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Archive for the ‘Deuteronomy’ Category

Stone Your Son To Death

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“If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his hometown. They shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear of it and fear.  ~ Deut. 21:18-21

This is another one of those texts in the OT law that is absolutely shocking to modern readers, this reader included, when I think of it in light of today’s “wisdom.” A few observations. If the son is a “glutton” and a “drunkard,” he would seem to be older than a child. I don’t know precisely how old he would have to be, but I doubt we’re talking about a 5-year old kid. Probably he is more like junior high school age or older. The son knows enough to be rebellious in a high-handed way.

Second, the son is “stubborn.” So we’re not likely not talking about a son who has disobeyed once or twice. We’re probably looking at a now long-established pattern of rebellion and disregard for his parents’ orders.

Third, it says he will not obey his father “or” his mother. This seems to indicate that both parents have equal authority over the boy. Rebellion against either parent is barred.

Fourth, these are parents who have sought to discipline the son. They “chastise” him in order to turn him from his rebellion. But he won’t listen.

Fifth, spiritual authority comes into play here as well. The parents are to bring the rebellious son before “the elders of his city.” This is not a private affair. I assume this is a matter of confirming what the parents are saying about their son.

Sixth, “all the men of his city” are to participate in putting the rebellious son to death. Again, it is a community affair, because the whole community has an interest in not letting the cancer of rebellion spread.

Finally, the boy is put to death because he will not obey his parents. This is his crime, and it is a capital crime. This is 100% at odds with our modern western culture, which considers it almost a positive virtue to rebel against parents. Indeed, we expect such rebellion as a “fact of life.” Obedience to and respect for parental wishes and orders is a concept that is under massive assault – in our books, our TV shows, our movies, our public schools, our popular press, our psychology, and our universities – and yet here is God giving it an incredible priority, on pain of death. Even Jesus quotes, positively, God’s command that “whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.” (Mark 7:10). And the apostle Paul says that the “perilous times” of the last days will be characterized by “disobedience to parents.” (2 Tim. 3:2).

These are astounding words. God would not have given them will-nilly.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

November 16, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Posted in Deuteronomy, Duenes

The Lord Your God Has Not Allowed You To Do So

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“[Y]ou shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations.”  ~ Deut. 18:9

God told the Israelites that they were to keep themselves from the “detestable” practices of the Canaanite nations whom they were dispossessing from the promised land. Yet I find the list of detestable practices interesting, for they are not what I would expect.

God says His people should avoid causing their sons and daughters to “pass through the fire.” I don’t know what this practice was about, but my guess is that it had to do with some pagan religious ritual. The Israelites were also told to keep away from divination, witchcraft, those interpret omens, sorcerers, spell-casters, mediums, spiritists and those who call up the dead.

These practices could not have been the only godless activities in which the Canaanites engaged, so what made these stand out such that God would mention them in particular? I don’t know the answer for sure, though in turning to spiritists and mediums there is obviously an element of trusting in spiritual authorities and practices that have nothing to do with the One, True God. This is idolatry.

Further, it points to the reality of spiritual world. God would not tell His people to stay away from something that was innocuous, harmless or fanciful. Our modern Western culture has an interesting relationship with the occult. While we may tend to think of ourselves as “rational” people who don’t give any credence to unseen spiritual realities, we still see a great fascination with it. My wife pointed out the proliferation of “paranormal” TV shows (e.g., Constantine on NBC), and much popular culture appears open to, and even laudatory of, occultic practices. It shows up regularly in our movies, video games, board games and books.

Yet God tells His people that He will “raise up a prophet like [Moses] from among your countrymen.” (Deut. 18:15). The voice of this God-appointed prophet is the one to whom the people are to listen. This is the voice of none-other-than Jesus Christ. Thus, Jesus alone is our source of knowledge and truth. We are to listen only to the words of His mouth. In him only “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col. 2:3). Let us listen, then, only to His voice, and all voices consistent with His truth.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

November 15, 2014 at 7:50 am

Posted in Deuteronomy, Duenes

You Shall Not Bear False Witness

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“On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.”  ~ Deut. 17:6

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”  ~ Exodus 20:16

I wonder how much play the Ninth Commandment gets today. I suspect we have tended to turn it into a general prohibition against lying, while leaving the “false witness against your neighbor” at the margins.

