There was a lot of hoopla a few nights ago about the Republican debates. Unfortunately I do not have the Fox News Channel (I am confused as to why the powers that be would decide to air the debates on that channel instead of one that more people have access to), so I instead followed the debates based on the tweets and posts made by people commenting on social media forums.
I am not fond of politicians and struggle with politics. I do not find most politicians to be honest or transparent. It is my opinion that most of them will say what they need to say to secure votes. I believe a smaller fraction of politicians actually care about the American people and believe their ideas would help, but the operative words there are “smaller fraction”. I don’t trust the vast majority of them and I am not completely sure that some Americans don’t vote on popularity as opposed to substance. All of the attention being paid to Donald Trump gives me pause. Now, if people really believe he is truly a good presidential candidate and can make a difference in America, that is their right as citizens to vote based on who they believe is best. Yet I can’t help but wonder how many people vote for candidates just because they are charismatic, say the right things, or behave in the most obnoxious manner. In terms of parties, I have typically voted Democrat but a lot of my views would fall more in line with supposedly Republican values. I say supposedly because of the hypocrisy I feel is within the Republican party that has completely turned me off to them. I cringe when I hear someone claim to be a Republican and love God then talk about poor people with such venom. Fox News, which claims to be “fair and balanced”, is anything but, and as a wing of the Republican party, I find their pseudo-journalism to be appalling. Yet the Democratic party is just way too liberal at times.
However, when the time comes to vote, I will do so. I will never forget how my ancestors struggled to get the right to vote and thus choose political representation that would be sensitive to their needs, even if I don’t care for politics.
Can’t forget their efforts here too:
I just feel like most of our elected representatives are out for themselves, and that the fact that they can get rich bothers me. How can a millionaire relate to me? I also get tired of those two parties and their inane back-and-forth. Neither of them alone have all of the answers. If those two parties would actually work together I’m sure this country would be in a better position.
But let me move on.
I had a tough time last night trying to sleep. I kept thinking about my dad, and I’ll be honest, I had to have a good chat with God. I can’t help but feel like what is going on with his life is not fair. When I first approached God, I remembered reading the minor prophecy book as recorded by Habakkuk. Habakkuk was looking at the wicked things going on around him and wondering why God was allowing it to happen. He was not disrespectful when he asked the Lord, “aren’t you paying attention? Why aren’t you doing anything about this?”
I thought of Habakkuk and other Biblical figures and Scriptures as I pictured my dad in his hospital bed. I remembered how Habakkuk respectfully laid forth his petitions then waited patiently for God’s response. I poured my heart out to the Lord, asked him why my dad worked for over thirty years, oftentimes seven days a week, some times twelve hours a day, and then got this sick once he retired, when he should be enjoying everything he worked for. I had to ask why some people who don’t take care of their bodies or their own families are allowed to live healthy lives for years and years but my dad is being dealt one health-related blow after another.
Then I remembered about Job. Thought to be the oldest book in the Bible, Job is the prime example of how to deal with strife. I remembered that Job was being tested, that Satan had approached God in heaven after wandering the earth looking for someone to tempt (remember God tests us, Satan tempts us). God offered up Job as “his servant”, one that God was confident would be faithful despite whatever obstacles Satan put in his way. Over the course of the book, Job loses EVERYTHING–his wealth, his family, and then he himself is stricken with a skin disease. All throughout that ordeal, Job never curses God. He gets upset, as humans do, but he never curses God. In the end, God built him back up stronger than before. The Devil was NOT victorious.
When I go visit my dad today I am going to remind him of the story of Job. I already texted him to remind him that our hope is not in the doctors, although we appreciate their vast body of knowledge–our hope is in the Lord. We are rewarded when we pass his tests, and our faith matures.
