Deuteronomy

The Ways of God

The ways of God confound the human mind. One would expect a divine finger to snap and create the world instantaneously. But he took his time and artistically prepared his home in six days.

One would expect that God would settle the world’s problems in Genesis four as quickly as those problems arrived in Genesis three. But God took centuries to begin the definitive undoing of the world’s problems.

One would expect that God would take a godly king to rebuke the powers of evil and transform civilization in one generation. But God waited until the true king was born many generations later.

One would expect that God would take his own son and exalt him before death. But God killed his son on a tree; cross before crown.

The ways of God are intentionally perplexing to the ways of man. It is so because his ways are not our ways.

The Incorrigible Son and the Implications for our Modern Era, CONCLUSION

The uniqueness of this passage is that there is no crying mentioned or regrets. The assumption is that crying has already taken place, an attempt to find reconciliation has taken place, and since all that has failed, the final option is to put the son to death. The other element is that there is a societal purpose for the death of the incorrigible son. That is, according to verse 21: “All Israel shall hear, and fear.” This example will serve as a reminder for the sons and daughter who decide to live autonomously. This will serve as a reminder that the God of Israel intends that children honor their father and mother (Exodus 20).

What about modern applications? Some will inevitably argue that this was unique to the nation of Israel under a theocracy, and should not be so today. After all, we live in a pluralistic society where all religions and practices are permitted. In the case of a disobedient son who fits the paradigm of Deuteronomy 21, the humanists would say he should be sent to certain centers for rehabilitation. a The answer to this objection is that the state has not given the authority to invent their own methods of punishment. Who has given the authority to the state to abandon God’s written Law-Word concerning their responsibility to execute that child? Who are we to say that the law of God for Israel concerning the incorrigible son loses its ethical efficacy in the New Testament? It does not take a trained penologist to realize that the solutions the messianic State b has offered over the years have failed one after the other. In these offender centers they learn to be better criminals; c besides, the libertarian argument is that there are better things the people can do with their money than to pay for gangsters to enjoy three meals a day and all the pleasantries the system affords.

In terms of modern application, the text makes explicit that it is not the parents’ role to execute their children. If this takes place, their blood shall also be required. d The text explicitly gives that responsibility to the local authorities. In this time of redemptive history God has given that authority to the state and to the state alone. e If the son is a member of a church, the church has the authority to excommunicate that son. f It is further the church’s duty to encourage the parents during this time of trial. If after, the church tries to restore him and fails, he is to be treated as a pagan. Nevertheless, the text seems to indicate that it is the parent’s final judgment to turn their son to the governmental authorities, not the church’s. g

In the end, Biblical Law reveals the wisdom and patience of God. The death penalty is not applied at the first offense, but as a last resort, when all efforts have failed. Those who hold firmly to Biblical law should not be embarrassed at this covenantal sanction. In the words of Rev. William Einwechter: “Contempt of parental authority, if left unchecked, is the death of the family, law, and order. The question then is: Who or what should die? The rebel, or family and society?” h

The forgotten premise of the Bible is that the family carries a stabilizing role in the social order. When the family is dysfunctional, society is dysfunctional. These covenant curses are not replaced by excommunication in the New Covenant as some would support, because a form of excommunication was also practiced in the Old Covenant. After all, not all punishments deserved the death penalty, and for those particular punishments, a form of excommunication was applied (consider being put out of the city). In the words of Jesus himself in Matthew, “For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’” i Jesus confirms the Old Testament penalty. Furthermore, our Lord himself did not come to abrogate the law, but to fulfill it. j

Parental care and concern for their children will lead churches and pastors to place a proper focus on the family unit. Any church that is not concerned about the future of the family, is not concerned about the future of the church. Christ has promised to bring victory through his Bride in history. The family is the chosen vessel to bring about the fulfillment of the Cultural Mandate.

  1. The prison system has been one of the greatest tragedies in modern society. According to Vern Poythress, when the Bible makes any mention of something like a prison, it is supposed to be a waiting place for execution. See The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses.  (back)
  2. I borrow this language from the late Rousas Rushdoony who believed that the state was messianic, since it appeared to take the place of the Messiah for the peoples.  (back)
  3. According to recent statistics, 90% of all youngsters who are part of some rehabilitation program go back to their old habits and gangs. This is not a good average.  (back)
  4. Genesis 9:6.  (back)
  5. Romans 13.  (back)
  6. The father will have no right to be in any pastoral ministry, since his home is not ruled well.  (back)
  7. This may require some more work, but it would appear that the church can educate these parents to turn them over to the state, after all options have been tried.  (back)
  8. Einwechter, Stoning Disobedient Children.  (back)
  9. Matthew 15:4  (back)
  10. For a 50-page exegesis of Matthew 5:17 see Greg Bahnsen’s Theonomy in Christian Ethics.  (back)

The Incorrigible Son and the Implications for our Modern Era, Part I

The purpose of this paper is to affirm that the incorrigible son is worthy of death[1] in the New Covenant. After years of despicable rulings sending juvenile delinquents back home with their parents (who fear for their lives) or to prison (where they will come out a more qualified delinquent), it is time that the people of God look to God’s inspired Word for guidance. The church has for too long despised God’s Holy Law, and as a result, it has forgotten God’s instructions to parents and civil government concerning the incorrigible Son.

