Have you ever said nasty words to your parents? Or, did your parents ever tell you not to do something and you did it anyway? Then as an adult, you come across, Deuteronomy 21:18-21 which reads, “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” After reading verses like this, many, if not all, tend to feel pretty grateful that we didn’t grow up as ancient Israelites.
However, when these verses are explored further, they also reveal God’s softer side. The first clue is the built-in safety nets for the rebellious son. The fact that God also points out that mother and father are involved is interesting because other rules of law like Hammurabi’s code–specifically numbers 168 and 169–mention only disobedience to and punishment by the father. Also, the rebellious son isn’t just killed at the time of the offense. First, he has to be disciplined by his parents. Then, he is brought before the elders so they can try to solve the problem before any further escalation. The next giveaway is the words glutton and drunkard in verse 20. Imagine how much food and alcohol you must consume before being labeled a glutton. Usually, it's at a point when you are addicted and the habit is hurting you financially, socially, etc. Thus, the rebellious actions of the son are more than a temper tantrum or broken curfew because they exemplify a deep-rooted temptation and defiance against God. Consequently, they cause spiritual and physical harm to oneself and others.
Romans 5:15 tells us, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” As God’s created and chosen beings, mankind is deserving of death because we all have sinned at one point or another in our lives. As Leviticus 20:9 states, the guilt of our sin should be on us. However, God is abundant in His forbearance, grace, and mercy. God sent His son to this Earth with the sole mission to save us from the guilt of our sin by shedding His divine blood. Jesus willingly achieved His task, He allowed us to draw close to God so that we will not face death but live eternally in Heaven. 1 Peter 2:21-25 reads, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
We are blessed to have a God willing to wipe away our debt of sin for us freely. He has left us with a choice, to accept His gift and become obedient and repentant children, or to forsake His gift by choosing rebellion. Psalm 1 says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”