And now, on to Chapter 21. Here, God is giving instructions as to the holiness of the priests. As the spiritual leaders of the nation, they of course had to be held to high standards of conduct and behavior. Therefore, special instructions were given to the priests as to maintain the holiness that was sufficient for them to serve God. Priests were not to come in contact with dead bodies, lest they become unclean, unless the dead body was that of a close relative. The chief priest, the one who is over his brothers, cannot come in contact with any dead bodies, relative or not. Specific grooming instructions were given. Priests were not to cut patches on their heads, shave the edges of their beards, or make any cuts on their bodies. Again, this seems to be so they can remain set apart from the pagan practices of the surrounding nations. Priests were to marry virgins (a woman who has never been defiled), and forbidden from marrying prostitutes. (Makes me wonder, given these Scriptures, why the concept of Catholic priests getting married is such an issue. I have found no Scriptures that suggest that men in positions of spiritual leadership should not marry–the only Scripture that readily comes to mind is the one where the Apostle Paul suggested that it is difficult for a married Godly man to serve God wholeheartedly and freely because of his obligations to his wife, which makes complete sense. A married man can be devoted to God but he has to provide for his family, whereas an unattached man can devote his entire being to the Lord. I can see why it may be considered honorable for priests not to marry and have families so that they can completely carry out their duties, but the Bible also says it is better to marry than to burn, and it is apparent that God looks upon marriage between a man and woman favorably.
As always, I digress.
In addition to staying away from prostitutes, priests are also forbidden from marrying women who have been married and divorced. If the daughter of a priest profanes her father’s name and holy position by whoring herself, she is to be burned with fire.
Attention now turns to the chief of the priests, the brother who has been anointed with the holy oil. He is take care of his appearance, not letting his hair hang down or wearing torn clothes. He must also carefully select a wife based on the qualifications listed above. His wife must not be a foreigner; she is to be an Israelite.
Let me stop here just for a moment. As we all know, there are people out there who like to twist the Word of God to suit their own selfish purposes. Some of these people take Scriptures such as the one above, where God tells priests to get an Israelite wife, and apply it to interracial marriage (there are other Scriptures I have seen people use, but since we’re at this one, I’ll be brief and just focus on this one). I have read the entire Bible and I have found no Scriptural basis for their foolishness. Yes, we should not be unequally yoked, but that does not have to do with race. That has to do with a Christian who somehow ends up with a non-Christian. The reason for avoiding marriage with an non-Israelite is the same as avoiding marriage with a non-Christian. I can use my own marriage as an example.
My sweet, loving husband (a product of an interracial relationship, mind you, which is why I suppose I bristle at the notion that Blacks and Whites shouldn’t “mix”) is a deacon at our church. He is one of the most committed people I know. Every day I get to watch how his growing relationship with God manifests. I can see how his compassion and patience and love reflects the Word that he reads and studies everyday. As a Christian wife, I am okay with him being the head of the household because he is a good person to follow, point blank. And he does not railroad me or anything like people might think when they hear the discussion on “submission”.
Because we are both Christians, we both use the principles in our Bibles to guide every aspect of our daily lives, including how we interact with each other. We have both made up in our minds that certain worldly practices will not work in a Godly household. We don’t cuss or belittle each other. We don’t disrespect each other or take our problems to other people. We don’t physically fight each other. We don’t even argue. We get teed with each other every now and then, but it never goes far. We go to church together, we support each other as we grow in the Lord, we raise our kids together, we pray together, we hope and dream together. In all things, we hold each other accountable according to the Word.
If I had married a Muslim would that have helped me get closer to Jesus or taken me further from Him? How would our children have been raised? How can I say I love God then marry someone who denies that Jesus is God? And how long before I would find myself partaking in the customs and practices of that faith?
In terms of priests only marrying Israelite women, God knows that women can cause men to fall (admit it, fellas). He has to keep the priests from all possibility of being corrupted by foreign women who worshiped idol gods. As Israel’s spiritual leaders it was imperative that their holiness remained on point. In a sense, the same applies today. Christians have a special role to play in the world and need not distract ourselves with the ways of the world. But how difficult would it be to avoid false gods and the customs and practices that come along with their worship if we are exposed to it regularly because our significant other is a part of it?
What follows is another passage of Scripture that I had to think about:
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron, saying, None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God. For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the Lord’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things, but he shall not go through the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries, for I am the Lord who sanctifies them” (vv. 16-23).
So my first thought was that that is kind of mean.
Then I read, thought, prayed and read again. It is my humble opinion that 1) people with disabilities were not explicitly forbidden to serve God in totality, but there were some things they were not to do and 2) perhaps this is a reflection of understanding that particular disabilities might hinder the work from being done EXACTLY as God wanted it done. And we must remember that this passage of Scripture is aimed at the PRIESTS. There is nothing in the Bible that says that people with disabilities cannot and should not serve God. OF COURSE God does not want only physically flawless people to serve him. Why? Because perfectly physically flawless people DO NOT EXIST.
