October 14, 2016
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
There is an incident recorded in Leviticus 24:10 through 16 that, at first read, seems unduly harsh:
Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian…
and a man of Israel fought each other in the camp. And the…son
blasphemed the name of the LORD and cursed; and so they brought
him to Moses…And the LORD spoke to Moses…“Take outside the
camp him who has cursed; then….Then you shall speak to the child-
ren of Israel, saying, ‘Whoever curses his God shall…surely be put to
The man who cursed was angry, and in the middle of a fight with another man! In the heat of the moment he said something which he shouldn’t have! Should he have died for it?
Even after I became a Christian at age 19, there were many times that I said or did things that were dishonoring to God. How many times I used the LORD’s name in cursing, I don’t care to remember! You see, I was raised in a family where cursing and cussing were an everyday way of life – especially for my father. I recall him teaching me to swear when I was a little boy! It was almost “Repeat after me.” When I got it right, he would slap my knee and laugh. By the time I was teenager – and running with the wrong crowd – I could turn the air around me blue with foul language! I certainly and repeatedly broke the Third Commandment: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” (Exodus 20:7).
Why was God so harsh on this man? Often, the first obvious offense against a commandment or ordinance brings serious repercussions so others may heed, fear, and obey. God’s name is holy! God’s person is holy – absolutely! In Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary, LORD is translated from the Hebrew word often written as Jehovah, and it means, “(the) self-Existent or eternal.” So sacred is the name of Jehovah to Orthodox Jews – YHWH or YHVH, read right to left – that they will not even pronounce it! It is often referred to as “the Ineffable Name, the Unutterable Name, or the Distinctive Name” (Judaism 101, The Name of G-d). And while they are permitted to write it, the name of God may not then be erased (defaced).
So perhaps you can see why God protects His name so carefully. And to make sure that His people knew He was serious about the Third Commandment, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain,” He made an example of this first obvious offence! After all, it is written in Leviticus 18:5 (Lexham English Bible): “…you shall observe My statutes and My regulations by which the person doing them shall live….” And James tells us in James 2:10, “…whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” Being a follower of the LORD is serious business!
Here are some other examples of harsh punishment – God making a strong point against disobeying Him:
• Numbers 15:32 through 35 – “…the children of Israel…found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And they…brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation….Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.’ ” This man was breaking the Fourth Commandment: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
• Joshua 7:20, 21, 24, and 25 – “And Achan answered Joshua and said, ‘Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I have done: When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them, and took them.’…And Joshua said, ‘Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day.’ And all Israel stoned him with stones…his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had…and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.”
God had told the Israelites that all the spoils of Jericho – the first city Israel conquered in Canaan– was to be totally dedicated to God! (See Joshua 6:18, 19). But Achan coveted some of the articles found in the defeated city (breaking the Tenth Commandment, “You shall not covet,”and also the First, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” – see Colossians 3:5) and he stole them, breaking the Eighth Commandment, “You shall not steal.” In doing so, God withdrew His support from the Israelites. And when they attacked the next city, Ai, thirty six men died because of that one man’s sin! (See Joshua 7:5). So while the punishment sounds severe, what would be done today to a man who had murdered thirty six people? As far as all his family and belongings being destroyed also, Achan’s influence over his family, especially in that culture, was very strong! God certainly set an example that made the rest of the people fear of doing something similar to what Achan did!
• Acts 5:1through 3, and 5 – “…a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds , his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?’…Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last.” We read in verses 7 through 10 that the same thing happened to Sapphira his wife…………..all for a little lie?
While this was a voluntary thing the early believers were doing – selling their possessions and giving the money to the apostles for distribution to others in the church experiencing persecution – Annanias and Sapphira lied about the selling price so they could appear to have given it all while they kept back a part! God made an example of them, so others –even through the ages – would not repeat a sin like theirs!
The LORD is serious about sin! Are you?