Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Thoughts on Leviticus 18:22, Part 7: Consequences.


As we move through the Book of Leviticus, towards its conclusion, we find in Chapter 26 two sections of text described in my NLT Bible as Blessings for Obedience and Punishments for Disobedience.
Before I get into the issues surrounding the blessings and punishments I want to again address those who would say that the texts I am going to refer to were for another era, for another people.  I believe this has proven to be a perilous error. The Israelites, God’s chosen people, were to be a living testimony of God’s goodness and faithfulness to the nations around them, to draw others towards them.  Foreigners who wished to follow Jehovah God were welcomed into this family.  In becoming part of His family they understood that all the laws, regulations and blessings were now theirs.  Today we are invited to become part of God’s family by accepting the atoning death and Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Nowhere in Scripture does it say that we will no longer receive God’s blessings for obedience and God’s discipline for disobedience.  My own life experiences bear this out.
Blessings for Obedience.  “If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you the seasonal rains.  The land will then yield its crops… You will eat your fill and live securely in your own land.  I will give you peace in the land, and you will be able to sleep with no cause for fear… I will look favorably upon you, making you fertile and multiplying your people.  And I will fulfill my covenant with you.  You will have such a surplus of crops you will need to clear out the old grain to make room for the new harvest!” Leviticus 26:1-13.  And on He goes naming one blessing after another.  
If you visit the Mennonite areas of Philadelphia, where they still farm the land according to Levitical law, you will find the most fertile land in all of North America!  In the Book of Malachi God teaches about the principle of tithing, giving back a portion to God as an expression of gratitude.  My own experience in this regard is that it is simply impossible to out-give God. As the Hymn goes, “Blessings all mine with ten-thousand besides…”  Quite simply, the blessings for obedience to God are unlimited.  We choose to obey God because we love God.
And then there is the flip-side which we seem all too quick to ignore and all too quick to complain when it comes about.
Punishments for Disobedience. “However, if you do not listen to me or obey all these commands, and if you break my covenant by rejecting my decrees, treating my regulations with contempt, and refusing to obey my commands, I will punish you.  I will bring sudden terrors upon you – wasting diseases and burning fevers that will cause your eyes to fail and your life to ebb away….” Leviticus 26:14-16.
As we read, “I will bring sudden terrors upon you – wasting diseases and burning fevers that will cause your eyes to fail and your life to ebb away.” Is it fair to draw a parallel between Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 26:14?  I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.  As for me I can only look at the evidence, with millions of people dead (more than 25-million by 2008) for failing to live their lives the way God called them to.  And yes, there are many innocent victims as a consequence of other’s [selfish] actions.  We still live in a fallen world.
Many will quote the oft used platitude, ‘Hate the sin and love the sinner.’  Jesus loved sinners by directing them away from their sin.  Having dealt with the bigoted hypocrites who accused her, Jesus ended His conversation with the woman caught in adultery by saying, “Go and sin no more.”  It is impossible to agape love those who find themselves in sin by not doing likewise.

Jesus also provides a stern warning to those who condone, or even promote behaviour that is contrary to God's teaching.  Given that the context of his warning is towards those within the church/family of God (that is those who will be "in the Kingdom of Heaven"), Jesus is very explicit in his condemnation of those who belittle God's laws by insinuating that when it comes to sex outside of a heterosexual marriage - anything goes - no harm done - show a little tolerance, etc.  At the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, "So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven."  Matthew 5:19