I was recently asked what kind of God tells His people to kill their intransigent children. I knew the answer, but it’s a long one, so I decided to move that over here, because it’s an interesting study on one of the more hard-to-believe rules that God set out for the Israelites. This command is found in Deuteronomy 21:18-21.
18"If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear."
At first glance, this appears to be pretty drastic; and, as with many first impressions, this does not get much better. This passage provides a plan for parents to deal with sons who did not respond to their rearing or their discipline. They are required to “purge the evil” from their camps. However, this is not the preference, as we’ll see towards the end.
First up, let’s look at the plan. If parents had a son, and this son rebelled, and they tried to discipline him to correct his behavior, and he still didn’t respond to that correction, the parents were expected to make a tough call. If they felt that he would not respond to their correction, they were to go to the elders of their son’s city and inform them that their son was rebellious and impenitent. Then, the elders would listen and, if they agreed, they would go get the son, take him outside the city, and stone him to death. The son’s behavior was a violation of the fifth commandment (Exodus 20:12), and this penalty directly implemented the inverse of the blessing promised in the last half of that verse.
That was the plan, but equally important is what the plan was not. First, this is not something that parents do to a young child, out of the frustration of childish rebellion. Notice that these parents are to go to his city’s elders - the son in this scenario is not living with his parents, and may be living in an entirely different city. It is a last resort for parents who had done their dead-level best to rear their son in the way the Lord had commanded, but despite their best efforts, their son chose not to follow his upbringing.
Second, this outcome was to be prevented if at all possible. Twice in Proverbs, Solomon exhorts parents to do what it takes to make sure their direction to their children sticks.
18Discipline your son, for there is hope;
do not set your heart on putting him to death.
Third, this outcome was not intended to be used very often. According to the end of verse 21, the reason given for this is that “all Israel shall hear, and fear.” Just as many of our laws are written so as to deter the behavior they punish, that is the case with this law. God did not want to see large mounds of dead sons outside every city; He wanted people to see that He was serious about His commandments. Sometimes, the only thing that keeps people doing the right thing is the knowledge of the consequences of their actions.
The plan is a tough one, but the goal is even tougher - “purge the evil from your midst” (v. 21). This is not the first time we see this in Deuteronomy; in fact, there are 7 instances of that phrase. What 6 other things are considered evil that needs to be purged?
In each of these cases, the offense can be traced back either to a direct offense against God Himself, His appointed legal or parental authorities, or those who attempted to unjustly affect or subjugate the life of another. The son would have run afoul of both God and his parents. God was serious about not keeping bad influences around that would pull His people astray. This sentiment was echoed at least twice by Paul in the New Testament.
33Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
11But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler - not even to eat with such a one. 12For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
While a purge was commanded, the preference is much different. We’ve already seen that the Bible told parents to do whatever they could to make sure that this outcome never occurred. God’s desire was not to have a bunch of dead kids and sad parents; His desire was to have a people who were following Him, free from corrupting influences of those who were not interested in following Him or doing what He commanded.
This punishment was harsh, no doubt. This harshness illustrates God’s lack of tolerance for sin. However, this should also make us even more grateful for the grace that He provided through His Son. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, if we accept His payment for our sins, we are no longer under the law. Although a large part of the Mosaic law is no longer actively enforced, it has never been struck down (according to Jesus Himself).
17"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
How can our righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees? There is no way we can do that in our own strength; in fact, that was the key problem with the scribes and Pharisees. They were so focused on the letter of the law that they had completely missed its spirit. (They also had some pride issues.) The only way to live up to verse 20 above is to truly know Jesus, and accept His payment for your sins.
Parents are still to do their best to rear their children, and even Israel no longer enforces this law. This is now quite literally up to God; He is now the one who decides when a son has had enough time to repent. The recorded law exists to give us an insight into His view of sin, how serious He considers it to be, and as a reminder to us of the amazing grace that is available to us today, free for the asking.
My wife and I are currently reading the book Family Driven Faith by Dr. Voddie Baucham, Jr. Some friends of ours are fans of Dr. Baucham, and the book has, so far, been outstanding. (We’ve made it to chapter 4.)
