Deuteronomy 10:12-11:7 (Part 6) – Two Punk Kids Deserving Severe Justice From Our Dads…

Posted: January 23, 2017 in 05-Deuteronomy
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Deuteronomy 10:12-11:7 (Part 6 of 7)

A Call to Love and Obedience

Receiving mercy when we should receive severe judgment. Unexpected and undeserved mercy is a gift beyond all proportions when you are in that position. You know that you should be judged harshly. You know you deserve it and you expect it.


That was my story when I was a teenager just after my dad was transferred to Travelers Rest, SC as the pastor of two United Methodist churches there. For the previous two years, he had been serving as the associate pastor at a large church in Anderson, SC. While in Anderson, I had sort of come into my own as a teenager. No longer was I simply an attachment of my parents. I had a life of my own. I was a big man on campus at Lakeside Middle School. I was popular. Played on the junior high football team. Was a star on the church league basketball team at church. All the girls thought I was cute. Then, the world shattered. My dad was moved. He was ready to be a solo pastor again and not just the second guy in command. It was good move for him and his career as a pastor in the United Methodist Church in South Carolina. It was great for him but it was the end of a great run for me.


Moving to Travelers Rest was a bad thing for me. I had the perfect situation in Anderson. Why change it? I was angry at dad. I was angry at the bishop of the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church. About a month after we moved to Travelers Rest, I got to have my best friend from Anderson come up and spend the week with us, in the middle of which we are going to get to Six Flags as part of a youth group trip. When Donnie got there, we were to hang out at the parsonage while my parents were at work and just do what we used to do back in Anderson when our parents were at work, except for the whole Lake Hartwell thing. Donnie lived right on the lake so we spent a lot of time in Anderson, swimming, and exploring the woods around the lake. In Travelers Rest, the lake was not an option but everything else was the same. Listen to music, ride bikes around the area, explore. This scenario of life used to not be a big deal and we stayed out of trouble. However, this one day in Travelers Rest, SC, proved to be different. We decided to go around “downtown” Travelers Rest seeing what we could get away with. We stole bubble gum and candy from the town drug store and we got away with it. That gave us a rush. Being the generally goody gooderson kids that we were, it was wild to get away with stealing. That emboldened us. As we were walking around town, something told us it was a good idea to vandalize the local elementary school. It was nothing to me since I was going to be a freshman that fall at the high school. For some unknown reason as we were plunking around the old school (it was pretty old – it was a one time the high school – built way back in the 1920s), we decided that it would be a good idea to yank the telephone wires out of the junction box for the phones in the office. This was where the wires came in from the road, up the side of the building, into the junction box, and then from the junction box into the office and its various phones. As we were yanking the wires out, the janitor saw us do it. Yelled at us. We took off and ran to this old school grocery store/convenience store down the street and hid out. However, the janitor had called the Travelers Rest police and they cornered us in that little grocery store. We were arrested.


Needless to say, my dad and Donnie’s dad were none to pleased and there was much grief to pay for our misdeed. The rest of the summer was hard labor for both of us (me in Travelers Rest, Donnie in Anderson). Then, there was the waiting to see what the justice system would do to us. Our fear was that we would be sent to juvenile prison in Columbia, SC (the state capitol) for how much time you get for vandalizing public property. I don’t know how it works today in 2017, but at that time in the fall of 1976, Greenville had started this new thing called the pre-trial intervention program for youthful offenders. You would meet with a juvenile probation officer instead of your case going to trial. He would decide whether your case would be accepted into the program or whether our case would be released into the court system. He was, thus, our judge and jury. He would decide our fate. We dreaded it. We were hopeful that he would have mercy on us, since we were generally good kids, maybe just too much attitude.


So, it was during that monumental meeting with the juvenile probation officer. I remember he was a former cop. He was a black man and was a rough, gruff, older guy who instilled respect from you as soon as you met him. For the life of me, I cannot remember his name now, but I remember his face. His intent was to scare us silly and he succeeded. However, it was during this meeting that it was revealed that my dad and Donnie’s dad had paid the price for our crime. They had split the cost of repairing the phone system at the school in hopes that the School District of Greenville County would not press charges against us and to make things right. It was during this meeting that we found out that the school district did, indeed, agree to not press charges us against us and that because of that, and the fact that we are not of age, the arrest would be permanently expunged from our records. There would never be any public record of the arrest.


