February 26 – March 4, 2017
The past several days of reading have revealed a myriad of rules, regulations, and procedures that God introduces to form the nation of Israel, both as a community and as His chosen people. Frankly, some of these rules don’t conform to our thought processes today, but comparing the emergence of the nation of Israel to our contemporary society is not something that will make sense in several ways.
In fact, Old Testament Israel existed as a theocracy, while today’s church is a kingdom that exists independent of any political or social structure.
“For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Philippians 3:18-20 (NIV)
What impresses me from these readings is God’s emphasis on justice and fairness:
- Do not take advantage of each other, but fear your God. (Leviticus 25:17)
- Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. (Leviticus 19:15)
- Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness. (Exodus 23:1-2)
- Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy. Pay him his wages each day before sunset, because he is poor and is counting on it. (Deuteronomy. 24:14-15)
- Do not charge your brother interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interest. (Deuteronomy 23:19-20)
- Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. (Leviticus 19:35) For the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly. (Deuteronomy 25:13-16)
God even provides for cities where those accused falsely or who injure others unintentionally can be protected (Cities of Refuge).
But, perhaps the most memorable aspect of the readings this week were the many references to the treatment of Israel’s poor, including this discourse from the book of Deuteronomy:
“If there is a poor man among your brother in any of the towns of the land that the Lord our God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be open-handed and freely lend him whatever he needs… Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded towards your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”
Deuteronomy 15:7-11 (NIV)
Much later, the Christ (Immanuel, or “God with us”) will come to earth and say to his disciples in Luke 4, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free…”
God does not love based on power, social position, or income level. His love is never conditional.
But He has reserved a very special welcome for those who would have little on this earth: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20 NIV).