In doing research on Dr. Baucham and his ministry, I learned that he is the current pastor of Grace Family Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, and I also found the church’s sermon feed on SermonAudio.com. I’ve been listening for the past several weeks, as he and Elder Stephen Bratton have been preaching a series on Romans. (That alone is cool to me; I’ve never seen two people share a series before.) When they arrived to Romans 13:1-7, they started a 4-sermon mini-series within their larger Romans series. Let’s look at these seven verses.
1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
One of the things that blew me away is that, reading this, realizing that this was written about the Roman empire under Nero. Wow.
Other highlights from this series:
Christians should not be so quick to skip past the “submit” part.
If we choose to defy authority because we believe they are asking us to do something contrary to God, we must be willing to deal with the consequences of defying authority.
Government should not be used to push theology.
All laws are moral laws; the only question is whose morality will be enforced.
We must support our government, and we must be involved.
There is much, much more in these sermons, and nearly 4 hours of listening. I’d recommend loading these up on your mobile music player and walking while listening; shape up physically while you shape up spiritually. With the elections coming up next year, I would categorize this as required listening; we as Christians must know what is expected of us, and must make decisions based on our ultimate citizenship.
A note - Dr. Baucham, in his three sermons in this series, made some pretty bold statements, but he backs them up; don’t hear him say something and cut off the message.
In this passage, Paul is illustrating the access that we now have to the Lord by contrasting it with Moses’s encounter with God when he received the Ten Commandments, along with plans for the Tabernacle and other laws. Here is the description of this from Exodus:
18Then Moses said, “Please, let me see Your glory.”
19He said, “I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name Yahweh before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” 20But He answered, “You cannot see My face, for no one can see Me and live.” 21The Lord said, “Here is a place near Me. You are to stand on the rock, 22and when My glory passes by, I will put you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. 23Then I will take My hand away, and you will see My back, but My face will not be seen.”
29As Moses descended from Mount Sinai - with the two tablets of the testimony in his hands as he descended the mountain - he did not realize that the skin of his face shone as a result of his speaking with the Lord. 30When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face shone! They were afraid to come near him. 31But Moses called out to them, so Aaron and all the leaders of the community returned to him, and Moses spoke to them. 32Afterwards all the Israelites came near, and he commanded them everything the Lord had told him on Mount Sinai. 33When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34But whenever Moses went before the Lord to speak with Him, he would remove the veil until he came out. After he came out, he would tell the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35and the Israelites would see that Moses’ face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil over his face again until he went to speak with the Lord.
This is a very interesting story. In the first part, Moses has been taking down laws from God for quite some time (in the Scripture, since the bottom of chapter 20), and he asks to see Him. God tells him that he can’t look on His face and live, but he can see His back. In the second part, every time Moses spoke with God, he had to wear a veil on his face afterwards, because the people could not look on him due to how radiant his face was! In some sense, one’s closeness to God determined how much of His glory one could see. Only when Moses had entered into the inner part of the Tabernacle could he remove this veil.
Now, we come to the time after Jesus has come and given His life for us. Let’s look at today’s verse in its context.
12Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness - 13not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel could not look at the end of what was fading away. 14But their minds were closed. For to this day, at the reading of the old covenant, the same veil remains; it is not lifted, because it is set aside [only] in Christ. 15However, to this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts, 16but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18We all, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.
Let’s skip verse 12 for now, as verses 13-15 describe the way it “was” instead of the way it “is.” Moses put a veil over his face due to the closed-mindedness of the Israelites. In verse 15, “reading Moses” refers to the reading of the first five books of our Bible, what we call the Pentateuch, but Hebrews call the Torah - to this day, the Torah is read as part of traditional orthodox Judaism. It does not recognize Christ as having fulfilled the law, so the focus is continually on following the law given in these Scriptures. Paul says that when this happens, the veil remains.
Verse 12 and verses 16-18 describe the way it “is” now. We can use boldness because the veil has been removed. Verse 17 describes this as “freedom,” translated in the King James Version as “liberty.” We don’t have to go through a “closer-to-holy” intermediate person like Moses in order to get to God, and it’s not a one-way God-to-us communication either. We can go directly to Him, and He can speak directly to us, either in our hearts or through His Word. When Jesus was crucified, God even gave a symbol of this.
