September 2013 • Volume XIV, Issue 17
The Punishment of Rebellious Children (2)
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 states, "If a man have a stubborn and
rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father,
or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have
chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his
father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out
unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son
is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he
is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city
shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put
evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and
In connection with these verses, a reader asks, "Did these
things actually happen in the OT days or are the verses
merely written to show us an example of something else?"
I wrote on this question in the last News and
emphasized that the injunction of the text in Deuteronomy
must indeed be taken seriously and these words must be
obeyed. But I also pointed out that the text was written to
Israel as a theocracy, in which church and state were one.
There is no such thing as a theocracy here on earth any
more. The full theocracy awaits Christ’s return when all the
church shall be redeemed.
But I also wrote that the command in Deuteronomy 21 was a
command given to God’s covenant people. This is very
important, and it is of this truth that I write in this
issue of the News.
That Israel was God’s covenant people means that He had
established His covenant with Israel in distinction from all
the other nations of the earth. That covenant was made with
Abraham and his seed. That is, it was made with Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob. Having been made with them, it was also
made with the twelve sons of Jacob, and thus with the
children of Israel.
The children of believing Israel were also in that covenant.
They were in that covenant as members of it; as members of
it as children. The children, from infancy on, were in the
covenant of grace.
The same is true today. Children of believers in the New
Testament age are also members of the covenant. They, as
well as adults, are members of the church and kingdom of
Christ (Acts 2:39; Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 74).
They are regenerated, given faith, converted and have the
work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. They must,
therefore, be brought up as covenant children.
The case is not, as so many hold today, that believers’
children are, as Jonathan Edwards called them, "a nest of
vipers." They are not unconverted as the heathen. They do
not grow up waiting for conversion to happen. They are
converted and sanctified children of God. And they must be
brought up by instruction from the Scriptures so that they
may grow spiritually.
But we know too, and Scripture teaches us, that not all that
are of Israel are truly Israel (Rom. 9:6). Just as there are
hypocrites in the church at large, there are also children
born in covenant lines that are not children of God, not
true Israel. Who are true children and who are not is
determined by God’s eternal decree. His sovereign, immutable
choice decides who are the true children of the covenant and
who are not (6-24).
Christian parents are to teach their children the same truth
that is preached in the church. They are to hold before
their children the glorious promises of the gospel that are
made to those who believe in Christ and find their salvation
in Him alone. But they are also called upon to warn their
children of the pitfalls and evil of sin, of the need for
repentance when they sin, and of the just punishment of God
upon those who do not repent.
If a family has, for example, an older child that refuses to
walk in the way of Jehovah’s commandments, they must put
that person, when come to years of discretion, out of the
house. They must say to that wayward child, "This is a
covenant home. If you will not walk in God’s ways, you may
not be in this house. Further, you, because you are an
example to the younger children, have, by your sinful ways,
given an evil example to your young brothers and sisters.
You must leave."
And if such a one is come to years of discretion, the church
must warn him or her of the consequences of walking in ways
contrary to God’s covenant. If no repentance is forthcoming,
the church must cut such a one off from the fellowship of
the people of God.
In this way, Deuteronomy 21:18-21 is observed by Christians
in the new dispensation. Prof. Hanko
If you have a question you would like answered in the
Covenant Reformed News, send it to Rev. Stewart (his
contact details are below) to pass on to Prof. Hanko.
Leaving Bethlehem for Moab (1)
Ruth, the eighth book in the Bible, is relatively short,
consisting of just four chapters. Named after a female
character, Ruth could be described as a romantic book, for
it begins with several tragedies and it contains a courtship
(of a sort) which issues in a marriage (between Ruth and
Boaz) and the birth of their son (Obed). A very happy
Considering the book theologically, Ruth is significant for
four main reasons that have been widely recognized by God’s
The first concerns our Lord Jesus Christ. Ruth provides us
with a vital part of our Saviour’s genealogy, for she was
the great-grandmother of King David from whom came the
Messiah, according to His human nature. The book also
presents a kinsman redeemer (Boaz) who buys back or redeems
his deceased relative’s wife (Ruth). The incarnate Son of
God redeems His elect people through His cross for He is our
blood relative who makes us flesh of His flesh and bone of
His bone spiritually.
