Recently I read through the book of Leviticus as Moses was instructed by the Lord as to how the people of God were to pursue holiness and so remain in relationship with Him. Every time I read through the Old Testament I am amazed by the abundant patience, grace, and mercy the Lord extends to His people. Almost immediately after being miraculously freed from 430 years of slavery, the people of Israel cried out to Moses, saying they would have rather died as slaves in Egypt than die of hunger in the desert (Exodus 16), as if the Lord would allow this to happen. Yet, the Lord does not give up on His people, though He still called them to the way of holiness. Hear the instructions of the Lord to the people of Israel from Leviticus 26:
“You shall not make for yourselves idols… for I am the Lord Your God,” but you “shall keep my Sabbaths… If you walk in My statues and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, then I shall give you rains… the land will yield its produce… the trees of the field will bear fruit… your threshing will last for you… You will thus eat your food to the full and live securely in the land… I shall also grant peace… I shall eliminate harmful beasts… no sword will pass through your land… you will chase your enemies and they will fall before you… So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm My covenant with you… Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. I will also walk among you and be Your God, and you shall be My people” (vv. 1-12).
The radical call of the Lord is to be in relationship with Him! If only the people would trust in Him; love Him with all their heart, soul, and mind; and if in this love they would obey Him, so would the Lord’s abundant favor and grace be upon His people. They would experience the realities of the kingdom of God in the midst of a broken world. The Israelites were invited to participate in the very thing for which we were made – to know, love, worship, and delight in the Lord! But, if they were unwilling to love and obey Him, and to reject His statutes, so would this become their new reality:
I will… “appoint over you sudden terror… and cause the soul to pine away… ”your enemies will consume your seed… “I will set My face against you… those who hate you will rule over you.” And if still you “do not obey Me… then I will act with wrathful hostility against you” (vv. 14-28).
Left to their own destruction, the people of Israel would suffer the hardships of their hardness toward God. They would suffer, die, starve, be exploited and broken, and so would it be in the midst of such darkness and despair that the Lord would provide a way of hope.
Despite all of this, for those who are left in the land, if “they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers… then I will remember My covenant… So will I not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God. But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors… that I might be their God. I am the Lord” (vv. 41-45).
If the people would confess their iniquities, repent and return to the Lord, then the Lord would bestow unmerited favor upon them, remembering His promise with their ancestors. Once again, the Lord would be their God and restore His favor upon them.
Re-reading these passages, I was again reminded of our daily need of turning to the Lord, confessing our iniquities, and walking in the way of obedience to Him as a response to His great love toward us. As I personally experience this mercy and grace, being reminded of who I was (apart from Him), and what He has done for me (taking upon Himself the wrath for my rebellion against God), I am reminded of what I am called to extend – the hope of His grace to all those I encounter. It would be easy to become bitter with the brokenness, corruption, and lostness that exists all around us, but then I remember… I was once broken, corrupt, and lost. I was once blind, but now I see. My prayer is that we the Church (followers of Christ residing all around the world), be filled with the light of life as we extend the only hope to address our broken lives and hurting world – the good news of Jesus Christ.
“Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.” (Joel 2:13)
by Eric Basye