Chip Stapleton Highland Presbyterian Church May 14th , 2020 Hunkered Down Devotions
Leviticus 19:30-37 (VOICE) Keep My Sabbaths and respect My sanctuary. I am the Eternal One. 31 Do not turn to mediums or consult with those who communicate with the spirits of the dead. Do not go near them, or else you will defile yourselves. I am the Eternal your God. 32 You are to stand in respect for the older people in your community. You must fear your God. I am the Eternal One. 33 Don’t take advantage of any stranger who lives in your land. 34 You must treat the outsider as one of your native-born people—as a full citizen—and you are to love him in the same way you love yourself; for remember, you were once strangers living in Egypt. I am the Eternal One, your God. 35 In business dealings, be fair and do not cheat. Measure accurately length, weight, and volume. 36 Your scales are to be accurate, your weights true, and your containers standard. I am the Eternal your God, who led you out of Egypt. 37 You are to keep all My directives and all of My rules, and do as I have instructed. I am the Eternal One. How often have you read or even heard a passage from the book of Leviticus? My guess is that, like me, the answer to that question is: ‘not often’. Leviticus often gets overlooked because it is filled with the ‘Law of Moses’, and so contains all sorts of - very dry – descriptions about what sort of things are and are not allowed.
All told, there are 613 commandments contained in the Law of Moses found in Leviticus. To add to the seeming irrelevance of these words, this is the ‘law of Moses’ – the law that Jesus came to ‘complete not abolish’. While we believe that, we have also come to understand that completion to mean that some of these rules – like not being able to eat pork, for instance – are no longer valid for us. In fact many of the ‘rules’ from Leviticus that we do know about are ones that we don’t adhere to. All of that makes it even less likely that we will spend much time reading through this book. So why, you might ask, have I included it today – and why is it included in our daily lectionary? The short and simple answer is that it is included because it still matters to us, it is still important and the words found in Leviticus can guide us in the way Jesus is calling us, just like the rest of scripture.
Because we so often skip over these rules and regulations – many of them no longer applicable to us – as we read scripture it is easy to miss their importance. But looking at them provides great insight into who God wants his people to be, what God wants his people to do, and how we are to live.
The verses included above cover a surprisingly wide range of direction in such a short passage. Among the directions included here are these:
Don’t consult mediums – God asks us to turn to him, and him alone for direction, guidance, and comfort about this life and the one to come
Treat elders with respect – God asks us to care for our elders out of respect for them, and for him.
Treat ‘strangers’ (this term would include travelers, refugees, the poor, the outcast) with kindness, generosity, and respect – God reminds the Israelites that they too were once refugees. The deeper principle being that God asks us to ‘do unto others as we would have them do unto us.
In business make sure you are fair and honest – God calls us to live lives that are beyond reproach, so that when others see us, they might see a reflection of our God.
Two quick points that I want to make (I know I have already gone on longer than usual). First, that there is plenty to be found in these texts that has meaning and value for us today. That should be pretty clear in this reading. The second thing is this: we often think about our relationship with God in a transactional way, i.e. we believe in God and then we get to go to heaven. But this, from the very
beginning, is not what God has in mind for us.
God doesn’t just want us to ‘believe’ in him. What God wants for us is a full life, aligned with his call and plan for us - a good plan that intends blessings for all. And what God wants from us is to live a life that demonstrates to all his love and grace and care. We demonstrate that love through what we say, of course, but also by how we treat our elders; how we respond to those strangers in need around us (refugees, the poor, the hungry); how we conduct ourselves in our work and business lives. Following God’s commands is about how we live our lives, not just what we say. Sharing God’s Love, Chip
Prayer: Lord, help us to follow your commands on our lives. Help us to share your love in all that we do, not just in what we say. Amen.