Today’s reading: Leviticus 26-27.
God is a promise keeping covenant-maker. We, on the other hand, frequently fail to keep our word. God knows this about us. As Leviticus ends, he reminds Israel about the promises he will keep on their behalf if they remain faithful to his commands. He also warns them about the consequences of failing to obey him. Think of it as a really big carrot and stick. God gives them a huge incentive to obey. Knowing their nature, he also prepares their descendants to learn more about God’s character as they watch God do exactly what he said he would. And remember, the people had agreed voluntarily to this covenant (see Exodus 24:7). After telling the people how he will keep his word, God closes Leviticus by telling the Israelites how they should keep their vows to him.
Look at all the ways God promises to bless his children if they are obedient:
- necessary rain
- abundant harvests
- victory over enemies
- growth in their numbers
- His own presence with them
But listen to the calamities that God will send if they don’t keep his commands:
- failed harvests
- defeat by their enemies
- living in fear
- death of their children
- declining numbers
- God’s anger against them
- destruction of their cities
- scattering of the people to foreign lands
God even foretells the length of their future captivity. He knows they will fail to honor his sabbath, and tells them what it will cost them:
Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it. Leviticus 26:34-35
The people of Judah were in captivity for seventy years, representing 490 years in which God says they failed to observe the every-seven-years Sabbath rest of the land.
Does it matter to us how God blessed and cursed the Israelites? After all, we weren’t a party to this covenant. I say it matters greatly, because it shows God’s faithfulness to his word and promise. Believers today have entered into a new agreement with God, based on grace rather than law, written on our hearts instead of stone tablets, and paid for by the blood of Jesus. But we need to know, just as the Israelites did, that God will keep this new covenant. Our salvation is secure if we have faith.
The final chapter of Leviticus describes a method for the people to consecrate themselves to God. He sets a value on each man, woman, and child, and tells them that by paying that value to the priests he will reckon them as having been sacrificed to God. He was preparing them for a deeper relationship that went beyond the more superficial keeping of rules. Even in this matter God realized their fickle natures by allowing them to buy back their price of dedication. What a contrast with God’s faithfulness to them! But it looks forward to Paul’s exhortation in Romans 12:1:
So then, my friends, because of God’s great mercy to us I appeal to you: Offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer.
As for me, God give me the faith to so dedicate myself to him. I pray that all believers would throw themselves on the mercy of God and find him faithful.
Image by oooh.oooh on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0