The penology of the Old Testament is fair and just, because it reflects the holiness of God. Therefore, it must not be seen as a secondary source, but as a primary source of ethics for all peoples and all nations. The result of not following God’s Law is that human rulers and judges will strike it down at every opportunity. Consider the outlawing of the death penalty for juveniles made by the Supreme Court[2] in 2005 or the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize abortion on January 22nd, 1973.[3] These decisions will have no end unless a Biblical ethic is in place guiding and ruling our societies.

This nation is in ruins. As Bob Dylan wrote in the sixties: “The times, they are a-changing.” In fact, we can safely say that this time in our history connects directly with another time in history: the time of the Judges. Back then they said, “We will do what is right in our own eyes;” (Judges 21:25) today the judicial system legislates what is right in their own eyes. Only when we return to the Scriptures as the basis for our judicial system will the people respond: “ Let us do what God commands.”

The idea of a penal system is a horrendous thought for Psychiatrists and Psychologists alike. Even in this country, they are trying vigorously attempting to outlaw spanking. In their opinion, spanking is tantamount to parental abuse. This, they believe, will lead the child to become rebellious and violent as they grow up. The truth, of course, is the exact opposite. When parents spare the rod (Proverbs 13:24) they are functioning as criminals. This would be equivalent to a police officer seeing a man rob a bank and do nothing about it for fear that it might hurt his self-esteem. All attempts to disobey God’s requirements for the family will end in chaos, for both family and society.

The family is crucial to the well being of any society. All of God’s promises whether curses or blessings are given to “you and your children.” In fact, the very first murder recorded in Biblical history occurred inside the family. In Genesis 4, we read that Cain killed his brother Abel, hence, setting forth the dismantling of that present society. At that moment, God forbade the death penalty. Cain was already aware that he deserved death. God was unfolding his redemptive purposes, and later the Spirit of God would say that He would no longer contend with man (Genesis 6:3). While the death penalty was not applied in the early days of human history, the world became full of corruption and violence. This led God to destroy all humans and animals in the land (Genesis 6:12-13).


[1] If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them…Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear. Deuteronomy 21:18,21.

[3] Stevens, Leonard. The Case of Roe v. Wade. G.P. Putnam’1996.

 

The Incorrigible Son and the Implications for our Modern Era, Introduction

As a theonomist/theocrat, nothing is more critical than establishing a Biblical view of ethics. Throughout the Reformation, sermons were preached in Geneva 1 and in other parts of Europe attempting to establish an ethical system that would faithfully represent all of the Bible. In early American history, the Puritans developed a Biblical view of law and applied it to the society they built. If we are to believe that all Scripture is profitable 2 then we are not to deny the richness of ethical case laws in the Older Covenant. It is not my purpose in the days to follow to make an exegetical and theological case for the permanent validity of Biblical Law for modern society, since many in my tradition have already done so, 3rather I want to focus particularly on one case law found in Deuteronomy 21. This case law refers to the incorrigible Son. Here is the text in the English Standard Version: 18 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to 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 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

Many evangelicals in both Reformed and non-Reformed camps have assumed that God’s holy and righteous laws bear no significance to our contemporary society. To borrow the words of an evangelical ethicist, “the law of God is irrelevant today.” This attitude enters even into those who are committed to a Reformed approach to life. But if the law of God is irrelevant, then how shall we then live (to quote Schaeffer)? Shall we borrow the ethics of the Book of Mormons or Muslims? Shall we as Christians seek refuge in the nebulous natural law of the philosophers? Or should we as Christians rely on the Scriptures for our guide; as our rule book for faith and practice? I will presuppose that the readers in this series will  assume the latter option, for if you deny the centrality of Scriptures in the ethical dimensions of life, then this article will make no sense.

I am well aware that this short article may cause some to feel uncomfortable with the Bible and perhaps even embarrassed in how the Bible treats certain case laws. Nevertheless, I will presuppose that the Bible contains the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is often in the ugly that we learn how to produce the good.

Most opponents of theonomy have used the case law concerning the incorrigible son to mockingly say: “See, how absurd this law is! Therefore, the law of God in its totality cannot be applied.” This attitude is not valid. After all, we worship a God who killed His own Son. 4 Does this sound reasonable to the modern ear? But if we fear Jesus’ words that every jot and tittle of the law is to be taught and applied, then these laws take on greater significance.

