
What did the Old Testament really teach about loving your neighbor? How broad is that term? Let me show you. Look with me at Deuteronomy 22, Deuteronomy 22. We’re going to spend a few minutes in the Old Testament because I want you to see that God hasn’t changed His perspective. Deuteronomy 22. Now here we’re dealing with some of the Levitical law, some of the codes for Israel’s behavior, and this is a very practical and simple one. “Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ox or his sheep go astray and withhold thy help from them. Thou shalt in any case bring them again to thy brother.”
In other words, if your brother has an animal that gets loose and goes astray, you want to immediately come to assist. The point being you meet another person’s need. All right? Verse 2, “If your brother be not near unto thee or if thou know him not,” maybe it’s somebody you don’t even know. You don’t have any idea who it is and “you shall bring it then to your house and it shall be with thee until thy brother seek after it and thou shall restore it to him again.” Let’s say you find a stray couple of sheep or an ox somewhere, and you really don’t know to whom it belongs at all. You take it, feed it, care for it, as long as it’s necessary.
Be sure you do that until the person comes and says, “Say, I lost a couple of – “ “I’ve got them right here,” and then you take them and give them back. “In like manner, shalt thou do with his ass and so shalt thou do with his raiment if he loses his cloak and with every lost thing of thy brothers which he hath lost and thou hast found. Now, that’s the general principle about lost and found. When somebody loses it, you don’t own it because you found it. You just keep it until he comes to get it. And then you give it to him.
Now notice that this is meeting somebody else’s need. Verse 4, “Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ass or his ox fall down by the way and withhold thy help from them. Thou shalt surely help them to lift them up again.” Sometimes the burden will become heavy, the animal will become tired and he’d just fall down. Well, one fellow would have a little tough time getting that animal back up again. And so you are to come to his help. Now, you say, “Well what does this have to do with anything? It’s talking about your brother here.”
All right, turn to Exodus Chapter 23, and we go even early in the writing of Moses. And we see the same principle in Exodus 23, verse 4, only this time it takes on a completely different identification. Exodus 23:4, “If thou meet thine enemy’s ox – “ you say “Ah ha, there’s my enemy’s ox loose” – “or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again.” Now notice, same exact principle as Deuteronomy 22. Only Deuteronomy 22 used what term for the individual? Brother. How big a term is brother? How big a term is it? The syllogism of this simply says that brother has to include what? Enemy. That’s the point.
Verse 5, “If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under it’s burden and wouldest forbear to help him thou shalt surely help with him.” Somebody who hates you and his animal falls down, the normal reaction is, “Serves you right buddy. Hope your animal dies and you’ve got to put the whole load on your wife.” You know that retaliatory spirit. He says, no you go and help, even if it’s your enemy. In other words, the standard never changes. The term brother is big enough to include whoever happens to have a need. You see the point?
That’s where we determine the meaning of neighbor. Neighbor is as big as need. That’s all. And when the Bible says “love your neighbor,” it simply widens up the whole thing…as Psalm tells us the commandment of God is very broad…to encompass anybody who has a need no matter how they feel about you. That’s the issue. And we’re not talking about nation against nation in war, and we’re not talking about a criminal justice process. We’re talking about the day-to-day routine of human relationships.
Look further with me will you at Job 31. Job 31, verse 29, and Job has some people telling him that he’s a sinner. He has some diseases and some problems in his life, and he is really being used by God as an illustration. He hasn’t really done any sinful thing to bring this upon him, but all of his counselors think he has and so they’re forever telling him that he’s a sinner. And Job starts to muse and respond a little bit to this issue, and one of the things that he says is in Job 31:29. He’s trying to tell them that he really hasn’t done some sin to deserve this.
He says…and here’s his illustration, “if I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me or lifted up myself when evil found him – “ In other words, “boy I had a great time, I just loved it when he fell into evil.” And the implication is, “If I did that then I would have sinned. I mean, you’d have a right to accuse me if I had ever rejoiced at the destruction of somebody that hated me.” Now that touches a nerve of human behavior. Because when there is somebody who is your enemy and they fall into problems, the first reaction is that you love it. You just love it. And the worse the problem, the better you like it. That’s human nature.
Job says, but I didn’t do that or I would have sinned. “Neither have I suffered – “ verse 30 – “my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul.” I’ve never allowed out of my mouth any evil thought towards someone. And, boy, we do that a lot, a lot with our epithets and our curses and our condemnations. Job says I didn’t do that either. I never rejoiced when they fell into calamity. I never wished them evil.
