The book of Leviticus in the Bible is often referred to as the Book of the Law because it contains numerous guidelines and rules for how God wanted His people, the Israelites, to live and handle various matters. One such matter was what should be done to someone who blasphemed the name of the Lord. Leviticus 24:10-12 reads:
Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) They put him in custody until the will of the Lord should be made clear to them.
So what was the will of the Lord regarding Shelomith’s son? The passage goes on to tell us that he was taken outside of the camp and stoned by the entire assembly. This was to happen to anyone who cursed God or blasphemed His name. Even though she is mentioned in this passage, Shelomith is silent about her son’s behavior and she is silent about the punishment that took her son’s life as a result of his behavior. What can we learn from her reaction to this unfortunate situation?
1. Shelomith was not responsible for her son’s behavior. We don’t know what Shelomith’s son was fighting with another Israelite about. Maybe the Israelite was making fun of him because he was biracial, having an Egyptian father and an Israelite mother. Maybe Shelomith’s son was tired of being excluded from the other boys’ activities on account of his mixed race or maybe he was angry that his father wasn’t around. It’s probable that his father stayed behind in Egypt when the Israelites left for the Promised Land or that his father was apart of Pharaoh’s army and Shelomith and her son were forced to watch him drown with the other Egyptians in the Red Sea. Maybe Shelomith’s son did not believe in God like his mother did which is why he so readily blasphemed and cursed His name.
All Israelite parents told their children about God and instructed them in His ways, and Shelomith was no different. She probably spent much of her time talking to her son about God and reminding him of all that God had done for them. Even if Shelomith didn’t do so, her son heard plenty about God and how He was to be worshipped and reverenced from Moses, Aaron, and others. Shelomith’s son caught glimpses of God’s glory when he saw the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Shelomith’s son knew that God was one to be respected and feared. His decision to curse God was his decision alone. And as a result, he alone was punished. God did not blame Shelomith and command her to be stoned for what her son did.
Just as Shelomith was not responsible for her son’s behavior, we are not responsible for how others respond to God and others are not responsible for how we respond to God. The decision to trust God or not trust Him, to believe in God or not believe in Him, to love God or not love Him, to respect God or not respect Him, etc., are our decisions alone. No one else can believe or trust or love or respect or obey God for us. We must do so on our own.
2. Shelomith did not question, object to, or try to stop God’s will from being done. Can you imagine what it must have been like for Shelomith when she found out that her son was put in custody for blaspheming and cursing God? Can you imagine how nervous she must have been as she waited to find out what the will of the Lord was concerning her son? Perhaps she even prayed to God that He would have mercy on her son and spare his life. Perhaps she asked Moses to entreat God for her on behalf of her son. Perhaps she went to her son and asked him with tears in her eyes: Why? Why did you do such a thing? Then when the Lord made His will clear, Shelomith must have been devastated to hear that her son would be stoned to death. She might have hugged and kissed her son one last time, and then stood quietly by and cried, as he was swept away by the assembly and stoned. She might have done all these things, but did she question God’s will? No.
Did she run to Moses and Aaron in objection to God’s will and ask them to get God to change His mind? No.
Did she try to stop God’s will from being done by trying to break her son out of custody and help him run away? No.
Like any good mother, Shelomith was saddened and grieved by her son’s fate, but she also knew that the name of God deserves to be blessed, not blasphemed; commended, not cursed. She understood that her son had sinned and his sin had to be punished, not how she saw fit, but how God saw fit. She loved and respected God more than she loved and respected her son, and so it should be for all of us. We ought to be upset when others disparage God or toss around His name as a curse word. We should want to see God’s name honored and lifted high by all people, regardless of their race or religion, because He is worthy of it.
God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. His will is greater and more perfect than our will could ever be. Even when we do not like God’s commands or do not understand His will, we must still trust and obey Him.