Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) They put him in custody until the will of the Lord should be made clear to them.
Then the Lord said to Moses: “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. Say to the Israelites: ‘Anyone who curses their God will be held responsible; anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.
- Leviticus 24:10-16
When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
- Acts 7:54-60
In this same chapter of Leviticus, God says that anyone who takes a life of another, they should be put to death. But the act of stoning is a lawful act. In this case, a blasphemer was to be stoned.
And the act of stoning is done by a village, so to speak. One person can do a lethal injection or throw the switch of an electric chair, but everyone is to pick up a stone when someone has committed such an offense as to merit the death penalty.
When you think of that in the story in John 8 about the woman caught in adultery, Jesus says for the person who is without sin to cast the first stone. That throws tons of moral issues into play. The “village” is above the law, but now Jesus is changing the ground rules. The first person to throw a stone would then be the one person setting upon killing another, and that would carry the death penalty, at least in their mind. We could take this further, but that thought would cause many to drop their stones.
In a recent short story, I wrote that the person who died had died of “Death by golf ball” in a bedroom of a lodge. There would have to be a considerable velocity to accomplish that or the golf ball might hit the sweet spot as did the stone from David’s sling that killed Goliath.
That got me to thinking about how much energy must be expended to kill someone by stoning them. This may sound sick, but bear with me. You must want the person dead, in order to throw the stone that hard.
In murder, the anger could be there, one on one, to do such a thing – sad, but that is altogether possible.
In carrying out a judgment in Biblical times, the passion is not the wish to kill the individual as it is to maintain the purity of the community, stamp out the heresy so as to maintain the sanctity of the “village.” Their passion was to stay pure and focused on worshipping the Lord in the proper manner.
I am not advocating stoning, but are we that passionate about worshipping Jesus in the right spirit? Are we willing to defend our faith in such a passionate way? If we are telling the truth that Jesus means everything to me, would we not be that passionate?
Rather than stoning those who oppose us, Jesus tells us to love one another. But can we do so with the same passion, to keep our worship of God as pure as possible, as close to what the Bible says as possible, as those who thought Stephen was introducing heresy?
As always, with my “A Thought On” series, the intent is to just provide a thought to ponder.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
What a contrast with the crowd and Jesus…with Jesus being gracious even as He is Holy
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I marvel at two individuals in the NT who could keep their cool better than I and say the right thing at the right time: Jesus who is God and Paul who faced similar confrontations and used the Holy Spirit to know just what to say. In both cases it is really God doing the talking, leaning toward a better relationship and toward mercy and grace. In Paul’s case, he quieted the crowd, he made the Gospel fit the crowd’s needs, or he started a riot, with a single phrase – what ever happened to be God’s Will.
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What an example both are for us
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