Verse 31, “If the men of my tent said not oh that we had of his flesh, we cannot be satisfied.” In other words, we’ve never longed for the flesh of an enemy. We’ve never been dissatisfied enough to want more injury or harm to come to someone. No. You see the attitude of Job, and by the way Job was in the patriarchal period, so this really takes you clear back to the earliest years of God’s dealing with man. And the attitude from the very start was one of love and forgiveness, not wishing evil even on an enemy.
Go further with me into Psalm Chapter 7, the 7th Psalm, verse 3. And David in a sense is praying a similar prayer. “Oh Lord my God, if I have done this; if there be iniquity in my hands – “ what kind of iniquity David? – “If I have rewarded evil unto him who was at peace with me – “ In other words, if I was unkind to my friend – “Yea, I have delivered him who without cause is my enemy.” In other words, if I have sinned by being evil to one who was good, or if I have sinned by being evil to one who was evil to me.
David really pinpoints two things. It’s wrong to be evil towards those that are good to you. It’s even wrong to be evil towards those that are evil to you. If I have done that he says, “Let the enemy persecute my soul and take it. Let him tread down my life on the earth and lay my honor in the dust.” He’s justifying himself to God here and he’s saying God I’ve looked at my heart, and I have never given back evil for good and I have not given back evil for evil either. You see the Old Testament never justifies hating an enemy. That’s a sin. Job recognized it as a sin and so did David.
In the 35th Psalm, so that you’ll understand further what God’s heart is on this, verse 12. David says of his enemies, “They rewarded me evil for good for the spoiling of my soul.” In other words, it just, it hurt me on the inside. They gave me back evil for good, my enemies did. “But as for me – “ now look, here’s a righteous man – “when they were sick my clothing was sackcloth.”
Now what did sackcloth speak of? Well, it spoke of remorse and sorrow and mourning didn’t it? When a Jew put on sackcloth and ashes, he was in mourning. He says when I was good to them, they were cruel to me, but when evil fell upon them, I mourned over them. My heart broke over them. This is the spirit of Jesus who hangs on the cross and looks at those who spit on Him and says, “Father – “ What? – “forgive them. They know not what they do.” This is the heart of Stephen who lays beneath the bloody stones that are crushing the life out of his body and cries out to God, “lay not this sin to their charge.”
This is the magnanimous, unbelievable, inhuman, supernatural forgiveness that comes here from the heart of David who has been given evil for good, and yet when his enemies suffer his clothing is sackcloth. And he says, “I humbled my soul with fasting and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.” In other words, David says I fasted and I mourned and I prayed for my enemies when they fell into calamity. Verse 14, “I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother.” Notice that? And here David brings together in our thoughts, Deuteronomy 22 and Exodus 23, and he says “my enemy is my brother. My enemy is to be my friend, at least in that sense. I bowed down heavily as one who mourneth for his mother.”
Now I’ll tell you something people, when a man can weep over his enemy like he weeps over his mother in calamity, he has learned a dimension of love that is far beyond the human level. And that’s the teaching of the Old Testament. “In my adversity – “ verse 15 – “they rejoice and they gather themselves together – “ they had a party – “and they tore at me and they cease not, they gnashed upon me with their teeth, but that was never my heart towards them.”
Oh this is such a basic truth. Look at Proverbs for a moment, 17:5. In Proverbs 17:5 it says this, “Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his maker.” And then this “And he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.” When you rejoice over evil fallen on someone, you’ll not be unpunished. That is a sin, even that person be an enemy. Proverbs 24:29, “Say not – ” this is the command – “Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me.” Don’t say that. Don’t be a retaliatory person. Don’t strike back at your enemy. That’s the opposite of what we know as the golden rule.
And then finally, in Proverbs 25:21, we find…I think we find the sum of it all. Proverbs 25:21, listen carefully. Very simple and very profound. “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he be thirsty give him water to drink.” Beloved, can I say this to you? Your enemy is your neighbor. That’s what the Old Testament teaches. Your enemy in a human sense is your brother. Not in the spiritual sense, in a human sense is your brother.
