To help the Israelites understand the Ten Commandments, God gave numerous case studies. These provided precedence for ruling in the spirit of the law in future instances. Though many Old Testament laws seem odd or obscure to us, they were foundational for Israel’s entire legal system.
Today’s passage, Deuteronomy 17.2-7, is a case study of someone accused of idolatry and is directly tied to the ninth commandment, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20.16). The legal process started when the leaders received an accusation from a concerned party. If the accused was guilty, the original witnesses were to be the first to stone them. Because this accusation had the capacity to land the accused on death row, the accuser is appointed to be the executioner. In this way they were responsible for their words.
While our words might not be so fatal in the 21st century, deceitful words are still incredibly destructive. In fact, Jesus says we’ll all give account for our thoughtless and harmful words (Matthew 12.36). An 8th grade girl creates a tale to get even with another student or an employee lies about a co-worker costing them their job. Whether it’s a simple exaggeration or a bold-faced lie, this kind of deceit comes from dark places in our hearts.
As you begin your day, consider what words tend to spill out of you in difficult situations. This likely reveals what’s really in your heart. Allow God to begin softening those tough places in your heart. May we respond to challenges in a way that blesses others and honors God.