Today’s reading begins with a listing of blessings that result from obedience to the LORD’s commands and concludes with instructions on how to redeem various tithes.
The two topics that stand out to me in reading today’s passage are the lengthy lists of blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience that the LORD gives to Moses. It’s appropriate that as the book of Leviticus closes God chooses to make clear the consequences of what He has laid out over the course of the previous two books–Exodus and Leviticus.
The list of blessings are as follows: seasonal rains, prosperous crop yields that will result in extensive harvest times because of the quantities of produce, plenty of food to eat, secure and peaceful living, dangerous animals will be absent from the land, a lack of violence, victory over enemies, enemies will be in grave fear of even a handful of men, families will have many children, and God will dwell among the people of Israel.
The list of curses that the Israelites will bring upon themselves is even more lengthy: panic, diseases and fevers that are exhausting, crops will produce but the produce will be consumed by Israel’s enemies, defeat in battles, enemy nations will rule over Israel, people will run away in fear even when no one is giving chase, famine. At this point, the LORD pauses and adds that if Israel continues to rebel and disobey that He will strike them even harder. After this brief pause, God continues to list curses for disobedience: punishment that is multiplied, wild beasts will roam freely in the land and attack the people and kill the children and destroy the livestock, increased warfare and defeat, pestilence in the cities, starvation. Again God pauses and tells Israel that even after all of this, if they still insist on disobedience that He will continue their punishment: dire famine to the point of the people turning to cannibalism, dead bodies will litter the places of worship, attempts at worship and offerings will be ignored by God.
The destruction that God will bring upon Israel for their disobedience will be so terrible that when enemy people groups takeover the land that God has given to the Israelites that they will be appalled at what they find when the come in to the land. In addition, God says He will scatter the Israelites, destroy their land, and lay waste to their cities. At this point, God reiterates the importance of the Sabbath day rest and rest that the Israelites were to give to the land every seven years. It appears that the disobedience of the Hebrew people is somewhat related to their ignorance of the rest that God commands, because God makes reference to the fact that when He has laid waste the land that the land will at last have the Sabbath rest that it needs and He has commanded.
The final toll of disobedience will be absolute fear and confusion striking the hearts of the Israelites. The people will be absolutely helpless against their enemies and the land of their enemies will consume them.
The glimmer of hope that God gives to the people is this: if they will confess their sins and those of their fathers that He will relent from His judgments against them. In addition, God will not ignore them, but instead will remember his covenant with their fathers and spare them from complete annihilation.
It seems like this should be an open and shut case. Simply obey and life will be great. Based on what I know of my own life and what you know of yours, disobedience is the choice that is made more often than not. How can these two lists be ignored? Based on what is contained in later passages, it’s evident that Israel chooses disobedience and God exacts the punishments he describes here on them to hundreds of years. Why won’t they just obey? Why won’t we just obey?