Maybe you need some illustrations. Let’s go back to Genesis Chapter 13 and see how the Old Testament honored this kind of attitude toward an enemy. Abram and Lot had a dispute. There were too many of them and their animals to occupy one plot of land. And verse 6 says that they had so many flocks and so many tents and herds and all of this, that the land was not able to bear them. They couldn’t dwell together in the same place, for their substance was great so that they couldn’t dwell together. And there was a strife between the herdsman of Abram’s cattle and the herdsman of Lot’s cattle. So here you have enemies. You have a minor warfare.
How is it to be handled? Bitterly? Antagonistically? Watch Abram and you see the virtue of the man. Verse 8, “And Abram said unto Lot, ‘Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdsmen and thy herdsmen; for we're brethren. Is not the whole land before thee? Separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.’ ”
Now, listen people, that is an amazing reaction. Abram ended the fight right there because he said, “Lot, you take whatever you want and I’ll just take what’s left. You pick out the best and you take it.” That’s how to treat an enemy. Give them the very best that there is. And so Lot checked around, “lifted up his eyes – ” in verse 10 – “beheld the plain of Jordan, well watered everywhere, before, of course the Lord destroy Sodom and Gomorra.” It was like, “the garden of the Lord, the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar,” which is a very fertile area of Egypt. So “Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan; and Lot journeyed east: and they separated themselves the one from the other. Abram dwelled in the land of Canaan and Lot dwelt in the in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent towards Sodom, but the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.”
Now we could talk a lot about the stupidity of Lot pitching his tent towards Sodom and how it, eventually, got closer and closer until he was in Sodom. And finally he was out of Sodom and Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt. But the point that I want you to see here is the fact that Abraham treated an enemy as the Bible would want us to treat one. He loved him as he loved himself. Instead of seeking the land for himself, he sought the best for his enemy. The Bible honors that kind of virtue. 1 Samuel Chapter 24 offers us another illustration. And I’m taking time to develop this because I think it’s such an important point. And we’re really…we’ll draw it down to some practical things next Lord’s Day as we conclude.
But in 1 Samuel 24, I want you to notice the first six verses. “It came to pass when Saul was returned from following the Philistines that it was told him saying, behold David is in the wilderness of Engedi.” Now Saul was busy chasing David. David was a threat to Saul’s throne, a threat to his security. Saul had been trying to kill David, trying every way he could to find David and murder him. And so they said “David is in wilderness of Engedi. Go and find him. That’s where he is and you can get him there.” So Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel,” and these were the crack troops, the best guys, the sharp shooters, you know, the SWAT team, “off they went to find David and his men upon the rocks of the wild goats.”
And by the way, I’ve been to Engedi and it is a treacherous and rocky area. “He came to the sheepcotes – ” and by the way sheepcotes were little stacks of rocks that they would put at the front of a cave to act like a fence to keep the sheep in – “and there was a cave there and Saul went in to cover his feet.” Now that is a Hebrew expression for visiting…I don’t know how else to put this…the men’s room. What they did was they just went in, and I don’t…I don’t know how to describe this delicately, but I’ll give it a shot. Anyway, they had these long robes and they went in and they would just kind get down on their haunches and they would put their robe around them covering their feet. That’s literally what they did. They had sort of a portable commode.
And so Saul went into this particular cave, by himself, to deal with that particular necessity. And while he was there David and his men were in the same cave. Interesting circumstance. And they were along the sides of the cave while Saul was in the middle. “And the men of David said to him, ‘behold the day of which the Lord said.’ ” I mean, this is it David. “I will deliver thine enemy into thine hand.” They said the prophecy has come true. Here he is. Of all things we are in the middle of nowhere, in the wilderness of Engedi, and in walks our enemy to cover his feet. He is there literally a sitting duck.
Well, what happened? “The men of David said unto him, ‘this was the fulfillment of the prophecy. Do unto him as it shall seem good unto thee.’ ” He’s your enemy, get him David, this is your moment. You know you’re God’s anointed. Get rid of this evil man, this enemy. “So David arose and cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe stealthily.” He snuck up behind him and took a snitch out of his robe. You say “Well that, David, isn’t what we had in mind. We're…we’re not taking pieces of his garment bit by bit. We’d like to do away with him. But just to show you the sensitivity of David’s heart, “It came to pass afterwards that David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.” He was convicted about that.
