I’ve been pondering something lately, thanks to my bible reading plan. We just finished up Leviticus, the infamous book that causes untold controversy and is largely hated by many groups. In it, we read about the punishment of stoning. Certainly, stoning is a form of punishment in other books as well. GotQuestions.org had a good summary of the references.
Stoning is a method of execution during which a group of people, usually peers of the guilty party, throws stones at the condemned person until he or she dies. Death by stoning was prescribed in the Old Testament Law as a punishment for various sins. Both animals and people could be the subjects of stoning (Exodus 21:28), and stoning seems to have been associated with sins that caused irreparable damage to the spiritual or ceremonial purity of a person or animal.
Some sins that resulted in stoning in the Old Testament were murder (Leviticus 24:17), idolatry (Deuteronomy 17:2-5), approaching near to Mount Sinai while the presence of God was there (Exodus 19:12-13), practicing necromancy or the occult (Leviticus 20:27), and blaspheming the name of the Lord (Leviticus 24:16). Stoning was probably the punishment for various types of sexual sin, as well (Deuteronomy 22:24); the related passages in Leviticus 20 do not specify the method of execution, only that the party was to be “put to death.” https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-stoning.html
What do we make of all this today? I can think of only one, maybe two, people in the USA that I have ever heard publically say that this is a good practice. Certainly, we see evidence of this in other countries, particularly Muslim-run, but we view this as barbaric. Somehow, we have “evolved” our way of thinking so as to find better ways of dealing with problems. Few people seem to ask why God would have made laws that seemed so harsh. Let’s not kid ourselves, I bet the people back then had a tough time with this as well. If fact, it would seem that it would be most likely used is through a mob action, akin to a lynching. But, did God make an arbitrary rule or did he have a reason? Well, he did have a reason which he gave throughout all these tough passages. Let me give one example (of many):
Leviticus 20:22-24, 26) “You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am brining you to live may not vomit you out. And you shall not walk in the customs of the nations that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them. But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the Lord your God, who have separated you from the peoples. You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.
So, what do we say? Are God’s laws regarding the punishment by stoning good or bad? If we believe the words of our bible are indeed God-breathed, then the answer would have to be, yes, these laws are good. Now, I understand that this statement will likely prevent me from every winning a political seat of any significance, but we are not to be like everybody else. Or to think like everybody else.
Two common objections right of the bat are likely David’s “situation” with Bathsheba and the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11. Let’s take a quick peek at what happened.
2 Samuel 12:13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.”
John 8:7-11 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
Notice who in both of these is setting aside the punishment. The Lord. Nathan didn’t. Neither did the crowd who brought the woman. Let there be no misunderstanding. The crowd was required to put her to death, “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” (Leviticus 20:10) But, there is another rule that the crowd apparently violated.
Deuteronomy 17:6-7 On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
Although we don’t have the entire transcript from the trial, it is certainly reasonable to assume that something was wrong with the accusations. The woman must have been guilty because Jesus forgave her. However, no mention is made regarding the male counterpart. Apparently, he wasn’t brought to trial; therefore, the mob was guilty of violating the law. Certainly, Jesus was not requiring only sin-free people to execute stoning; no person is without sin. If no one is fit to enforce a law, there is no point in having a law. No, their sin was in the trial itself.
So, in both examples, we see that the Lord is the one who set aside the stoning that was required by law. That’s his prerogative. “And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” (Exodus 33:19b) As for us, we are required to uphold his law, including punishment. Or so it would seem to me.
At this point, it would seem fit to address the huge problem to start enforcing these laws regarding stoning. Perhaps I may, but first, I think we need to look deeper into the reasonableness of God’s heavy punishment for certain behavior. Does the punishment “fit” the crime? That, my friends, is a question that we cannot answer by using the lenses of the world we live in. Why? Because they are so filthy that we cannot even see sin when it is right in front of our face. Sin has become so integrated in our lives that we make judgment not on whether or not something is sin but in its relation to other sin. Something has to be pretty bad before anyone takes notice. Heck, all you need to do is turn on the TV. I guarantee if you abstain from TV for a month, you will be repulsed by ANYTHING that comes through the channels. If nothing else, clean shows have dirty commercials. Plus, the very next channel over will have who-knows-what-kind of smut on it. Yet nobody points to TV as part of the problem with society. Nope. Nothing wrong there. Quick test. How many of you have gotten so sick of TV that you have thrown it out of your home? Very likely none of you have. Why? Because we don’t see the magnitude of our sin.
Let’s look at some statistics concerning infidelity according to http://www.infidelityfacts.com/infidelity-statistics.html . I have no idea who these people are, but the numbers seem reasonable according to what I see going on in the world.
53% Marriages that end in divorce.
41% One or both spouses admit to infidelity, physical or emotional.
57% Men who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they have had.
54% Woman who admit to committing infidelity in any relationship they have had.
36% Men and women who admit to having an affair with a co-worker.
36% Men and women who admit to infidelity on a business trip.
17% Men and women who admit to infidelity (emotional or physical) with a brother-in-law or sister-in-law
2 Years Average length of an affair.
31% Marriages that last after an affair has been admitted to or discovered.
74% Men who say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught.
68% Women who say they would have an affair if they knew they would never get caught.
Is anyone besides me physically sickened by all this? All this and we are only focusing on adultery! What the heck is going on in this world? Imagine all the heartache we cause other people! How many kids are set up for failure because mommy and/or daddy are screwing other people? Are not these words coming true?
Isaiah 5:20 Who to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Numbers 14:18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’
We see this playing out over and over again. Generational sin. It is awful. Simply, gut-wrenching awful.
For the record, when I examine closely the list of sin that requires stoning, I am guilty. I am not pointing blameless fingers. I’m not sure how to address this topic to the end, but know this: Our world would be MUCH better off if we feared adultery as if it were a very certain death. Certainly, sin is death, even without stoning; but if people actually feared for their lives, you can bet that it would be very rare. Very, very rare. Would our children be better off without adultery in their lives? Of course. Would everything be perfect? Nope, but they wouldn’t have their lives ripped apart by adultery, would they?
Is death a price too big to pay? Apparently, God didn’t think so.
Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
I think I’m going to talk more about this tomorrow, specifically on the aftermath of adultery and some thoughts on how to move forward once it has come to touch your life in one form or another. Still, I need to leave you with some hope. Adultery is not the unforgiveable sin. However, we must remember that God alone forgives sin. Man does not. Man cannot. Yes, adultery is not considered when determining spousal support in a divorce, but God is the only one who can forgive sin. But, we don’t get to pick or chose what sin to present for forgiveness. We must admit EVERYTHING and be willing to walk completely from the life we once led. Will we be perfect? Here’s how Jesus ended the conversation with the adulteress:
And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
We can enjoy complete, permanent forgiveness for all past, current, and future sin with one complete surrender. We are then required to walk a completely different path. “Be Holy, as I am Holy.” We will need Jesus to do this. Daily. Hourly. Constantly. Plus, there is hope and healing for those who have been harmed by someone else’s adultery. Real healing.
There is hope. Lots of hope. Unending hope through someone who can and will deliver. Jesus.
Father, ugh. Holy Spirit, please pray for me because I am spent, and you have the words I need. Amen.
Copyright © 2018 Scott Powers