I Am The Lord Your God!
Lev. 18:-1-5, 19:9-18
† In Jesus Name †
May you always thank the Father, as filled with His joy, your find yourselves filled with all His glorious power, and having all the endurance and patience you need in your lives today!
It’s Not as Heavy A Burden as we Think!
At first glance, the Old Testament reading reminds me of my trainer at the gym. Every time I think I am working with the right amount of weight, he’ll walk over and add 10 or 20 pounds, and I will have to really push myself to get another set completed. Even as I dislike it when he adds the 10 pounds, the reason I have a trainer is to make sure I get the most out of my working out – so that I become healthier and stronger.
Often, our first reaction to lists of commandments like this is similar to a work out – we know we are going to struggle, we know we are going to be pushed past what we think our breaking point is. We get anxious knowing we are going to be faced with failure, like when I try to bench press 60 pounds, we just give up. The same thing here – how many commandments can we focus on at once, how will we grow spiritually and fulfill each of them?
It is easy to look at what God expects out of us, and look at the burden and wonder how Jesus expects us to be as perfect as He is.
What we are going to look at this morning, in both church and Bible study is this idea that the burden is too big, that it is too heavy, that we cannot live as God calls us to live. The illusion we are only sinners, those who fail God. Really, the burden is not too much and we can be described as Paul describes the church in Colossae.
…The way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. (Colossians 1:11b)
So let’s look at this list of commands, and consider whether it is a burden to obey these commandments….and walk in this life.
A Challenging List!
God makes it clear that His standard goes beyond that of the world. It’s not just their behaviors we aren’t to follow, the very laws they established were not reflective of God’s standard. Sounds familiar, yes?
What is legal in the law of the Egyptians and Canaanites and for us according to the Supreme Court isn’t beneficial or proper for us, according to God. We can’t say to God, we didn’t hear your laws, or we chose to do what is appropriate here. His desire for us is to for life to be lived to its fullest, not just to make do. We are called to live life in a way that Jesus did, valuing what He did, serving those He would serve, sacrificing things we want, and knowing that what He has in store for us is so much more fulfilling!
Look at the “commands”, look at the way God commissions us to live.
God’s law is all about caring for our neighbors, nor matter their race, their religion, their role in society, whether they are in LA or the OC or Cambodia. That is the bottom line at every one of these commandments.
It starts with the “law” of leaving part of what is ours provide for others. God asks us to give part of what is ours by right, to help those who have nothing, the poor and the stranger – or in other translations, the alien – literally those “not of our people” or “the one who doesn’t belong”. We are to care for them, to help provide for them – whether the government is involved… or not.
The list moves on to not cheating others, not deceiving, slandering, or exploiting them. Luther would add that this obligates us to care for them, and their property. Remember, sin is disobedience! It is walking away from God’s plan in our thoughts, words, or deed – and that includes what we fail to think, fail to say, and fail to do. Again – God’s desire isn’t just about not harming them, but caring about them, even as God cares for us. God’s love in action, through us.
We see this as well in not mocking or cursing the deaf, or tripping up the blind – whether they are deaf and blind physically – or spiritually. Our actions should be that which help – and comfort and guide those, not give them reason to hate us.
Caring for them goes to the extent of our not allowing resentment to build in our hearts! If we do, how can we love each other, or prove that love in the way we care for each other? We are called to carefully reprove those who sin, in such a way that reconciliation can occur. It should go without saying, but sin isn’t any more individual than grace and faith are – and it is a sign of our love for our neighbor that we would carefully try to deliver them from their sin – even as Christ has done for us….
This is the way of life God that has commissioned, this is the way of life that He desires us to live and treasure. It is easily summed up as the young man and Jesus talked about… loving your neighbor as yourself… and Jesus will remind the young teacher – that our neighbor is simply the one in need…
What we’ve got to remember He’s Yhwh
That is what God has commissioned our lives to be – lives invested in each other, and in those who are broken in this world, that our love for them would bring healing and hope – even as we are found in Christ – and are finding healing there for our sin-caused wounds.
Which would be a struggle, an incredible burden except for one thing. The nature and character of God. You see, He will not give us a burden we can’t carry, In the midst of this passage, we are reminded constantly of who He is, for that very purpose!
I chose the NJB translation for that reason this morning for our reading. I’ve mentioned it before – when the Bible spells our LORD in all capitals – it is not the word for Lord or Master or King in scripture. In fact, it’s somewhat the opposite – it’s God’s personal name… Yahweh/Jehovah. Translated it is “I AM” and it reminds us of God’s power but even more, His presence in our lives. For He “is” and that means He is here.. with us.
Knowing that is the key to understanding all of the passages of scripture where God lays out how our lives are to be lived. Nine times in this passage, God reminds us of Who He is, not with titles that we see in Scripture – like, “God of heaven’s armies” or God on High, but rather His name. Reminding us of what He desires most – for us to so trust in Him that we call on His name – that we realize that He is our God! He is with us.
This is what the cross is all about! It isn’t just about forgiving our sins, though indeed that is where they were paid for. It’s about getting rid of the things that stand in the way of our calling on His name, Jesus living the way He did, being crucified and raised from the dead – it’s all about His restoring us to the Father, sharing with us their glory, as their love envelopes all of us.
Which is why this way God commissions us to live is not about rules and obligations, as much as it is the natural outcome of our relationship with Him. This relationship, as we walk with Him, as we realize He is our God, results in a change in us, as we begin to love as He does. Our priorities change, not by our strength or character, but by living in His presence and knowing His mercy.
That is why I said this list is not a burden, The more we dwell in Him, the more we are conscious of the fact that He is Yhwh, the more we are sure that He is here, the more we find ourselves changed – the more we find out that we begin to live in this way.
For we find, in His presence, we dwell in His peace…a peace beyond all comprehension, for He guards as a great treasure, our hearts and minds.
- Why I don’t hate “religion”, because it is His One, holy, catholic/christian and apostolic church (justifiedandsinner.com)