Monday, 17 February 2014

(49) February 18: Leviticus 26-27 & Mark 2

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

To discover:­­
As you read consider the ways Israel are encouraged to obedience.

To ponder:
Leviticus ends with a reminder of its purpose: It outlines the life Israel should live in covenant with and before the presence of her holy God. As before, three key things are to mark this: a rejection of idolatry, keeping the Sabbath (the sign of the covenant) and obeying God’s commands (26v1-3). And because of God’s presence and his faithfulness to his covenant promise, obedience will mean a fruitful land, security from enemies and increased numbers. However these things are not a reward to be earned. They are presented as the norm of the covenant, provided Israel keep it. So the people are warned that if they disobey by “not listening” to the LORD, then they will be punished. Yet even here mercy is seen both in the warning itself, and in God intending the punishments to bring repentance. Indeed, they will increase in severity only if Israel refuses to turn from her sin (26v18, 21, 23, 27): First there will be disease and defeat; then unfruitful land; next, attack by wild animals; then plague and being conquered. Finally, the people will resort to cannibalism (perhaps due to desperation under siege), their idols and cities will be destroyed, and those exiled to foreign lands will live in fear. These things echo the blessings of creation and the curse of the fall (26v12). And in being addressed to God’s people (not the wider world) they keep us sober as many churches and Christians today persist in refusing to “listen to” God’s commands. Christ’s own words warn that the church in any nation can fall significantly, and by doing so be all but destroyed (Rev 2v5).
            Of course grace is never far. Israel’s hope always lies in God’s commitment to fulfil his covenant promises to the patriarchs and so bless the whole world through their descendents. If, having been punished for their sin, Israel then confess “their treachery against” God and “humble” themselves, he will “remember” this covenant, and so “not destroy them completely.” It is just this sort of repentance that Christ urges on unfaithful churches (Rev 2v5, 16, 3v3, 19).
            26v46 concludes the book to that point. It contains the terms of God’s relationship with Israel given to Moses on Sinai. Fittingly the final chapter then focuses on acts of voluntary devotion to the LORD. To guard against rash vows or extra tithes, their costliness is outlined. To be “dedicated” to the LORD was to be put at the disposal of the priests and sanctuary (as with Samuel, 1 Sam 1-2), and so be “holy.” However, it seems people could be dedicated but then an equivalent price be paid at the time instead (27v2). The differences in price between men, women, the young and the elderly do not therefore reflect status (elderly men were most respected), but probably the usefulness of the work they might have done. Animals or property would be actually given, and animals must not be swapped for another after second thought. However, animals, property and tithes could be redeemed (bought back) at their relative value plus 20% (although not property after the next year of Jubilee). To “devote” something to the LORD was however stronger, not allowing redemption. Christians must also be cautious about making vows to God. Ananias and Sapphira bear testimony to the seriousness of treating such commitments lightly (Acts 5v1-11).

Praying it home:
Praise God for the many blessings we have because Christ’s righteousness has been counted as ours. Pray that he would keep the church in the West from turning from him, but rather bring it (and us) to true repentance over sin.

Thinking further:
[Congratulations on completing Leviticus! Critically important, but some achievement.]

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