Are all sins really deserving of death?

I was reading a small section of Deuteronomy in my devotions this morning and came upon something in God’s law that I felt like I had to fix. How could God say this, I wondered, why would He allow the sin of His people Israel to get to the point of capital punishment?

The problem that I was considering was that a son would be put to death for disobeying his parents. The text in chapter 21 describes the law for sons guilty of disobedience to the parental honor commandment this way:

When a man has a stubborn son, a real rebel who won’t do a thing his mother and father tell him, and even though they discipline him he still won’t obey, his father and mother shall forcibly bring him before the leaders at the city gate and say to the city fathers, “This son of ours is a stubborn rebel; he won’t listen to a thing we say. He’s a glutton and a drunk.”

Then all the men of the town are to throw rocks at him until he’s dead. You will have purged the evil pollution from among you. All Israel will hear what’s happened and be in awe.

I must say that this is a lot to take in. But still, why do I sit here and squirm at what the Word of the Lord says about the consequences of sin? I frantically ask, How can this be right? How shall I think of God now? And why have I been treated with mercy when I have not listened or heeded my parents perfectly? I have had memorable seasons when rebellion has taken over my entire being — what am I now to think of this? What is God’s perspective on all this?

Sin and justice are no easy topics, but it is impossible for us to confront them without enabling the Word of God to bear down upon us. We are in bodies that have never known anything but sin, therefore, we need to turn to the counsels of God-who-has-already-been-in-the-flesh: Christ.

My reaction begs the question: Is it ever a good idea to have sin without punishment? And isn’t this what I am asking for — a weak approach to sin; ; less of an exposure of our need for Christ? It is either one or the other — we be exalted in our sin by God’s failure to bring us to justice, or God is exalted by His faithfulness to spare no expense in treating us according to the requirements of His righteousness.

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