Capital Punishment

It is springtime in rural Minnesota. The birds are singing and spirits are lifting. Two hours away, things are not so good. There, the trial of Derek Chauvin begins. You’ll recognize him as the police office who knelt on the neck of George Floyd, a man suspected of passing phony $20 bills, until he died. This sparked rioting across the nation in protest to police brutality and systemic racism against black people. My post today is not on that but rather on capital punishment.

Why capital punishment since Minnesota doesn’t provide for it? Well, I just read Numbers 35 and thought that it was very applicable. Let me set the background. The Israelites have been in the desert for 40 years and are about to enter the Promised Land. In this chapter, God sets aside certain cities that the family of priests (Levites) shall dwell. Some of these cities are designated as “cities of refuge” in which a man who unintentionally kills another may flee for a safe trial.

The reason one would want to flee is clear – God requires capital punishment for murderers. To cause unintentional death is not murder. If you initiate a fight with someone and push him down so that he strikes his head and dies, that is murder that requires capital punishment. Whether it be by weapon or hand, if you are provoking a fight or laying in wait to harm someone and kill them, the law is clearly established to put you to death.

Why so harsh?

We don’t do things this way in America. Sure, some states have the capital punishment, but it is rarely used. We don’t provide for it like the Israelites were instructed. In our view, capital punishment is barbaric. Human life is precious and can be rehabilitated; therefore, we try we must. That isn’t the way God looks at it.

 33 You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. 34 You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people of Israel.”
Numbers 35:33-34

Are we smarter than God? We think we are, but we are not. There is more to justice than we want to admit. Is there wisdom in quickly putting a murderer to death? I believe so. What might that be? Certainly, it would make one think twice before raising a fist.

Can we make this happen?

It’s doubtful that the death penalty will become the rule of the land anytime soon. According to the ACLU, “The death penalty has no deterrent effect. Claims that each execution deters a certain number of murders have been thoroughly discredited by social science research.” That’s a sentiment that is widely shared. Furthermore, the nation is rapidly shifting left. I wouldn’t be surprised if capital punishment is totally eliminated within this next generation.

I disagree with the ACLU. God is wise. If he says we should quickly put murders to death, that’s what we should do. As Christians, we need to talk about the wisdom of God in matter-of-fact ways. While the ACLU may claim one thing, we cannot rule out the effectiveness of quick capital punishment as a deterrent if it was the established rule of the land. Execution is so rare that no one would be afraid even if it does happen now and then. Murderers are just as likely to win the lottery as to be executed. That’s intended hyperbole.

Until then, we are stuck in a world that is afraid of true, biblical justice. There will come a day, soon, that we won’t need to worry about these things.

8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Revelation 21:8

For more on this topic, here’s a previous post of mine.

Father, I have faith that your wisdom is far higher than our wisdom. Let us not forget that. Amen.

Copyright © 2021 Scott Powers

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