Leviticus 24: 10-16
“10 Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. 11 The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) 12 They put him in custody until the will of the Lord should be made clear to them. 13 Then the Lord said to Moses: 14 “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. 15 Say to the Israelites: ‘Anyone who curses their God will be held responsible; 16 anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.”
Well...this seems a bit harsh, doesn’t it, especially in light of the New Testament”s emphasis on love, forgiveness and mercy. Why is it that Moses cannot say to this brash young man, “Go and sin no more”? Could it possibly be that the circumstances of the world, and specifically the Israelites, at that time were different and such actions were required for their identity and survival?
The Israelites were to be the chosen people; the chosen nation; the light of the world to other nations. As the chosen people they were to live lives that were set apart, lives that would show other people the one true God. Thus, God was to be their focus, the center of their identity, without whom they would not survive either as a people or as a nation.
In those circumstances, great reverence was to be shown to God. Showing disrespect to God in any way threatened the very existence of their nation. And, in the end, it was this disrespect and disregard that led to their nation’s dissolution.
With the coming of Christ, all who believe are the children of God, Jews and gentiles alike. The New Covenant is written on our hearts and not on stone. Forgiveness, mercy and second chances are a large part of Christ’s message to the world and of the New Covenant. Our love for God is the center of our faith. Our respect and reverence for God flows from our love rather than from our fear.
And if someone were to disrespect God, we would say to him or her, “Now, go and sin no more.” (John 8:11).
Rev. Eric Lanier (Retired)
Memorial United Methodist Church