26 July 2013Leviticus 26:1-20
“If you follow my statutes and keep my commandments and observe them faithfully, I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall overtake the vintage, and the vintage shall overtake the sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and live securely in your land. And I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and no one shall make you afraid” (vv. 3-6)
What an image of peace and prosperity: the rains fall in their seasons, the land is fruitful, you shall eat what you need and live in security. This is the vision of what life will be like for the people of Israel if they follow the commandments that God has laid down for them. God has given them back their human dignity, breaking the yoke and making them walk erect, and now they have the choice of whether to follow God's laws or not.
But the consequences of not observing God's rules will be severe - illness, hunger, victory for their enemies, a breakdown in the seasons. The pride of the disobedient people will be broken.
This is not a simplistic prosperity gospel - do what is right and you will prosper materially. Here the consequences of observing or disobeying God's law are not individual. There is not a sense that the good will be rewarded or the bad punished. Instead God is speaking to his people as a whole. The behaviour of that entire community, whether they cherish the values of God's law in their society, will lead to that community thriving or breaking down.
And what are these values? Essentially they are faithfulness to God and love for one another. When people treat one another unjustly, act with hatred, idolise or stigmatise, then society starts to unravel. But when humans follow God's law for interacting with each other and with creation, they thrive.
If we reflect on areas of creation which are unravelling, and where things seem to be falling apart, we need to ask how are we, as a global community, failing to observe God's laws. Climate change might be one example of this. Through human behaviour, we are approaching a situation where the climate of the world might be irrevocably changed, with devastating consequences for a huge proportion of the population. As is often the case, those who are poorest will be hit first and hardest. It is only through repentance of our exploitation of the earth's resources and a commitment to put things right that we will be able to recover the peace-filled, prosperous and abundant image of faithful living that this passage presents.
- What do the consequences of right living by God's values look like to you?
- What actions could you take in situations where creation is unravelling?