Sunday, 16 February 2014

(48) February 17: Leviticus 24-25 & Mark 1:23-45

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider what the Sabbath year and year of Jubilee teaches.

To ponder:
We read of the lamps and bread in Exodus. They are practical: the lamps light the tabernacle at night and the bread provides food for the priests. But in being “before the LORD” both stress his presence (24v4, 8).
The story of the blaspheming man brings home God’s holiness as the theme of the book. In some way the man verbally disrespected the name “YAHWEH.” It’s noteworthy that the people don’t assume he must be killed (24v12). God determines his fate. And because the Son is one with the Father, we must conclude that “stoning” would be Christ’s decision in the same context. By having those who heard the man “lay their hands on his head” God ensures they take responsibility, protecting against false accusations. By involving the “entire assembly” in the stoning, all Israel learn that blasphemy means death (24v15-16).
In response what’s called the “lex talionis” (eye for an eye) formula is restated. Many assume this made punishments excessive. On the contrary: Unlike the laws of other nations, it actually limited punishments, ensuring they fit the crime.
The Sabbath year would test the faith of the Israelites just as the Sabbath did. Every seventh year they (and their animals) would rest from working their fields and vineyards, trusting God to provide sufficient food on the sixth year and from what grows wild on the seventh. But this is described as the “land” resting. The very creation has a relationship with the LORD, in which he cares for it.
On the fiftieth (Jubilee) year it’s as if everything in Israel is rebooted. Whatever land has been sold is to return to the family that had to sell it, and any Israelites who have become full time servants through poverty, are freed. And when land or people are bought, the price should therefore reflect the amount of years until the Jubilee – ie. that they will benefit from the land or person before they are returned. Moreover, if the seller or a relative gains sufficient funds to buy back the land, they must be prepared to do so before the year of Jubilee, and at a cost reflecting the years left. The exemptions in 25v29-34 are for non land based property or God’s permanent provision to the Levites because they serve the tabernacle.
By these means the Israelites are not to “take advantage” of one-another, and the family unit and its share of Israel’s inheritance is protected. Indeed, Israelites are to help the poor to continue to live amongst them by not charging interest on loans and selling them food at cost price (25v35-38). And because the people are redeemed as God’s servants, those who have to sell themselves are not to be slaves but “treated as hired workers or temporary residents” and not ruled “ruthlessly.” Furthermore, those sold to aliens or temporary residents can be bought back on the same terms as the land. Elsewhere protections are given to foreign slaves. But here, there is much to challenge our treatment of each other as God’s people.
The reason for disallowing permanent ownership is that the land is God’s and the people only “aliens and tenants,” receiving it as his gift (25v23, 38). Although the Jubilee principle inspired the writing off of some third world debt, we are not given specific land in the way Israel were, so these commands are not required today. However, as all creation is the LORD’s, we can view our property in a similar way. Ownership is permitted, but only as tenants responsible for what we have to God.

Praying it home:
Praise God for his concern stretches to the natural order itself. Pray that he would move Christians to give to their poor brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thinking further:
None today.

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