And he said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing under my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.” You can feel that way about an enemy. After all he’s a creation of God. “He’s beloved by God, and David restrained his servants with these words and permitted them not to rise against Saul, but Saul rose up out of the cave and went on his way.” “David also rose afterward and went out of the cave and cried after Saul saying, ‘My lord the king.’ ”
Oh man, can you imagine the jolt that must have been to Saul. “And when Saul looked behind him David stooped with his face to the earth and bowed himself.” Amazing. He paid homage to this evil enemy and David was a godly man as was Abram. You see, virtue behaves towards an enemy as we would behave towards a friend because an enemy is a neighbor. I want to show you one other illustration, 2 Samuel 16, And, again, it’s David. 2 Samuel 16, verse 5, and this is…this must have been…oh, just I can’t recreate the terrible anxiety of this moment in David’s life.
David was a terrible father. You’ve got to be a terrible father to end up with an Absalom. But he did. And Absalom, his son, whom…with whom he was far to lenient, turned out to rebel against him. Absalom came against his own father, wanted to usurp his throne. Absalom not only came against David, politically, but Absalom, frankly, broke David’s heart. Finally, David just cried out with tears rushing down his face, “Absalom, my son, my son, my son,” when he heard of his death.
But Absalom is after David. And David is running, fleeing from his own son. David who is the king. And in the midst of all of this, verse 5 of 2 Samuel 16 says, “And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera; he came forth, and he cursed continually as he came.” He’s a profane man. “And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David; and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left.”
He just started throwing rocks at all of them, and cursing, foully, David. “And thus said Shimei when he cursed, ‘Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou worthless fellow.’ ” David, apparently was inside the troop a little bit, and he was screaming at him to come out. “The Lord hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul.” You know why you're getting what you're getting. You know why Absalom has turned against you. Because you dethroned Saul, because you took Saul’s place. And remember, this was a fellow from Saul’s family.
Now, you're getting your due, David, you bloody man. “And the Lord hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son. And, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man.” Want to know something. There was just enough truth in that to make it painful. It says, later on, when David wanted to build the temple, God said, “No, because you have hands full of blood.” He hadn't murdered Saul, but he had fought many battles and bloodied his hands. “Then said Abishai – ” Abishai was loyal to David – “the son of Zeruiah, ‘Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?’
Now, apparently dead dog was a bad thing to call somebody. I mean, that's probably the worst epithet Abishai could think of, this dead dog. You find frequently in the Bible that pagans are called dogs, even in Peter. You hear Peter refer to dogs licking up their vomit. And he has in mind apostates who go back to their evil ways. And to call somebody a dog was a terribly derogatory term. But to add the term “dead” dog is really strong.
But we even say that. Boy so and so is a dead dog. We use it in a little different term, but this is where it came from. “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king. Let me go over, I pray these, and take off his head.” This was a pretty primitive time and that’s what normally would have happened. And the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah. So let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him curse David who shall then say why hast thou done so.” What David is implying here is maybe the Lord told him to do this. You see David is feeling the guilt of his failure with Absalom. And David is facing the realization of his bloody hands. And he’s saying, “How do you know that God has not asked him to do this?
David said to Abishai and all his servants, behold my son who came forth of my own body seeks my life. How much more now may this Benjamite do?” In other words, look, I could care less about this guy. The pain is from Absalom. What he adds to the thing is minimal to me. Don’t bother with it. Let him alone and let him curse for the Lord has bidden him. And I’m sure this is David’s feeling, whether the Lord did or not, I don’t know, but he feels that he must have.
“It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction and the Lord will requite me good for His cursing this day. And as David and his men went along the way, Shimei went along on the hillside, opposite him and cursed as he went and threw stones at him and cast dust and the king and all the people who were with him became weary and refreshed themselves there.” But David’s heart was right. At that moment he loved with the love the Old Testament taught.
The Jews were dead wrong in Jesus’ day. The Old Testament didn’t teach to hate your enemy. That was their evil, prideful, prejudice teaching that. Neighbor encompassed even an enemy. Go back with me for a moment to Matthew and let me share this with you, chapter 5, verse 10, earlier in the sermon Jesus had said similar terms, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you and say all man are evil against you falsely for my sake.”
How should you react? How should you react? Verse 12, retaliate? No. What? “Rejoice, be exceedingly glad for great is our reward in heaven.” That’s what David said. “Perhaps the Lord will requite me some day for a right reaction to this cursing.” In whatever human relationship you’re in, that’s what God is after, that right reaction. Maybe you’ve got conflict in your marriage. Maybe you’ve got conflict in your family between the children and the parents. Maybe you have conflict on the job. Maybe you have enemies at home and you have enemies at work and people who speak against you. Maybe a brother-in-law or a sister-in-law or a brother or sister, another part of your family speak evil of you or your children.
