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Consequence of Obedience and Disobedience
Since we have already covered the issue of slavery back in Exodus, I'm going to direct you to the post from February 8th if that still gnaws at you. What gnawed at me from today's reading was the harsh consequences for disobedience. Naturally, I have no problem with the lavish blessings bestowed upon the "faithful". We tend to feel entitled to good things from God. But to think that He would quite viciously punish for disobedience seemed unfair. The verbiage is so vindictive that it seems inconsistent with our concept of a loving God. Plus it seems too simplistic a formula. We know from the world around us that the good guys don't always prosper and the bad guys don't always suffer. How do these verses work?
First of all, we have to recognize that these were the consequences for this group of Israelites who had agreed to this covenant relationship with God. There was alot on the line for this newborn nation and God needed to clearly lay down the conditions of the covenant. Some of the references were surely foreshadowing, as Israel would disobey God and plunge into idolatry alongside the surrounding pagan nations. And they would suffer the consequences listed...famine, loss of the land, being scattered among the nations, and finally God "remembering" them while in exile.
As discussed yesterday, it seems that the Israelites ignored the command to observe the Sabbath years and Year of Jubilee, vs. 26:35. The purpose of Jubilee was to remind israel of God's ownership of the land and to encourage them to hold on loosely to it in response to that acknowledgement. It was also intended to teach the Israelites to trust in God's provision during that Sabbath year, in much the same way that they were not to hoard manna in the desert, looking to provide for their own needs. The Sabbath years also provided a means of caring for the poor, as they were permitted to glean what the land produced. Despite all of the positive effects of the Jubilee celebration, we can see how difficult it would have been to actually do. It is difficult for Christians today to even commit to a tithe! Can you imagine how much participation the church would have if Christians were asked to hand over their property, cease the farming industry (their livelihood) and cancel all debts every 50 years, (and to a lesser extent every 7 years in the Sabbath year)? A nation-wide observance of Jubilee was not recorded in the Old Testament. So God had to take it upon Himself to provide the land the rest it needed by removing the people from it. While God says He will directly do such things in response to disobedience, most seem to be the natural consequences of the Israelites own poor choices. If they disobeyed, God would remove his hand of protection and blessing, which would set up the scenarios for famine and domination by other people groups. God cannot be held responsible for the Israelites disobedience, which He foreknew and spoke to in His listing of the consequences. Just because he knows it will happen doesn't make it His fault that it actually does.
Similarly, "living right" doesn't always equate to prosperity, though they were much more closely linked in the Old Testament than in the New. God promises peace, fertility, prosperity, bountiful harvests,and protection to the Israelites if they would keep the covenant. These were cause and effect statements. The progressive revelation of this teaching in the New Testament is that while the faithful may not live the good life now, they will one day in Heaven. And vice versa for the unfaithful.
Tomorrow's reading: Leviticus 27-Numbers 1
About Melissa Gibbs:
Melissa is the mother of four boys and the wife of her junior high sweetheart, JD. He is the President of Joe Gibbs Racing and the son of NFL Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs. JD and Melissa have been married 16 years and are actively involved with Young Life, Motor Racing Outreach, their church, and other ministries. Their youngest son Taylor is nearing completion of a 3 year treatment protocol for leukemia, which has been a powerful faith walk for their family. Since his diagnosis, Melissa has been called upon to share their family's testimony with many local churches.
Visit Melissa at http://chronologicalbiblein2010.blogspot.com/
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