BAD KIDS OF THE BIBLE: SHELOMITH’S SON
Text: Leviticus 24:10 – 23
Although I don’t really want to do it, I feel led to share something about myself that I am completely ashamed of. Back several years ago, when I taught eighth grade at McKell Middle School, I had a class of boys that were every teacher’s nightmare. If I remember correctly, there were 19 boys in the class, and 18 of them were troublemakers. One boy had been taken from Wurtland Middle School and placed in my class because he had assaulted his teacher. One student had been in several juvenile detention facilities before coming to my class. There were too many of them to separate them, and they all knew how to press my buttons. That class of boys is the reason I quit my job at McKell.
I can’t remember exactly how it all came about, but one day I caught one of the students trying to do something that he shouldn’t. The student started to argue with me, and I was at the end of my rope. He TOLD me that he was going to leave my classroom, and in a fit of anger, I said, “I don’t care if God Himself tells me to let you out of here, I am not letting you go!” As soon as I said that, my heart sank. I was convicted immediately. Later when I cooled off, I asked God to forgive me for what I had said, and I believe that He did, but I think about that incident often.
Maybe you have said something like that, and regret what you’ve done. The young man in today’s Scripture said something that was so offensive that he was put to death for it. His story actually begins way back in the book of Genesis, over 400 years earlier.
If you will remember, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery because they were jealous of him, and told their father that he had been killed by a wild animal. Years went by, and Joseph went through a series of ups and downs, eventually ending up in prison. While he was there, he made friends with Pharaoh’s butler, who was also a prisoner. One day, the butler was released and restored to his position in Pharaoh’s court.
We don’t know how much time passes, but one night, Pharaoh has a couple of dreams that disturb him. He tries to get someone to interpret the dreams, but no one seems able. The butler remembers that Joseph had this ability, so he tells Pharaoh, and Pharaoh has him released from prison. God gives Joseph the ability to interpret the dreams, and he tells Pharaoh that there will be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh promotes Joseph to be second in command in Egypt, and he oversees the gathering of food in preparation for the famine.
Seven years later, the famine begins. Back in Israel, Jacob and his sons are starting to get hungry. Jacob hears that there is food in Egypt so he sends his sons there to bring back something for them to live on. They go and do as their father requests.
You know the story. Joseph recognizes his brothers, and eventually the entire family moves to Egypt so that they can survive during the famine. That’s where the book of Exodus begins.
Exodus 1:6 – 14 says, “ And Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation.  And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.  Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.  And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we:  Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.  Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses.  But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel.  And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour:  And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage, in morter, and in brick, and in all manner of service in the field: all their service, wherein they made them serve, was with rigour.” Because this new Pharaoh feared that the Israelites would fight against them if war broke out, they made them into slaves, and treated them cruelly.
The Israelites served as slaves for 430 years. God finally sends Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and out of bondage. The first fourteen chapters of Exodus records the story. Exodus 12:37, 38 says, “And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children.  And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.” The “mixed multitude” were people that were part Israelite and part Egyptian. It’s sad to think about, but anytime a group of people are enslaved, mixed children result. Masters “own” their slaves, so they feel that they can do anything they want with them, including using them for sexual purposes. The children that resulted inherited the social status of the mother. If the mother was a slave, so was the child. This was true back in ancient Egypt, and it was true in the south before the Civil War.
That brings us to the bad kid in today’s Scripture. We don’t know his name, or his father’s name, but his mother’s name was Shelomith. She was a Jew, but the boy’s father was an Egyptian, probably their master. Evidently he was not in the picture any more; he probably stayed back in Egypt when the Jews left. Author Thomas Craughwell suggests that this young man was bitter and angry because of his social status. In Egypt, he was treated as a slave and had to serve his father while his full-blooded half brothers and sisters got to enjoy themselves and boss him around. The Jewish people on his mother’s side saw him as a half-breed, and they looked upon him with contempt. He was a man without a country, and became angry with himself, his family, and with God. Because he was not a full-blooded Jew, he and his mother probably lived on the outskirts of the Israelite camp.
We’re told that one day, this young man walked into the Israelite’s camp, and while he was there, got into an argument with a full-blooded Jew. In the heat of the argument, Shelomith’s son cursed the man he was arguing with and the God that he served. God had given the Israelites laws concerning blasphemy. The third commandment said, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7) In Exodus 22:28, God said, “Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people.” However, there was a question about whether or not the law applied to Shelomith’s son since he was not a full-blooded Jew. So the witnesses bring the young man to Moses, and they keep him in custody until Moses can seek out the will of the Lord.
