Deuteronomy 25:1-3 – One Moment Everything’s Cool and Then the Next Moment…

Posted: April 9, 2017 in Book of Deuteronomy
Tags: , ,

Deuteronomy 25:1-3

Punishment Befitting the Crime

 

I remember when I was a teenager and the new kid in town in Travelers Rest, SC (affectionatetly known as TR by the locals). After we had been there a few months, I was in pretty good with the youth group at one of the two churches that my dad served as Methodist minister. By October, after having moved to TR in June, I had started dating the girl who would eventually become my first wife and subsequently the mother of my two daughters. One night after the youth meeting on Sunday night after I had been dating Lisa for a couple of months, we were all hanging in the parking lot at the church talking – the whole Jackson Grove UMC posse. It was youth group at a small church but it was about 20 of us. One thing that I was unaware of was that before I moved to town and got Lisa interested in me was that Harold Perry had long had a crush on Lisa, but he was a shy introvert but a giant of a teenager. He was about 6’3” and 200 lbs at age 16. He never played sports for some reason. That spring before we moved to TR, Lisa had broken off a relationship with Charles Monroe so Harold must have thought that it was his chance to act on his crush on Lisa. However, the cute new preacher’s kid, me, had moved to town. I ruined his plans. He had this smoldering anger toward me. And it spilled out one night.

 

One night after youth group, teenagers being teenagers, not thinking or even caring about each other’s back stories, I must have made a flippant remark (not intended to do anything but draw laughter) about Harold’s manhood or something. I cannot even remember what was said. Then, to me, out of the blue, Harold the 6’3” behemoth picks up this boy, a boy of 5’6” in height at that age, 14, and throws me over his shoulders and start spinning round and round in imitation of a wrestling move. In my embarrassment in allowing myself to become a victim of such a public display, I did not wait for him to either stop or slam me to the ground, I did my best to wiggle free of the choke he had around my ankles on one side and my neck on the other. As he was spinning I was able to break free but that also meant that I went flying through the air toward the ground – because gravity is gravity and she is an unrelentingly consistent bitch. When I hit the ground it was chin first. Did I mention that the “ground” we on was the paved parking lot of Jackson Grove UMC? I scraped the heck out of my chin. It could have worse. The landing could have dug down through my skin to my chin bone. But luckily I had turn my face somewhat sideways right before my face hit the pavement so my chin did not take the full force of gravity and the immovable pavement.

 

When I arose, bloodied, embarrassed and shocked, I was all “what the heck was that all about, dude?” I couldn’t believe that I was just standing there joking around with my friends one moment and then the next I am spinning helplessly on the shoulders of a guy that hardly ever said anything to me, and now I standing there with a bloody chin and side of my face. I didn’t say “what the heck” and you know the what the…” that I said. It was only later when Lisa and I were talking about the event that I found out (being a clueless man – we are often clueless about things that women see, and a teenage one at that) that Harold had a crush on Lisa there for a while but never acted on it. Then I swooped in out of nowhere, to him, and took “his girl.” From that point on, he quietly disliked me greatly unbeknownst to me. I was clueless of the crime that I had committed in his eyes. And, then, bam, one night he punished me for a crime that I had no idea that I had committed.

 

That idea of punishments of crimes and the punishment fitting the crime brought that memory to the surface suddenly. I had not thought about the events of that night in the Jackson Grove parking lot for years and years. It is funny sometimes how the Holy Spirit draws out memories that are buried and forgotten so as to illustrate Scripture. He often takes memories of our lives to show us what Scripture means in relationship to real events in our life. This morning, that was certainly the case. Let us read Deuteronomy 25:1-3 now:

 

25 When people have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty. 2 If the guilty person deserves to be beaten, the judge shall make them lie down and have them flogged in his presence with the number of lashes the crime deserves, 3 but the judge must not impose more than forty lashes. If the guilty party is flogged more than that, your fellow Israelite will be degraded in your eyes.

 

At first glance, this passage seems irrelevant today. However, a closer look reveals some important principles about discipline. Are you responsible for the discipline of a child, a student, or an employee? Three important points will help you carry out your responsibility. First, let the punishment follow quickly after the offense. Second, let the degree of punishment reflect the seriousness of the offense. Finally, don’t overdo the punishment. Discipline that is swift, just and restrained makes its point while preserving the dignity of the offender.

 

In my case, Harold denied me of my dignity. He never identified to me what my crime was. He never stated that I had offended him. He never gave me the chance to defend myself against his charge against me. I was not given a fair trial. I was just punished. It is an example of how we often just lash out at people who have offended us. Sometimes, we have made up our mind on getting revenge and punishment without determining whether our outlook on the reality of the situation is valid or not. We just lash out. Sometimes, we lash out and our reaction is unjustified because there was no crime committed against us by the person. We knee jerk react to situations. This passage reminds us that we need to give our enemies a fair hearing before we execute punishment. We need for them to know how they have hurt us and get an explanation. Often times, people who have offended or hurt us, don’t even know that they have hurt us. Give them a fair hearing. Give them a chance to defend themselves. Then, let the punishment fit the crime. A lack of knowledge of what they had done wrong against you would deserve greater degree of mercy that a willful intent to hurt you. But even willful offenses do not deserve punishments beyond what fits the crime.

 

As we begin the holiest of weeks in the Christian calendar today with Palm Sunday and continuing on through Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we are reminded of how Jesus committed no crime, but was treated as if he had committed some great offense against the Jewish religious state and, also, the Roman Empire. He had committed no crime but to speak the truth of God. He was innocent of any real crime. However, it was all part of God’s plan to show mercy to us by taking out His wrath against sin against His Son on the cross instead of taking it out on us.

 

He was innocent. We are guilty. But He took the punishment that we deserved. God poured it all out on Him. All the wrath that I deserved. Jesus didn’t deserve the punishment of 40 lashes with a cat-o’-nine-tails whip and with reeds. He didn’t deserve to have the flesh ripped from his body by that horrible kind of whip. He didn’t deserve the deep tissue bruises caused by being beat with wooden reeds. There was no unbiased judge that prevented that. There was no mercy shown Him for the crimes he supposedly (without evidence) had committed against the government. He did not deserve to be bloodied almost to death and then paraded through the streets with the cross beam on his shoulders. He did not deserve to be forced to carry that beam when he was beaten with an inch of his life and had bloody open wounds all over his body. He did not deserve to be put to death by crucifixion – still one of the most cruel and lengthy punishments to the death ever devised by man. He did not deserve what He got. He was innocent of His crime. But, yet, there was an eternal thing that He was doing in a temporal world. He died for all sins. He died for all your sins and all of mine. He took the punishment that He personally did not deserve.

Therefore, let us be a merciful people when people have offended us. Jesus didn’t deserve what happened to Him. But he accepted it anyway because of his love for us, our friends and even our enemies. Let us show mercy. Let us show restraint. When someone offends us, let us make sure first that they have indeed offended us. Let us give them the opportunity to seek forgiveness. Let us learn their back story. Let us offer forgiveness. Let us react in ways that are befitting to the crime that has been committed. Let us then forgive and restore. Let us be merciful as God has been merciful to us by giving the punishment we deserve for our crimes of sin to His Son instead of to us. Let us seek mercy as well as justice just as God has done with us.

 

Amen and Amen.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s