These notes are new as of 2023.
GOOD MORNING, SIBLINGS!
Today’s readings are Deuteronomy Chapters 21 – 23
I want to begin today by talking about the stubborn and rebellious son in Deut 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, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 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.” 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. Deut 22:18
Now, most people today look at this and picture a small child who is stubborn, perhaps a teenager, and the parents reach their breaking point (as our parents no doubt did with us on more than one occasion) and just up and decide to have him stoned. The problem is, that is not what the text is telling us, but we have to read it in context and take the time to practice our reading comprehension skills in order to really see that. I’m going to show you what I mean and go much further than just this passage in today’s notes.
First, let us take notice of a few things in this passage:
1. The mother AND the father had to be in agreement on whether or not the son was deserving of this. What are the chances of that happening if we’re looking at how things like this typically go? The Father has designed us with compassion for our children and given us partners so that when one of us is at the end of our rope, the other is generally able to feel compassion at that time.
2. They have to bring them to the elders at the gate. Now, these elders were essentially judges so they would hear the case and make a righteous and just ruling. This means that they would have to be in agreement as well.
3. Lastly is the stoning. If you can manage for all of the people, including both parents and all judges, who also sought the Father to be in agreement, then stoning was condoned, but here is the key – there is NO record of this EVER taking place. Why is this? The next sentence tells us.
4. The final sentence reads: “All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.” Here we have the key. Keep in mind that, as I said, we have no record of this punishment ever being carried out and I believe this sentence is telling us exactly why that is: the punishment itself, by design, deterred the crime.
But here is another misconception we need to correct. Was this actually a young man? If we pay attention to the text, we will see that it is not but we need some context in order to understand that. You see, these were families who lived in generational homes. Sons grew up, took wives, and continued to live and work the land. The older generation (parents, or even grandparents) were still providing the land, home and often more, but the children (now grown with their own children and even grandchildren) joined them in their work to help the entire family prosper. We are also told that their son was a glutton and a drunkard. Does this sound like a young man to you? Keep in mind that while we tend to see Jacob and Esau as boys when they received their blessing, Isaac was 137 years old at that time. Genesis 25:26 tells us that he was around sixty years old when Jacob and Esau were born, so that would put Jacob and Esau well into their seventies at that point in history. And yet, we see them as little boys. Why? Because we are only surface reading. We aren’t taking the time to put the text in context, or in most cases to even know the context.
So my point there is that this is not a boy, it is likely not even a young man. And yet, even putting that part back into its proper context we can still see this punishment as barbaric – even though it was never carried out but clearly established as a deterrent in and of itself.
However, it is important to realize that future generations will likely look back on our society as being barbaric in our punishments. We electrocute people, subject them to lethal injections, hang them, and even use firing squads as punishment for crimes. These are all current legal methods of carrying out the death penalty in varying states in the United States today.
But here is the thing, while we have these severe sentences, it is a rare thing that they are carried out. The punishment being so harsh is often a deterrent to the crime.
We understand that in our time because we live in it.
We don’t understand that in Biblical times because we do not allow them the privilege of their own context or afford them the understanding of taking the time to discern what the text is telling us. I want to address how we can do a better job of both today.
Having said that, from here on out I’m only going to touch on our actual text briefly today so that I can focus on explaining a deeper problem that often prevents us from being able to understand Biblical text, in addition to serving as a barrier in our relationship with the Father.
Before we begin, I want to clearly state that I’m not condoning any form of slavery, captivity, or mistreatment of human beings. I fully believe that when our Messiah told us to love our neighbor (ie. fellow man), it wasn’t a suggestion. Further, anyone who has studied the entirety of the Bible realizes that He was teaching from principles laid out by the Father since the beginning of time. So rather than condone mistreatment we can see in these passages, my goal is to help us learn to put the text back in its own time and culture, rather than superimposing it over our own. Hang in there, I’ve got a lot to say and the picture will become progressively clearer throughout this article.
