“But If You Refuse to Obey Me…”
“But if you refuse to obey me and won’t observe my commandments, despising my decrees and holding my laws in contempt by your disobedience, making a shambles of my covenant, I’ll step in and pour on the trouble: debilitating disease, high fevers, blindness, your life leaking out bit by bit. You’ll plant seed but your enemies will eat the crops. I’ll turn my back on you and stand by while your enemies defeat you. People who hate you will govern you. You’ll run scared even when there’s no one chasing you.
“And if none of this works in getting your attention, I’ll discipline you seven times over for your sins. I’ll break your strong pride: I’ll make the skies above you like a sheet of tin and the ground under you like cast iron. No matter how hard you work, nothing will come of it: No crops out of the ground, no fruit off the trees.
“If you defy me and refuse to listen, your punishment will be seven times more than your sins: I’ll set wild animals on you; they’ll rob you of your children, kill your cattle, and decimate your numbers until you’ll think you are living in a ghost town.
“And if even this doesn’t work and you refuse my discipline and continue your defiance, then it will be my turn to defy you. I, yes I, will punish you for your sins seven times over: I’ll let war loose on you, avenging your breaking of the covenant; when you huddle in your cities for protection, I’ll send a deadly epidemic on you and you’ll be helpless before your enemies; when I cut off your bread supply, ten women will bake bread in one oven and ration it out. You’ll eat, but barely—no one will get enough.
“And if this—even this!—doesn’t work and you still won’t listen, still defy me, I’ll have had enough and in hot anger will defy you, punishing you for your sins seven times over: famine will be so severe that you’ll end up cooking and eating your sons in stews and your daughters in barbecues; I’ll smash your sex-and-religion shrines and all the paraphernalia that goes with them, and then stack your corpses and the idol-corpses in the same piles—I’ll abhor you; I’ll turn your cities into rubble; I’ll clean out your sanctuaries; I’ll hold my nose at the “pleasing aroma” of your sacrifices. I’ll turn your land into a lifeless moonscape—your enemies who come in to take over will be shocked at what they see. I’ll scatter you all over the world and keep after you with the point of my sword in your backs. There’ll be nothing left in your land, nothing going on in your cities. With you gone and dispersed in the countries of your enemies, the land, empty of you, will finally get a break and enjoy its Sabbath years. All the time it’s left there empty, the land will get rest, the Sabbaths it never got when you lived there.
“As for those among you still alive, I’ll give them over to fearful timidity—even the rustle of a leaf will throw them into a panic. They’ll run here and there, back and forth, as if running for their lives even though no one is after them, tripping and falling over one another in total confusion. You won’t stand a chance against an enemy. You’ll perish among the nations; the land of your enemies will eat you up. Any who are left will slowly rot away in the enemy lands. Rot. And all because of their sins, their sins compounded by their ancestors’ sins.
“On the Other Hand, If They Confess…”
“On the other hand, if they confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors, their treacherous betrayal, the defiance that set off my defiance that sent them off into enemy lands; if by some chance they soften their hard hearts and make amends for their sin, I’ll remember my covenant with Jacob, I’ll remember my covenant with Isaac, and, yes, I’ll remember my covenant with Abraham. And I’ll remember the land.
“The land will be empty of them and enjoy its Sabbaths while they’re gone. They’ll pay for their sins because they refused my laws and treated my decrees with contempt. But in spite of their behavior, while they are among their enemies I won’t reject or abhor or destroy them completely. I won’t break my covenant with them: I am God, their God. For their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I, with all the nations watching, brought out of Egypt in order to be their God. I am God.”
– Leviticus 26:14-45 (The Message)
When the split countries of Israel and Judah were both sent into exile, they were shocked that their God would not rescue them. They’d broken all the rules, but they were the “Chosen People” weren’t they? This land was promised to us, wasn’t it? The kings had advisors promising the king that they would be saved. Such prophets as Jeremiah were accused by others as being too negative. Yet, God warned them in Leviticus 26. It should not have been a surprise.
Could it be, history repeating itself?
Yesterday, there was another school shooting incident. This time in Texas, only a few blocks from where one of my wife’s sisters lives. She had been to the school the day before, selling and sizing class rings. Will some of those rings never find a finger?
The news is riddled with stories of the lack of cooperation in government. It seems everyone has their view and all others are wrong. Thus, nothing ever gets fixed.
Our church denominations argue over things that are clearly stated in the Scriptures. They want to apply a modern world view, but the modern world view is packed full with centuries of turning away from God and His decrees.
“If you refuse to obey me…” does not only apply to the people of Israel. It applies to all nations today. It applies to all communities today. It applies to all churches today. It applies to all of us today.
R. E. M. sang “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.” Each year since the song came out, the song could be sung anew. Each year, one more step away from God.
Leviticus 26 does not end with an absolute curse on the people of the land.
“On the other hand, if they confess…”
May we all pray. May we all turn to God and for those who had strayed return to God.
Soli Deo Gloria. Glory to God Alone.