One of the elements of the Mosaic Law that I've often reflected on is the very harsh punishment that was the penalty for any Israelite who worshiped other gods. Put simply, they were to be executed for this sin. Now, the law stipulated that there needed to be at least 2 witnesses to their idolatry, but if they were indeed found to be guilty, they were to be taken to the city gate and stoned to death. No excuses; no questions asked; no appeals...just a painful death, probably carried out in front of the entire community. Pretty gruesome, huh? Let's just admit it: this is a tough pill to swallow. And we'd make a mistake if we assume that because the Israelites were old-timey people, it was normal for them...I'm sure it was a harsh truth for them too. And it seems even more difficult when you consider that in practice, the guilty party would not have been some anonymous, faceless individual. They might have been your neighbor; your co-worker; your friend; maybe even a family member. It was a very radical response, and once the situation came up; once it became more than just a hypothetical scenario, I can understand how hard it would be to stick to it. That's why I sincerely doubt the nation of Israel ever stuck to it very diligently. I mean, think about it: if they had followed the letter of this law, do you think it likely that they ever would have slipped into idolatry to the extent that they did?? Remember, we're not talking about a few idolaters here and there; we're talking about nationwide, wanton idolatry that extended in many cases from the palace to the lowest person on the social scale.
If the nation had dealt with idolatry the way that God had told them to...if they had handled it with the same gravity that God did, think of how different things would have been. Their idol worship netted them nothing but grief and heartache as a nation. And frankly, while God did have high standards for His people, it wasn't simply for the sake of following rules! He desired to bless them; to give His children every good thing. But when they allowed idolatry to sneak into their lifestyles, they polluted the relationship with the One True God; their heavenly Father. It's tragic.
But how often do we still act in that very same manner? Let's face it...sometimes being a follower of God is hard! It calls on us to take radical measures, and sometimes those things aren't easy. But it's for our own good, and nobody knows what is best for our good than our Creator and Father. We might not live under the Mosaic Law any more, (with a punishment like death by stoning!), but we should not take this grace as an excuse to not be obedient and submissive to our God! Where in your life might you need to take some radical measures today? Where have you refused to be obedient, maybe at the peril of your own well-being?
- Pastor Paul