Day 33--Blessings and Curses--Idolatrous Heart Leviticus 24 - 27
February 2, 2021, 11:00 AM

Day 33 Lev 24-27

Ok, this blog post has NOTHING to do with a homer of barley--I just like the term so much, and recognized I could use a fun image to trick you into reading this post--ha ha!!! (FYI--a homer of barley is equivalent to 10 baths, a donkey load or 10 ephahs...just so you know.)

We finish Leviticus today, and I have really enjoyed it. Well, maybe ‘enjoy’ is not the right word, but I have engaged with it far more than I thought I would because my understanding of holiness and unholiness has expanded so much. This has given me a greater, more wholistic understanding of who God is, not who God was, but who God is still.

God is holy. God is perfect. God knows his wandering and broken people and he wants them to see his vision of a world dedicated to his will and his purposes. So today we read of jubilees and of forgiveness, of radical equality for citizen and alien alike, but we also read of the seriousness of blaspheming God, or using God’s name in an unholy or disrespectful manner. We read about restit

In the past few years of bible study, particularly when studying the traditions of the Israelites, I have become increasingly convinced of the sacredness of God’s name. Remember that observant Jews today will not write God’s name because it is too holy—you will see this instead: “G-d” in writings by Jews. God is referred to by Jews as Adonai (the LORD), or as HaShem, which means “the Name”. I find that I like the idea of “the Name”, as if my own mouth should be careful when casually using God’s name in conversation, even when I teach about God, because it is easy to lower God to my level, to turn God into “my buddy who wants me to be happy” instead of the Creator of the Universe, instead of my God who has established standards for living as a Christian or as a Jew in order to train us up, as Proverbs 22:6 tells us “Train up a child in the way he should go and even when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

That’s what I read in Leviticus today, and I admit that I found it hard at times to read some of the blessings and the curses. There is the “eye for an eye” rule in 24: 17-22, or Hammurabi’s Code, as we may know it, or what was called talion law. Talion law was based on what we might think of a pure justice. If you put my eye out, I can have yours put out as restitution. But even in the chapters we read today, cases were made for restitution to be made in financial payments, and this in about the  what replaced these laws of pure justice that we still have in place today. God spoke from the place of pure justice and pure righteousness, but our flawed humanity does not easily allow us to determine pure justice. What about mitigating circumstances? What if I put your eye out by mistake—do I still have to lose my eye as well?

Obviously not, thank goodness, but I still must make some kind of retribution that causes pain or loss to me. If you have ever been in a car accident and your insurance company had to pay damages on your behalf, you have experienced this, but mostly through the raising of your monthly premium which makes you ‘pay’ for your ‘sin’.

But there was more today—blessings and curses, and the curses were so terrible and punitive—“I will let loose wild animals against you” (Lev 26:22) BUT only if the people were actually hostile to God, who is their savior.

Jesus will bring a different flavor to this kind of conversation. What I tell people today is that all our behaviors have consequences, both good and bad. Even if we are completely forgiven of an offense, or sin, we still need to repent, we need to make retribution, we may, in fact, continue to suffer emotionally or psychologically for what we have done. Also note that pure justice does not seem to exist, either for the Israelites then, or for us now—the bad guys don’t always get punished and the good guys don’t always get the prize.

But like the tent draped over the tabernacle, like the blood of Jesus that ‘covers’ our sins, grace is sufficient. Retribution justice has been shown to be ineffective. If my eye is put out because I put out your eye, that just leave two blind people wandering around, and that doesn’t make sense, nor does it create a fair and just society. Rehabilitation, reconciliation, restoration—these are the goals we hope for as Christians, hope we know is realized in the sacrifice and salvation of Jesus.

And this is still who God is.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,

ML

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