“And speak to the people of Israel, saying, … Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”
While a lethal injection or a bullet from a gun or even hangman’s noose seems like a less grotesque form of capital punishment than a communal stoning, that doesn’t make this primitive method unjust. Perhaps the reason God calls all members of this commonwealth to have a hand in this punishment is because all are brothers and sisters, meaning that all have been injured by the blasphemy against their Father. It makes us rethink the story of David and Goliath a bit, doesn’t it? David meditated on Scriptures like Leviticus 24:16 day and night—he says so throughout the Psalms. So perhaps his stoning of Goliath isn’t so much a testament of his courage as it is his loyalty to God’s law. He fells Goliath with a sling-stone for blaspheming God’s holy name, plain and simple, because Saul didn’t have the heart or the guts to render that capital punishment. In light of Leviticus 24, the moment Goliath started cursing God out, all the men should’ve put down their weapons of war and headed down to the river to gather stones.
Another thought strikes me here as well though. In an ancient world where cultures were set apart by their unique, insidious cruelty, cultures so depraved in their bloodlust that they developed torturing devices and crucifixion methods and unspeakable means of brutalizing enemies, a heavy stone against a criminal’s skull looks like mercy in comparison. That’s right—mercy. And remember: Justice and Mercy are not at odds in God; they’re one and the same. What we find in the sacred scroll of divine revelationis a far cry from what we find in the ancient histories of surrounding nations! God is not blood-thirsty ortorturous like Baal or Molech. He isn’t a megalomaniac like Caligula or Nero. He’s severe in His penalcode, unrelenting in His standard, not because He’s heartless but because He’s holy.
Christian, we bear God’s holy Name in the world around us today, in all we think, speak, and do. May we never take that awesome privilege lightly.