Thursday, November 25, 2010

The God Who Stands Behind His Commandments

In Lev. 23:22 we have a command of God which is one of many in the OT.  Like many others it  ends with the statement "I am the LORD your God.  Lev 23:22  "And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God."  

I find this last statement interesting.  On the one hand it is obvious why many of the commandments end like this.  God is their creator and more importantly, their Redeemer.  He has entered into a covenant with Israel which involved giving them a Law to live by.  When he ends a command with the words, "I am the LORD your God", it emphasizes the fact that he has the right to give the command and the right to enforce it and punish those who disobey.  But I am struck with something much more than just that.

This particular command is telling Israel that they are not to make an effort to reap every last kernel of grain when they harvest their crops.  They are not just to let stray stalks stay on the ground but they are to even miss whole rows so that the poor can have a little.  Having worked on farms for several years now, I know that a responsible farmer combines all the field.  First of all, if he left a lot of corn or oats in the field, the poor wouldn't get it, the deer and turkeys would.  Secondly, the other farmers would drive by his field and wonder at his combining abilities.  In our day and age in America this might not make much sense to us in the way we farm but there is a spiritual principle here from which I think we can "glean".

How is it that God can command his people to be "sloppy" farmers and leave money in the fields that their own families can benefit by?  How can he tell us that we don't have to be penny pinchers when it comes to our money and helping those in need?  How is it that Jesus can look favorably on the widow who gave her last "dollar" to the Lord, when anyone would agree she probably needed it more than whoever was going to benefit from it?  The answer is in the last statement of Lev. 23:22.  It is the great qualifier of all God's commands that specifically call on us to trust him completely.

He is saying that he is the LORD, Yahweh, their covenant God.  He has already promised good crops, a quiver full of children, protection from enemies,  healthy bodies and long lives all for just worshiping and loving him as the only true God.  It is because of who he is that they can be charitable and not consumed with making as much money as they can in life because he has promised to take care of them.

He isn't saying to leave some crops in the field whether you want to or not because I told you to; he is saying you can show love for each other and sacrifice for each other because I am great enough and good enough and loving enough to make up for it and then some. 

This is taught in the NT and there is one place where it seems to really stand out.  In 2 Cor. 8 we read, "We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,   for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part."  These churches were poor and needy themselves, yet they trusted the Lord to take care of them as they gave to the needs of their brothers and sisters in Christ.  Then in Phil. 4 Paul refers to them again, "Php 4:15  And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only."  And then in vs. 19 he adds the great qualifier, the New Testament counter part to "I am the LORD your God", "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."  The old saying goes, "Behind every command there is a promise".  Perhaps we can better say, "Behind every command there is a covenant keeping God.

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