Don’t DISHONOR God’s NAME through WORDS or ACTIONS: And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the Lord, he shall be put to death." (Lev. 24:13-16)
The narrative of various laws recorded in the book of Leviticus is interrupted by the account of an altercation between an Israelite man and another man whose father was an Egyptian but whose mother was an Israelite woman from the tribe of Dan by the name of Shelomith (v. 11). This inter-racial person, who was apparently one of the ‘mixed multitude’ (see Ex. 12:38; Num. 11:4), blasphemed the holy name of Jehovah God by cursing and violating the 3rd commandment that God had given to the Israelites (Exod. 20:7; 22:28). Ultimately, this act was a trespass against the Holy One of Israel (v. 22).
God had rescued the Israelites from Egypt and bound them to Himself through His covenant at Sinai. To blaspheme His name was a rebellion against God. The punishment for such a gross infringement was death by stoning at the hands of the entire assembly (v. 16). In fact, God Himself issued the command for this offender to be stoned. This person was taken outside the camp as a sign that he had been cut off from the people of Israel, and so that his death would not defile the camp. By this act of stoning, the people transferred to him whatever guilt might have accrued to the community. His subsequent death then atoned for his own and his hearers’ sin. The sinner bore full personal responsibility for this gross sinful act against God (v. 15).
The incident shows that the law was the same for anyone who lived in the camp of Israel, whether he was a full-blooded Jew or not (v. 22). It also shows that blasphemy (like murder) was punishable by death (vv. 14, 16, 17, 23). The verb translated ‘blasphemed’ actually means ‘to pierce with the intent of debilitating a person’. The word ‘cursed’ means ‘to declare someone to be without significance’. The guilty person here did not pronounce a curse in our sense of the word, but rather attacked God’s holy nature and declared Him to be without any significance!
Let us understand that God takes His name very seriously, as this unfortunate incident reveals. But in dishonoring God, he was committing the sin of blasphemy for which he was sentenced the death penalty. Let us recall that God had warned His people in the Ten Commandments that He would not hold that person guiltless who took His name in vain (Ex. 20:7).
In our day and time, it is possible that we may dishonor God’s name in any one of the three ways listed below:
- When we blame God for the evil happening around the world: This may include calling natural disasters as the ‘acts of God’. Through this we are imputing responsibility on God for things that may be the result of sin and evil, which amounts to blasphemy. God cannot be the author of evil (James 1:13) since He gives us only good and perfect gifts every time (James 1:17).
- When we dishonor another person who is created in the image of God: The Bible warns us strongly against this practice (James 3:9–10). When we dishonor another human being, we are dishonoring God who created him/her, and this is a sin that amounts to blasphemy.
- When we willfully/persistently rebel against God through our unbelief: It is possible that we will display our unbelief in God’s Word during times of crisis. We may also insult God by turning our backs on His clearly revealed will for our lives and resisting the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31–32). In fact, we may fall away from a vital relationship with God through our unbelief and disobedience (see Heb. 6:1–20). In doing so, we will clearly limit the work of God like the Israelites did in the wilderness (Psalms 78:41). We should note that even Jesus could not do any mighty works in His own country because of the unbelief of the people (Matt. 13:58).