Thursday, February 14, 2013
The Name of the Lord
Lev. 24:10 ¶ A man whose mother was an Israelite and whose father was an Egyptian came out among the people of Israel; and the Israelite woman’s son and a certain Israelite began fighting in the camp.
Lev. 24:11 The Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name in a curse. And they brought him to Moses—now his mother’s name was Shelomith, daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan—
Lev. 24:12 and they put him in custody, until the decision of the LORD should be made clear to them.
Lev. 24:13 ¶ The LORD said to Moses, saying:
Lev. 24:14 Take the blasphemer outside the camp; and let all who were within hearing lay their hands on his head, and let the whole congregation stone him.
Lev. 24:15 And speak to the people of Israel, saying: Anyone who curses God shall bear the sin.
Lev. 24:16 One who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall be put to death; the whole congregation shall stone the blasphemer. Aliens as well as citizens, when they blaspheme the Name, shall be put to death.
Taking the name of the Lord in vain was an incredibly serious offense. God's name was sacred and was to be respected in that way. Now a young man was part of the company of the Israelites whose father was Egyptian and mother Israelite. Everywhere we read that there were those who were free to join with the Israelites as long as they lived by the laws of God. There was no discrimination. Therefore we must be careful not to think that this punishment was for this young man because he was half Israelite and half Egyptian. The company of God's people made no distinction and that was an important point in this story. However, the young man got into a fight with another person in the camp. In the midst of this fight the young man had blasphemed the Name by cursing, and everyone knew that this was wrong.
The punishment is rather astonishing. Not only was it wrong to curse the name of God, but it was punishable by stoning. Obviously this was never to happen again. Blaspheming against the Name made the whole assembly of the people unclean. The only way they could be the holy and pure people of God was to stop an infection like this from contaminating the entire assembly. It seems like a ruthless way to deal with the sin of the young man, but the offense was great. The one law was to "Hear Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one." The one thing they were to do was to honor and worship God alone! When society began to chip away at the foundational truth for all of their society, then nothing would stand. Yes, the potential viral spread of cursing the Name had to be dealt with -- and whether the person was a citizen or an alien -- they would be put to death for blaspheming the Name.
How many times a day do we hear people use the name of the Lord in vain? Whether it's done verbally or texted with a few little initials -- today it happens innumerable times a day. Why is it that we have become so relaxed and unafraid of taking the Lord's name in vain? This relaxed attitude toward the Lord's name is simply an indicator of the change in attitude which we find these days -- a change that really reflects a lack of respect toward most things.
When I was a child I was taught never to use the name of the Lord in vain. I do remember using the word "gosh" in front of my mother on one occasion. It was the last time I ever used that word. My mother had certainly taught me not to use the name of the Lord in vain but there were other words that people used on a regular basis. She took me aside and said that there were many words like "gosh" "gee" etc. that were simply derivations on the words God and Jesus, etc. that people used to try and get away with using the Lord's name in vain. She also told me that I would never be using those words again! Seriously -- that has had a lasting impact on me and my life. What just rather frivolously came out of my mouth -- my mother caught -- and told me that it wasn't supposed to be.
It's a serious thing to throw around the name of God in such a careless manner. However, I don't think that there are many that see this as being very important any longer. Even among those who are within the church the name of the Lord gets thrown around as if it were a hot potato! I do understand a change in culture but do we have to allow the change in culture to take over our respect for God as well? I believe that God's challenge to the children of Israel was to hold the line! They were to make sure that the culture did not rule them as God's people. There were certain rules which were to be rules for God's people. And shouldn't that be true for us today as well? Shouldn't God's people stand out as different from the world? Shouldn't there be some very purposeful lines between contemporary culture and God's people? I'm afraid that we have tried so hard to relate to contemporary culture that we have allowed the culture to define who we are. As followers of Jesus Christ -- we ARE God's children. We are to act like God's children! Maybe we need to take a little time and evaluate how much we have allowed the culture to define how we think, act and speak these days -- and then ask God to take authority over those areas in our lives and help us to draw a line between ourselves and culture.
Lord, please help me to be in the world, but not of the world. Please help me know how to minister to the world around me without giving in to the pressures of the world. Please, help me to be your faithful servant. Amen.