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Painted Red

Deuteronomy 19:18-21
“… If the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. … And the rest shall hear and fear. … Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”

Pop-atheist Sam Harris once spoke for many in the modern skeptical tradition when claiming in a debate how primitive and archaic this wild west sort of ‘eye for an eye’ Old Testament justice really is, especially in contrast to modern punitive advancements that are more rooted in empathy toward criminals rather than a brutal dismembering of them. But while I wholeheartedly agree that Jesus takes humanity far deeper in our practice of divine justice than Moses did, or that “Love your enemy and do well to those who persecute you” is a far more multi-dimensional picture of God’s mercy than the black-and-white mandate of Deuteronomy 19 to ‘show no pity,’ it isn’t because the former was crude and the latter sophisticated, but rather because the Mosaic was the first pencil sketch of justice and the gospel of Christ its fully-painted illustration.

Here's why that particular analogy is especially helpful. If you’ve never painted before, understand that the original sketch an artist draws onto the canvas, or outlines on a piece of paper and then lights onto the canvas through a glass table, is still a fundamental part of the final composition. You won’t see the sketch lines when the painting is complete, but the painting will be the fullness of those lines—their culmination, that is. Likewise, the law of mercy that we learn best from Christ emerges from these black-and-white lines of Deuteronomy 19. Furthermore, what skeptics like Sam Harris miss is the wonderful fact that Christ actually fulfills this Mosaic law by giving all of Himself for our transgressions. He gives His full atoning body—His eyes and teeth and hands and feet and back and sides and heart—for our corrupted ones.

What a glimmering, glistening portrait of redemption, friend! To think that the Father showed no pity on the Son at Calvary, yet Calvary is precisely the picture of a divine pity too deep to fathom! That black- and-white, eye-for-an-eye sketch of Deuteronomy 19 has been painted red!