Return, Remember, Obey

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Leviticus 25:1-27:34

Behar-Bechukotai is the last portion of Leviticus.

Return – The connection between rest and freedom

God made the land he knows the land, he loves his creation. The Lord formed man from the dust of the earth, he cares deeply for the earth. He is the engineer that understands the needs of the world he made for it to function optimally.  He knows the value of rest and expresses that in the context of detailed instruction. Take one in seven years to rest, in that time Israel will have an opportunity to trust their maker. He tells them to let the land rest and in its rest you rest. let it lay fallow, untouched, unworked, unplowed and unplanted. What we know today is that overworking the land depletes the soil of nutrients. Ever hear of the dust bowl? The Dust Bowl was caused by over-farming, livestock overgrazing, drought and poor farming practices. God didn’t just make the land of Israel, he made the whole earth and there are certain rules the world runs by such as gravity, atmosphere, and solar and lunar phases. God was giving his people a secret to abundant and sustainable agriculture.

Each 6th year God blessed the land with three times the produce . Three times the produce would get them through the 6th year, the seventh year of rest and the following year while the land re-grew crops. God promised to provide if they would obey. God also commanded the sons of Israel to count out seven times seven years, bringing them to 49 years, because every 50th year was a year of jubilee, when all things were restored and all captives were released. The horn was to be blown in the seventh month on the tenth day, which is the day of atonement. this sound of the ram’s horn would proclaim release throughout the land. Release and Return. Return to your own property and return to your family. This is more than just a rest, this is freedom. God is the God of Freedom. 

Seven means complete. Seven is undeniably connected with rest. On the seventh day God rested, this is the sabbath day. Rest indicates freedom, when your work is complete you are free to rest. Free from work. The sabbath is a weekly, monthly and yearly reminder for the sons of Israel of their freedom from Slavery in Egypt. A slave doesn’t get to rest, but a free man does. God wanted them to remember who they were and were not. 

God’s rest is our freedom. When God rested from his work in the Garden, man was then freed from the dust . When Messiah comes and rests on his throne, all who trust him will be free from sin and death, from the curse of labor and united with the Father. Sounds like a jubilee to me.

Jesus said I am going to prepare a place for you and I will come to get you and there are many rooms in my father’s house.

When God commands Israel’ rest he is reminding them of their freedom to rest.

When Messiah returns,  Paul said, we will hear the sound of a ram’s horn. Jesus said, he was the fulfillment of this scripture promise, to set the captives free, yet we see still see captives to all sorts of sin. So we wait for Christ’s jubilee, his return, the sound of the ram’s horn and the day of our eternal atonement. Presently we have the promise but in 1 Peter and in Hebrews 9 we read that “ there is a salvation ready to be revealed.”

Remembering God: The connection between self and others

The shema is the most important statement of faith within Israel’s theology. It is recited each morning and evening. It is found in Deuteronomy 6. Hear o’Israel the Lord your God the Lord is one and you shall love the Lord your God with all  your heart soul and might.  In the new testament Jesus is questioned as to which is the most important commandment,  he  quotes the shema, you shall love the lord your God with all your heart soul and might and the second he says is like it, he adds on his own,  love your neighbor. The command to Love your neighbor is found in the book of leviticus. Jesus attaches these two commands, as if loving your neighbor is like loving your God or perhaps loving your God is made evident by loving your neighbor and vise versa. They are like each other, a reflection.  How you treat those made in God’s image is like loving God. But how can you know how to treat them? By keeping God’s commands. Jesus said, if you love me then you will keep my commandments. and How can you love God whom you cannot see if you cannot love your brother whom you can see?

In Leviticus 25:17 it is written “you shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the Lord your God. Observe my statutes, keep my judgments that you may live securely on the land.” 

Fearing God is the remedy to not wronging one another, they are alike. In order to accomplish not wronging a neighbor, you must fear God.  Aim to miss. Ever play pool? This makes sense in regards to Jesus’ teaching as well, a simple continuum, different functions that result in the same outcome.  An example of this is you shall not spend all your money, rather save all your money. One results in the other. Not wronging your brother, not only comes from fearing God, but also results in fearing God.

He repeats it in 25:35 Do not take advantage or make it hard for a stranger or the poor. Because I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt to the land of canaan to be your God. But what does that have to do with the stranger and the poor?  Because loving your neighbor is like loving your God. you shall not rule over him with severity rather you are to revere your God.

