“Then where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.”
Exodus 2:20 (ESVUK)
After Moses killed an Egyptian and hid the body in the sand, Pharaoh “sought to kill Moses” (Exodus 2:15), presumably in retaliation and without trial. Therefore, Moses fled Egypt and he settled in a place called Midian.
The story goes that, while Moses was at a well, he witnessed an altercation between seven sisters and some shepherds over the watering of their respective flocks of sheep. Moses intervened successfully on behalf of the sisters. When the women recounted what had happened to their father, Reuel, he was shocked that his daughters had not brought Moses back so that he could show his appreciation to the stranger who had assisted them. As we read above, Reuel told them to find Moses and to bring him home for a meal. He wanted to show Moses hospitality in return for Moses’ help.
The similarity in these adjacent biblical accounts is obvious. Both Pharaoh and Reuel wanted to pay Moses back for what he had done. Pharaoh, whose idea of “an eye for an eye” was common in the Ancient Near East and which later became a central tenet in the Old Testament law of justice, wanted to return evil with evil. Reuel desired to return good with good, in the same way that we might wish to if someone did something helpful for us.
Their approaches are understandable, but the New Testament was to turn the whole concept of payback on its head. Of course nations may have their legal processes when dealing with crime, but when it comes to our personal expression of gracious Christianity, it’s a different matter. Christ explained that we should be slow to adopt “an eye for an eye” mentality, and that we should “love our enemies” (Matthew 5:44).
I wonder what side we’re on. Do we tend to see things in terms of returning evil for evil and good for good?
Or, do we, as Paul encouraged the Roman believers to practice, “seek to show hospitality”, “repay no one evil for evil”, and “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:13,17,21).
Father, when it comes to how your Spirit within me prompts and directs me to live, help me to show the grace of Jesus to all people and to resist repaying evil for evil. In Jesus’ name.
Study by James Henderson
About the Author: James Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland. You are welcome to attend any of our local congregations in the UK and Ireland. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.gracecom.org.uk under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.