OK so we avoided the prospect of jail. We avoided even having a record. That was all well and good, but what about our dads? Avoiding punishment from the court system was one thing but avoiding punishment from our dads was a whole ‘nother story. On the way from the Greenville County courthouse offices in downtown Greenville to Donnie’s home on Lake Hartwell in Anderson, SC takes about almost an hour. There was complete silence. We did not know what to expect from my dad. This whole thing had disappointed him greatly and I am sure he was angry at us. Silence for an hour for two boys who, when together, could talk the ears off a donkey. We knew that when we got to Anderson there would be this big pow-wow between the four of us (me, my dad, Donnie, Donnie’s dad) and that they would possibly tell us that we could never see other again or something. That would have been fate worse than death to us at the time. They might have agreed to put us to hard labor back and forth between Travelers Rest and Anderson for a year or something. We knew we deserved that or something along those lines. The mind boggled at what our real fate was to be.


However, when we got there, we were told to go put our swim trunks on. Donnie’s dad already had my dad’s boat fueled up and ready to go. We then spent the most glorious day (on a September school day for both Donnie and me) skiing on Lake Hartwell. Donnie and I were really good water skis. Summers in Anderson are spent on the huge lake that Hartwell is. We were water bugs on skis. This day was perfect. Since it was a weekday and during the work hours for most people, the lake was virtually empty and the water was perfectly placid like a pristine sheet of glass (before we came plowing through). It was the perfect dad-son day. The four of us. Donnie’s dad and my dad talking about who knows what all day up in the boat and Donnie and I having the time of our life doing what we did best at the time – water ski. I still remember that day to this day. Not because of the water skiing or skipping school but because we had been set free when we expected the worst. We expected at the worst to be sent to juvenile prison for six months. We find out that our dads had paid the price for our sentence for us. We expected some kind of punishment from our dads that would be almost as bad as going to prison. We got a day at the lake. After that day, the whole matter was never really mentioned again. If it was, it was only as the punchline for any joke about being scared to death. My dad or Donnie’s dad never truly held that whole episode against us ever again. That freedom from certain punishment is still a memory to me as an adult some forty years later. I remember that freedom felt on that lake that day like it was yesterday.


The idea of a parent having all the right in the world to punish a child for some grievous wrong but giving them freedom instead of punishment was what I thought of this morning when I read through this passage. With that idea of mercy and withheld justice, let’s read Deuteronomy 10:12-11:7 together:


12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?


14 To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today. 16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. 20 Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. 22 Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.


11 Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. 2 Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; 3 the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his whole country; 4 what he did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how he overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea[a] as they were pursuing you, and how the Lord brought lasting ruin on them. 5 It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the wilderness until you arrived at this place, 6 and what he did to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when the earth opened its mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed them up with their households, their tents and every living thing that belonged to them. 7 But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done


In this series of blogs, we are talking about how we should relate to God. Today, we will talk about the mercy of God and how we should be eternally grateful for that. In this passage, Moses is saying that the Lord is the God of gods and the Lord of lords. Moses was distinguishing between the true God and the local idols worshiped by the peoples of the region. Then, Moses when a step further, calling God “mighty and awesome.” He has such awesome power and justice that people cannot stand before Him without mercy. Fortunately, His mercy toward His people is unlimited. When we begin to grasp the extent of God’s mercy toward us, we see what true love is and how deeply God loves us. Although our sins deserve severe judgment God has chosen to show love and mercy to all who seek Him with all of their heart. He knows that we deserve punishment and we know it. We deserve to be cast away from Him into the lake of fire, but when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, God sees that Jesus has already paid the price for our sin. He has taken the punishment that we deserve. He sees the perfection of Jesus and not the sins that cover our skin. He shows us mercy through His Son. He loves us that much that He would send His Son to be the ransom for our sins. As a result, we get to ski on the lake of freedom instead enduring eternal punishment.


Just like the freedom and joy that Donnie and I felt on the day of our darkest hour. We were set free because our parents had paid the price for our crime and we were set free to live our lives in freedom as symbolize by two boys having the time of their lives on a day that should have seen great justice levied upon us, so too is the life that we have in salvation in Jesus Christ.


Free when we deserve punishment. Loved by a God whose Son has paid for our crimes. Reconciled to Him and the crimes are wiped clean from our slate never to be mentioned again or held against us ever again. What joy is that? Are you living in that joy?


Amen and Amen.

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