I don’t have a “cute” title for our reading today. A man forfeited his life because of the words he said. God had limits to “freedom of speech.”
The story we read today was to stand as an example for the whole people forever. We are not told the name of the “Israelite woman’s son” in our story. What we do know is that his father was Egyptian and his mother “was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan” (verse 11b).
I don’t know if this “son” felt he was one of the Israelites. Was he treated differently by the others in the camp because he wasn’t of pure blood? Was his birth a consequence of slave/master submission? Was he raised to respect God? Was he taught alongside the rest of the children in the camp? Did his life growing up lead to his attitude as a man? Did he harbor resentment for how God dealt with his father’s people?
The “son” was old enough to take responsibility for his own actions. He was a man. He was old enough to form his own opinions. And he thought he was smart enough to take God apart in the presence of His own people.
I’m curious here. How did the people, besides the man he “fought” with know that he had blasphemed against the Lord? I have no doubt that he did this because God found him guilty, but how did the people know what happened? Did the other person lose the “fight” and “tell on him” out of vengeance?
When this happened the people were shocked and didn’t know what to do about it. I’m wondering what it was about his speech and behavior that was so above the complaining the people had been engaging in since leaving Egypt. There had to be something more than mere words to shock the people so deeply. Or was part of it because of his background/heritage that the people were outraged?
Looking a little further in our text I realize that there had to be witnesses to his behavior beyond the man he was embattled against. Moses was directed to have those who “heard him lay their hands on his head” (verse 14b). I would like to believe that those who did so had a clear conscience. Those who came forward did so in response to God’s command only.
I think I have been watching too many court TV shows where the whole picture of guild and innocence gets scrutinized from every angle. This was always a bias of mine; wanting to know all about the back story. That’s where my journaling took me from the beginning.
Bottom line here is that the man in our story committed a sin against God that had to be dealt with in the strictest terms. This was not an issue of free speech or nature vs nurture. It was about poison entering the camp. This was GOD’S people and if they started splintering from the beginning there wouldn’t be a nation in the end. They were allowed to doubt, question and even sometimes rebel but they were NOT allowed to “blaspheme” and curse God. ALL the evidence He had put forth on their behalf proved His power and provision for ALL the people; those born into the camp and those who “sojourned” with them. One people, One God.
Jesus dealt with this issue in the Pharisees. At one point He told them that blaspheme even against Him would be forgiven but blaspheme against God’s Holy Spirit would NOT. Is this the kind of blaspheme and cursing this man engaged in? Did he call God’s works evil and from Satan?
The people were called upon to set the example and carry out God’s sentence. No matter how they felt about the matter, once God had given His command they were to follow it. I have a feeling that this event impacted everyone involved in one way or another. I wonder if people began to watch their own words closer. Did they also watch their own hearts closer? Jesus says that out of the heart the mouth speaks.
Father God I have so many questions. Thank You for allowing me to share them with You. I DO NOT doubt Your power or love for me! I DO NOT doubt that You loved the man in our story. But his actions had consequences. I’m SO glad I’m on this side of Your promise of a Savior. Would that have had an impact on his sentence if he was too? Would he have been offered grace? Did he even attempt to repent? I bet that would have made the “papers” if he had. So maybe that was the biggest determinant in his own punishment.
Watch over my heart Holy Spirit! Bring me back if I stray into his territory. Remind me of how much my attitude matters. Help me cultivate ALWAYS an attitude of gratitude in ALL areas of my life. Thank You for grace and mercy. I’m certain I have done things in my life that, without those two gifts, would have netted me the same punishment; stubbornness being chief among those sins.