Stoning the Rebellious Son

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Deuteronomy 21
18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
20 And they shall say unto 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.
21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

If rebellious sons weren’t so common in our day, and we hadn’t become so sentimentally soft (ruled by our feelings in all things), this law wouldn’t seem so harsh. It was designed to curb the destruction of family respect and order, upon which society is built. The severity of the law shows the importance of the maintenance of family order.

Notice also that the particular sins that mark the son as “stubborn” and “rebellious”, asides from not obeying his parents, is gluttony and drunkenness. Both are the result of unrestrained appetite, which shows how important these areas of life are. Eating and drinking, if not controlled, are the doors to destruction. Therefore, God often instructed parents to raise their children in temperate diet habits (Samson and John the Baptist are examples), knowing that self-control in these areas was critical to righteousness. It is no wonder then, in our day, that Satan is promoting gluttony and drunkenness everywhere, so as to render the race incapable of appreciating God’s Law.

In bringing the rebellious son to justice, the parents were made responsible for bringing such a son into the world. Where their weakness had allowed such a thing to develop, they were now required to bring the works of their hands to judgment. It was as much a punishment for them, as for the son.

The use of “stones”, like any corporal punishment, seems brutal and harsh to us. But this was a common method of punishment in those days, and the only reason Israel used corporal punishments, like the sword, at all, was because they picked them up after the Red Sea. God never instructed them to gather swords, and they were unarmed when they faced the Red Sea.

The New Testament way of dealing with rebels in the church, is to separate from them, and “deliver them up to Satan.” If the church is truly led by God, then their separation from the sinner is ratified in heaven (“whoever sins you retain they are retained in heaven.”) Heaven’s protection and grace, are to a degree removed from such a person, so that they hopefully learn by having the consequences of their sins visited upon them. If their rebellion extends beyond the church and affects society, then the “sword of the state” will punish them eventually.

This was precisely what happened to old Jerusalem in Christ’s day. The Spirit of God was removed, the church separated itself from her, and eventually the Romans punished her rebellion with death.

One of the problems in our families, is that because of our own indulgence in sin and self-serving, we are unable to draw firm lines for our children. Therefore, when they become rebellious, we have no power to restrain them, and then think that a sentimental love will somehow “bring them back.” But they usually despise this and just take further advantage. Not having learned to appreciate and respect the authority of just law, they have no appreciation of the sacrifice of Christ on their behalf. Emotional appeals are powerless to move them. The Law, which should have been a schoolmaster to them to lead them to Christ, was withheld, and now they despise the offer of salvation.

I’ve seen children like this today, and they are very hard to deal with. The state is even involved in this softness and often protects the rebellious children, which only encourages them more.

With this kind of disrespect for authorities, and human life in general, being inculcated at the family level, it is not surprising when people pull guns in the middle of crowds and let loose.

But the root and ground of this problem is found in how people relate to the Law of God. The circumstances by which the “curses and blessings” are administered may have changed, but the law is still in effect. Those who obey will be blessed, those who disobey will be cursed.

And those who denigrate the Law, or who teach that it is impossible to obey, also bring the curse of the Law upon their society. Anything that lessens the force of the Law brings a curse.

The Law exposes sin, and therefore brings condemnation. And the Gospel removes the sin, and therefore brings healing. They work hand-in-hand.

But today, the gospel is often misrepresented as a sentimental love that overlooks sin, or that negates the power of the Law. Such a gospel is like a foolish mother who spoils her children behind the father’s back. Such a mother would eventually reap a bitter harvest in disobedient and disrespectful children. And such a mother are the churches of our land today.

Proverbs 26
2 The curse causeless will not come.

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4 thoughts on “Stoning the Rebellious Son”

  1. If I was able to cut the Bible in half and just read the new testament as a child, O how great that reality would have been! I was taught we serve one Godhead, entailed of the Father, Son, and Spirit, with no difference in purpose, nor character. But the reason why my scissors would have cut through the last page of Malachi and the first page of Matthew is because to my thinking the God of the old testament seem different than the God of the new testament. So many incidences of mercy being established in the new testament compared to blood shed with tears in the old testament. Why so?

    Hasty execution seem not like the God of Love, neither the God of mercy (Luke 6:36). Christ said “ye have heard that it hath been said…. but I say unto you”. What does that mean? Who said it in the old testament to the prophet Moses? Was it not God? Christ also established the principle that a government can not strive against itself and survive (Matt. 12:25-26). Meaning, if God was telling us one thing (stone the Sabbath breaker / Num 15:32-36) in one dispensation, but tells us something else (John 8:7-11) in another dispensation? This logic has to become more “logical” to my mind.

    Established in the first two chapters was the thought that we have to understand the principle on how the Bible was written. Even much so, understanding how an infinite God spoke to us corrupted finite beings. Chapter 1 established the understanding on how inspiration works, while the 2nd chapter elaborates on how God meets us where we are. This chapter is explaining why the execution of judgment seemed much more rapid in the old testament vs the new testament.

    The Blood of goats

    The covenant made by the children of Israel coming out of Egypt, in which God accepted was deeper than most imagine. They promised that all that the Lord said, they will do, and ratified that promise by the blood of goats; which sealed the promise as binding.