Imagine, in our modern times, if you are living in one of the world’s poorest countries with your family. Living day to day is a struggle as there are few opportunities to earn an income, despite grueling work and eagerness to find more. Food may be scarce and one of the best ways to make money is often through illegal means. You choose hard work and honest living but at the same time, life does not get much easier for your family.
Now imagine suddenly being given citizenship status in a successfully industrialized country such as New Zealand, Canada, Australia, or the United States. A new world of educational opportunities, careers, additional rights, housing, and viable living are available to you that were not there before. I think we need to consider that this would have been at least partially what life was about to become for a person of a conquered people whom the Israelites took in as one of their own such as we see in Deuteronomy 21:10-14. the Israelites were already a powerful people and on top of that, they were being personally led by the one true God. Once the woman spoken of in our text today was taken in by Israel, in the eyes of YHWH, she was now a full Israelite citizen.
Now let us contrast this to most conquering armies of the time: they either murdered, enslaved, or sold the conquests as slaves. The Israelites, however, were not allowed to do this to anyone who decided to join their tribe, and worship their god.
Keep in mind, this was in a time in which most people worshipped multiple gods. They went to different gods for different needs, made sacrifices, and hoped for the best. However, as we all know their gods were powerless. (Habakkuk 2:18).
And from the Bible we know that the God of Israel, a marvel in that Israel only worshipped one all powerful God who saw to all of their needs, was growing in fame (Joshua 9:9). What’s more, news and evidence of this God was spreading. Now I know you may be thinking about the instances in which the Father instructed Israel to wipe out an entire people. That is never an easy topic but it is doubly so when we fail to put it in context. I discussed that in my Numbers 31-32 notes so you can click here to read those if you would like.
In this time and culture, women were considered spoils of war, with all that entails. While we cannot deny that this situation was a degrading one, finding your people conquered and yourself a captive, these commandments we read today are specifically geared towards protecting the woman’s dignity.
She was to be given new clothing. She was to cut her hair and trim her nails, as part of this new identity and she was to be given a month to mourn. During this time, she was living among Israel and as a soon to be citizen, taken in and treated as one of their own.
However, as detached as we are from history, this story can still seem barbaric to us, and understandably so.
My goal here was simply to point out that there are other lenses through which to view this. I am sure that it did feel barbaric to her, but had another nation conquered them she would have likely been killed, used, or sold as a slave. In this scenario, she was given full citizenship and rights as a citizen of Israel, and counted as one of YHWH’s own people for the duration of her life, along with all her descendants. Just something to think about.
Again, I’m not advocating for the mistreatment of another human and I think that we as believers in our time have fallen pretty far in our own degree of respect, compassion, and concern for our fellow humans. But when we judge the Bible from outside the text itself, void of context and through the perspective of a person living centuries later, we are going to miss a great deal of the lessons we were meant to learn from it.
With that, I’m gonna head off on a side trail here but I hope you will journey with me because it is a trip worth taking that can help make sure we get on (and stay on) the path that will deepen our understanding of our relationship with the father and greatly mature faith.
With the limited knowledge we are given in this passage, disconnected from culture, customs, and attitudes that would have been ingrained in our spiritual ancestors living during this time, it is possible that some may still draw conclusions that acts of war seem contradictory to these careful instructions of our Father, or that the instructions themselves seem contradictory to conquering an entire people to begin with.
If you find yourself in this position I want to encourage you to keep reading and keep seeking. We must do our best to understand that when we read about ancient events, cultures, customs, and people and then try to understand them by superimposing these things over our own culture, customs, understanding, and people, they simply won’t fit. In fact, when we do this, we are doing the opposite of seeking to understand history. We are demanding, instead, that history seek to understand and adapt to us.
This is every bit as impossible (and arrogant) as it sounds.
Why do we do this? Is there a simplified reason we can state that encompasses our demand that history bow down and contort itself to our reason?
Well, actually, there is.
This is part of our modern me-centered mindset that tends to form our expectations of the world and its history, and it bleeds heavily over into our relationship with the Father.
You see, we have an entirely different way of seeing the world, past, present, and future, than our spiritual ancestors did.