How we treat and love others is directly connected to fearing God.

What fascinating remedies to the intrapersonal and social problems that we face as humans even today. God is giving himself (literally ) as the remedy of sin between brothers. Jesus said the second greatest command to “love neighbor” is like the first one “love your GOd”. God’s commandments concerning how we live together are fulfilled in how we live with God. 

Obedience: The connection between Covenant and blessings 

God states the penalties and rewards. Penalties for disobeying blessings for obedience. This is different from salvation. Salvation is a stand alone gift from God. God already saved Israel from Egyptian slavery. He reminds them often, they did not save themselves.  God’s salvation relies solely on his choice and grace, an act of benevolent kindness, free from obligation or work of any sort. It is an image of Christ’s free gift of forgiveness of our sins simply because he chose to die and he loves us. Just as all Israel who followed Moses were saved, all who follow Christ are saved. As it is written all who call on his name are saved.

After salvation comes teaching, laws, instructions. We have the new testament writings which tell a follower of Christ how to live. This is not about getting saved this is about being saved. This is about how to live in the kingdom of God with kingdom people. GOd is preparing Israel to for his presence. They must be holy, because he is holy. They were already saved as well, this was all about how to live together in the land securely waiting and preparing for a holy God to rest in their midst. Obedience to God’s holy order would result in holy living. Obedience becomes the link between God’s covenant and God’s blessin.

 Jesus never said in the new covenant “you can disobey God and still be blessed because I have died.” nor, did he say, “ you can now disobey my fathers perfect law and still be blessed because I kept it.” he did say,

if you love me you will keep my commandments, amd if you anyone loves me , he will keep my word and my father will love him and we will come to him and make our abode with him. He who doesn't love me does not keep my words, and the word which you hear is not mine but the fathers who sent me. John 14:23-24" 

The Father’s word which he gave in the beginning , was Jesus Christ, the word of God in the flesh. Nothing has changed except our hearts’ status to bear the word.  The change has not come in the altering of God’s words and teaching and what we call “law”, but the location of those teachings and laws, which is the heart. When his laws are written on our heart the fullness of the meaning is extrapolated and understood because the Holy spirit teaches us all things. How was this made possible Christ’s death.

God has expectations of his children since Adam and Eve,. This makes his consistency apparent in our sight, as it is written there is no shadow of Change in God, Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. We can rely on the Lord to keep his word both his promises and his judgments.  

The Lord God delivered Israel in order to be their God, he never forced them to, but invited them to, he gave them an opportunity to choose, he offered it. God freed Israel, they were then free to choose, free to choose God or free to choose idols. They were as free as Adam. God gave them a choice when he presented them with the commandments on Sinai, and they said, “we do”, “we will”, they chose God. Then as in a marriage covenant, he laid out the expectations, as my people, in a nut shell, “I expect loyalty, reproduction, to teach the children, to love and respect me, service, provide help to me, actually it is a lot like marriage, and what you can expect from me when we are living out a healthy good marriage, is : protection, provision, security, shelter, abundance, love, leadership, blessing, and most of all presence. If you break it, if you cheat, have an adulterous (idolatrous affair) reject me, abhor my ways and commandments then I will act with wrathful hostility. But if you confess and amend your ways I will remember. If you confess your sins he is faithful to forgive you your sins and cleanse you of unrighteousness. God has made a way for confession and amending; but it is still mans’ free will to choose, it is still Israel’s will to choose to either obey and be blessed or else disobey and experience wrath and curses. 

Christ has taken the curse of the law still each time we sin and we must turn to be healed and forgiven. In essence each time we incur the wrath and hostility of the curse for disobeying we must turn to be healed by Christ blood. Revelation says, let the one who is righteous still practice righteousness, and the saints wear white linens which are their righteous acts, nad outside are the sinners, and nothing unclean enters the city , and there is a place a lake of fire for those who do not overcome. We already know the five unprepared virgins were turned away from the banquet by the groom. They were waiting and they had lamps which means they believed. Chorazin, a city full of faith, where most of Christ miracles were done, believed, but Jesus’ final message to them was “Woe to you, a greater woe than sodom and gomorrah.” Why such a harsh punishment? They didn’t repent. One can believe but without repentance there is no forgiveness of sins. There is no extraction of the curse. So obedience incurs blessing.

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