Confessions of a Church: Scourging

Confessions of a Church: Scourging

The Psalm writer wrote, "Open my eyes that I might behold Wonderful things from Your Law." As we come before a Holy God to hear his word, may we have eyes open to the wonderful and fearful things from his Law. May it move us to repent and seek forgiveness, fear disobedience, and live in light of the grace we have received. This is the word of God, it is eternally true and applicable for all of life.

Deuteronomy 25:1-10
“If there is a dispute between men and they go to court, and the judges decide their case, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked, then it shall be if the wicked man deserves to be beaten, the judge shall then make him lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of stripes according to his guilt. He may beat him forty times but no more, so that he does not beat him with many more stripes than these and your brother is not degraded in your eyes.     “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing. “When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. It shall be that the firstborn whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel. But if the man does not desire to take his brother’s wife, then his brother’s wife shall go up to the gate to the elders and say, ‘My husband’s brother refuses to establish a name for his brother in Israel; he is not willing to perform the duty of a husband’s brother to me.’ Then the elders of his city shall summon him and speak to him. And if he persists and says, ‘I do not desire to take her,’ then his brother’s wife shall come to him in the sight of the elders, and pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face; and she shall declare, ‘Thus it is done to the man who does not build up his brother’s house.’ In Israel his name shall be called, ‘The house of him whose sandal is removed.’

This morning's passage continues the grind of having the case law of Israel laid out for us to study with our 2022 lenses on. In that day a dispute between two men could result in the guilty party receiving lashes from a whip.

The idea of a swift public scourging as seen in this passage is like sandpaper to our sensibilities, with all of us having been raised in a judge not, delayed justice, rehab through psychotherapy type of environment. Now, if it is some murderer, rapist, or other heinous criminal, swift brutal justice is alright by us. But we  generally prefer to be coddled and comforted in our sin. It's why many of you take to social media, your favorite Podcaster, or friends outside the Church when things go sideways. That's your judgement free zone. It's where you can go and just be yourself and have no fear of being laid open, exposed.

Public lashings seem barbaric, which, as an aside, may be why some of you delay and abstain from applying the rod to your foolish children swiftly, painfully, and often. It's just so mean.

Imagine the shame, the terror, the pain inflicted upon a man or woman as the guilty verdict is handed down and these lashes rain down, which Matthew Henry suggests did so in very deliberate fashion so that each stroke could be counted. No frenzied lashing here. Another side note: fathers, if you discipline your children while enraged, in an out of control maniacal manner, stop it. Discipline is an act of love, not an opportunity for you to vent.

Matthew Henry also says that "The Jews say that while execution was in doing the chief justice of the court read with a loud voice Deuteronomy 28:58,59,29:9, (“If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to fear this honored and awesome name, the Lord your God, then the Lord will bring extraordinary plagues on you and your descendants, even severe and lasting plagues, and miserable and chronic sicknesses……..So keep the words of this covenant to do them, that you may prosper in all that you do" ) and concluded with those words (Psalms 78:38), 'But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity'. Thus it was made a sort of religious act, and so much the more likely to reform the offender himself and to be a warning to others."

Imagine you are being scourged, having your skin struck, perhaps broken, with blood and sweat running down, and you hear between your whimpers and the crack of the whip on your flesh, God's Law being read as a reminder that He will not be mocked.

Imagine being the one delivering the blows, having to do so amidst pleas of "stop!", "no more!", "I can't take it, it's too much!" Then, only gasps and groans.

Think of our Heavenly Father, watching as the whip rips His Son's flesh, the thorns prick His skin, the nails pierce His hands, amidst the cry of "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"

But our Father did it, because by His scourging we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

My friends, do you deserve the 40 lashes this morning? Apart from God's grace, you stand guilty in His courtroom.

Are you in need of the discipline of the Lord? When it comes do you welcome it or resent it?
The thief on the cross understood that he and the other thief deserved what they were getting. Do you understand that every sin deserveth God's wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come. (Q84 Westminster Larger Catechism)? Do you understand that God's discipline of you is His kindness meant to lead you to repentance and to conform you to the image of His Son?

Do you even notice His discipline?

Imagine not noticing the slash of the whip on your back for sins you know you committed.
Now imagine God's discipline of you for some sin you know you are guilty of, and you don't even notice it. You don't feel it. You don't hear God's reminder to you, week after week. You chalk it up to dumb luck, unfairness, the devil.
He scourges every son whom He loves (Heb 12:6), and yet rather than repent: you rail, gnash your teeth, and say "No God for me".

That's what some of you seem like, "but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11).

Have you forgotten that?

Have you forgotten that  "God is a righteous judge, who feels indignation every day" (Psalm 7:11)?

Apart from the Grace of God, you and I stand guilty, and the verdict rendered will be far more severe and everlasting than 40 lashes meant to lead you to repentance should you and I, baptized members of the Covenant,  trample "under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:29).

It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
— Hebrews 10:31

Let us kneel if able, and confess our sins to God, Who is Holy, Holy, Holy.

Dear Gracious, Merciful Heavenly Father,

Apart from Your Grace, we deserve the lashes of one found guilty of heinous crimes. Cosmic crimes against the Lord of Heaven and Earth totally warrant the most ruthless, painful, everlasting punishments which could be inflicted. Your Word is clear on this, yet we frequently harbor, nurture, and cherish sin. We are prideful in that we sin in the dark as if You cannot see us. We sin while hiding behind false words and fake smiles as if that fools You.
We sin by allowing people to coddle us in our sin, rather than by being obedient and bearing our burdens to one another.

Please forgive us Father for this pride, our vain attempts to hold onto our sin, the fact that our words of peace do not match the chaotic, sinful turmoil of our hearts, and please lead us onto paths of righteousness for Your namesake.  In Jesus's name we pray, Amen.

Please stand, and listen to the comforting assurance of the grace of God, promised in the gospel to his church:  

Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.”

To all those who thus repent and seek Jesus Christ for their salvation, your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Lift up your hearts!