We have come to the FINAL day in Leviticus! Coty Pinckney wraps up our read-through with a challenge to see two big questions in Leviticus 26, “Who is GOD? ….and Who am I?”
We have seen that the book of Leviticus is not, as is so commonly thought, a book which lays down the law, saying, “Step over this line and I will zap you!” Instead the entire first half of the book details God’s provisions for the Israelites, God’s answer to every need of the Israelites, through the sacrifices and the priesthood. We have seen how God’s plan all along was to create “a people for his own dear possession,” a people to love and to cherish. We have seen that the sacrificial system is not a way of earning one’s salvation, but rather God’s gracious provision for dealing with the Israelites’ inability to keep all the law. The entire system is a picture of God’s grace, foreshadowing all that Christ accomplished for us on the cross.
That is the message of the first half of Leviticus: God has chosen you as his people, God has provided for your every need, he overcomes your every weakness, so that you might become his dear possession.
The second half of the book asks: If this is so, if God has set us apart for this special purpose, how should we then live? And the answer is: This privilege is so great, that our character must become like God’s character. He has chosen us, he has given us every provision to make up for our weaknesses. Our responsibility — as pictured in the Sabbath — is to actively depend on him so that we might become what he intends us to be. Rest in him, in his power, turning our thoughts and attention to Him, every minute of every day.
Like most of Leviticus, the passage we consider today is frequently misunderstood. A quick reading gives the impression that God is telling the Israelites, “Obey me and I will bless you; disobey me and I will curse you.” But God here is not concerned with outward obedience to a set of rules. In this chapter, the Lord tells the Israelites who he is, and presents them with two choices for what they might become. Given all the provisions he has made, as detailed in the first 25 chapters of the book, he asks: “Are you going to be all I intend you to be, all I enable you to be? Are you going to be a holy, special people for my own dear possession? Or will you reject me and abhor me? The answer to that question determines your destiny.”
Similarly, the question for us this morning is: Who are you? Who are you?…..
WHO GOD IS
Look at verses 13, 44, and 45 of Leviticus 26. Recall that the word “Lord” printed in all caps is a substitution for the name of God, pronounced something like “Yahweh.” This name connotes the covenant relationship between Israel and God, so permit me to make that substitution as I read:
I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high I am Yahweh their God. But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am Yahweh.
God here emphasizes his relationship to these people. He says, “I am your God. I remember my promises. I took you out of slavery, I broke the power of the forces that controlled you. So do not choose to be a slave again! I enabled you to walk with your head held high — so don’t return to the disgrace of your former life! You are mine, you are special — so live up to that calling!”Furthermore, note that God says he brought the Israelites out of Egypt “in the sight of the nations.” God has chosen these people in order not only to save them, but also to display His glory, to show His character to all of creation. The actions of the people of Israel bring glory — or dishonor — to the very name of God! This is further incentive for the people to live up to their calling.Our situation is similar. God says we are his own dear children: How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1 NIV) We belong to Him, we are his family. He rescued us from slavery, and enables us to walk with heads held high. We are the family of God! And he has done this, in part, to display his wisdom and grace to all of creation, including his enemies (Ephesians 3:10). What we do brings honor or dishonor to our God, our Father.