Then we get to Chapter 22, which includes more instructions for the priests. They are not to approach the Lord if they are unclean–if they are leprous, have an emission of semen, come in contact with a dead body, touches a creepy-crawlie or eats an animal that has died at the hands of another animal. If they do any of these things they are unclean for the entire evening. Lay people are not to eat the holy things, but slaves of priests can, and anyone born in the priest’s house is permitted to eat the holy things. If a person unintentionally ate the holy things, they could make it up to the Lord by adding a replenishing it plus a fifth of its value. What I like about God is that there is always a way to right our wrongs. When we sin, we confess, repent, and are forgiven immediately. It is not like with people, who can hold grudges for years if you look at them with a crooked eye.
The Lord then discusses acceptable offerings. These instructions have been mentioned before–animals are to be males, blemish-free, sheep, goats, or bulls. Animals with any type of blemish–an itch, discharge, scabs, etc.–will not be accepted. There is a slight exception: For a freewill offering, a bull or lamb sacrifice can have a limb that is either too long or too short, but this exception applies only to freewill offerings and not to vow offerings. Animals with injured testicles are no bueno.
I wondered why God kept repeating these instructions. It seems like we have read at least a hundred instances where God has told the Israelites to bring blemish-free animals forward for sacrifice (okay, I am exaggerating). But God knows human nature. He knows that people will rob God–in tithes and offerings–or in this case, in sacrifices. Imagine if God did not explicitly demand the best animals be brought to him. Which animals do you think the people would bring forward? Probably those that were of least value–the blind, the lame, etc. God deserves the best and should get the best. And today as Christians we ought to give our best regularly and cheerfully. We have to do so with the faith that what we have belongs to God anyway, and if we are faithful stewards over some, he will give us more. Giving is a direct reflection of your heart. For those of us who love the Lord, giving is an essential part of Christian service.
Newborn animals are to spend seven days with their mother, and on the eighth day they are considered acceptable for sacrifice. A mother and her young are not to be sacrificed on the same day. Thanksgiving sacrifices are to be eaten the same day. This chapter concludes with God reminding the people yet again that he is the one who brought them up out of Egypt, and he is the one who sanctifies them. Just as we are delivered from the bondage of sin by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and set apart and sealed until He comes back for us. HALLELUJAH!
We again visit the annual feasts in chapter 23:
- Sabbaths: We already know that the Sabbath is a day of rest.
- The Passover: On the fourteenth day of the first month at twilight. This of course, along with feast number 3, commemorates that special occasion when the Israelites were delivered from Egypt.
- Feast of the Unleavened Bread: The fifteenth day of the first month. On the first day of this feast the people were to have a holy convocation and refrain from working. For seven days they were to eat bread without leaven (yeast) and present food offerings to the Lord. No work is to be done on the seventh day.
- Feast of the Firstfruits: When the people came into the land the Lord was giving them, they were to present the sheaf of their first fruits to the priest as a wave offering.
- Feast of Weeks: Exactly fifty days after the Feast of Firstfruits, this feast was similar to that one in that it was a feast of thanksgiving to God for his merciful provision. However, this feast was devoted to wheat offerings, whereas the previous feast celebrated the barley harvest. Also known as Pentecost (which means fifty).
- Feast of Trumpets: On the first day of the seventh month, the people were to enjoy a day of solemn rest, a food offering to the Lord, and the sounding of trumpets.
- The Day of Atonement: This has been discussed at length. It was the one day of the year that the high priest entered the Most Holy Place and atoned for the sins of the entire nation. It was on the tenth day of the seventh month. This is a day of rest as well, and anyone who did any work would be destroyed. (Out of curiosity, I looked up a Hebrew calendar, because when I first read the Bible I remember thinking that the days corresponded with our calendar today. We are not talking July 10th. This month, Tishri, corresponds with our September-October, which makes sense considering we are talking about fall harvesting here.
- Feast of Booths, also called Feast of Tabernacles: Beginning on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (so five days after the Day of Atonement) and lasting seven days, this feast consists of a holy convocation (assembly of the people) on the first day, seven days of food offerings, and another holy assembly and food offering on the eighth day. On the first and eighth days no work is to be done. The term “booths” refers to the fact that during this feast, the participants lived in temporary booths.
