Yes, That is in the Bible, but…

I have written and spoken recently about how some people who don’t read the Bible (and a few who claim to) often make false claims about what is in the Bible. Truth is there are indeed some shocking passages in the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. Take this passage from Deuteronomy 21: 18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 (NIV)

It seems pretty straightforward. A rebellious son should be killed. It’s understandable that such a biblical law would shock the sensibilities of those who believe in a loving God. But numerous commentators and scholars make three important observations:

  1. The intent of this law was to purge evil and deter similar behavior.
  2. It was intended for extreme cases. In fact, scholars can find no recorded use of this law anywhere in the Old Testament.
  3. Clearly, this refers to an adult son. “He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Scholar Paul Copan says this is a significant point:

The son, probably a firstborn, would inevitably squander his inheritance when his father died; he would likely bring ruin to his present and future family. He was like a compulsive gambler who bets away his home and life savings right out from under his family’s feet. –Is God a Moral Monster, pg. 91

This extreme law shows just how extreme the love and salvation of Jesus is. Contrast this scenario with that of the “Lost Son” parable Luke reports Jesus as telling. 

A son demands his inheritance and squanders it on prostitutes and other vices and then returns home starving, prepared to ask to be one of his father’s slaves. Instead, his father shocks him (and no doubt Jesus’ Jewish audience) by lovingly welcoming him home. In fact, the lost son in the parable sounds a lot like the son described in Deuteronomy. But the prescribed treatments are radically different; radical Jesus love dominates the second scenario.

Without Jesus, we face a fate similar to the extremely rebellious son of Deuteronomy. With Him, we face the loving reconciliation the son received in the parable. Bible skeptics might focus solely on the first passage to paint God as an evil God. The companion piece on this side of the Cross shows us what a loving God we have. Let us rejoice in the extreme, radical Jesus love that is there for the taking. If you haven’t accepted it, I pray you do today!

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