At one time, respect was a common catch-word in most parenting vocabularies. Children were taught to respect others, respect their elders, respect their teachers, respect the authorities and respect themselves. Some would argue that the ability of children to show respect has been decreasing over the years. But I’m not so sure about that. Socrates wrote: “Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.” Keep in mind that Socrates lived in the 300’s BC. It would seem that not a lot has changed. But two things have remained constant about respect: it must be taught and it must be earned. Perhaps those are the same thing, but I’ll leave that for you to figure out.
There is a tragic moment in the 24th chapter of Leviticus when an unnamed son “blasphemed the Name with a curse”, and was stoned for it. We can’t comprehend the setting of this event, because the concept of stoning someone is so far removed from our daily lives. The last time I threw a rock at someone my backside let me know for a couple of days that it would not be wise to do it again. Because we cannot comprehend the reality of stoning someone, it can be easy to get stuck on the stoning and miss what the passage is actually trying to teach us. I might say that it would be easy to get caught in that trap for all of Leviticus. We have to see past the seemingly crazy practices that God was setting up for Israel and try to see what God was teaching them or accomplishing through the practices.
So why did the young have to die? Because he treated the Name of God with no respect, and doing that meant that he had no respect for God. The Biblical term for showing God respect is reference. It means to have deep respect for someone or something that manifests or shows itself. The young man proved that he had no respect for God because of how he treated God’s name.
Remember that Moses had the same issue in Numbers 20 when God commanded him to speak to a rock to get water for Israel. Moses instead hit the rock twice. Moses let his anger with Israel trump his respect for God’s command. God told Moses after the event: “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” Moses did not show God respect and so was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.
We must be careful my friends that we are showing God the respect he deserves in living our lives in such a way that our reverence for him is visible. We do this through our obedience to his ways and his Word, by showing respect for his commands and the guidance of his Spirit. We do this in how we treat other people because God cares about that. We do this in how we speak to one another and how we speak about God.
So, the next time you feel your mouth forming the words “OMG” or using the name of Jesus Christ in less than an honourable way, be aware that our outward actions display for all to see, on earth and in heaven, just how much respect we have for God.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Leviticus 26-27