Summary: Blasphemy is taken most seriously in the Bible. If the punishment is to be equal to the crime, then blasphemy is a most serious offense.
If our text teaches us anything, it teaches us the peril of profanity. Blasphemy is taken most seriously in the Bible. If the punishment is to be equal to the crime, then blasphemy is a most serious offense. There are two questions which we must ask ourselves. The first is this: What is blasphemy? In brief, we can say, blasphemy is, by word or deed, the defamation of God’s character and glory.
The second question follows: How is it that men can blaspheme God? The Bible informs us that there are a number of ways in which we can blaspheme. Among these are:
• Willful disobedience—Num. 15:30
• Rejecting God’s Word—2 Ki. 18:17 25 (cf. Isa. 37:1 7, 23)
• Acting treacherously against God—Ezek. 20:27; cf. 36:20 32
• Failing to give God the glory He deserves—Rom. 1:18ff.; Rev. 16:9, 11
• Rejection of the gospel—Acts 13:45; 1 Tim. 1:13
Blasphemy is defaming God’s name, and God’s character and reputation are reflected by His name(s). God’s restoration of Israel (Ezek. 36:20 32), as well as His salvation of the Gentiles (Eph. 1, cf. vv. 6, 12, 14) is for the praise of His glory, for the honoring of His name. Thus, to defame God’s name is to rebel against His character and His purposes.
Those who blaspheme the name of God today minimize the seriousness of their words by sheepish excuses or apologies like, “Excuse my French.” Perhaps the most awesome reality for those who blaspheme is this statement by the apostle Paul, who himself was once a blasphemer (1 Tim. 1:13):
Therefore God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:9 11).
Those who take the name of the Lord in vain, who blaspheme His name, will someday have to kneel before Him and, as it were, eat their words, acknowledging His lordship, His holiness, His majesty. What an awful thing for one to do who has not received Him as Savior and Lord. For those who have trusted in Him, the name of God is the object of our praise, which will be our eternal occupation in heaven (cf. Rev. 4 and 5).
The Cohesive Principle of This Passage
We must begin by looking at the book of Lev. as a whole and specifically at the larger segment of which chapter 24 is a part. The larger segment is chapters 23 25, which deal with religious rituals of various kinds. One can easily see that the book as a whole is dealing with religious rituals, in which the levitical priests play a key role. Thus, chapter 24 must have something to do with religious ritual.
In verses 1 4 of chapter 24 the central thrust is summarized by the word “continually” (vv. 2, 3, 4). The flame of the lamp(s) must be kept burning continually. In verses 5 9, it is the bread which must be continually kept on the golden table, freshly baked and changed every week. This, too, was to be continually (v. 8) done. We can say that the first 9 verses were concerned with the ritual of maintaining the lamp and the loaves. They were both to be tended regularly, ritually, without interruption.
Justice, too, was to become a matter of ritual, which is the underlying point of verses 10 33. I mean by this that the decision which God gave, along with the governing principles, was given to the Israelites so that justice would be carried out consistently, the same way each time, without variation, without deviation, without cessation.
In all three sections of chapter 24 the element of continuity, of rigorous ritual is present. I would like to suggest that in the Old Testament, righteousness was to be viewed (not entirely, but importantly) in terms of rituals. The sacrifices were religious rituals, to be carried out at specified times, and in very precisely defined ways. Deviation from these rituals has already (chapter 10) resulted in the death of Nadab and Abihu. Defilement was ritually pronounced and ritually cleansed. Now, the lamp and the loaves are to be ritually replenished. Justice is to be so uniformly administered that it is, in a sense, a ritual.
Admittedly, ritual can become meaningless activity, activity carried on apart from a right heart or mind: “The Lord said, ‘Because this people draw near with their words And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote’” (Isa. 29:13).
Nevertheless, there are righteous rituals and unrighteous rituals. By “ritual” I mean that kind of activity which is habitual, which is consistent, which has a certain predictability. For example, Daniel had a daily ritual of prayer, so that even his enemies know when he would be at prayer in his room (cf. Dan. 6:5 11). The Book of Proverbs is based upon the fact that people’s actions can be predicted on the basis of their character. The wise will act in a certain way, while the sluggard will act in another (predictable) way. Our character results in certain habits or rituals and these rituals reveal our character. Thus, the “way” of an individual is, to some degree, his ritual behavior.