Open Your Bible
Deuteronomy 21:1-23, Deuteronomy 22:1-30, Hebrews 13:1-4
Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 21:1-23, Deuteronomy 22:1-30, Hebrews 13:1-4
Any set of rules that involves locating a young cow and a continually flowing stream definitely has my attention. We live in a mostly sterile and sanitary world, and the bloody brutality of sin payment in the Old Testament is shocking. For example, many of us eat beef, but few of us have killed a cow ourselves to make the meal. The modern world insulates us from a lot of stinky, dirty messes.
The case laws of the Old Testament are a tough read. Some of the injunctions sound strange and offensive (why must that poor woman shave her head?), and some feel like a huge overreaction (we have to stone our stubborn son?). When we’re reading the Bible, it can be much nicer to find a psalm of praise than a code outlining what to do with a bird’s nest or a bloody cloth. So, how does one tackle the more difficult parts of Old Testament law?
Briefly—Scripture is its own interpreter. Use the context of Scripture to read Scripture. Interpret difficult passages based on clear passages. And remember, Christ is the central figure of all Scripture. These principles help us make sense of a lot of difficult passages. In this particular passage, the context sets our sight on the main points: Look at verses 18–21. This is not easy advice.
Because no example of this being carried out is ever found in Scripture, some argue this is a law of principle and pedagogy rather than practice. It is a hedge against sin, not a free ticket to haul away your naughty kids. This isn’t a passage about child-rearing practices.
The language in the passage indicates this is a young adult, and that his actions are not simply dishonoring, but destructive to his whole family—not one-time offenses, but a habitual lifestyle of destruction.
This isn’t an impulsive accusation, followed by violence. This is a case brought to court. The final verdict of the trial is also executed by the court, not by vindictive parents. Both the mother and the father are involved in this case, serving as the two witnesses required by law. This is an orderly and lawful proceeding.
The big picture is the same as the fourth commandment: Honor your father and your mother (Exodus 20:12). The aim is the preservation of the family, and of the original created order. Satan is always out to destroy the family. He took his first aim at the marriage of Adam and Eve, then tempted Cain to murder his own brother. Where sin is let alone, the family is destroyed.
However, the central character is Christ. Who are the disobedient sons? We are. Beginning with Adam, we have continually rebelled, destroying our families, our communities, and the whole world. But whose son bore the final judgment of that rebellion? Christ, the only obedient Son. The flowing stream of His righteous blood puts in perspective not only the holiness of God, but also His unfathomable grace!
Written by Rebecca Faires