The Jew and His Adversary

Matthew 5:23‑26  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 9
"Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree [or, be of good will] with thine adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing."
It is evident that Jewish disciples as yet under the law are those addressed. In fact it is the rule in this Gospel as a whole; and it must be so till in the death of Christ the middle wall of partition was broken down, and thus the way was opened to reconcile both Jew and Gentile that believed in one body to God, the enmity being slain. The discourse of our Lord anticipates no such unity, nor even the call of the Gentiles, in any one clause. But it is a profound mistake that this indisputable fact takes away the profit of a single word from the Christian, though we stand now in a position of grace which could not be then. There is the richest instruction morally for every one who honors Him who spake as never man spake-a spiritual estimate of unequaled depth for those who know redemption and have the indwelling Spirit wherewith to enter in far more fully than those who heard His words of divine truth at the time He uttered them.
Thus the Lord enjoins the disciple who was bringing his gift to the altar, if he remembered that his brother had anything against him, to stop short of his devoted purpose as to God Himself, and be reconciled to his brother before returning to offer his gift. What tenderness of conscience was looked for, brotherly affection, lowliness of mind, readiness to own wrong, and desire to win an offended brother! It was the very reverse of anger, contempt, or hatred, which He had just treated, as His servant in measure re-echoed at a much later day (1 John 3:11-1511For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. 12Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous. 13Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. 14We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. 15Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:11‑15)). And that reverse was the Jews' case. For, absorbed in bringing their offering to the altar, they were blind to their wrong against Him who deigned to be their brother, with far more than a brother's love, born for adversity as they knew not. But they refused to be reconciled, and persisted in their offering, however offensive to God. It was presumptuous sin, and high-handed self-will under cloak of religion.
What follows points to a still more solemn consideration. Who that weighs Scripture can
doubt that the Lord in verses 25 and 26 refers to the position in which the Jew then stood with God? This was a far deeper consideration than any other brother aggrieved; their Lord became their brother. The awful truth is that He who loved Israel and would die for them, Jehovah-Messiah, was made their adversary by their perverse disobedience and blind unbelief; and His presence, which had been their salvation and best blessing if received, must bring on the inevitable crisis by their utter rejection and hatred of Him. The Lord at this point avails Himself of the occasion in His infinite grace to urge their agreeing, or making friends, with their adversary quickly, while in the way with Him. How His heart yearned over them, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings! But they would not. Their deadliest aversion was to their loving Messiah.
Hence the case was just about to come before the Judge, and the Judge would deliver to the official the convicted one; and he must be cast into prison till the last farthing be paid. It is no question here of eternal judgment, but of divine government morally on the earth; but all is plainly true of His people found guilty and consigned to suffer long. In that prison still lies the guilty debtor, till his heart turns to the One he despised. Then the word shall go forth, "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare [time of sorrow, or suffering] is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins." Isa. 40:1, 21Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. 2Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40:1‑2). "Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?" Mic. 7:1818Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. (Micah 7:18). Is not this the true, unforced bearing of our Lord's words? One may apply it to Christian use or unchristian warning. But it is an evil to twist Scripture or to complain of those who bow to its full force. Such ignorance has led men into the fable of purgatory.