Lessons from Leviticus – Chapters 26-27

Chapters 26 and 27 conclude our studies in the book of Leviticus and bring before us Promises, Principles and Pledges. We shall think first of Promises and Principles as described in chapter 26, a chapter predominantly one of divine government, though not without its overtones of grace. “If ye will … then I will”, summarises a permanent principle of divine government. The chapter commences with a reiteration of the fundamental laws on idolatry, the sabbath, and the sanctuary. It continues with the blessings resulting from obedience, and the chastisements consequent upon disobedience.

First, we observe the conditions of obedience to the law of God, 26. 3-13. God promised that if they walked in His statutes and kept His commandments, He would give them prosperity, 26. 4, 5, saying, “I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit … and ye shall eat your bread to the full”. The harvest and ingathering would be so abundant that it would require months instead of days to gather in, for the threshing would last to the time of vintage, and the vintage to the time of sowing. Not only would they enjoy rich harvests, but the Lord would grant them peace, so that they could retire at night without anxiety and fear, 26. 6. The psalmist could say, “I laid me down and slept; I awaked, for the Lord sustained me”, Psa. 3. 5; and “, will both lay me down in peace, and sleep; for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety”, 4. 8.

Power also was to be their portion, for “ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword”, Lev. 26. 7. If, covetous of their prosperity, their enemies should dare to attack them, God would inspire them with courage and endue them with strength. There would be plenty for all, and “ye shall eat old store, and bring forth the old because of the new”, 26. 10. The harvest would be more than enough for their wants, and as in Amos’ prophecy “the ploughman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed”, Amos 9. 13. It is still true that “He gives” while we are prepared “to gather”, the only limit being our capacity and desire to receive. If it is God’s will to substitute the new for the old, we may gladly accept the exchange, though it may sometimes be a difficult and unpleasant experience. Let us welcome the new, treasure the old, and in both see the purpose of a loving Father. Finally, He assures them of His presence, saying,”, will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people”, 26. 11, 12. Not only would the Lord bless them with material things, but He would permanently abide in their midst, in the sanctuary. In writing to the Corinthians concerning the unequal yoke and their separation from all that is unrighteous, Paul reminds them of this very promise, in which they are assured that God dwells in them and walks with them; He will be their God and they shall be His people, 2 Cor. 6. 16.

In contrast to the blessings of obedience to the law of God, there is now declared the chastisements for opposition to the love of God, Lev. 26. 14-39. God declared, “if ye will not hearken unto me … I will set my face against you and ye shall be slain before your enemies”, 26. 14-17. Solemn consequences followed disobedience of God’s law, and painful chastisements the spurning of His love. They would suffer: disease, “consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart”, 26. 16. Defeat, for “ye shall be slain before your enemies; they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth”, 26. 17. Dearth, “I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass: and your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits”, 26. 19, 20. Pride in their achievements would be brought to nothing, for when God withholds His hand, human skill and effort are of no avail. So great would be the famine when God cut off the supply, that one ordinary oven would suffice to bake the bread of ten families, and bread, though rationed, would still leave them hungry, 26. 26. Destruction would be in their midst, for God would send “wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number”, 26. 22. Wild beasts which abounded in Palestine were often used as a punishment for sin, Deut 32. 24; 2 Kings 17. 25; Isa. 13. 21, 22; Ezek. 14. 15.

Desolation would follow, for their highways would be desolate, and their cities laid waste and their sanctuaries destroyed. God would bring the land into desolation and their enemies who dwelt therein would be astonished at it, Lev. 26. 22, 31 -33. From the ruin of the cities and the sanctuaries the desolation would extend to the whole country, and this would be the work of God Himself, so that their enemies would be amazed at it. Dispersion among the nations was to be their sad experience, for God would not permit them to remain among the ruins of their favoured land but would Himself scatter the survivors far and wide. How historically accurate this prophecy has proved. God would “send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword and they shall fall when none pursueth”, 26. 36. The timidity and cowardice of the remnant would be so great, that they would be frightened at the faintest sound, and experience great delusion. Finally they would be devoured by their enemies and be so mixed up with the heathen nations amongst whom they were dispersed, so incorporated amongst them, that they would be indistinguishable from them.

Paul writing to the believers at Corinth, tells them that “when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world”, 1 Cor. 11. 32, and the writer to the Hebrews reminds us that “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth”, 12. 6. and “no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby”, v. 11. God works for His children in love, so that, surrendered to His will and aware of His chastisements, they might know a life of victory, fruitfulness and communion.

Leviticus 26 concludes with the relationship of the covenant and the observance of the will of God, 26. 40-45. “If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers … then will I remember my covenant with Jacob … Isaac, and … Abraham … and I will remember the land”, 26. 40-42. The Lord was bound to His people by His covenant with their ancestors. Should they disobey His commandments, would they forfeit His promise? Would the covenant be abolished? This could not be, for He is faithful that promised, and “yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and break my covenant with them: for , am the Lord their God”, 26. 44. There are times when His people disobey His commandments, but His promise remains unchanged; “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”, 1 John 1. 9. The promises and’ principles of Leviticus 26 are brought to a conclusion in oneness with the Lord Himself, “These are the statutes and judgments and laws, which the Lord made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai by the hand of Moses”, 26. 46. In worship and priestly service, the Lord speaks from the “tabernacle of the congregation”, 1. 1, while in government He speaks from Mount Sinai, but whether in government or grace the relationship with His people remains unchanged. In times of departure from the truth, His promise to every believer is “He abideth faithful; he cannot deny himself”, 2 Tim. 2. 13, for “the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity”, v. 19.

The book concludes with a chapter on:

Pledges, and is concerned with the subject of vows, which were not an essential part of the laws of the Sinaitic covenant, but rather the expression of a willing devotion. All valuations were to be measured “according to the shekel of the sanctuary”, Lev. 27. 25. A person’s true value was according to his ability and capacity, according to the shekel of the sanctuary; this must not be confused with the atonement money, where there was no difference, for “the rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel”, Exod. 30. 15. Our ground of acceptance before God is one and the same for all, “the precious blood of Christ”, while the gifts of ability are manifestations of the Spirit given “to every man severally as he will”, 1 Cor. 12. 11.

We distinguish between things dedicated and things devoted. The former, Lev. 27. 1 -25, were sanctified and set apart for God, to be “a holy thing unto the Lord”, v. 23, while the latter were completely and irrevocably given to the Lord and could in no wise be redeemed. Dedication involved persons, vv. 1-8; possessions, including animals, vv. 9-13; houses, vv. 14, 15; and land, vv. 16-25. The possessions, houses and land could be redeemed, by the addition of a “fifth part” of the valuation. Things devoted 27. 26-34, could not be “sold or redeemed; every devoted thing is most holy unto the Lord”, v. 28.

It is well to remember Peter’s words to Ananias on the sale of his possession, “Whiles it remained, was it not thine own and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?”, Acts 5. 4. Let us not seek to claim as our own that which belongs to God, for we have been bought with a price: therefore “glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s”, 1 Cor. 6. 20.

If these studies have encouraged our readers to search a section of the inspired Word, sometimes neglected, and have helped towards a fuller and deeper appreciation of worship, then we shall feel that we have achieved our aim.