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Purpose: Deuteronomy 21:18-21's Rebellious Children is the last Living Commentary message on 'Reformation' that shows how God's law took care of the difficult situation of rebellious children (think: juvenile delinquent). Surprised how He did it? Learn why.
God really cared for His people and protected them. As long as the went by these laws, the Hebrew society would be blessed by God's presence. But if they, or we, ignore responsibility to rightly deal with juvenile delinquents, they will suffer and so will we as a society.
We should not be afraid of any Bible passage. We might run into passages that we do not understand or apply to our lives, but do not be afraid. Since the Lord spoke them, He can in His good time speak to us through them. God has singled out these things in order to keep His people pure. The purpose is the same for Old and New Testament writings. The context is different. The Lord was writing a complete law for the society. This is quite different than setting forth principles of life. Behind each of these laws, however, we can see what God is protecting, valuing, and preserving as well as what He hates, devalues and sets out to destroy.
Let's see how and why we should deal with our rebellious sons. Below I have made quite a few observations of how our society poorly cares (and makes worse) for juvenile delinquents. It is time we straightened things out before we live in fear from them.
So let's look at the second area of concern in Deuteronomy 21:18-21.
18 "If any man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or his mother, and when they chastise him, he will not even listen to them, 19 then his father and mother shall seize him, and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gateway of his home town. 20 "And they shall say to the elders of his city, 'This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey us, he is a glutton and a drunkard.' 21 "Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear of it and fear" (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).
The Lord turns His attention to another subject here in Deuteronomy 21:18-21. Though the problem is clearly presented, the advice in the form of command is not always accepted. The passage is difficult to understand because most of us have never seen such a thing. We might have seen open defiant behavior, but not this way of handling him.
Stubborn (Hebrew word 'sarar') means to be stubborn or revolt. Six times it is translated as rebellious. This word focuses on one's attitude. "Most often it portrays Israel's total rebellion against God (Is 1:23; Jer 6:28).
Rebellious (Hebrew word 'marar') focuses more on one's rebellious actions rather than attitudes. He actually would do rebellious actions against his parents. Other translations are provoke, disobey, be bitter against.
The solution offered is for the parents to seize him and bring him to the elders of the city. After announcing the charge of the son's rebelliousness, the men of the city should stone him.
Societies have different ways to handle these young men. How does our society handle them? Depending on their age, they are put in treatment centers or arrested. That is fine when we have the facilities and financial resources to imprison them and keep them away from society. The modern word for this kind of son is juvenile delinquents or delinquents depending on their age. Notice how our society takes away the association with family.
The statistics show us that the juvenile delinquency rate is fast increasing and has far reaching consequences.
Juvenile courts handled 1.6 million delinquency cases in 2000,... 43 percent higher than the level of caseloads in 1985. Since 1960 the juvenile court caseload increased over 400 percent, from 1,100 delinquency cases on a given day in 1960 to 4,500 in 2000. (Statistics from www.libraryindex.com/pages/459/Juvenile-Crime-CRIMES-COURT-STATISTICS.html; chart mine.)
In 1998 more than 13% of state budgets ($81.3 billion) was spent on substance abuse. 23% of all U.S. households victimized.
Crime victims lost $17.6 billion in direct costs in 1992 (includes losses from property theft/damage, cash losses, medical expenses, and amount of pay lost because of injury/activities related to the crime). (Source: U.S. Department of Justice, National Crime Victimization Survey, 1994).
Court costs include: $147 billion in 1999 (police protection, corrections, and judicial/legal activities). For every 10 crimes committed, only one is caught. (www.edjj.org/Publications/presentations/CCBD2003.ppt Source: Cohen, Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 1998).
There was a 309% increase from 1982-1999. (Source: U.S. Department of Justice, 1999).
The costs to care for this stubborn and rebellious young men are great. Only a wealthy society could handle such costs. Very few delinquents are restored. They cause much pain (notice the costs!) and harm. Back in the agricultural society, they could not build such prisons or afford to give those that did not work drink and food and meet their needs. If they are not isolated, then they will cause more harm. They are gluttons and drunkards. Their desires like animals rule them. They are willing to steal and hurt others to feed their growing desires.
Will a drunkard turn from his alcohol? It is the same problem today. The Lord's command might seem strong, but He is trying to keep a whole society from being controlled by gangs. Even within our society, crime and its evil are increasing. We have not solved the problem. So what does God's way do?
The offender is isolated. He is killed. He is gone. He is no longer inflicting pain on others.
The juvenile delinquent's death is a very strong warning to others not to enter that pathway.
If there are any other juvenile delinquents, they are shaken up and seek repentance.
The family is again at peace. The society is preserved.
When God's law is obeyed, then life can go on as normal. When one is concerned with rapists, murderers, gangs, theft, the society quickly deteriorates. We are willing to cut into a person and cut out the cancer to save the person. The society needs to do the same to preserve itself.
The Lord knows that a defiant young man can bring about very unpleasant circumstances. This is the reason people do not want to live in the cities. Without a police force, these bold young lads hurt many people. Even with a big police force, prisons, drug treatment centers, there still is a huge problem. God's solution of death, though it sounds harsh, is the best for all. It will keep many others from joining their ranks.
The opposite is also true. Rates to judge, monitor and provide incarceration continue to rise. There are so many cases that the courts cannot handle them. Many are excused only to do more evil. There are those who say that deterrence does not work, but God says it does. "So you shall remove the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear of it and fear." At least we have many statistics that society cannot solve the problem but that their ways are made worse.
I am not suggesting for us to imitate this law. That would, for our society, be too big of a step. But perhaps we need to keep the government more accountable. If the vandalism and victimization are getting worse, the number of delinquents is fast increasing, the costs of treating them escalating, costs and efforts of managing them in the courts is going beyond our resources, why do we just keep doing what we are doing? We need to take much greater efforts than feeding, drugging and sitting them in front of television all day. We have not even begun to share the glorious gospel with these individuals.
