Motivators for obeying God’s laws
Obey these rules1You can’t make idols and you can’t worship them. So don’t set up statues or memorial stones or make figurines so you can bow and worship them. I am the LORD your God. 2Respect my Sabbath Day and the Most Sacred Room, which is my sanctuary in the worship center. I am the LORD.
God promises peace, prosperity3I’ll make you this promise. If you respect the laws I gave you and show it by obeying them, 4I’ll send the rain when you need it. This will give you the crops and fruit you need from the fields and the trees.
5I’ll nourish your fields and orchards so well that you’ll have to work on the grain harvest all the way up to the grape harvest. And you’ll still be working on the grape harvest when it’s time to plant the next season’s crops. 6I’ll make sure you live in peace and sleep in safety. I’ll take care of animal control, so you don’t need to be afraid of wild animals. I’ll steer invaders away from you, too. 7Your enemies won’t come after you. You’ll go after them. And you’ll defeat them. 8Five of you will send 100 of them turning tail and running. One hundred of you will chase off 10,000 of them—and then kill them.
9I’ll be on your side, giving you lots of children, just as I promised in our agreement. 10You’ll harvest so many crops that you won’t be able to eat the current season’s harvest. You’ll still be eating your way through the harvest from last year or even earlier. 11I’ll live right there with you. I won’t turn my back on you. 12I’ll walk right there among you. I’ll be your God and you’ll be my people. 13I’m the LORD your God. I’m the one who freed you from slavery in Egypt. I broke those chains so you could walk tall again.
God warns of defeat and exile14However, if you don’t obey the rules I’ve given you, I want you to know something.
15If all you can do is disobey, despising my rules clear down to your bones—if all you can do is break those rules, 16I’ll attack you. I’ll swoop down on you like a sudden night terror. I’ll bring you disease and a fever so hot it’ll blur your vision and suck the life right out of you. You’ll plant seeds in the field. But it’ll be a waste of time because your enemies will eat the harvest. 17I’ll turn my back on you and let your enemies crush you into the dirt. Your new rulers will hate you. And you’ll become so frightened that you’ll run away even though no one feels threatened enough by you to chase you. 18If you don’t come to your senses by then, and start doing what I tell you to do, I’ll punish you seven times worse than I otherwise would have.
19I’ll destroy the pride you feel because of your fertile land. You’ll have nothing to brag about after I seal the sky with iron and cover the ground in bronze. 20You’ll work hard on the land. What a waste of time. Your fields won’t grow anything worth eating and your fruit trees will go fruitless. 21That’s what I’ll do if you show me nothing but hostility and rejection. I’ll hit seven times harder than I otherwise would have.
Wild animals will kill your kids22I’ll turn wild animals loose on you. They’ll kill your children, eat your livestock, and leave your roads deserted. 23If you still haven't learned your lesson after all of this, and you show me nothing but hatred, 24I will hit you another seven times harder. I’ll punish you for your sins.
25I’ll send invaders to punish you for breaking our agreement. And when you go into the cities, I’ll hit you with a plague. I’ll weaken you so much that your enemies will easily conquer you. 26I’ll decimate your crops. One oven will be enough for 10 women to bake their day’s bread. That’s how little flour they’ll have. They’ll weigh and ration what little bread they bake. People will eat their tiny ration, but it won't be enough to satisfy their hunger.
27If you persist in disobeying me, despite all this, 28I’ll come at you as an angry God. Once again I’ll punish you seven times more than I would have.
Parents will eat their children29Starving, you’ll eat your own children. 30At that point, I will reach down and level the pagan shrines you built on hilltops. I’ll tear down the altars where you burned incense to fake gods. Then I’ll crush your idols and pile your bones beside the broken pieces. I will hate you for what you are doing. 31I’ll turn your cities into ghost towns and your worship centers into rubble. I won't enjoy the sweet aroma of your sacrifices anymore. They’ll smell of stink to me.
32What I do to you and your land will shock the invaders. 33I’ll scatter you throughout enemy nations. There, you’ll will face the wrong end of the sword. Back home, your land will lie desolate, and your cities destroyed and abandoned.
34Finally, the land will get to make up for all the Sabbath years of rest you refused to give it. While the fields lie empty, with you away in exile, the land will get to rest and recover. 35For as long as the land lies empty and unplanted, it will enjoy the Sabbath rest you never gave it.