Whereas Hebrews were very much a God-centered people, their very existence revolving around YHWH, we are very much a me-centered people, and in our existence, we tend to put the concept of YHWH in orbit around us.
Whereas Hebrews were very much a God-centered people, their very existence revolving around YHWH, we are very much a me-centered people, and in our existence, we tend to put the concept of YHWH in orbit around us.
These are two different ways of thinking that many have dubbed “Hebrew Vs Greek” mindsets. If you have been reading with us since the beginning (please please tell me you have, as this entire Bible study builds upon itself) you’ll notice that I talked about this concept not too long ago when we were in Numbers. Today, we’re going to go a little deeper because it is our own modern mindset that so often puts a stumbling block before us in our relationship with the Father and our ability to understand His word.
Now if it helps, instead of Hebrew vs Greek mindset, you could also think of these as the ancient believer mindset vs modern believer mindset.
I am going to add a clarifier here and this is pivotal: It is possible for a believer in our time to have this Hebrew or ancient believer mindset. In fact, developing this mindset is part of our spiritual growth. This is a natural result of growing in relationship with and learning to trust the Father.
You see, trust is the muscle of faith.
What I mean by that is that if you say you have faith but you don’t trust the Father with your life, that muscle will be weak from lack of use. If you say you have faith in the Father but you still put him in orbit around you rather than putting yourself in orbit around Him, your faith will be vulnerable, fragile, and easily crumbled. Why? Because your faith is based on how well God serves you – and serving you is not His job. Expecting Him to follow your wisdom rather than you following His is a recipe for disaster that will distance us from the peace, joy, and fullness of life that trusting in Him yields.
In many cases, when our faith functions in this capacity, it may be nothing more than a facade, something we hide behind because we live in a culture in which we are seen as a good person if we go to church, claim we’re Christians, serve in certain roles, etc.
However, If you have faith and you live out this faith by exercising that trust muscle, the more you look to the Father, the more you follow Him, the more you lean on His wisdom over your own, the stronger that muscle is going to grow. Therefore, the stronger your faith will be, the deeper your roots will reach, the more you will seek Him, and the more you will be led by His heart over your own.
It is vital that we as believers learn to get out of the way and allow God to be God. I realize that this seems like such an obvious thing. Perhaps, though, due to this idea being so incredibly obvious, we haven’t taken the time to really think it through. The fact of the matter is, we have a tendency to place ourselves on the throne that only belongs to Him and that is the elephant in the room. We know it’s there but we have learned to walk around it because it’s easier to leave it there than to do the work to move it.
You know what the main thing is preventing us from growing and knowing God at the level we were meant to?
It’s a two-letter word for each is us, and that word is “me”.
When “me” comes first, He will always come second.
So let’s talk about this mindset because this concept can be invaluable in helping us identify areas in our thinking which may work well for a person of the world but can have a detrimental effect for a child of the King.
The thought process of a Hebrew or ancient mindset works very differently from that of a Greek or modern mindset. I shared the chart below and very briefly touched on this concept in my Numbers 33-34 notes but we are going to go a little deeper today so I’m sharing it again for easy reference. This chart demonstrates some of our “me-ism” in relationship to God. This is really just a kicking-off point to help us learn to recognize when we might need to reframe our thinking in order to more fully trust or seek Him in our lives.
This chart demonstrates the mindsets with regards to the question of serving God.
Whereas the Greek or modern mindset asks “How can God Serve Me?”
The Hebrew or mature believer mindset asks, “How can I serve God?”
We see that one question is “me” centered and one is “He” centered.
Take a moment to think about this. There are countless examples all around us of the first mindset. We have prosperity preachers telling folks if they do this or that they will become wealthy. We have people who treat the Father like a lucky lottery ticket, hanging on to see if He will give them what they want and then tossing Him away when He doesn’t.
Take a moment to examine your own walk, in what ways have you expected God to serve you? I think we’d all have difficult time saying we’ve not done this at some (or many) points in our walk.