Here is what I took from this whole feast section: 1) God likes a good celebration just like the rest of us, right? 2) God wants us to not only to remember him, but to delight in him. These feasts gave the Israelites a chance to get away from the daily grind of their lives and really stop and remember and celebrate what God had done for them. No matter how the world changed, the Israelites were to remember how God delivered them from Egyptian bondage and provided for them as his chosen people. These feasts were to be celebrated each and every year without fail. The Israelites were to never forget what the Lord their God had done. These feasts also gave the people chances to celebrate and connect with each other. In terms of a more modern context, I think of revivals as an opportunity to remember from whence the Lord has brought us and renew our perhaps waning commitment to the Lord while fellowshipping and delighting in the Lord with others. Isn’t it a joy to praise God with other believers?? Of course, I can get a good prayer going right at home, or even sing a good uplifting song in my car by myself, but there is something special about being with other believers. God wants us to connect!
Chapter 24 begins with a discussion about the lamps that are to be kept burning continually. I wonder if this is symbolic but admittedly have done little research on why the lamps had to be kept burning. Is it because the priests were expected to always be ready to serve? Was it to remind Israel of their status as the perpetual light of the world? Is it symbolic of the fact that our fire for the Lord should always be burning? I am not sure what it means, if anything, but that is okay–it just gives me something else to try to figure out. Anyway, as has been mentioned before, there were to be twelve loaves of bread in the Tabernacle, each loaf representing a tribe of Israel of course. Then God moves on to outline the punishment for blasphemy, showing contempt for God. This discussion comes about after a particular incident involving the son of an Israelite woman and Egyptian man (interesting) who went to fisticuffs with another man and for reasons unspecified blasphemed The Name. The man was put into custody until Moses, of course acting in accordance with the will of God, could deal with him. The Lord lays out the punishment: Death by stoning outside the camp by the ENTIRE assembly. Holy smokes, right? Makes you think twice before you utter God’s name in vain, doesn’t it?? (I admit it, I have been guilty of this!).
Next is a passage that is often misquoted, or taken out of context. God would never condone personal vengeance, so it is accepted that the following passages of Scripture are to guide the judges of Israel:
“Anyone who takes the life of a human being is to be put to death. Anyone who takes the life of someone’s animal must make restitution–life for life. Anyone who injures their neighbor is to be injured in the same manner; fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. The one who has inflicted the injury must suffer the same injury. Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a human being is to be put to death” (vv. 17-21).
In my humble opinion, as always, this passage of Scripture is often taken too literally. God is a fair God, one of order and justice. The punishment should fit the crime, and the punishment is determined not by the person wronged, but by an established judge based on God’s guiding Word. Can you imagine a society where everyone who was wronged determined the punishment themselves, and went out and exacted it? Well, we see some of that disorder and chaos today–because people are leaning to their own understanding, and killing people for bumping into them.
So after this passage, the people do what God has commanded–the blasphemer is taken out of the camp and stoned.
Chapter 25 brings up an interesting concept, one because I cannot tell if the Israelites ever fulfilled it or not–the Sabbath year. Briefly, for six years the Israelites were to cultivate their crops, but the seventh year they were to give their land rest. They were to begin this once they arrived in the promised land. I do not recall reading anywhere in the Bible where the Israelites ever did this. Perhaps they did not trust the Lord enough to believe he could provide them with enough food to sustain them while the land was “relaxing” for a year? I don’t know. Obviously, not growing food was the ultimate test of faith, as obedience to this meant that the Israelites would have to be completely convinced and faithful that God would somehow provide. I’ll definitely look it up 🙂
The year of Jubilee was to occur every fiftieth year moving forward. In this year, on the Day of Atonement, a trumpet was to sound (remember awhile ago when I mentioned that God likes trumpets?) and freedom was to be granted to all slaves. All land that had been sold was to be returned to its original owners. Can you imagine that? No conditions were given here. It does not say that a slave would be freed “if”… or land would be returned to original owners “if…” No, there were no ifs, ands or buts, it was to be just as God said. So no one was to be a slave forever, and even if a hardship occurred where a man had to sell his land, that too was temporary. In the year of Jubilee he could get it back.
God here answers the question which may have been burning on the minds of the Israelites:
“And if you say, ‘What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop?’ I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years. When you sow in the eighth year, you will be eating some of the old crop; you shall eat the old until the ninth year, when its crop arrives” (vv. 20-22).