36Those of you who survive, scattered among enemy nations, will live hopeless lives in constant terror. You’ll live life on the run from your enemies. The mere sound of a falling leaf will spook you and send you running for your life. You’ll run away from people who aren't even chasing you. 37Chaos will send you crashing into each other as you try to run away, terrified of men with swords. Yet, there will be no one chasing you—other than your own fear. When it comes time to face an enemy, you won't have the strength to fight. 38You will die in foreign lands, swallowed up by your enemies. 39Because of all you've done wrong, I'll stand back and watch you waste away, starving and dying in enemy territory. Your children will die there with you. It’s all on you. The consequences of your sins.
There’s always hope40But I want you to know this as well. There’s still a chance your children will finally come around and confess that they and their ancestors had showed me nothing but hostility and rejection.
41I had to let them experience the consequences of that hostility. If that brings them to their knees and humbles them enough to admit that what they did was wrong,
42I’ll remember the agreement I made with Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham. I’ll remember the land I promised to them. 43Meanwhile, the land will enjoy a time of Sabbath rest and restoration. But the people have to suffer the consequences of their disobedience and their hateful rejection of my laws.
44Yet even when they’re exiled among enemy nations, I won't abandon them or hate them so much for breaking our agreement that I wipe them out. I won’t do that. I am the LORD their God. 45Though they may have forgotten their agreement with me, I will remember it for them. I’ll do that because of the agreement I made with their ancestors: those I led out of slavery in Egypt, while all the nations of the world watched. I did that so I could be their God. I am the LORD. 46These are the rules to live by—the laws that the LORD himself told Moses on Mount Sinai to deliver to the people of Israel.
The Most Sacred Room was the holiest place on earth to Israelite ancestors of the Jewish people. It was one of two rooms inside the tent worship center. The Sacred Room was the main sanctuary inside the tent. Aaron’s sons were allowed to go in this room. But the Most Sacred Room was off limits to everyone but Aaron and Moses and Aaron’s successors as high priest. A curtain separated this room from the main room in the tent worship center sometimes known as the Tabernacle and sometimes as the Meeting Tent. The Most Sacred Room is where God met with Moses to give him instructions. And it’s where Israelites kept the gold-plated box that held the two stones containing the Ten Commandments. The box is best known as the Ark of the Covenant.
Farmers harvested grapes anywhere from June through September. This was one of the last crops harvested, along with figs. Farmers harvested grain much earlier. Barley in March to May. Wheat in May to July. They plowed in September to October and then planted seeds for their next crop in November to December.
“The LORD took Abram out into the night and said, ‘Look up at the sky. See all those stars? Can you count them? That’s how many heirs you’ll have’” (Genesis 15:5). This is one of many times God promised Abraham and his descendants that they would have beaucoup children.
The number seven is a figurative way of saying “much more.”
The sense of this makes it seem as though God might want to add: “Hitch up an ox and try to plow that. And maybe try a rain dance to open the sky.”
The Hebrew text talks about their pride, but without saying exactly what they’re proud about. Context clues suggest they’re proud because of their fertile fields and the crops they grow.
Israelites were allowed to farm the land for six years in a row, but on the seventh year they were to leave the land unplanted. They could eat whatever crops and fruit grew on its own, untended (Leviticus 25:1-6).
BY ROBERT V. HUBER
Chapter 26 of Leviticus consists of a number of blessings that will come to the Israelites if they obey God’s laws. These are followed by a series of curses that will be called down on them if they do not. Scholars note that these may not be blessings and curses at all, but only clauses in a kind of legal contract made between God and the Israelites. First, what difference do you think it would make? Also, do you see any similarities here to any contracts you’ve read or signed?
Some of the consequences the Israelites face if they fail to obey God’s commandments are harsh. Perhaps the harshest is the prediction that people would eat their own children’s flesh (verse 29). Does this mean that God was cruel in his punishments? Did the punishments go beyond the scope of the crime? Or were these really punishments at all?
Ordinarily, when one of the parties in a contract breaches its terms, the contract is ended and the parties to the contract never do business with each other again. However, God, while he allows harsh penalties for breach of contract, does not end his relationship with the Israelites. He holds out hope that they will ultimately come to their senses and realize their faults, so he continues to watch over them. What do you think that says about God? Does it make him sound like a vengeful God or a God of love, or maybe even bipolar?
LIFE APPLICATION. Anyone familiar with the story of Israel’s history from the time of Moses to the time of Jesus knows the Israelites didn’t always act especially holy. At times they trashed God and worshiped idols. Prophets warned that if they didn’t get their act together, God would unleash penalty clauses in their agreement. They didn’t. God did. They lost their country. Invaders from what is now Iraq erased it from the political map in 586 BC, centuries after Moses. But even those prophets of doom promised God would be there when Israel was ready to come back. God always had their back, even when they turned their back on him. Do you know of any humans like that—someone who has always been there for you or for someone you know?