YHWH points out this mindset in Isaiah where the clay pot challenges the potter, it’s creator.
“Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’? Isaiah 45:9
And now let us go to the Hebrew or ancient mindset, which is what we will see more of in ourselves as we mature in our faith and practice trusting in the Father. This mindset has us asking, “How can I serve God?”. This mindset first and foremost begins with a proper relationship of themselves in light of their Creator.
As a result, this mindset is a clay pot that understands the potter is the one who formed it, and allows itself to be molded in the potter’s hands as we can see in Romans.
Does not the potter have the right to make from the same lump of clay one vessel for special occasions and another for common use? Romans 9:21
Whereas our modern mindset is often led by feelings and emotions, the more mature mindset is led by faith and trust. In all situations, the first thought of the Hebrew mindset is to look to YHWH for direction.
Now, this is not our natural state, especially living in and influenced by today’s world. But as a believer, it is the absolute best position to be in, in order to live a full life walking in the footsteps of our Messiah and being cared for by our Creator.
So how do we get there?
Years ago, I can’t remember who, but someone in our bible study (perhaps June White) remarked about Jacob and his infamous wrestling match with the Father. Let me share that passage real quick before I move on.
And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” -Genesis 32:24-28
Now their insightful remark was, “Notice that Jacob didn’t stop wrestling until he walked differently.”
That stuck with me. So many of us, when these wrestling matches come, when we see something in the Word that challenges us, makes us uncomfortable, or might put us in a position of having to be peculiar among those we love, we step away from it. We slowly back up and then set about convincing ourselves that the text didn’t really mean what it said. We look for doctrines and creeds and teachers that will agree with us in order to ease our minds, even though our spirit remains unsettled by the truth.
More often than not, modern believers decide to continue in our comfort rather than to wrestle until we walk differently.
Now, this is one of those seeds where, if you’re just now planting it in your mind you’ll need to ruminate on it a bit in order for it to sprout understanding. But I wanted to offer a few examples of ways that I’ve worked to reframe my own thinking in order to be God-centered rather than me-centered. However, this is a battle we must all fight daily, myself included of course.
Below are questions that I’ve asked and beneath them, how I reframed those questions.
1.Modern Believer Mindset: Why is God letting this happen?
2.Ancient Believer Mindset: What is God trying to teach me here? I know there is a bigger plan, how can I serve Him through this?
1.Modern Believer Mindset: Why am I not where I intended to be?
2.Ancient Believer Mindset: What is my purpose where I am?
1.Modern Believer Mindset: I do not want to be in this position.
2.Ancient Believer Mindset:I know HE must have a reason for placing me here so I will look for ways to serve Him.
1.Modern Believer Mindset: I’ve made a mistake. I’m going to ask the Father to fix it.
2.Ancient Believer Mindset: I’ve made a mistake, I’m going to repent, turn back to the Father, and ask Him to teach me from it.
One of the things I have learned in my half a century of living is that life is a head game. How we frame our thoughts, the perspective we choose to have in any situation, whether or not we learn to lead our emotions or allow emotions to lead us, and how we view our identity in the light of our Creator can make all the difference between being miserable and being joyful.
Somedays my head game needs work. Somedays I get it screwed on just right from the get-go, but the days that I take time to exchange my wisdom for His are the days where I have the utmost satisfaction at the end of them.
He is our God. Treating Him as our servant is a grievous error that not only stunts our spiritual growth, but it deprives us of our rightful relationship with Him.
Today is a good day to put our relationship with our Creator in proper perspective.
I confess that you are my Creator. You are my God. Your wisdom outweighs my own and I ask that you help me strive to see the world through your eyes, to discern with your wisdom, and to love with your heart.
Christy, you’ve talked an awful lot today and it still feels a little complicated to me. Can you sum it up?
I sure can.
When we learn to see Him as God, to get off of the throne, stop challenging His decisions and look for the wisdom in them instead, we will cease making ourselves His adversary and begin living as His treasured child.
And that is when a whole other world of understanding and relationship will open up to us.