Monday, March 11, 2019

Tied to the Land

We're still in the thick of the law, deep into Leviticus now, and this is where God tells us how everything works. How it is that we're supposed to live together. How it is that we're supposed to be in the Promised Land. 

One of the contrasts that has already come up, although we haven't looked at it in this space, is the difference between the Lord of the Israelites and the gods of the other peoples. God issues stern warnings against the gods of the other peoples, telling Israel to stay away from them. And their greatest temptation to idol worship will come not when they encounter these other peoples, necessarily, but when they live in the land. 

See, the gods of other peoples were tied to the land. They had everything to do with crop production and fertility and blessing and abundance and the kinds of measurable things that happen to a people because of a land. The other nations' acts of worship were for the places that they lived. 

The Lord of Israel, on the other hand, was a God tied to His people. It didn't matter where they were, and He demonstrates that well by being their God even in the wilderness when they don't have a place to call their own. 

But that doesn't mean the land had nothing to do with it. Here's where it gets really interesting. 

In Leviticus 25, we're told that any land that a family in Israel possesses in the pasture or in the open fields will belong to their family forever. If it is sold for any reason, it comes back to them in the Jubilee; it can never change hands for good. That's because it is a parcel of the Promised Land, a place to which God has called them, a goodness that He has given them. 

On the other hand, if a family has a house in the city and sells it, well, it's gone. It doesn't come back to them. It doesn't belong to them the way that the Promised Land does. It's just a room in a city; it doesn't have the same kind of holy meaning that the pasture land, the land flowing with milk and honey has. It's a land flowing with...street grime and human waste (let's just be honest about it here), where everything is brought in on donkeys and camels instead of rising bountifully with promise out of the fertile soil. There's nothing particularly holy about the city; the land is where it's at.

And the point of all of that is this: 

The gods of the other nations tied the people to their lands. It was only through their gods that they could get their lands to be bountiful for them, that they were confident enough to live in them, that they had the crops they desired. It was their worship that brought forth their harvest. They had to come to their gods first in order to have anything at all. 

But in Israel, it was the land that tied the people to their God. It was the promise, overflowing and abundant, that reminded them of His goodness. It was their harvest that drew them back into worship. Living in the place that God had given them reminded them of the God who gives and called them back again and again and again, for it was only by His grace that they had the abundance at all. They had everything they had because God had come to them first

That makes all the difference, doesn't it? 

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