If his sons forsake my law
and do not follow my statutes,
if they violate my decrees
and fail to keep my commands,
I will punish their sin with the rod,
their iniquity with flogging;
but I will not take my love from him,
nor will I ever betray my faithfulness.
Hmm, would I flog my own children if they failed to keep my commands? That may have been the way things were done until quite recently, but society has now decided that this is no longer acceptable. So what do we do with verses like this which rattle our 21st century sensibilities? How do Christians deal with them, never mind people searching for faith in a God who is supposed to be all forgiving and loving? Yes, we have to be prepared to take the consequence of our actions, forgiveness or no forgiveness, but flogging? Is this really God speaking? Do we conveniently edit out verse 32 and pretend it never existed? Or maybe we look up a standard commentary and learn some pat answers to this kind of thing that we can reel off when challenged to explain God's apparent brutality? The fact is, I don't know how we are supposed to react to passages like this. Every explanation I have heard has always sounded hollow or somewhat dishonest. 'It's a figure of speech', 'God was using the language that people understood in those days', 'It's a cultural thing!' No! it is saying that God will take a rod and hit his sons with it and then flog them! That's what it says. This is either God talking or it isn't. Let's not pretend otherwise. All I know is that, when faced with an angry mob intent on stoning one of God's daughters who had violated His decrees, Jesus talked them out of it. He didn't hand the stones out and get them to take careful aim. Isn't this a case of God saying one thing and then doing another, maybe because that's what parents do, out of love? I don't know. I like the last verse though!