God is concerned with the society. Why give the 95% of individuals for the sake of preserving the expression of the lusts of a minority? God does not want crime. The parents, note the two of them, join in with the elders and sentence this young man to death. They are the police force. Parents are not going to do this unless they see there is no hope for their son. They are so pained by what he is doing to others that they are willing to bring him to death. God commands them to do this. The elders, as a second level of authority, can verify the pain this disobedient son has brought to others. All the men will stone him to death.
I have been to these treatment centers. I have seen the hopelessness of those detained and the wildness of those on the loose. When the society as a whole is not given due concern, feelings for the young stand in the way to good judgment. These feelings only put off the inevitable and allow the wicked to harm the average citizen.
Can a wild kid change? Yes. Is it worth extra effort to help these young men? Yes, but one must understand the efforts that have already taken place by the parents and neighbors. These things have already been implemented.
If the son does not obey his parents, will he respect any other authority? Clearly no. If he has been chastised at home, but still unrepentant to the degree that the parent has lost hope and the child gone wild, then it is time to take drastic steps. These same sons have been given many chances and refuse them. Even if they grow up without taming their habits, they will be the same men who beat their wives, steal their kids food and cause great pain in society. How many chances should they be given? How many should die for this fellow's foolishness? How many families must experience lost and fear before one takes effective steps.
Here is a piercing quote from the Heritage Foundation.
There is one significant piece of the story that so far is left out. Why is it that these young people turn to crime and drugs? The government has expended many tens of billions of dollars a year on these problem kids. They have been reluctant to examine the facts and so most of the research can well be summarized as sociological boredom.
Mounting social science research confirms what most Americans already know: The breakdown of the family contributes significantly to many of society's ills, including poverty, crime, drug addiction, school drop-out rates, and poor health. From this same research, Americans also are learning that when fathers are absent from their families, the rate of juvenile delinquency rises dramatically.
Americans are less likely to know that the federal and state juvenile corrections systems generally act as if this significant relationship between family breakdown and juvenile crime did not exist--as if, in other words, the ￼absence of fathers and married parents in a juvenile delinquent's life had no effect on the incidence of juvenile crime.
Startling data available from Wisconsin--the one state that has identified some of the family background of its delinquents--indicate that the probability of incarceration for juveniles in families headed by never-married single mothers might be at least as much as 22 times higher than for juveniles in the two-parent family. Yet despite such evidence, the juvenile justice system and the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) seem intent on ignoring the best prevention strategy in society today: a family environment in which the child's mother and father remain married.
Because tracking family background never enters the juvenile justice policy debate or underlying research, promoting strong families is never part of juvenile delinquency prevention programs.
It does not take a brilliant observer to recognize that good strong healthy families are the solution. But why is the government not willing to take this factor into careful examination? Those in charge of these programs usually do not esteem God's program for the ￼family and therefore ignore this obvious impact less they would need to support the traditional family.
As a society we need to start reemphasizing the importance of strong and healthy marriages and families. Divorce must not be seen as an easy option. I was recently in India. Many abandoned children have become addicted to some form of drug. We heard some of their testimonies of how God saves and rescues. They go from desperate lives to close to suicide to total change. They are absolutely changed. (Listen to their testimony).
Each of these three men in the picture grew up with difficult and desperate lives. The man on the right leads a mission and seeks to help the many abandoned children in the railroad stations by starting a school. These other men have been so desperate but now work hard and help these children when they get a chance.
It is a shame the government shuns the work of Christians with the many lost youth and broken families. It is true that many Christians themselves have lost hope of the power of the Gospel. We must again come back to what is true, good and transforming. We want to see Christ glorified in the way He transforms individuals.
I am fed up with these expensive government programs that heal none and largely dope them out of action. May God raise up more strong families that can help these many broken ones.
Many of you know I have written a parenting book. One of our modern diseases is the inability of people to realize the importance of chastising our children. Do note that these parents have chastised their children that have gone astray. Let us consider this.
But it is much more obvious that many children are not being disciplined. The government even wants to make this worse by making it illegal to spank one's child. Let me quote from Proverbs in case this malicious thinking has made its way to your mind.
"A fool rejects his father's discipline, But he who regards reproof is prudent." (Proverbs 15:5).
"Stern discipline is for him who forsakes the way; He who hates reproof will die." "He who neglects discipline despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding." Proverbs 15:32
"Understanding is a fountain of life to him who has it, But the discipline of fools is folly." 16:22
"Discipline your son while there is hope, And do not desire his death." (Proverbs 19:18).
The government has exacerbated our current situation by diminishing the benefits of disciplining one's child. The family faces so much pressure, parents do not want large families, because they do not properly train their children.
If we are not careful, we will follow the trend of the world and end up with children who do not obey. They are rebellious. You know God's opinion of these kind of children. You can make a significant difference in their lives if you lovingly and consistently discipline them.
There are many things to learn from God's Word. By focusing on two small sections, we have been exposed to how God understands and prevents problems from becoming worse problems. The man ideally should not have two wives. The son should have respected his parents. But life is not always easy. But even in these difficult times and strained relationships, we need the Lord's wisdom to make right judgments.
As parents, we should strive to live good and pure lives. Our consistency forms places the evil one can get into and cause so much harm.
Reformation is the change of a society so that her heart and ways conform to the Lord.
At the root of a true reformation is revival of our hearts. This comes from believing God's Word is true and allow it shapes our lives. Pray that our governments, authorities, others about and we ourselves are those that earnestly seek His face.
Next -> Check out the podcast on these verses (best if use iTunes to see it) or other Old Testament articles