If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you. And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you. And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
In an ideal world, we would so easily learn our lesson. If only it just took one rebuke or one example or one consequence and we would cease from those sins. But in reality, we are often not so easily deterred. We see someone punished for doing something wrong, and our pride says we can get away with it. We do something wrong ourselves and pay the price, and yet we end up doing the same thing again.
At the heart of this passage is the idea of an exact kind of justice. The wrongdoer deserves to experience the same hurt he intended to inflict on someone else. But even those stipulations did not eradicate sin or remove evil from Israel. The law is not very forgiving. God’s standards are high, after all. But our God is forgiving, and He does choose to have mercy on us. He gives us His all-sufficient grace. And through Jesus and by His Spirit, we can leave old and sinful things behind and put evil away from us.
With a humble heart, then, perhaps we can more easily learn these lessons. With a meek and teachable spirit, perhaps we can do better next time, if we’ll surrender to God and seek His way, if we’ll submit to His Spirit and let Him lead us to paths of righteousness. Unfortunately, we’ll never be rid of sin as long as we live in these fleshly bodies. But we can learn. We can be changed. We can grow in our walk with God, our understanding of Him and His Word, and our ability to obey and make choices that honor Him.