50Jesus shouted again with a loud voice and gave up His spirit. 51Suddenly, the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom…
This curtain was the entrance to the Holy of Holies, the inner part of the temple that was restricted to priests once a year to offer the sacrifices for the people. Jesus’s payment for our sins was complete - we are no longer restricted when coming before Him!
Finally, in verse 18, we see the reason for this. We come before God with no veil, and can view His glory directly. We benefit from this, as we are transformed and become closer to the image of God. However, this also benefits others - we, like Moses, should reflect this glory! Others should be able to look at us and see Him. This is my prayer this week - that we will become so close to God that we will reflect His glory to the world around us.
This week, we’ll take a look at Galatians 3:16. It is below, in the context of verses 10-18. In this passage (and all of Galatians 3), Paul is writing to clear up confusion. The Galatian church had been deceived by legalistic teachers who emphasized following the law. In writing this, Paul refers directly or indirectly to several Old Testament verses to illustrate how Christ has fulfilled the promise made to Abraham.
10For all who [rely on] the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written: Cursed is everyone who does not continue doing everything written in the book of the law. 11Now it is clear that no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith. 12But the law is not based on faith; instead, the one who does these things will live by them. 13Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. 14The purpose was that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, so that we could receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
15Brothers, I’m using a human illustration. No one sets aside even a human covenant that has been ratified, or makes additions to it. 16Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but and to your seed, referring to one, who is Christ. 17And I say this: the law, which came 430 years later, does not revoke a covenant that was previously ratified by God, so as to cancel the promise. 18For if the inheritance is from the law, it is no longer from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise.
First, he shows the futility of trying to live under the law. In verse 10, the “it is written” references Deuteronomy 27:26a, “Cursed is anyone who does not put the words of this law into practice.” It is absolutely impossible to live without transgressing at least one of the law’s demands; and, once we have broken the law in any one point, we are guilty of breaking it.
In verse 11, he reminds the church that “the righteous shall live by faith.” This is not the first nor the last time this phrase is used. In Habakkuk 2:4, we read:
4Look, his ego is inflated;
he is without integrity.
But the righteous one will live by his faith.
And, of course, Hebrews 11 chronicles those who lived by faith.
In verses 12 and 13, we see the wonderful solution to the dilemma of the law. When Jesus came and died on the cross for us, He took our sin on Him, and also took on the curse of the law. Again, Paul refers back to Deuteronomy:
23you are not to leave his corpse on the tree overnight but are to bury him that day, for anyone hung [on a tree] is under God’s curse. You must not defile the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.
In verses 15-17, Paul then uses what he’s set up to illustrate how this applies to the promise made to Abraham. In those days, a covenant was a solemn promise, a contract that could not be broken. Few contracts today would be strong enough to be considered a covenant! When God promised to bless Abraham’s seed, this was a covenant. He then points out that the covenant was to bless Abraham’s seed, not seeds. This singular vs. plural is important; not only has the collective seed of Abraham, the nation of Israel, been blessed, but that one seed in particular, Christ. Finally, the law, which (Paul points out) followed this promise by 430 years, did not remove this covenant. Rather, following this law out of a belief in God’s promise was faith!
Verse 18 wraps it all up. If inheritance came through the law, then none of us would be able to inherit it - remember above, where we’ve all broken the law at some point? But God knew this, so He provided another way to receive His inheritance. And, as Paul points out in verse 14, this has also come to the Gentiles (us non-Jews), so that we can, though faith, receive God’s blessing.
The argument above may seem like it follows a strange path. But, for the church to whom this was written, this made perfect sense. With the deception and focus on the law, they were familiar with the passages regarding the law. Paul used these passages to show them, in a different way, what God has done for them. It’s just another way of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
So, you may not realize it, but as a Christian, you are in line to receive an inheritance! I pray that we can live as children of God, by faith, looking forward to our inheritance to come.
Daniel is a man who wants to be used of God however He sees fit.