Deuteronomy 13:6-10. (The Message)
And when your brother or son or daughter, or even your dear wife or lifelong friend, comes to you in secret and whispers, “Let’s go and worship some other gods” of the people around you near and far, from one end of the Earth to the other), don’t go along with him; shut your ears. Don’t feel sorry for him and don’t make excuses for him. Kill him. That’s right, kill him. You throw the first stone. Take action at once and swiftly with everybody in the community getting in on it at the end. He tried to turn you traitor against God, against the one who got you out of Egypt and the world of slavery.
Now, if you’ve jumped to these words and not read the scripture, please go back and read it. It’s the passage I’ve read today as I make my way back through the scriptures. Then you can come back to these words. Thanks.
So, I know this is a loose translation so I checked it with the RSV and it’s accurate. Deuteronomy was written after generations of failed theocracy and a revolt of the northern part of Israel against David and Solomon...which was more about taxes than anything else. It was written after the faith had been tested against other religions which were alluring, promising, easier to understand, and polytheistic. It was written as a warning.
Did the Israelites ever really do this? Did they have mass stonings and slay their own families? I’m sure it happened but probably not on a full scale because the prophets constantly complained about idolatry from king all the way down to the servants. If you read carefully, you see the words about throwing the first stone and you no doubt went to the woman brought before Jesus. She had been caught in adultery. She was to be stoned but he said, “Let the one without sin first cast a stone.” And they went away; beginning with the oldest because to live long is to sin much. The younger ones just don’t have as much time to sin.
Firm adherence to any ideology is, however, usually played out in words such as these in Deuteronomy. Killing the unfaithful is the safest, surest way to preserve the faith. It instills fear and puts the wrong people in charge...and usually those people are the religious elite...the most fervent.
John the Baptizer and Jesus the Christ came along and said, “Repent.” Jesus sent the woman away and told her, also, to repent. The time is coming when we might have to do a little repenting, folks. COVID has done some horrible things to us. I’m SO thankful right now for basketball, hockey, and baseball playoffs. I’m thankful for the US Open and that the Masters will be played. I’m thankful for football because all of these take us away from the awfulness of the news.
My son in Beaufort County now refuses to come see us because of cases in his county and school. He said that the whole society there is relaxing too much. They’re not being careful and safe...and now it has come home to Rachel and to me. We’re going to need some repentance. It’s not in vogue to repent. I don’t see anyone lining up to do so. But it might not hurt. It might be better than casting stones. My sister says the fires around her have been dampened by unexpected and yet welcomed rain. The other fires around us may find themselves likewise dampened.
O what a blessed hope is ours! While here on earth we stay.
We more than taste the heavenly powers, and antedate that day;
We feel the resurrection near, our life in Christ concealed,
And with his glorious presence here His life in us revealed.
O God, help us to be thankful and hopeful. Amen.
Pastor Rick Moser