Lesson: A Blasphemer Stoned
By Rev. Leo H. McCrary II – September 26, 2021
Taught From – Leviticus 24:10-23
This week’s lesson is the last lesson in the first unit of lessons for the fall quarter. The first unit of lessons is titled “Learning God’s Holiness”, and so far, we have seen how we should present ourselves before His holiness as being holy ourselves. We have also seen what happens when we do not present ourselves before His holiness as being holy. In our lesson last week, we saw that in order for us to be in fellowship with the Lord, while living in this world, we often have to make atonement for our sins. Our lesson this week is going to take a look at not disregarding the Lord. This week’s lesson is being taught from Leviticus 24:10-23.
Blasphemy of God
Our lesson opens with a skirmish happening within the camp of Israel (v. 10). This fight was between a man who was born to an Israelite woman but his dad was Egyptian, and a man who was fully an Israelite – his parents were both of Israel.
Fighting in the camp
I don’t want to really focus on this interesting fact too much because it would take away from the focus of our lesson. The knowledge of the one man’s heritage does point out something that we don’t often think about with Israel being in bondage in Egypt. Now, I am not saying that this happened, but history does often point out how slavers often treated the women who they held in bondage. So, we don’t know if their relationship was cordial or not.
To that point, we also don’t honestly know about the upbringing of either of the men really. I suppose that we could assume that the man whose parents were both Israelites were raised under the traditional customs of an Israelite. Now, by this point in time of history, Israel had received the commandments from the Lord. At the same time, many of Israel had died at Mount Sinai because of their sin of worshiping the calf of gold. Those that remained were those who were of faith in the Lord and desired His law. So, it is possible that we could assume that man was raised by faithful parents or he himself was faithful.
As for the man whose dad was Egyptian, we can only see the actions that he took. We, just like the other man, cannot say anything for a fact about his upbringing. It is possible that this man spent time getting to know his dad and Egyptian culture and, at the same time, it is possible he spent no time with his dad at all. However, we know that in this skirmish, he was moved in his heart for whatever reason to blaspheme the Lord and cursed (v. 11).
The sin of blasphemy
The sin of blasphemy is a very great sin to commit, as we will see in a moment. Because they had been given the commandments and law, the Israelites knew not to “revile” God (Ex. 22:28). To revile means to subject to verbal abuse or to use abusive language. So, in other words, this man was moved to a place in his heart where he was cursing and speaking against the Lord.
Now in Matthew’s gospel, we see that the Lord absolutely does not tolerate blasphemy. Jesus said, “blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men (Matt. 12:31).” To speak against the spirit is to speak against the Lord because God is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Spirit is always at work doing the will of the Father. To speak against the Spirit is to speak against His will and His works – it is to truly speak against the Lord. This is the sin of blasphemy – speaking against God – this is a sin that the Lord will not pardon.
Punishment of blasphemy
Though the children of Israel knew not to revile the Lord, they did not know what the punishment would be of blasphemy. So, they took the man to Moses who then had the man put into custody. The idea here being that they wanted to wait on the Lord’s decision on the man since the man specifically directed his words towards the Lord and towards them (v. 12). The blasphemy was not necessarily against them personally but was against the Lord.
Now, we know from what we have read and studied about the unpardonable sin that blasphemy of the Lord is the absolute worst sin one could commit. So, not to our surprise, we’ll see that the Lord first had the man taken outside of the camp (vss. 13-14). Then, with him outside of the camp, those that heard his blasphemy were to lay their hands on his head.
This somewhat calls back to our lesson last week where Aaron laid the sins of the people on the head of the scapegoat that was then sent outside of the camp and away from the people. Now, this man was not being treated as a scapegoat as his sin was his very own sin. So, where Aaron was laying the sin of the people on the scapegoat, the witnesses were essentially laying his sin on him. He was guilty of his sin and would have to suffer the punishment of his own sin.
After the laying of hands on his head, the Lord instructs for the congregation to then stone the man. Now, some will suggest that this was a cruel punishment, but again, God does not look kindly on those who revile and reject Him. I said it in my sermon last week but the sin of blasphemy is a sin of high disregard of the Lord; it is a sin of defiance and rebellion against the Lord.
Some may say that maybe this man did not know how grave his sin was. We often try to excuse our actions but whether we knowingly or unknowingly sin. Whether our sin is done knowingly or unknowingly, it is a sin. Now, Jesus will bear the sins of those who genuinely believe in Him. However, those that choose to live in blatant defiance of the Lord (blasphemy), will have to bear the weight of that sin.
You see, everyone will have to hold themselves accountable for actions they take knowingly or unknowingly (Rom. 14:11). Even in our lesson today, we see that this was true for both the Israelite and the strangers that lived among them as well. So, it is certainly best that we choose Christ as our savior so that He can bear our sins. On the other hand, those that choose to live in sin have to be ready to stand accountable for themselves. As we see the Lord say here in our lesson, “Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death (vss. 15-16).”
As we continue in our lesson, we will see that the Lord did not consider this man’s life lightly. He also did not want the children of Israel to think lightly of the lives of those among them as well. God did not want them to go around and start taking the lives of those around them just because they felt like doing it. Stoning someone for blaspheming the name of the Lord was how the Lord felt people should be punished for blaspheming His name.
So, the Lord commanded, “Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death (v. 17).” Again, the idea here being that we are to value the lives of one another. Then we see that the Lord said, “Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, animal for animal (v. 18).”
The lives of animals, even though we love to hold them dear to us, or not on the same level as we are. Man is very unique in that God created us in His image and likeness. The Lord breathed into mankind’s nostrils and we became living beings. God did not do that with animals. So, the idea for the children of Israel was that if someone killed one of your cattle, they were to replace your cattle with another cattle. The same cannot be said for when the life of another person is taken. We cannot simply replace the life of a person that has been lost.
The idea of restitution – restoring what was lost – is spoken of in the last few verses of our lesson (vss. 19-22). For example, we see the Lord state that if one disfigures another then it should be done to him. The saying “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” is mentioned here as well. Restitution was something that was very significant and important to the children of Israel. It was a way of truly valuing the lives of others.
Our lesson closes with the children carrying out the Lord’s command of stoning the man that blasphemed the Lord (v. 23). To blaspheme the Lord, to speak against Him, His instructions, love, and grace (His holiness) is such a grave sin for one to commit, especially when we ourselves aren’t holy nor are we righteous without Him.
Who are we to defy and rebel against the Lord in such a manner? This was a very important lesson for the Israelites to learn and it is still a lesson that has to be learned by mankind today.