…The Point of
Obedience is such a hard word to learn. In Leviticus, I see the Israelites, a “stiff-necked” people, being called to obedience in everything. They are called, then stumble, repent, then reminded to be obedient again. For a while they seem to respond, then they stumble, repent, and the whole process starts over again. (Kind of like the people of today, huh?!) The laws were given…everything from the basic ten, to many dealing specifically with their everyday life issues. Over and over they are reminded that disobedience is death, and obedience is life.
In Leviticus chapter 26, God revealed a new awareness of His mercies and grace to me this week. He begins in verse 3 by stating, “If you walk in My statues and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will….”, and He spells out boundless blessings He desires to bestow upon His people. These are the rewards of Obedience.
Beginning in verse 14, He says, “But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise My statues, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant, I also will do this to you…” These are the Punishments of Disobedience.
As I read verses 16 through 39, I began to notice that there were several stages of punishment listed, but with a unique “surprise” inbetween them….a pause! These pauses are where God leads us through his plan for redemption:
- Stage 1: (verses 16-17) “I also will do this to you: I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you.”
Then, God pauses……
Stage #2: (verses 18-20) “And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. I will break the pride of your power; I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit.”
Then God pauses …
Stage #3: (verses 21-22) “Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins. I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, destroy your livestock, and make you few in number; and your highways shall be desolate.”
Then God pauses again …
Stage #4: (verses 23-26) “And if by these things you are not reformed by Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I also will walk contrary to you, and I will punish you yet seven times for your sins. And I will bring a sword against you that will execute the vengeance of the covenant; when you are gathered together within your cities I will send pestilence among you; and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. When I have cut off your supply of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall bring back your bread by weight, and you shall eat and not be satisfied.”
Then, again, God pauses…
Stage #5: (verses 27-39) “And after all this, if you do not obey Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I also will walk contrary to you in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins. You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters. I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars, and cast your carcasses on the lifeless forms of your idols; and My soul shall abhor you. I will lay your cities waste and bring your sanctuaries to desolation, and I will not smell the fragrance of your sweet aromas. I will bring the land to desolation, and your enemies who dwell in it shall be astonished at it. I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities waste. Then the land shall enjoy its sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest and enjoy its sabbaths. As long as it lies desolate it shall rest for the time it did not rest on your sabbaths when you dwelt in it. And as for those of you who are left, I will send faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; the sound of a shaken leaf shall cause them to flee; they shall flee as though fleeing from a sword, and they shall fall when no one pursues. They shall stumble over one another, as it were before a sword, when no one pursues; and you shall have no power to stand before your enemies. You shall perish among the nations, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. And those of you who are left shall waste away in their iniquity in your enemies’ lands; also in their fathers’ iniquities, which are with them, they shall waste away.”
The pauses inbetween each stage of punishment reflect something that we should all get down on our knees and humbly thank God for…….Mercy and Grace.
Verses 40-45 reflect the continual opportunity to confess and turn from our sin. Even after all our disobedience — day after day–month after month–year after year, God desires for us to come back to Him. He so graciously states, “But if they confess their iniquity…, their unfaithfulness…, and that they also have walked contrary to Me…, and their hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt — then I will remember the covenant of their ancestors…that I might be their God: I am the Lord.”
I believe that the pauses inbetween each stage of punishment could be there to point us to verses 40-45. Every time He spoke of disobedience and punishment, He pauses to remind us that He still loves us. He invites us to repent, confess, and turn from sin.
How many times have we “messed up”? How many times does it take for the message of obedience to “sink in”? How long does it take for us to place the rewards of obedience in higher esteem than the temporary pleasures of sin?
There is nothing you have done or will do that will affect His love for you. I pray that if you are not a Christian already, you take advantage of this “pause” God is giving you today to accept Him as your Lord and Savior. Press this button if you are ready.
If you are already a Christian, I pray that today’s pause will be a time of reflection and recommitment to obedience. Regardless of where you are in your life today; regardless of how many bad things you (and I) have done; regardless of how small or great the sin was in your eyes, God still is calling you back to Him. He IS the Point of Return!