Friday, June 8, 2012

Acting with Compassion

Last week our lesson text (Ex 23:1-9) came from a portion of the oldest existing Jewish law, “the Book of the Covenant”, see Ex 20:22-23:33. It is part of the second book of the Pentateuch shortly following the exodus from Egypt and the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses. This week’s lesson text (Lev 19:9-18, 33-37) is from a portion of the “Holiness Code”, see Leviticus 17-26. It is part of the third book of the Pentateuch written by Moses, namely called Leviticus because it treats chiefly Levitical service. This book contains more of God’s communications and commands than any other.

The entire lesson is based on what God told Moses in verse 2 of chap 19. “Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.” God wanted all of their ways to reflect holiness as they were His children, and He is holy. They were prohibited and/or encouraged to do whatever was necessary to accomplish an attitude of holiness reflective of God.

“And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God.” Lev 19:9-10 “Thou shalt not”…means you shall submit yourself to God for you have no choice. He is a God of justice and fair treatment for everyone. After the farmers have harvested their land, they were prohibited to go back to see what they had missed. They were prohibited to harvest the corners of their fields or gather the gleanings of their harvest or vineyard. They were to leave it for the poor and strangers to come into their fields and work. This was the social security system of the day. By landowners generously leaving the corners of their fields or not completely gleaning every grape from the vineyard, they were showing mercy/holiness rather than greed and covetnous (tenth commandment). (See Ruth 2)

“Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.” Lev 19:11 We must reflect God’s character of holiness, of justice and fairness, and of doing right. That does not include stealing (eighth commandment), Nor does it include the lies (ninth commandment) or deception. Unfortunately, today people steal for their habit(s), economy, and numerous other reasons. They do not trust God or care about His holiness. The deception and lies are rampant, especially in this political season. But God is in control. Never forget that and continue to reflect his character of holiness.

“And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.” Lev 19:12 The person demonstrates holiness by keeping the third commandment. God had forbidden the children of Israel to swear by His name that a false statement was actually true. It could also include profanity, cursing, minced oaths, or swearing to a promise and failing to fulfill it. God is serious about the prohibition against His name. “And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin. And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death.” Lev 24:15-16 Just think of that the next time you think about saying “I swear to God” while you are lying…or the even worse things you may say, without thinking, It is not holy and God does not like it.

“Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.” Lev 19:13 There is NO cheating permitted by any means necessary. Robbery either by force or deception is not allowed. The worst offenders are those who rob God or fail to adequately compensate their pastor. If a person works, he is due his wages at the time established and not one second later. Never believe it is o.k. not to pay someone who has labored. It is not holy and God will take notice that someone’s greed has hurt one of His disadvantaged.

“Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD.” Lev 19:14 You are prohibited of speaking evil of the deaf for they can not hear you. They can not vindicate their character. Why would you assassinate the character of the disabled? It is not holy. The same is true with placing a stumbling block before the blind that is unable to see what you have done. Your character is to reflect that of God. Do not forget that He will fight the battle for the disabled. They appear vulnerable, but they have God on their side. He does not show favoritism for or against them. It is justice for all. Fear God, the Lord, who issues the ultimate justice.

“Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour. Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.” Lev 19:15-16 Thou shalt not show favoritism to either the rich or poor, but in righteousness all neighbors will be judged. Look beyond the societal status. We are also prohibited against being talebearers. Gossips cause divisions in marriages, families, churches, friendships, communities, etc. and many times the subject matter is untrue. In today’s society we have terrible gossip on an Internet social network known as Facebook. Many people have said very ugly things over this network, causing court battles, cyber-bullying and even deaths. And many do not fear God as to the outcome. God is watching and is not pleased.

“Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” Lev 19:17-18 We shall not hate our brothers and sisters in our hearts. We must love them as God is love (I John 4:8) and we are setting our pattern after Him. If we see our neighbor doing something that is not Christian, we are commanded to rebuke them wisely and not allow them to suffer in sin. We are prohibited from seeking revenge and keeping grudges. We shall love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves. This has been called the Golden Rule. Jesus taught the lawyer about the love of neighbors in Luke 10:25-37. When three persons were tested, it was the unsuspecting Samaritan who was the good neighbor. Jesus told the lawyer to go do likewise. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 15:4-6

“And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” Lev 19:33-34 The Israelites were warned that if a stranger/foreigner journeyed with them, leave them alone. Don’t cause them any harm. God reminded them they were once foreigners in a strange land held in bondage. By allowing the strangers to continue in freedom among them, they were more likely to convert to their God. Any nationality that has been in bondage understands the feeling of freedom versus bondage.

“Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: “ Lev 19:35-36 Honesty is encouraged in trading. Dishonesty in measurements and judgment practices has no place in holiness. Justice must prevail which is evidence of righteousness.

“Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: I am the LORD.” Lev 19:37 Therefore ye shall observe all statutes by which God, in His Divine Wisdom, gave to Moses in this third book of the Pentateuch. He is the Lord, the Creator. We are obligated to do as he thus says. He is the source and sustainer of our life. He established rules of justice for our benefit. Everything God does for us is because He is holy and acts with compassion for our benefit. Are your actions reflecting His holiness? Are you compassionate? Do you love your neighbors as you love yourself?

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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