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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Object Lessons

The stories of the Bible abound with object lessons designed to teach God’s people enduring truths (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:6)The Book of Leviticus contains two object lessons that reverberate throughout the entire community. 
The first object lesson is recorded in Leviticus 10 when Aaron’s sons offer profane fire to the Lord, and fire from the Lord consumes them. What a warning to every priest in every generation!
The second object lesson occurs in Leviticus 24 when a son of a mixed-marriage couple (an Egyptian father and Israelite mother) quarrels with another Israelite and curses the God of Israel. Those who hear his blasphemy bring him to Moses for sentencing. Moses seeks the mind of the Lord. The Lord responds by sentencing the son to death by stoning. The entire congregation, plus the strangers in Israel’s midst, stone the blasphemer to death. Sounds pretty harsh at first blush, but blaspheming the Name of God is a serious action against God and against others!
This scene reveals a number of truths:
  • The Laws given to Israel must be obeyed by everyone, including the strangers in Israel’s midst.  
  • The Name of the Lord is holy. He is good and only does good; therefore, those who curse Him deny His goodness and seek to diminish His glory before others.
  • God deals with sin harshly because what one “gets away with” affects negatively everyone in covenant community. Left unaddressed, this man’s blasphemy would affect his peers and eventually others would mimic his behavior (Eccles. 8:11). 
  • Those who enjoy the covenant blessings of God must honor His Name. 
People think they can “get away” with negative behavior that appears to have no real or immediate punishment. God grants such object lessons to demonstrate that all sin is serious and worthy of death, and through these object lessons He warns those who are tempted to tread the same path. 

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"In this year of Jubilee everyone is to return to his own property."  (Leviticus 25:13)

Perhaps one of the most memorable scenes in cinema occurs when William Wallace of Braveheart is stretched out to die. His final word is the cry, "Freedom!" The desire for freedom resides in the heart of every person, but the reality of that freedom is elusive. Culture, government, obligations, and sin—especially sin—enslave hearts, minds, and bodies. Freedom remains an unrealized hope. 

The children of Israel were commanded to set aside the fiftieth year, the year of Jubilee, as a year of freedom. Inheritance lands that had been sold to pay debts returned to rightful families. Houses that had been taken or foreclosed returned to their original owners. Those who had been enslaved to pay off debts were set free. 

This freedom came at a costly sacrifice. In order to obey God, those who had taken the lands had to release them. Those who had received slaves had to watch them go free. It was a faith commitment. The year of Jubilee also meant that landowners did not work their lands; farmers did not work their fields; and vinedressers left their vines untended (25:11). It requires faith to believe that God will really provide, not just for one year, but for three years. Faith took seriously God's promise that the land would produce enough for three years (v. 21). 

Most of all, the year of Jubilee meant freedom. Imagine the joy of the father who has been enslaved in order to pay a debt as he returns to his wife and children. Imagine the parents as they welcome the boy who had grown to manhood paying off a debt. Freedom!

Sadly, the Scripture never records the children of Israel actually celebrating a Jubilee year. In fact, the Babylonian captivity was a 70-year rest for the land to enjoy its Sabbaths, of which the children of Israel had robbed it (2 Chronicles 36:21). Because they did not believe God's promises, they did not obey His commands. Unbelief drives disobedience. 

Though God has never demonstrated anything but goodness toward His people, Christian history reveals an incredible mistrust in the promises and character of God. While not a New Testament promise, the heart of the year of Jubilee—freedom—can be a reality for the New Testament believer. Paul says "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty."The Bible says that it is for freedom that you've been set free. Genuine liberty today comes not from politicians or political parties, but by the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Real freedom is appropriated by faith and is available to every child of God. For the Christian, every year can be a year of Jubilee as he/she sets others free by practicing forgiveness. 

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Leviticus 24:1-25:55
  • Read John 6:35, 48, 51; 8:12, 9:5. What does Jesus' declaration tell you about who He is for us before God?
  • Leviticus 24:10-23 contains the second narrative portion in Leviticus. What does this story tell you about God? About His people and standards?
  • What does obeying the regulations regarding the land Sabbath require of/from the children of Israel?
  • What does God promise to do for those who obey the land Sabbath/the year of Jubilee regulations?
  • How does the Lord regard the land and the people's relationship with the land?
  • What does the year of Jubilee do for the people or allow the people to do?
  • Why is it important to God that the children of Israel aren't enslaved?
Turning truth into prayer:
Ask the Lord to show you where you are not walking in liberty, where you're held captive in your personal life, or where you are holding others captive by not offering forgiveness.