Scripture: Leviticus 26:1-20
Key verses: “If you follow my statutes and keep my commandments and observe them faithfully, I will give you your rains in their season…”But if you do not obey me…Your strength shall be spent to no purpose.”
Reflection: When I looked and saw the lectionary reading from the Old Testament was Leviticus 26:1-20, I thought, “I’m not writing a devotional on Leviticus!” Then I read the passage. Leviticus 26 represents the conclusion of the holiness codes. It sets forth the typical formula, “If you do this, it will go well for you; if you don’t it won’t.” Such moral calculus drives me crazy. If only the world really worked this way. If only a fruitful life was simply a matter of following God’s statutes and commandments and observing them faithfully. But I’ve known too many good people who have suffered too much tragedy. And I see a lot of people who totally ignore God’s commands living pretty high on the hog. “I’m definitely not writing on this!” I thought.
Then I read the passage again. I read God’s promise of abundance and peace and prosperity, and most importantly, presence. “I will place my dwelling in your midst…I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” All we have to do is live according to God’s commandments. “Is that true?” I wondered to myself. Then I realized we’ve never really given it a try. This isn’t a word to us as individuals, it’s a word to all of us as God’s people. The “you” is plural, not singular. Through Moses, God is not saying, “Joe, if you do all these things your individual life will be awesome.” Rather God is saying to all God’s children, “If you obey my commandments,” (which Jesus summarized as loving God with all we are and loving our neighbor as ourselves,) “then you all will know abundance and peace and prosperity. And I will be with you.”
Have we ever given it a try? History tells us Israel never did. Have we? This passage isn’t so much an, “if you follow my law, I’ll bless you,” as it is, “Since you haven’t followed my law, that’s why things are such a mess!”
On this election day, what would it mean to consider our votes through the lens of God’s law? God alone is Lord of the conscience, so I offer no conclusions about what candidates accomplish this, but I encourage you to imagine what policies most closely reflect Christ’s summary of the law to love God with all we are and our neighbors as ourselves. I’m too much of a Calvinist to believe we could every perfectly fulfill God’s law, but perhaps we could get a little closer. Perhaps that would make our world a little better.
Prayer: You have given us your commandments, O God. You’ve called us to righteousness, justice, mercy and love. Give us wisdom today as we make choices about our leaders. Bless those who are elected to guide us with your wisdom and counsel. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].