And it’s so easy in our human world to get these things going and these enemies. And we become bitter and we begin to be hostile, and instead of reaching out in love to the people, instead of seeing them as our brother and our neighbor as the Old Testament does, we begin to see them as the enemy. And we miss the point of what Jesus says and we fall to the low level of Pharisaic religion. That’s not to be. So the Old Testament was very clear and Jesus is in absolute agreement with it.
Can I introduce the teaching of Jesus to you in verse 44? And I’ll just introduce it today and we’ll go into next time. We saw the tradition of the Jews in verse 43. We saw the teaching of the Old Testament implied behind verse 43, but perverted, and now the teaching and the truth from Jesus himself. This is the Lord’s corrective to the error of the Jewish system. And he gives five principles to correct the faulty love of the Pharisees and the scribes. Five short statements, sequential statements that ascend to the very highest statement of all. They have a beautiful flow in ascent and we’ll see that next time.
He says five things. Let me just give them to you, “Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors, manifest your sonship, exceed your fellow men, and imitate your God.” And people, when we finally ascend into that fifth principle, you are going to see perhaps in a way you’ve never seen before what Jesus meant when he said you’re to love your enemies. It is the most powerful statement, I believe in the New Testament about the meaning of love. Let’s just take that first one for a moment before I let you go. Verse 44, “But I say unto you love your enemies.” Jesus speaks with authority here. He is the Lord of the law. He is the Son of God.
One of the things we learn in Greek is that Greek verbs change their form depending upon what pronoun is used. For example, you don’t need pronouns like I, you, he, she, it, they, them, your, et cetera, in Greek because the verb form indicates which pronoun is proper. It’s in the ending of the verb. So whenever the pronoun is put in front of the verb, it is put there for intensification. It would have been enough to just have a verb form. “I say unto you.” I say could be several verbs. It could be say, leg, I say unto you. But if it is eg leg, it means I say unto you, and the emphasis is not on the saying, the emphasis is on the sayer.
And so Jesus by using the emphatic pronoun is intensifying the fact that He speaks authoritatively. “I say unto you,” setting Himself up as one who can speak over against their system no matter who their teachers have been. No matter how long a list of renowned and well-meaning and well known and astute Rabbis there have been, “I say unto you.” And so He is the Lord of the law. And what does He say? The first principle as we move up the steps, “Love your enemies, love your enemies.”
And the idea we learn from the Old Testament is that your enemy is your neighbor. To illustrate that look with me at Luke 10, Luke 10, verse 25. “A lawyer came to Jesus. He said ‘What do I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said unto him, ‘what is written in the law.’ And he said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy strength, with all thy mind, and thy neighbor – ’ What? – “as thyself.” Now, the question is…the lawyer says, all right if what you want me to do is love my neighbor as myself, fair question, verse 29, “who is my – ” What? – “neighbor?” Who is it? You want me to love my neighbor, who is it?
Jesus said let me tell you a story. “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho,” and that is down, I mean, it’s really down. You go from a mile high to below sea level in a very brief time, down to Jericho. “And it was a very dangerous road, robbers and highwaymen along it. And this man going down fell among thieves who stripped him of his raiment, wounded him, and departed leaving him half dead.” They beat him up and robbed him and left him on the road for dead. “By chance there came down a certain priest that way. When he saw him, he passed on the other side.”
Now a priest was a man who represented God to the people. A man who stood in the place of God. A priest was one who connected people with God. A priest of all the people in society should have been one to behave as God behaved. He was God’s representative. And the priest came along and he saw the man and he said that man is not in my group. And he went to the other side of the road. Who wants to touch him? He’s not my neighbor. It’s one of the rabble, Jewish people who’s probably not even belonging to my religious party.
“He was followed a little later by a Levite, one who was of the great heritage of the Levitical priests as well and when he was at the place he came and looked on him and passed by on the other side.” He said, he’s not in my group either. Off they went. But a certain Samaritan,” and that word conjures up all kinds of thoughts, because the Samaritans basically were a race of people…originally they were Jewish people who intermarried with the pagans who infiltrated the northern kingdom. They became half-breeds. And the most despicable thing to a purebred Jew was for somebody to defile the uniqueness of being a Jew by intermarrying with a pagan.