God will provide. All they had to do was obey and trust.
Next, God reminds the Israelites that since he owns the land, no one can sell any of it indefinitely. They are to allow the redemption of land. If a man became poor and sells part of his property, their nearest relative is to come to redeem it. However, if that does not happen, and the man later gains sufficient income to purchase his land back, he has to pay the new landowner based on the amount of time the property was in the new landowner’s possession and he can get his land back. If this scenario does not play out, and the man is not able to come up with the means to get the land back, he will get it back in the Year of Jubilee regardless. Once a house is sold, the original owner has up until a year to fully redeem it. If no redemption is made in that year, the house fully belongs to the new owner and will not be returned to the original owner in the Year of Jubilee. These rules apply to houses in walled cities. Houses in villages in the open country can be redeemed and are expected to be returned in the Year of Jubilee.
As for the Levites, they are able to buy back their houses in the cities that belong to them at any time. If someone buys a house from a Levite, the house is returned to the Levite in the Year of Jubilee. The Levite cities belong to the Levites, given them by the Israelites. Their fields and pastures cannot be sold–they belong to the Levites forever. The Levites have a permanent right of redemption.
Some rules for slave owners are then given. Again, just because God mentioned rules or regulations to guide a practice does not mean he condoned it. The poor will always be among us, and God made stipulations as to how these people were to be treated:
“If anyone from your own country becomes too poor to support themselves, you must let them live with you like a visitor. Don’t charge them any interest on money you might loan to them. Respect your God and let those from your own country live with you. Don’t charge them interest on any money you lend them. And don’t try to make a profit from the food you sell them” (vv. 35-37).
Imagine that. A society where there is a collective understanding that sometimes circumstances happen and people become poor. First thing I took away from this passage is that, of course, it is the responsibility of society in general to take care of those less fortunate. Just because someone is in a hole does not mean someone of better means should provide them with a shovel. It has always baffled me as to how, as I attempt to work on my poor credit, someone would, instead of showing me leniency as I try to pay back my ridiculous student loans and some medical bills, charge me a high rate of interest, thus making it even more difficult to repay my obligations.
How you treat a poor person is a direct reflection of your true character. Why? Because it is much easier to be kind to someone who can repay you than it is for someone who can’t give you anything in return for your kind deed. If you’re a selfish person with a shallow or nonexistent relationship with God, it is easy to look upon poor people with contempt and neglect to see the person beyond the circumstance. For those who believe that poor people generally have become poor from their own stupidity or foolishness, I would suggest, as always, that they EXPOSE themselves to those very people, talk to them, hear their stories, and realize they are not that much different from other people. Admittedly, some of the people I have spoke to that are in very dire circumstances (such as homelessness) are also people who have mental illness, but that too is a testimony to how America needs to IMPROVE. Just because someone is mentally ill does not mean they don’t deserve to be cared for. Our vets, who comprise a significant number of the homeless population as well, deserve to be cared for. Our God is NO RESPECTER OF PERSONS. He did not say that any one person’s needs is more important than another person’s. Some of these people were living paycheck to paycheck like a lot of other Americans these days, lost their jobs or had a major negative event in their family (death of breadwinner, etc), or… how about this story…
Meet Amy Proffitt. Beside her in this picture is her husband Archie. Below are their two children, Chloe and Noah.
Amy once worked as a nurse at the University of Michigan before she developed skin cancer, which she initially beat. However, the cancer has returned and is at stage 4. Amy of course is unable to work and requires around-the-clock care, which her husband has been providing. As such he is unable to work, and the couple’s finances have suffered tremendously. Instead of this family being able to enjoy whatever time they have left, their home is in danger of being lost, and their car was repossessed not too long ago. To help out their kids have erected a lemonade stand to try to get money for their parents.
In my humble opinion, that is a pathetic testimony to how America “cares” for its citizens. I am sure Mrs. Proffitt would rather go back to being a nurse instead of being sick, and I am sure Mr. Proffitt would like to see his wife well so he could go back to providing for his family as well. Here, if we mess around and get sick, we stand to lose EVERYTHING. The link to Mrs. Proffitt’s story is below. And yes, I am going to donate to her family what I can.
Should that family suffer scorn because of their financial status or do they deserve mercy???
