What to do with a rebellious son?
What can a mom and dad do with a rebellious child? What do we do With a son who will not obey?
I was prompted to read Deuteronomy 21 this morning by my devotional reading list. It holds the Old Testament way to deal with a stubborn and rebellious son. I’ll give you the bad news first.
“If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.”
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 – NIV
That is what could have happened but Jesus tells us about a rebellious, entitled and selfish son, who basically says to his father “I wish you would drop dead…so I can have what is coming to me”. The crowd listening to Jesus’ story knew the Old Testament rules and regulations and knew how the father could have responded but Jesus’ story showed us the other side of a good Fathers heart, he showed us God’s mercy and his patience and kindness. This would be the good news.
“Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”
Luke 15:11-24 – NIV
The father, at either end of this story could have responded to the sons rebellious and selfish heart with judgement and condemnation. Not just words of condemnation but actual condemnation, he could have dragged him out and had him killed.
In Jesus’ story, God is the father. If I put myself in this story, I am the rebellious son. I am the one who wished my father dead so I could get on with life the way I want to live. A person living a Selfish life always ends up the same, bankrupt and alone.
Let’s go back to Deuteronomy. This set of verses seems to be a dead end. I guess it is literally a dead end. If a son is rebellious he must die. The end. But wait. The chapter doesn’t end there. In the next few verses we get to see the escape hatch, the freedom clause.
““If someone has committed a crime worthy of death and is executed and hung on a tree, the body must not remain hanging from the tree overnight. You must bury the body that same day, for anyone who is hung is cursed in the sight of God. In this way, you will prevent the defilement of the land the Lord your God is giving you as your special possession.”
Deuteronomy 21:22-23 – NLT
This does not sound like an escape clause. It’s just more death.
Jesus, who is Gods own son, was innocent of any crime or sin, hung to die on a cross. He became the curse for us.
Paul says this in his letter to the believers in Galatia:
“But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”
Galatians 3:13 – NLT
Jesus took the curse that I deserve.
Jesus took the curse that you deserve.
We are loved and forgiven like the returning prodigal, not because of anything we did, but because of what Jesus did.
Paul said in his letter to the believers in Rome: “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
Romans 5:6-11 – NLT
Many of the people who read my posts are already believers, if you are one of them, I should say one of us, you already know this stuff. It isn’t new news, it is a comfort maybe to say that Jesus has saved you and you are good. Have you thought about the numbers? The number of people who do not believe in Jesus? If you are in a group of 3 people, statistically the other 2 people you are with do not believe in Jesus. What? That’s crazy right? How can they not believe in Jesus? Maybe no one has ever told them about him. Many people have heard some things about Jesus, mostly wrong or incomplete things, but they don’t know the whole story or the true story of who he is and what he came to do.
You, my reader, have an incredible opportunity to share your story about how Jesus rescued you. One out of every three people in the world believe in Jesus. Two out of every three people in the world do not believe. What shall we do today to tell others about this amazing God who loves us do much that he sent his only son to die for us?
This God is the loving father who runs to hug and kiss prodigals who return. Who can I tell today? Who can you tell today?