DEVOTION: Blessings for Obedience (Leviticus 26:1-13)
Firstly, the Israelites were in the open, mid-way between Egypt and Canaan. They were wandering in the wilderness, not really sure where they were going, and what would be there at the end. Yes, they had a vague idea about the land of Canaan. But no-one had ever been there, and they really didn’t know what it was like.
Similarly, many churches today are mid-way between the past, and whatever is in store for them for future. They have no real idea where they are going, and what will be there at the end. Yes, they may have hopes and dreams. But that’s all they are—hopes and dreams.
Secondly, despite that, the Israelites were called on to have faith in God. Not have faith in idols, or anything else, but faith in God. They were called on to obey God’s commands, and to follow his decrees. Now that involved a step of faith, but they had experienced God in the past—they had the stories that had been passed on by their parents. God was not a totally unknown quantity. But still, specifics about the future were unknown.
Likewise for us, Jesus calls on his disciples to have faith too. After all, didn’t Jesus say that the greatest of God’s commands were to love the Lord your God, and your neighbour as yourself? (Luke 10:27) So Jesus asks us, his followers, to take a step of faith; to trust that God will lead us into the unknown.
And thirdly, the Israelites were promised a reward for their obedience. If they followed God, they would be rewarded. Indeed, they would be cared for, and all obstacles would be removed. He would look on them with favour, they would be made fruitful, and increase in number.
And similarly, for us, that reward is available for us too. Indeed, the Apostle Paul wrote “For there is no difference between Jew and Greek. The same Lord is Lord of all and gives his riches to all who call on him.” (Romans 10:12)
So, in one sense we can identify with the dilemma of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness. On the other hand, we can all still live in hope. And we need to remember at all times, that God is in charge. And even though we don’t have all the details of where we are going, all we really need is to have faith and be obedient, and leave it up to God to do the rest.
Posted: 1st April 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis
DEVOTION: God’s Blessings (Leviticus 26:3-17)
The book of Leviticus is one of those books that has turned many people away from reading the bible. It is tedious. It gives details of when to give sacrifices, how to give sacrifices, and what to give as sacrifices. And with the sacrifice of Jesus, the relevance of much of the book has come under question.
Nevertheless, the point of the book is that it details an agreement—a covenant—between God and his people. It was a covenant that was given to Moses on Mount Sinai, where God promised blessings for his people—and blessings based on the need for God’s people to keep their side of the bargain. As a consequence, the book has a lot to teach us.
And the blessings come in three parts . . .
In the first part, God said that he would bless his people with material prosperity (3-5). Indeed, God promised his people that he would care for them; that they would never want for anything; that they would never need to worry about where their next meal was coming from; and indeed that they would always have plenty. But only if they were faithful.
In the second part, God said that he would bless his people with victory over their enemies (6-9). And in this second part God went beyond just the defeat of their enemies. Indeed, he looked forward to a time of total peace, where they could enjoy the fruits of their labours, unhindered. And whereas, in his first promise, he promised them material prosperity, in this promise he extended that further with the idea that they would have so much that they just wouldn’t know what to do with it all. But only if they were faithful.
And in the third part, God said that he would bless his people with his continual presence, and with their own personal freedom (11-13). Indeed, God’s deliverance of the people from Egypt was the guarantee that the great King, who had initiated the covenant with the people, was able to perform all that he had promised. God wasn’t to be an absent deity, who wanted nothing to do with his people. Rather, he was a God who wanted, very much, to be involved in caring for his people, in giving them plenty and in giving them peace. But again, only of the people were faithful.
Part of the agreement between God and his people, therefore, was the provision that God’s people would keep up their side of the bargain. God would then pour out on them all three blessings. And these blessings would provide God’s people with their personal security, continued national prosperity and, above all, the presence of a loving, all-powerful God. But in order for them to receive that, they would have to remain faithful too.
And as you know, that isn’t easy. Indeed, Adam disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit, and got kicked out of the Garden of Eden in the bargain. Furthermore, God’s people, the ones who made this agreement with God, were unable to keep their side of the bargain too. And because the blessings were conditional on the people doing their bit—in terms of worship and their behaviour—they frequently missed out on God’s blessings. Instead, they faced the punishments they deserved—and agreed to—when they made the covenant with God. And those punishments included terror and calamities of a medical nature (16); drought and accompanying famine (19); plagues of wild beasts (22); war (22); famine (26); and the threats of worse to come, should they continue to turn away from their solemn agreement.
Now, it doesn’t take a genius to work out where we fit in to the scheme of things, because we live in a world where God’s punishments, rather than blessings, seem to be the order of the day. But then we can hardly expect God to bless his people unless they are faithful to him—unless at the very least they are willing to acknowledge his existence. So if the community or the nation to which we belong refuses to have any dealings with God, then we can hardly expect God to bless our nation.
But even if we have little control over decisions made on a national or community level, as individuals we can still enjoy God’s blessings. But just not in the terms of the original covenant that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai. Rather, we can experience them through our faith in Jesus Christ.
On their trek from Egypt to the Promised Land, God’s people stopped at Mt Sinai and made a solemn agreement with God. They made a commitment to do certain things, in terms of worship and in terms of their everyday behaviour. And as a consequence, God promised that if they were faithful, he would reward them by promising a consistency in the supply of crops to meet their needs; he promised them that their enemies would be dealt with; that he would bless them beyond their imagination; that he would always be with them; and that he would give them freedom that they could only dream about.
And through faith in Jesus, we can have all those blessings today. Because as faithful members of God’s community we can still accept God’s offer. But be warned, we do have to carry out our obligations too. Because only then can we expect God’s blessings to flow on us too.
Posted: 24th June 2021
© 2021, Brian A Curtis