Second, this book points ahead to the New Testament days of
the catholic or universal church, for Ruth is a Moabitess, a
Gentile who is grafted into Israel. For 2,000 years,
millions of elect, believing Jews and Gentiles from around
the world have become one body in Jesus Christ.
Third, this book records remarkable instances of God’s
providence. To develop this point, I would have to summarize
the four chapters of Ruth, but you can read the book for
yourself to trace Jehovah’s sovereign decree and hand
guiding the various characters.
Fourth, this book is significant because it presents the
godly examples of Ruth herself, Naomi and Boaz, people whose
virtues we would do well to emulate.
But there is another important theological and practical
lesson from the book of Ruth, especially chapter 1, that is
often unnoticed or underdeveloped in sermons and writings on
the eighth book of the Bible. Ruth is very significant as
regards church membership, departing from the church and
joining the church.
Dispensationalism misses this because it denies that Israel
is the Old Testament form of God’s church (and the church is
the New Testament form of Israel). Some are so focused on
courtship and romance in Ruth that they overlook its
instruction on joining, staying in and never leaving God’s
Others fail to see this teaching on church membership in
Ruth because they have not fully grasped the robust biblical
and Reformed doctrine of the church, as summarized, for
example, in Belgic Confession 28: "We believe, since
this holy congregation is an assembly of those who are
saved, and out of it there is no salvation, that no person,
of whatsoever state or condition he may be, ought to
withdraw himself to live in a separate state from it; but
that all men are in duty bound to join and unite themselves
with it, maintaining the unity of the church; submitting
themselves to the doctrine and discipline thereof; bowing
their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ; and as mutual
members of the same body, serving to the edification of the
brethren, according to the talents God has given them. And
that this may be the more effectually observed, it is the
duty of all believers, according to the Word of God, to
separate themselves from all those who do not belong to the
church, and to join themselves to this congregation
wheresoever God hath established it, even though the
magistrates and edicts of princes be against it, yea, though
they should suffer death or any other corporal punishment.
Therefore all those who separate themselves from the same,
or do not join themselves to it, act contrary to the
ordinance of God."
At first blush, Ruth 1:1-5 records a very simple human
story, involving a family of four, consisting of a man and
his wife, Elimelech and Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon
and Chilion (2). They lived in the town of Bethlehem in the
tribe of Judah in the land of Israel, in the days of the
judges (1), that is, after the deaths of the elders who
outlived Joshua and before the reign of King Saul.
But famine struck the promised land, including Judah and
Bethlehem (1). There was a shortage of bread in Bethlehem,
which town’s name means "house of bread." So what did
Elimelech and his family do? They emigrated from
famine-stricken Israel to Moab (1-2).
Then grief befell them in Moab! Elimelech died (of what, we
are not told), leaving Naomi a widow, and Mahlon and Chilion
orphans, in a foreign land (3).
Later, things seemed to look up for the bereaved family. The
two sons married: Mahlon was joined to Ruth and Chilion
wedded Orpah (4).
However, the two marriages remained childless and worse was
to follow. Mahlon, the older son, died. Chilion, the only
remaining son, also expired (5).
Of the four who had left Bethlehem, only Naomi remained. She
had left her country and lost her husband and both her sons.
You can easily imagine the many tears she shed, tears which
were all stored in God’s bottle (Ps. 56:8)!
Naomi had been through a lot in the last few years: famine,
emigration, two weddings and three funerals. Now she had no
husband and no children.
These three widows, Naomi, Ruth and Orpah, were in a
difficult and sad situation. The lot of widows was
especially hard in those days, but for a widow in a foreign
land, like Naomi, it was even more difficult.
We are not altogether unfamiliar with stories like this. We
know about people emigrating, often because of economic
reasons, like famine or unemployment, and out of a desire
for a more prosperous life in another land. For some who
emigrated, it worked out well, but for others it did not.
They struggled to find employment or they never really
settled in their new environment or they experienced tragedy
in their families (though few had it as hard as Naomi). Some
returned to the land of their birth.
Is this what we have here in Ruth 1:1-5? Is this merely a
sad story of a family fleeing famine in Israel, only for
most of them to end up in a graveyard in Moab? If so,
perhaps the minister can moralize a little on the problems
and dangers of emigration. But is this really all that the
first five verses of Ruth contain? No! To this we shall
return in our next article in the News, DV. Rev.
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