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Lessons from Leviticus (part 1 of some?)

I’d like to start sharing passages of Scripture for us to contemplate. The format will be a passage to read, followed, perhaps, by a few thoughts or questions. Here’s the first:

Setting: These are some of the instructions for right living that the Lord gives to His people, Israel, after redeeming them from slavery in Egypt.

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner. I am the LORD your God.

You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.

You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning. You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.

You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD.

You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

[...]

When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” -Leviticus 19: 9-17, 33-34

Questions to Ponder

What is our harvest/vineyard?

What impact does the statement “I am the LORD” and “I am the LORD your God” have on the validity of each command?

We associate the commands in verses 11 and 12 with the 10 commandments and perhaps give them more weight, yet here they stand among these commands about acting justly. What does that mean?

Do you find yourself drawn to verse 15 to the exclusion of the other verses? Why might that be?

What does it mean to “treat the sojourner among us as the native and to love him as we love ourselves” today?

Do you identify with your heritage as a stranger in a land? If that was a part of your personal history, what was that like? If your identity as a stranger is part of your ancestry rather than your immediate circumstances, what do you know about that period in your family’s life?

Thoughts to consider (take them or leave them)

A thought about verse 15. Some of us may latch onto that verse. We should think about why. Why do we really like to point out that, “Hey, it says not to be partial to the poor”? Sometimes, we might do it to the exclusion of considering the rest of the verse or the surrounding verses which call us to make some changes in our lives concerning our dealings with the poor that we may not like. Do we feel a sense of relief that the verse is there? If so, why? Some of us, on the other hand, may get angry about this verse (especially when others like to point to it to the exclusion of the surrounding verses). We need to ask ourselves why. Have we glamorized the poor and made them idols of some sort or another? Either response to the verse might beg some prayerful introspection.

Another thought…I confess that as I look at this list of commands, I find myself guilty of violating so many, if not all, of these commands. The weight of the phrase, “I am the LORD,” after each paragraph hits me. I need to take these commands seriously, and if I take them seriously, I will quickly realize that, on my own, I am incapable of following them. So, once again I seek the work of Christ the Righteous in me. He forgives me when I mess up AND He leads me into victory.

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