God’s answer was that His standards applied to everyone, Jew, Gentile, or mixed. His command was to take the young man outside the camp and stone him to death. Verse 23 records that the “children of Israel did as the Lord commanded Moses.”
Now, once again, we certainly don’t want to pattern our lives after Shelomith’s son. He serves as an example of what NOT to do. But there are certain things about this story that we can find instructive. The first, and most obvious point, is that God’s name needs to be treated with respect. In Bible times, if you cursed someone’s name, it was the same as cursing the person. Shelomith’s son was guilty of cursing the very one that had secured his freedom from slavery. Sure, he wasn’t a full-blooded Jew, but he was going to enjoy all the freedoms and privileges that his full-blooded relatives would enjoy. This young man’s curse was a public insult to the God of the universe.
Today, I cringe when I hear people use God’s name with profanity. I hear it all the time, even from people that claim to be Christians. Back when I was a teenager, I was looking up something in the dictionary, and I found out that words like “gosh,” “golly,” and “gee” are all shortened forms of God’s name, and I immediately became convicted whenever I used them. When we use God’s name as a slang word, or as profanity, we are insulting our Creator, and God hates it. If you are guilty of doing this, please reconsider your actions and stop it. Jesus said that “ …Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.  A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.  But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.  For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matthew 12:34 – 37) When we use God’s name like this, we are showing the true attitude of our heart towards Him. Shelomith’s son showed that he had no respect for God, and was unthankful for what God had done for him.
Secondly, we should learn that when we are faced with an important decision, we should not act until we know God’s will. The Jews knew that the penalty for blasphemy was death by stoning, but they were not sure that the law applied to gentiles or to people that were only part Jewish. So they did the right thing in bringing the matter to Moses so he could seek God’s will.
How many of us make life-changing decisions without even consulting God? We make decisions about where we should live, where we should work, what person we should marry, and other important decisions without praying and seeking God’s will. That’s why some of us end up in a job surrounded by ungodly people, or in an unhappy marriage that ends up in a messy divorce. The advice in Proverbs is “ Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5, 6)
Notice also that when Moses found out what God wanted them to do, they didn’t hesitate in doing God’s will. The number one reason for not doing God’s will may be because we haven’t taken the time to ask Him what it is, but number two on the list has to be because we just don’t want to do it. For most of us, that is probably why we don’t ask Him what He wants in the first place. We see a job opening that pays a lot of money and carries a lot of power, and instead of asking God if it is the right move, we decide for ourselves. What if you asked God and He said “no?” Would you still do what you wanted, or would you submit to His will and maybe take another job that payed less and had no prestige? Would you continue to date Prince Charming, or would you be satisfied with the faithful, caring person that would make a good husband and father that God has sent into your life?
Finally, we should learn that a holy God demands that sin be punished. As we read this Scripture today, some of you may have thought, “Death is too severe a punishment for what this young man did.” What we often fail to realize though is that death is the punishment for all sin, not just blasphemy. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death….” We forget that because we don’t instantly die when we sin. Ecclesiastes 8:11 says, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” Could you imagine if God struck us down the first time we committed a sin? There would not be one of us here today!
Why does God wait? The answer is because even though He is a God of Justice, He is also a God of mercy. The Bible says that he is “…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “ For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;  Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3, 4) God’s will is that we realize that we have sinned and come to Him for forgiveness. If you have sinned, God has given you this moment to repent and to ask for His forgiveness, and you shouldn’t wait. God is patient, but one day, your opportunity will be gone. The Bible says that all those that refuse to repent will be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone to suffer for all of eternity. My prayer is that that will not happen to any of you.
At the beginning of this sermon, I shared a moment in my life that I am embarrassed about. I wish that I had never spoken those words. God had every right to strike me down right then and there, because I challenged Him. But I am glad that God was merciful, and when I asked Him to forgive me, he did. I still remember what I did, and the devil likes to torment me with it at times, but I know God has forgotten all about it. My point is, God forgave me, and He wants to forgive you too. Maybe you have not been treating God’s name with the respect it deserves. Maybe you have been making important decisions without consulting God’s will. Maybe you know God’s will, but you have decided to do things your way. It doesn’t matter what you have done, and who knows about it, God will forgive you if you are sincere and repent. One day, those that have refused to repent will be punished, but God has given you this moment to ask for forgiveness because He loves you. What will you do?