But just think how important it would be to testify truthfully at a trial when your neighbor’s very life is at stake. In other words, if a person in ancient Israel could only be put to death “on the evidence of two or three witnesses,” then those witnesses had better be telling the truth.

This came home to me several years ago when I saw the movie, The Stoning of Soraya M. Her neighbors had borne false witness against her as a pretext to stoning her, and the viewer sees what a great evil this is, but worse, the false witnesses cannot be gainsaid if the community is willing to take their lies as true. Justice depends on the virtue of the community that dispenses it. Indeed, God commands His people to thoroughly investigate any “malicious witness” who would “rise up against a man to accuse him of wrongdoing.” (Deut. 19:15-21). “If the witness is a false witness and he has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you. The rest will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you.”

The prohibition against bearing false witness does not seem confined to formal judicial proceedings either. God recognizes, and enshrines in law, the importance of justice on the human level, adjudicated by human beings. There is no flourishing community without it. There is also no healthy community where false testimony, neighbor against neighbor, is accepted and tolerated.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

November 1, 2014 at 10:04 am

Posted in Deuteronomy, Duenes

So That You Will Be Altogether Joyful

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Celebrate . . . rejoice before the Lord your God . . . you shall rejoice in your feast . . . so that you will be altogether joyful.” ~ Deut. 16

God here reminds His people of the feasts they are to celebrate each year: The Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Booths. These are to be a celebration, a remembrance of God’s deliverance and goodness to His people.

As God’s New Covenant people, we don’t have prescribed feasts that we are to observe, as Israel did. However, we do share the Lord’s table and remember what Jesus has done for us in the offering of Himself for our sins. And we certainly have cause for celebration as God’s chosen people. In Israel, the people were to celebrate before the Lord with what they had, “according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you.” They offered up their produce and rejoiced in their feasts.

I wonder what we have to offer up, and what manner of celebration we might engage in as Christians today. I wonder if there are any traditions of celebration from our 2,000 years of church history which we might borrow from today. The church has indeed engaged in regular feasts throughout her history. We don’t seem to have much imagination for it. I know I don’t spend any real time thinking about it. Yet wouldn’t a celebratory people be more tightly bound together? More bound to each other in our common life of trusting God? And wouldn’t we identify ourselves more clearly as the “peculiar people” that we are? And might not our neighbors see us as a people worth joining, as “the stranger” did amongst the Israelites, as people who have cause for celebration in a broken world?

Dallas Willard says that “[w]e engage in celebration when we enjoy ourselves, our life, our world, in conjunction with our faith and confidence in God’s greatness, beauty, and goodness.” So he would prescribe feasting, dancing, singing, and oration as that which “makes our deprivations and sorrows seem small, and we find in it great strength to do the will of our God because his goodness becomes so real to us.” (Spirit of the Disciplines). Perhaps we could try to think of what part we might play in our local churches in bringing some form of celebration that does not now exist.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

October 25, 2014 at 4:08 am

Posted in Deuteronomy, Duenes

Seduction

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“[H]e has counseled rebellion . . . to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. . . So you shall stone him to death because he has sought to seduce you from the Lord your God . . . [S]ome worthless men have gone out from among you and have seduced the inhabitants of their city.” ~ Deut. 13:5,10,13

This chapter of Deuteronomy largely speaks for itself. It has to be one of the most sobering texts in the whole Bible. I hesitate to say much about it, for fear of selling God short in it, for fear of blunting its force. It seems to me that the essential import of it is this: There is no god but God. God brooks no rivals. God is the center and sum of everything. To give one’s allegiance to anything but God is an abomination, a great wickedness. Life comes from God, belongs to God, is to be offered up to God, and God is to be worshipped and obeyed in all circumstances. God is where everlasting joy, security, truth, wisdom and life can be found, and thus, God must be listened to, clung to, and joyfully obeyed. To counsel otherwise is a heinous crime and moral offense.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

October 17, 2014 at 4:24 am

Posted in Deuteronomy, Duenes