Leviticus 26:1-13 ~ 20170423 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
04/23 Leviticus 26:1-13; Blessings for Obedience; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170423_leviticus-26_1-13.mp3
Leviticus 26 is in the style of a typical ancient Middle Eastern covenant document or law code like the Code of Lipit-Istar, Code of Hammurabi, Sefire Treaty, Shamashi-Adad Treaty, and Esarhaddon Treaty (Hartley, p.459). The terms of the agreement are laid out in the body of the document, and at the end the blessings of keeping the treaty are outlined, and the consequences of breaking the treaty or covenant are enumerated in much greater detail. Here at the close of Leviticus, we find the blessings and curses consequent on keeping or violating the terms of this covenant agreement.
This is like all the fine print next to the big 'I Agree' button when you install a piece of software on your computer. By installing this software, I agree to use it only in the ways authorized by the creators of the software, and I agree not to steal, sell, or otherwise take credit for the software, and if I do, the software police are hereby authorized to tear me limb from limb, and take my firstborn son or daughter as their own.
This is like that, only it is given by the God of the universe, who rescued his people out of slavery in Egypt, and took them to be his own treasured possession.
Here in Leviticus 26, we get the fine print of the covenant. Only it's not in fine print. It is bold and clear and up front; full disclosure.
Verses 1-2 are a summary and reminder of the terms of the covenant.
Verses 3-13 are the blessings that come with obedience.
Verses 14-39 are the curses for violating the covenant.
Verses 40-45 are a gracious offer of restoration to covenant breakers who have a change of heart and return. Today we will take the first 13 verses; the blessings for obedience.
The LORD Alone is God
Look with me at verses 1-2.
This is a reminder of the covenant requirements. The familiar 10 commandments begin this way:
Here in Leviticus 26, we have the most comprehensive prohibition against idolatry of any kind. 'Idols' is a word that comes from the root 'to be nothing' [Currid, p.345]; a non-existent thing. Image refers to something hewn from wood or stone. A pillar was a standing stone that was common in Canaanite worship. A figured stone was a stone with a relief carved into it. Down in verse 30 he uses a different word that referred to a large image shaped as a human or an animal where he says 'I will destroy your high places ...and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols'. All types and forms of false worship are forbidden, because 'I am the LORD your God'. Our hearts are prone to wander after false objects of worship. We tend to set up things and people and give honor to them with our time and energy and resources. God alone is the sole worthy object of our affections, of our allegiance.
As Deuteronomy 6 puts it:
The primary condition of the covenant is undivided worship or allegiance. God will not tolerate rivals. He has taken us to be his people, and he is to be our God. As Jesus said,
A Time and A Place
After stating it negatively, what we are not to worship, he gives it to us positively.
There is holy time and a holy place. This is not the first place we see this combination of Sabbaths and sanctuary in opposition to idolatry. In fact this verse is verbatim from Leviticus 19:30. In Leviticus 19 we read:
In 1851 Andrew Bonar in his exposition on Leviticus [p.472] wrote:
“all declension and decay may be said to be begun wherever we see these two ordinances despised – the Sabbath and the sanctuary. They are the outward fence around the inward love commanded by ver. 1.”
Do you feel your heart inclined toward rival gods like silver or gold, riches or honor, houses or land, mother or father, spouse, son or daughter? There is something very practical you can do to keep your affections for the LORD fervently hot. We are creatures of time and place. Make it a priority to gather with God's people in worship. It is true, many attend regularly and are no better for it, but it is also true that “neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” (Heb.10:25) is spiritually perilous.
Verse 3 sets out the conditions for the covenant blessings:
The blessings of the covenant are for those who keep the laws and the commandments of the covenant. Leviticus is all about how to live in the presence of God; sacrifices and priests and uncleanness and practical holiness. But it is not enough to know the proper procedure. As Jesus said:
Walk and observe and do are action words. The blessings come only to those who walk in and observe and do them. As James warns:
God goes on to give four main categories of blessing: produce, peace, progeny, and presence.
Notice, each of these blessings begins “I will”; verses 3, 6, and 11 all begin in the original with the same word “I will give.” These are blessings, gifts from God.
