READ: Leviticus 20:1-8
Capital Punishment for Religous Crimes
Chapter 20 continues the subject of laws and offenses against the holiness of God. This chapter is significantly different in that much of what is mentioned has already beeen mentioned; this time, though, the laws include their respective punishments. Most of these punishments involved death and/or being ‘cut off’.
Some would suggest that being ‘cut off’ could refer to an act of God’s dealing spritual death or maybe even physical death, other times it could be that the people were supposed to cut the people out of their society and culture. In any case it was a severe punishment.
In the first crime mentioned, that of child sacrifice, the penalty was supposed to be death by stoning; we are told that God would also ‘cut him off ‘. In fact, if the people were remiss in their duties of judgment then God promises that he would still play the role of ‘cutting off’ even on the heads of those that do not accept their responsibility.
There is a keen mix of divine and human. Judgment was sometimes supposed to take place on a human level in addition to the divine level; other times the judgment would be enacted at least on a divine level. King David, for example, and his sin with Bathsheba was not punished by the required death penalty; and yet God still brought in an angle of divine jugdment.
We must keep in mind that these people had an agreement with God, otherwise known as a covenant. An agreement that they would be blessed if they did what God asked, and they would be cursed if they rebelled. A new covenant has been enacted, an agreement between people of faith and God that is hinged and centered upon grace. We have no need to fear God ‘cutting us off’ any longer if we have a faith in God! Which is a magnamanously wonderful truth!
Yet there are plenty of times when judgment on a human level is not just and the wicked get away with a seeming lack of retribution for their rebellion and unrighteousness; judgment is still divine! The Psalmist often looked around and noticed such a discouraging truth, yet he took comfort in the fact that God is the ultimate just judge and each would face their lot in life when they stand in the presence of the Divine.
Ponder the thoughts of King David himself in Psalm 37:
“Do not fret because of evildoers, Nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, And wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good…Delight yourself also in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart…Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret – it only causes harm. For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the Lord, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be nor more; Indeed, you will look diligently for his place, but it shal be no more. But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. The wicked plots against the just, and gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him, for He sees that his day is coming. The wicked have drawn the sword and have bent their bow, to cast down the poor an needy, to slay those who are of upright conduct. Tehir swrod shall enter their won heart, and their bows shall be broken…”
There are many wonderful thoughts that continue all through that Psalm and a great challenge to remain faithful to God.