Our main text today is one of the few (less than 5, I think) narrative passages in Leviticus, 24:11-16,23:
"And the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel: and this son of the Israelite woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp; And the Israelite woman's son blasphemed the name of the LORD, and cursed. And they brought him unto Moses: (and his mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan:) And they put him in prison, that the mind of the LORD might be shown unto them. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Bring forth him that has cursed outside the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And you shall speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curses his God shall bear his sin. And he that blasphemes the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemes the name of the LORD, shall be put to death... And Moses spake to the children of Israel, that they should bring forth him that had cursed out of the camp, and stone him with stones. And the children of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses."To properly frame the error we want to highlight today, yesterday my niece asked me our title question in the way most people do: "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Our text today brought me back to my answer then: there are 2 assumptions possible behind our question, 2 perspectives: a biblical one and an unbiblical one. Let's do the latter first, and apply it to our passage...
This man, half Egyptian by birth, could have been thought by his family, friends, coworkers, etc. a real stand up guy. He could have been polite and friendly, and helped little old ladies across the oxcart path. He could have been considered moral and upright in almost all of the laws given to Israel. If so, was it really so bad if he let a naughty word slip out? We can even try to recreate the most heroic scenario possible for our text: I bet those 2 guys were fighting because the 2nd guy (not the half Egyptian) insulted the 1st's mother, and while defending her honor, the 1st guy was kicked between the legs by the 2nd; and so, surprised by this low blow and in horrible pain, the half Egyptian's guard was totally down and just like Ralphie in that Christmas movie, the forbidden word(s) came out almost of their own accord!
I belabor the point for this reason: this is the mental process of every person on earth when trying to justify our sin. We play up our perceived virtues and downplay our faults, and in the final analysis, we are good people, who deserve good things from God. The only problem with this irresistible fixation is that it's completely contrary to the teaching of the Bible.
The Biblical perspective is much more straightforward and much more depressing: there's only been one good Person in the history of the world, and you're not Him. Neither was this half-Egyptian guy good: even if our more-than-slightly-riduculous scenario was factual, his "noble" actions were motivated by self-righteousness and moral superiority, just like the Pharisees Jesus decried so harshly. And so the climactic sin of his life, blasphemy, really was that bad... he really did deserve the death penalty. Just like us: we are a people who curse like sailors; we see them on TV, in movies, and even the Musak at the grocery store has songs that have to be censored. The Lord's name is not holy to us... we profane it with its 3 letter abbreviation (o.m...) a billion times a day. Instead of slandering God by questioning His law, we must thank Him continually He doesn't destroy us:
"He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities." (Ps 103:10)