This is just one story among many. But the point is, unless you have walked in a person’s shoes we have no right to look down on them. At all. In some cases, someone who has attained a certain status has simply had the right connections or got a lucky break that someone else did not get. As Christians, we are to ALWAYS remember that our Jesus was a poor carpenter.
If another Israelite becomes poor and must sell his or her labor to a fellow Israelite, they are not to be worked like slaves. They are to be treated like hired workers and are to be freed during the Year of Jubilee. God says that slaves are not to be treated cruelly. If a foreigner becomes rich and has an Israelite slave, that slave can be bought back and made free by a relative, or, if they get enough money on their own, they can buy their freedom. Their price is determined by counting the number of years from the time they were sold to the foreigner until the next Jubilee. Foreigners are also prohibited from being cruel slave masters. Regardless of how they became enslaved, they are free when the Year of Jubilee arrives.
In chapter 26 we see that there are rewards for obeying God and conversely, punishments for disobedience. If the people obeyed God, followed his commands and statutes, he would provide fully for them. Their crops would be plentiful, they would live in safety and peace, their enemies would be defeated. I like this particular passage of Scripture:
“Also, I will place my Holy Tent among you. I will not turn away from you. I will walk with you and be your God. And you will be my people. I am the Lord your God. You were slaves in Egypt, but I brought you out of Egypt. You were bent low from the heavy weights you carried as slaves, but I broke the poles that were on your shoulders. I let you walk proudly again” (vv. 11-13).
If we apply this to our lives today as Christians, how can we not see parallels? All throughout this book I have had Jesus at the forefront of my mind. I thank GOD that we no longer live under this burdensome system! But I also think of the many blessings we are privy to when we obey the Lord. Some people think that obedience to the Lord is burdensome, that it is impossible to enjoy a clean, Godly life. As someone who has lived on both sides, I firmly disagree. Of course it is not simple to avoid temptation, but it is possible to deal with it. And I have never been happier in my life. Why? Because no matter how tough the world gets–and it’s a mean place–I know the Creator and Sustainer of the world is on my side. I am not perfect but I get better everyday, and I feel the presence of the Lord within me–His presence is why I don’t cuss people out like I used to, why I don’t get angry like I used to, why I can hold my head up despite people talking about me and not even care to respond to negativity… I can go on. Jesus walks with me. I was a slave to sin before, with my shoulders bent low from the burden of the sin and the guilt I carried with me as a sinner. I thank God I am no longer in that life.
A key Scripture takes place here, one that again seemed to go in one Israelite ear and out the other. God informs the people that if they disobey, they have broken the agreement. As I have mentioned before, in later books of the Bible we see the Israelites holding on to a false sense of security in the wealth they have accumulated, the partnerships they have made with pagan nations, and the fact that they are God’s chosen people. They somehow managed to forget that God specifically said if they disobeyed, that meant the agreement was broken, meaning they would no longer benefit from God’s provision and protection. There would be diseases, crops would fail, and enemies would destroy them. Punishment for disobedience would be seven times more than their initial sin. YIKES. God tells the people that the more they sin, the more they would be punished. Their great cities would be destroyed. It would not rain, and no matter how hard they worked the earth, there would be no yield. Wild animals would be sent against them, take their children away, and kill many of their people.
This passage below also interests me:
“If you don’t learn your lesson after all this, and if you still turn against me, then I will also turn against you. I—yes, I myself—will punish you seven times for your sins. You will have broken my agreement, so I will punish you. I will bring armies against you. You will go into your cities for safety, but I will cause diseases to spread among you. And your enemies will defeat you. I will give you a share of the grain left in that city. But there will be very little food to eat. Ten women will be able to cook all their bread in one oven. They will measure each piece of bread. You will eat, but you will still be hungry” (vv. 23-26).
What I like best about that is no matter what the people do God is still going to take care of them, with the hopes that this would turn them from their sinful actions! He says that although he will personally see to it that the sinful nation of Israel is punished, if he has to, and although he will allow a famine, they will still eat. At the end of the day, God does not want to destroy his people. His hopes for punishment are the same hopes that parents have when we discipline their kids–that they turn from their bad behavior. And you know the saying “absence makes the heart go fonder”? Doesn’t that apply to punishment? I know some parents take things away from their kids as punishment. Once you don’t have it, don’t you realize how much it means to you? Doesn’t it give you more appreciation for it? My parents did not use that form of punishment, but if they had, it would have reminded me that they had every right to take whatever item away because they were the ones who had given it to me. By removing his provisions from the people of Israel, it was God’s hope that they would remember him and turn back to him.
