Leviticus 25:23-27:34

Israel having been reminded that the land, into which they were going, was Jehovah's, so that they were merely tenants in possession for a time, and therefore they might not permanently alienate it, they were next instructed as to right of redemption that was to be observed, if anyone became poor and parted with his land for a time.

Some who had done this might later be prospered financially and be able themselves to redeem it. Such a case is contemplated in verse 26, and equitable terms of redemption are stated in verse 27. But in verse 25 we learn that, if a man remained poor and unable for this, "any of his kin" might step in and redeem it for him. This is illustrated for us by the action of Boaz in the Book of Ruth; and by this type we see how needful it was that the Lord Jesus should assume perfect Manhood, sin apart. Thus He "took part" of "flesh and blood," as Hebrews 2: 14 says, that so by death He might annul the power of the devil over us. Had He taken hold of angels only, He could not have fulfilled the type as our Kinsman-Redeemer, and paid the necessary price.

Verses 29-34, deal with exceptions to the above. Houses in villages were to be treated as land but not if the house stood in a wailed city. Such could only be redeemed within a year of the original transaction. They were more distinctively man's handiwork, lacking the simplicity connected with God's handiwork in the countryside. And further there was special protection ordered for the Levites and their possessions since they were specially God's possession.

In the latter part of our chapter we pass from the laws relating to the land to those concerning the redemption of persons. The first case considered is that of the Israelite who becoming poor sold himself for a period of service to one of his brethren. He was to be treated as a hired servant and not a bondservant and at the jubilee he was to be free. The case of such was considered fully when we read Exodus 21.

But then secondly, some of the nations round about might be prepared to sell themselves into servitude. If so, no redemption was provided for, and their service would be perpetual. It may be remarked that here we have a form of slavery permitted: Yes, but it was a form that was accepted for a monetary consideration by the person concerned, and not something forced on them, or similar to what was done with African negroes a century or two ago.

Thirdly, there was the case of the Israelite who, becoming poor, sold himself into servitude to some sojourner or stranger in the land. He would go out free at the jubilee, but also special arrangements were made for his possible redemption before the jubilee arrived. But such right of redemption was again limited to one of his own kin — brother, uncle or cousin. So that the "kinsman-redeemer" comes into view when persons are in question, and not only in connection with land. In considering this type, we have to remind ourselves, as indeed with all the types, that the great Reality that is typified far exceeds the type.

Leviticus 26, which we have now reached, bears an exceedingly solemn character. Verses 1-13 give a glowing picture of the earthly blessing and prosperity that would follow their obedience. Verses 14-39 give a terrible forecast of the evils that would ensue, if disobedience marked them.

Verse 1 prohibits idolatry of any kind. Verse 2 enforces the sanctity of the sabbath and the sanctuary. Verse 3 sums up all the other laws as "My statutes" and "My commandments," which were to be carried out. Lip service was not enough. They were to "do them."

Then follow the details of the prosperity that would follow. But, all was strictly provisional. It is, "If ye walk . . . then I will give." All depended upon their obedience and that "If" proved fatal. The blessings promised were of an earthly and material sort. They may be summed up as, fruitfulness, peace, victory and the realized presence of God in their midst. Jehovah had broken the bands of the yoke, imposed on them in Egypt, so that they went upright instead of being bowed down under heavy burdens. His presence would be their continued salvation. There is no mention of heaven or of the life to come. How great the contrast with the Christian's portion — blessed "with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph. 1: 3), and that without the introduction of any "if."

The larger part of the chapter is occupied with warnings as to the dreadful evils that would be provoked by their disobedience, and which would fall upon them with sevenfold intensity. In the days of Ezekiel the sad history of Israel's law-breaking was reaching a climax, and through him the Lord spoke of, "My four sore judgments . . . the sword, and the famine, and the noisome beast, and the pestilence" (Ezek. 14: 21). In our chapter the "four sore judgments" appear, only the sword instead of being mentioned first comes in the fourth place. Moreover, as verses 36 and 37 disclose, they would also bring the sword the one upon the other, and thus add to their miseries and destruction.

Verses 34 and 35 anticipate that they would ignore the commandments as to the sabbath, particularly as regarded the land, and that consequently God would give it a long sabbatical rest, when they were driven out and it lay desolate. We all know how long a rest that land has had until quite recent years.

With verse 40 a ray of light begins to shine. A door of hope is opened, if two things come to pass. First, there must be the confession of their iniquities. Second, the acceptance of the punishment that their iniquities have brought upon them. This second stipulation is mentioned twice, you notice, and evidently it is a very important matter. Both things are seen in Daniel's prayer (Dan. 9) so he got a speedy answer. A man may confess his sin but, if he still kicks against the punishment it incurs, it shows that his confession is superficial only, and lacks depth of real contrition. This is as true for us today as it was for Israel of old, since God's governmental dealings with His children, though always in love, are in strict righteousness. Psalm 73 gives evidence as to this.

It is also made plain in the end of the chapter that though disobedience would bring upon them such dire consequences, God would never forget His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in which He pledged Himself toward them unconditionally. To this Paul refers in Galatians 3: 17, pointing out that the law was not given until four hundred and thirty years after and cannot disannul it. This earlier covenant was "by promise" and when God fulfils it, Israel will be blessed on the ground of mercy, as is stated in Romans 11: 31, 32.

One thing more may be said: the woes threatened, like the favours offered in the earlier verses, are all of an earthly and temporal nature, though described in terrible terms. No attempt is made to soften down the language; indeed the very reverse. Just so it is in the New Testament where the dire consequence of unforgiven sin in eternity are stated. The language, whether of our Lord or of His apostles, could not be stronger. In this we ought to see clear evidence of the kindness of God. Those who break human laws may sometimes have ground for the complaint that had they been told plainly the penalty involved they would not have transgressed. No such complaint from Israel would have stood against God. Nor will any such complaint stand from those who, having heard the Gospel and refused its warnings, pass into a lost eternity.

Leviticus 27 contemplates cases where Israelites might desire to devote under a vow to the Lord either themselves or their animals, houses, land, etc., on special occasions. As to persons there was a fixed valuation, as given in the opening verses. This was in the hands of Moses. Verse 8 contemplates the case of the poor man, who was permitted to turn from Moses to the priest, who would value him according to his ability. Now the priest was one who could "have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way" (Heb. 5: 2). Pure law itself admits of no flexibility: what is demanded must be paid in full. The priest represented that measure of grace that was permissible under the law system.

There seems to be very little reference in the Old Testament to such vows and offerings to the Lord. It is possible that the vow of Jephthah (Judges 11) so rashly made, came under this heading. So also the vow of Hannah, in giving Samuel to the Lord. Israel frequently misused, if they did not neglect these regulations, and of this we have an illustration in Malachi 1: 14. God was not deceived however, and a curse came on the head of the man who was deceitful in that which he vowed.

As we pass to the consideration of the Book of Numbers we note that there is no real division between it and Leviticus, as indicated by the fact that the first word is, "And."