Can you imagine the Jew wouldn’t even enter a Gentile house. The Jew wouldn’t even eat with a Gentile utensil. The Jew wouldn’t even eat food cooked by a Gentile. They wouldn’t even go into a Gentile house because they believed that the Gentiles aborted their babies in those houses and they were desecrated places. They believed the wildest and craziest things about the Gentiles and they despised them. When they came back to their own country, they would shake the dust off their garments because they didn’t want Gentile dust dragged into their land.
And when they went from the south to the north, they would go across the Jordan and up the east side and cross over at the top so that they wouldn’t have to go through Samaria. They didn’t want to defile themselves with that polluted land. And here came a Samaritan, an enemy who would look at that bleeding Jew and say, “My, good for him. It’s about time some of them got their due the way they’ve treated us.” But the holy pious priest and Levite didn’t see him as a neighbor, and the despised and hated Samaritan did. “And he went to him and bound up his wound – ” verse 34 – “and poured in oil and wine and set him on his own beast, brought him to an inn and took care of him. And on the next day when he departed, he took out to denarii and gave them to the host and said, ‘Take care of him. And whatever thou spendest more when I come again, I will repay thee.’ ”
Boy he was magnanimous wasn’t he? He got involved and he bound up his wounds and he loved him and cared for him, put him on his beast and led the beast to the inn and paid the fare at the inn, and said I’ll pay the rest when I come back if it’s more. ‘Which now,’ says the Lord, ‘of these three, thinkesth thou was neighbor to him that fell among thieves.’ He said, ‘He that showed mercy on him.’ Then said Jesus unto him, ‘Go and do thou likewise.’ ”
You want to know something, people. Who’s your neighbor? Your neighbor is anybody who needs you. That’s it. Anybody in my path with a need constitutes my neighbor. Not because they believe what I believe or think what I think or belong to my group. God loved us when we were enemies and He died for us and it’s that very love that we’re to have for others.
I’m going to close with this story. In the year 1567, King Phillip, II of Spain sent the Duke of Alva, and the Duke of Alva was notorious for his bitter hatred of everybody who embraced reformed Christianity. It was the time of the reformation and people were turning from Catholicism to biblical Christianity and believing in Christ in a proper way. And they hated those people. In fact, the time of the of the Duke of Alva was known as the Reign of Terror in Spain, and the council of Alva was call the blood council, because they slaughtered so many people who embraced the reformed faith.
But the historians tell us about one man, a man named Dirk Willumzoon who became a Christian, a Protestant Christian, and thus was condemned to death in a torturous manner. Somehow he made an escape and he began to run for his life. It was near the end of winter and there were still some patches of snow on the ground, and as he ran and ran he finally came to the inevitable, a lake. The lake was frozen, but not frozen very hard because winter was nearly over. And yet he had no choice because he was being chased by one lone soldier. And so he decided he’d run across the lake
And the historian says that as he ran, the lake ice began to crack and creek and shake under his feet as he pounded across. But he didn’t stop because he wanted to avoid the terrible death that awaited him if he were caught. He stretched his legs further and further in his strides until at last in one gasping leap he lunged himself and landed on the solidarity of the shore. And as he began to take his next step he heard a cry of terror from behind him. And he looked around, and the soldier who had been chasing him had fallen through and was clutching the ice for his life.
No one was near to help the soldier but Dirk. But the soldier was his enemy. What would you do? The historian tells us that Dirk went back, picking his way over the crackling ice, rescued his enemy, and brought him to safety. That’s the heart of the matter isn’t? That’s the spirit of Jesus. The spirit of Stephen, of Abram, of David. How about you? Let’s pray together.
Thank you Father for our time this morning, for the goodness, the grace of God that gives us a love that is humanly impossible. We can’t love like this and we know it, and so how grateful we are that Romans 5 tells us the love of Christ is shed abroad in our hearts. If it weren’t that You gave us this love we could never love in this way. Help us to love in the Spirit, to love with a love that is Your love loving through us. When we come to those moments when we would consider an enemy an enemy, when we would lash against them, may we at that moment stop and beseech the Spirit of God to fill us with love, that we may love as You love us.
And may we be known in this world as they who love, and by our love may the world know we belong to you. So grateful are we Father for what you’ve taught us and for what awaits us in the majesty of the remaining passage. And Lord, too, we can’t help but be excited even as we look forward to tonight. As we share around the life of this man, Daniel, who was all that a man could be in an evil society. We pray that this day might be a life-changing day for us as we learn to love and to stand in this evil day. In Christ’s name, amen.
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