HOWEVER, if even after all of this the Israelites keep sinning, things get worse. God will really show his anger (sounds scary). This time, the hunger would get so bad that people would resort to cannibalism (eating the bodies of their own children. Disgusting). Their high places, incense altars, cities, land, etc… all would be destroyed. The Israelites would be abhorrent to the Lord. He would put dead bodies on the dead bodies of their idols (that’s deep). Their holy places would become empty, and he would not accept their offerings. The conditions in the land would become so deplorable that their enemy nations would be shocked. The people would be scattered among the nations, taken into enemy territory. Perhaps because he knew the Israelites would not abide by the Sabbath year, he says that “You will be taken to your enemy’s country. Your country will be empty. So your land will finally get its rest. The land will enjoy its time of rest. During the time that the land is empty, it will get the time of rest that you did not give it while you lived there” (vv. 34-35). The people that remain in the land will be afraid, running around as though someone was chasing them. Those who survived would rot in the nations of their enemies.
But yet there is always hope! If the people confessed their sins, the sins of their ancestors, and admit what they did wrong wholeheartedly, how they disobeyed the Lord and humbly accept their punishment, God will remember his agreement with Jacob, Isaac and Abraham and the land. If this happens and the people approach God for help, he will listen, even if they are in the land of their enemies. They will not be completely destroyed. God will not break his agreement, ever. It is up to the Israelites to keep their end of the bargain.
The 27th and final chapter of Leviticus begins with a discussion about the importance of promises. If people dedicated themselves to service of the Lord, the priest is to set a price for that person depending on their sex and age. If anyone is too poor to pay that price, the priest can set the price depending on what the person can afford. If an animal was promised to the Lord, it has to be one that is acceptable (blemish-free). Once it is promised to the Lord, it cannot be taken back. If someone brought one animal to the Lord and then tried to substitute another, both animals became the property of the Lord. If someone did bring an animal to the Lord that was unacceptable, the priest was to decide a price for it. I am not entirely sure why someone would bring an unacceptable animal to the Lord. My only thought is that perhaps the animal had not been fully examined and at the time of the offering a blemish was discovered. I am not sure. If, after the priest sets a price for the animal and the person decides they want the animal back, they have to add one-fifth of the price to the animal.
If a house is dedicated to the Lord the priest decides its price. If the owner decides they want it back, they have to pay the priest the price he decided upon plus one-fifth. For a field, its value is decided by how much seed is needed to plant it. For each homer of barley seed, the equivalent is 50 shekels of silver. If the field is given to God during the Year of Jubilee, its value is whatever the priest decides. If the land is given after Jubilee, the priest has a special formula to use to determine its price–it is dependent upon how many years occur until the next Jubilee. A person who wants the field back must add a fifth to its value to buy it back. If the field is not bought back by the Jubilee, it fully belongs to the Lord.
Firstborn animals cannot be given to the Lord because they already belong to him (recall that from previous Scriptures). If a firstborn animal is unclean, it must be bought back. The priest determines the price and adds a fifth to it. If the animal is not bought back, the priest sells it for whatever price he chooses.
Then there are some rules for special gifts:
“There is a special kind of gift that people give to the Lord. It belongs only to him, and it cannot be bought back or sold. This gift belongs to the Lord. This type of gift includes people, animals, and fields from the family property. If this gift is a person, that person cannot be bought back. That person must be killed.
A tenth of all crops belongs to the Lord. This means the crops from fields and the fruit from trees—a tenth belongs to the Lord. So if you want to get back your tenth, you must add one-fifth to its price and then buy it back.
God wants his people to stand apart from all others. With his guidance, it can be done! Just as the Israelites had a special role to play in the world, so do we as Christians today. If is not a task to be taken lightly! Just as the Israelites were susceptible to punishment for their disobedience, so are we. We are to engage in sincere worship of the Lord. We have to remember his holiness in our approach. We have to live holy, set apart lives, and conduct ourselves in the ways of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Look at the state of the world we live in. This world needs us like never before. We have finished reading Leviticus. Let’s make a point to make sure that our lives, our character, the way we serve and worship reflect the holy God we serve.