Day 20  Leviticus 26:3-43 ... Legal Matters

Leviticus seems very strange to the modern world, so strange that readers intending to read the entire Bible often bog down in this book.  Unlike most of the Bible, it has few stories or personalities, and no poetry.  It’s a book of laws, crammed full of detailed rules and procedures.

A selective “guided tour” of the Bible such as this one can devote very little time to study of the individual laws.  For one reason, many of these rules, appropriate to God’s goal of calling out a “separate” people, were changed in the New Testament.  Yet a study of such laws can prove rewarding, for they express God’s priorities on such subjects as care for the land, concern for the poor, and abuses of family and neighbors.

Although the Old Testament laws recorded in Leviticus, Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy may seem long-winded, keep them in perspective.  These laws-just over 600 in all-comprised the entire set of regulations for a nation, as far as we know.  (Most modern cities have more traffic laws!)  And they are brief and clear.  You don’t have to go to law school to understand them.

The variety of the laws shows that God involved himself in every aspect of the Israelites’ life.  Laws against witchcraft are mixed in with laws concerning improper haircuts, and tattoos, and prostitution.  God was advancing his plan for the Israelites by carving out a separate culture.  After four centuries in Egypt, the just-freed slaves, more Egyptian than anything else, needed a comprehensive make-over.  That is exactly what God gave them.  (Many of the laws seem designed primarily to keep the Israelites “different” from their pagan neighbors.)

Surely it sometimes occurred to the Israelites to wonder, “Is it necessary to follow these picky laws?  Are they really so important after all?”  Chapter 26 answers that question with finality.  The Israelites are a unique people, unlike any other nation on earth, called by God to demonstrate holiness and purity to people around them.

As this chapter makes clear, the reward for obeying the laws would make the Israelites the envy of the world.  And if they disobeyed?  God spells out in frightening detail the punishments they could then expect.

Point to Ponder: Everybody has a code to live by.  Where did you get yours?