Notice also, these blessings are corporate blessings. They are not blessings on individuals, but on the nation of Israel. Rains in their seasons, the land shall yield its increase, the trees shall yield their fruit. The produce of the land would be so abundant that there would be no lack and all hunger would be fully satisfied. The prophet Amos looks forward to this kind of abundant blessing:
The next blessing is peace. Abundant produce is of little value if an enemy comes and kills or steals it all.
This sounds like Psalm 23.
We have a verse hanging in our children's room that was given to us when our oldest was a baby.
The blessings of the covenant include a removal of fear, the gift of real rest. Protection from invasion, no harmful beasts, victory over all enemies.
The next blessing is a restatement of the original covenant with Abraham.
Instead of the usual 'I will give,' this verse has a string of four verbs; it begins with 'I will turn to you'; I will pay attention to you. This sounds like the blessing to be given by Aaron in Numbers 6
God will be toward his people. He will make them fruitful and multiply them. That is his creation blessing. He promised that he would make of Abraham a great nation. Even with the abundance of children, there will be abundance of provision. Your stores will not run out. You will have to clear out the old to make way for the new.
The pinnacle gift is the gift of God's presence.
Literally, 'I will give my tabernacle in the midst of you'. In Exodus 6 God promises:
In Exodus 25 God instructs:
They were to make a special tent for God to dwell in the very middle of the camp of Israel!
Exodus details the construction of the tabernacle. Leviticus describes the sacrifices and the priests of the tabernacle. Here God says:
Why in the middle of the greatest blessing does he say that? Imagine someone writing that into their wedding vows: “I take you to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, and my soul will not abhor you.' I will not hate you, I will not loathe you. That seems a bit out of context. But if we really understand who we are, this makes perfect sense. To a perfectly holy God, I am utterly abhorrent, loathsome. Leviticus is a book that talks about all manner of unclean bodily discharges and contagious rashes and festering sores that require isolation and separation. For God to dwell in the midst of us presupposes that he is a forgiving God, who will cleanse us of all our impurities.
In the garden, God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day (Gen.3:8). But after they disobeyed, he drove them out of the garden. Since, only a few individual, Enoch and Noah were said to have walked with God (Gen.5:22,24; 6:9). Here God is said to again walk with his people. Not only camped inside a tent in the middle of the camp behind a thick curtain where no one can approach, but walking among his people, involved. I will be your God and you shall be my people.
Do you see how these blessings escalate from external temporal blessings to substantial spiritual blessings? From blessings of agricultural productivity to blessings of peace and protection to blessings of descendants, to the blessing of God's presence in relationship with his people.
God says 'I am YHWH your God. I have already rescued you from slavery. I have broken the bars of your yoke. You are released, you are free, you can walk upright, your dignity has been restored. I desire to live with you and walk with you and be your God. If only you will obey.
Old Covenant Promises
Remember, these are Old Covenant promises to those who keep the covenant perfectly. But we are not under the Old Covenant. The law was given to show us our sinfulness. We are all covenant breakers, and as such, we deserve none of the blessings but all of the curses. No one ever kept the terms of the covenant perfectly. No one but Jesus. The law was meant to show us our desperate need for Jesus. And Jesus came as our representative. Jesus obeyed for us, in our place. His perfect obedience is credited to us. 2 Corinthians 1 tells us:
All the promises of God find their 'yes' in Jesus Christ. God's promise 'I will give my tabernacle in your midst' God the Word, who in the beginning always existed with his Father,
God the Son came down in the flesh and tabernacled among us.
Jesus is God with us. In fact, Jesus said:
Jesus and his Father come to make their home in the believer! Because Jesus' sacrifice on the cross was acceptable to his Father, they can come to live with us and God's soul does not abhor us.
Paul quotes Leviticus 26:11-12 in 2 Corinthians 6.
Paul understands that this promise in Leviticus points to us New Covenant believers in Jesus who have become the temple of God, as God comes to live inside of us. He claims these promises as our own, and uses them as a motivation to pursue a life that pleases God.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org