For those who are theonomic and do not agree with my conclusions on this short piece, I ask that you at least read through this series. The esteemed John Murray, who I consider a moderate theonomist, did not believe in the application of this case law to modern society. 5 For those who are of a Reformed persuasion, but yet deny the applicability of the case laws, I ask that you at least consider my arguments. Many times, this passage has been poorly treated and given only a quick glance. However, my contention is that a proper study of this passage will enhance our view of the law and see its rightful place in our society.

Theonomy means God’s Law. I believe in it; and because of this conviction, I am led to deal with the most troubling passages and give it the attention it deserves. This paper is a weak, but honest attempt to deal with a difficult and sometimes horrifying text to the modern reader.

This series is based on a paper I wrote for a class on Ethics at Reformed Seminary/Orlando where theonomy is generally despised. I have divided it into four sections because it will give you the opportunity to interact with me bit by bit. When the series is over, please feel free to e-mail me and ask for a copy of the article in word format. As always be attentive to the footnotes. It is there where I place personal notes and helpful reflections and sources for further study. As Gary North has once said, “you gotta footnote them to death!” I always do my best.
Note: Tomorrow I will post the first section of this paper.

 

  1. Calvin preached over 200 sermons on Deuteronomy [↩ back]
  2. II Timothy 3:16 [↩ back]
  3. Greg Bahnsen’s Theonomy in Christian Ethics is one of the most comprehensive treatment on the Law of God in the 20th century; also R.J. Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law. Both of these books make up almost 2,000 pages [↩ back]
  4. Acts 4:27-31 [↩ back]
  5. See Principles of Biblical Conduct by John Murray [↩ back]

 

 

    The Disobedient Son in Deuteronomy 21

    I have spent the last two days working on my final paper for Ethics. I have finally finished with the revision. My topic was on the Disobedient son1 in Deuteronomy. The text makes it clear that the son is to be put to death. But the question that arises is: What is the disobedient son? What does he do to earn the ultimate punishment in this life? These are the questions that I tackle in my paper that I will soon publish here on this blog.

    1. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 [ back]

    The Word of Life and Death, Part 3

    Deuteronomy is one of the most important books for modern society. It engages our minds in economic theory, ceremonialism, covenant sanctions, blessings and curses, penology, and every possible dimension for maintaining stability in our society.
    Nevertheless, it falls under constant attack by those who wish to impose some form of abrogation on the validity of God’s word. But the prophet does not foresee any form of abrogation. Isaiah 46:7 tells us that the Word of our God will stand forever. Furthermore, Jesus himself confirms the eternal validity of God’s Law when He said that the law has not been abrogated.1
    In Deuteronomy 30 we find a hard teaching for those who associate wealth and prosperity merely to the charismatics and Word of Faith Movement.2 Verses 9 and 10 read:

    The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

    There is no promise of perfect health or perfect wealth, but God promises material prosperity associated with the blessing that comes with repentance, obedience and restoration. God does not appeal to Platonic dualism. Stuff is not bad, in fact God takes pleasure in giving stuff to His people as a reward for covenant faithfulness.
    What most do not understand today is that these material blessings are granted to covenant keepers in the land. They will have their daily bread in the land and they will have a place to worship their God alone. The pagan idols will be destroyed and God will reign supreme in their midst. But beyond that, these material blessings and this is far greater than any riches, leads us to the Messiah Himself. In the end, He is the richness of His people. The people of God get the spoil–they serve their God alone and receive His blessings.

    1. Matthew 5:17 [ back]
    2. I do not agree with the way in which they have used the text of Deuteronomy to support their position, nevertheless, I believe that the text teaches what they propose, not the way and means they seek to come to that conclusion [ back]

    The Word of Life and Death, Part 2

    In Deuteronomy 30:19 God makes a sovereign promise. He calls heaven and earth as His witnesses. In the words of Gary North:

    In this covenant lawsuit, God’s witnesses for either the prosecution or the defense were heaven and earth: the creation. He is the creator of heaven and earth. God is sovereign in His court.1

    The covenantal promises or curses were not to be revoked because God’s witnesses could not lie, since they reveal what the Creator desires. The promises were real and concrete. God leaves no room for a supposed neutrality; only life or death.

    1. North, Gary. Inheritance or Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Deuteronomy, Chapter 70 on Life and Dominion [ back]

    The Word of Life and Death

    The text of Moses under the inspiration of God the Spirit presents a message often forgotten in our society. It presents to us the ultimate claims of God. The message as the Reformers claimed is perspicuous: Life or death? What will it be? The author of 23rouault.jpgDeuteronomy summarizes all of life under two categories: Covenantal obedience to the God of Israel brings life and covenantal disobedience brings death. But where then do we search to find the ways of obedience? Is it under the earth or above the skies? The text tells us it is near. Much nearer than the atheist would ever expect, in fact so near that they are without excuse. Therefore, choose life.1

    1. Deuteronomy 30:19 [ back]