If you…then I… Judgment and Grace

Finished reading Leviticus this morning; captivated by the If you… then I… language used by God in speaking to Israel.

If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you… Leviticus 26:3ff (ESV )  And it goes on to describe the blessings of good weather and abundant crops and peace and victory over enemies, a generally blessed life of prosperity. I will turn to you and make you fruitful and multiply you and will confirm my covenant with you. (9) And even better, God says, I will make my dwelling among you.(11) But there is another side…

But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments, if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, then I will do this to you. Leviticus 26:14ff (ESV)  And the description that follows isn’t pretty — panic, disease, heartache, crop failures, defeat by enemies. But even worse, God says, I will set my face against you (17)… I will will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins (18)… I will break the pride of your power (19).

This description is clearly a reminder of Blessings for Obedience and Punishment for Disobedience.  The sad story of Israel is repeated cycles of this turning from God and the consequence of it – through the 40 years of wandering on the way to the land of promise under Moses; in the time of the Judges when Everyone did what was right in his own eyes Judges 21:25;  and throughout the time of the kings of Israel and Judah, ultimately leading to destruction and exile. All of this illustrates the New Testament conclusion, The wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23

But just as the blood sacrifices of Leviticus look ahead to the once for all sacrifice of Jesus; so the warnings of judgment reflect God’s Grace, His call to repentance, His invitation to return to the shelter of God’s care.  Read the rest of Leviticus 26 and  see God’s heart to call his people back to Himself, reflecting core attributes of God as noted in Exodus 34:6, 7 — The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty…

We are left with the tension of God’s love and God’s justice, unresolved in the Old Testament, but fully resolved in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, where the guilt is taken by Jesus as He died for our sin to give us eternal life.

Are there other lessons to be learned from Leviticus 26?  Our culture has largely adopted a Deistic world view, where God is mostly hands off and is absent while the world suffers such things as the Boston Marathon bombings and the West, Texas fertilizer explosion. But the Bible presents a very different picture, in which all such things are gracious warnings and calls to repentance to all of us; inviting us to turn from our sin and come to His arms of grace. This is Jesus’ main point Luke 13:1-5 for how we should respond to all disasters in this world – unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

God’s Judgements are Invitations to Grace!

For more detail, I refer you to my blog post on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.

 

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