    “And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him. And all the people answered together, and said, all that LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD.” Ex. 19:7-8

    “And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, all the words which the LORD hath said will we do.” Ex. 24:3

    What does this has to do with the little mercy shown?

    When dealing with the promises in which the Lord wanted us to receive by believing and not establishing our own promises, these were to be executed with no fault, no shortcoming; if so, that would have meant no redemption. Under this covenant, which is also called the new covenant or everlasting covenant.

    The mercy that exist in the new covenant is enabled if those receiving the blessing of that everlasting promise fall short in unbelief. Never is there a shortcoming on the behalf of the primary holders of the covenant to receive “mercy” of “falling short”. In other words, God could not have came short of fulfilling His promise in 1 iota and then plead for the mercy of His own government, but on the contrary judgment would have been a reality on whatever mistake/shortcoming in which was sown.

    What does this have to do with the blood of goats?

    When the children of Israel disregarded the promises of God, which He spoken to Adam as well as Abraham, which was the promise of Christ working His ways in and for us, they promised something they could not do. And being that they became the primary holders of this promise, no mercy was avail. Also, interchangeably, no Christ equals no mediator, no intercessor, or better yet, no mercy. “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses…” (Heb 10:28).

    So when we see the disobedience of Israel equaling swift judgments we could see why, it’s because the disobedience in which they promises not to do, did not involve a savior (Christ) for if they did commit the wrong doing.

    And being that the Israelites chose the sword and war, the execution without mercy (because of their choosing) had to be executed in a unmerciful manner (because of their choosing). These important point we can’t afford to miss nor lose sight of.

    New Covenant Grounded on Mercy
    “The blessings of the new covenant are grounded purely on mercy in forgiving unrighteousness and sins. The Lord specifies, I will do this and this unto all who turn to Me, forsaking the evil and choosing the good. ‘I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.’ All who humble their hearts confessing their sins, will find mercy and grace and assurance. Has God, in showing mercy to the sinner, ceased to be just? Has He dishonored His holy law, and will He henceforth pass over the violation of it? God is true. He changes not, the conditions of salvation are ever the same. Life, eternal life, is for all who will obey God’s law…

    “Under the new covenant, the conditions by which eternal life may be gained are the same as under the old – perfect obedience. Under the old covenant, there were many offenses of a daring, presumptuous character, for which there was no atonement specified by law. In the new and better covenant, Christ had fulfilled the law for the transgressors of law, if they receive Him by faith as a personal Saviour. ‘As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons and God’. Mercy and forgiveness are the reward of all who come to Christ trusting in His merits to take away their sins. In the better covenant we are cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ (Letter 276, 1904).

  2. Terrance,

    The “mercy” of the new covenant is forgiveness and cleansing of sin. It does not excuse sin, nor necessarily remove all of the consequences. It is an inward mercy, that removes the sin-master and his slavery.

    There is still mercy to those under the old covenant, and even those who do not look to God at all. Thus God “causes his rain to fall” on both classes. This is a general mercy, bought by the blood of Christ, which covers the whole world, in order to provide time for men to learn and repent.

    Both kinds of mercy are in fact displayed in the Old Testament, as well as the New.

    For New Covenant mercy: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, and many others, understood and experienced the New Covenant.

    For Old Covenant and general mercy: Consider the mercy shown to the Ninevites, the mercy shown to the pre-flood people by the many years of ministry by Noah, the mercy shown to Egypt through the ministry of Joseph, the mercy shown to the Israelites in their wilderness wanderings.

    There are also severe warnings against those who refuse or trifle with the greater light of the gospel (or new covenant). Hebrews 10:26-29 is one example.

    As for the shedding of blood, the destruction of Jerusalem, in New Testament times, was horrible. And if you include the book of Revelation, then you have the barbarian wars, the wars between Catholic Europe and the Mohammedan nations, the French Revolution, the Black Death, to mention a few things prophesied this side of Christ’s life on earth.

    And if you consider that prophetic phrase, “the nations were angry” as applying from 1844 onwards, this would include the two world wars, in which probably more blood was shed than the whole Old Testament combined.

    Man is just a bloody creature, who can’t leave judgment with God, but must take it into his own hands. The gospel provides a release from this rage, but few really find it.

  3. Praise God.

    “General Mercy”, true indeed. Blessed thought!

    The “As for shedding of blood” paragraph, I will agree. But growing up as a kid, I didn’t comprehend those prophetic/historical events as they are. Revelation was a “sealed” book as a Baptist. So I guess my new testament experience was, which is the case of majority, a watered down lie. I still believe that there is a “veil” over the face of Christians when reading the old testament.

    Praise God again, for the points made. As was stated, it could be attested that more “blood was shed” in the new testament dispensation, but I guess my point was in relation to “blood being shed” at face value in the old testament; outside of the realm of deeper analysis within prophetic and historical accounts.

    1. Yes, most people think of the blood shed in the Old Testament as “God-ordained”. This is what makes it different as well.

      But Jesus was raised on the Old Testament and had no problem distinguishing between God’s ideal way, and the way God had to follow when His people would not meet the ideal.

      I’ve sometimes thought of taking up some of these Old Testament stories and looking at what was really going on, from God’s side. It would be a profitable exercise for anyone with some writing skills.

      Of course, some of the major stories are covered in the book, Behold Your God, but there are still more to consider.

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