Sunday, August 3, 2014

"Celebrating FREEDOM in the Lord, our God ..."

Day #219:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - August 4th

Scripture Reading:  Leviticus 25 - 27 ...

God's instructions to the people of Israel covered virtually every area of their lives.  We sometimes feel as though the government does that today, but in the nation of Israel GOD was ruling over them and His laws were perfect and just.  It is important to understand that God's commands in the Garden of Eden were given to Adam and Eve who were created perfect.  They could have kept God's commands.  But following mankind's fall into sin, laws became necessary not only to reflect God's holiness, His perfection, but also to restrain man's sinful tendency to take advantage of others and to oppress them.  Therefore, God gave them guidelines for how to live together, remembering that HE was their God and that everything belonged to Him, including THEM!

The sabbath day was part of God's commands to the people of Israel.  They were to refrain from work on the seventh day, remembering that God was their Creator and that He had delivered them from their slavery in Egypt.  Now God institutes a "sabbath YEAR," the seventh year.  During that year the people of Israel were not to sow their fields or prune their vines.  They could eat what the land produced naturally.  God promised that if they were faithful, He would "send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years" (25:21).

God also instituted the "Year of Jubilee," which was the fiftieth year, to be celebrated after seven sabbath years.  The year of Jubilee must have been an amazing time.  Land was sold and debts were made based on the time from the year of Jubilee, because on the year of Jubilee the land was returned to its owner or their family and debts were cancelled.  On the year of Jubilee everyone was free ... it was like starting over.  Most certainly, this points to our redemption in Jesus Christ.  Through Jesus our debts are cancelled and we become "co-heirs" with Christ.

The word, "redeem," from which we get the word, "redemption," is clearly defined in Leviticus.  To "redeem" meant to buy back ... to remove the debt.  A man could have one of his relatives redeem his land and it would be returned to him.  The same was true of those sold into slavery ... they could be redeemed and set free.  Peter writes in I Peter 1:18-19 that believers were redeemed, not with silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, who gave the perfect payment for sin and removed our debt by paying it Himself.  Such a beautiful picture of God's salvation!

It is clear that God called the people to obedience to all He commanded for their own good and for His glory.  All of this was not to enslave the people, but to remind them that their life depended on the God who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  As God pronounced judgment on those who disobeyed, who turned to idols and who forgot Him, He revealed what would eventually happen:  "I will scatter you among the nations" (26:33).  The history of Israel reveals their idolatry and God's judgment against it.

Yet, God makes the same promise here that He makes later in the New Testament:  "If they will confess their sins ... when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, I will remember my covenant with Jacob and ... with Isaac ... and with Abraham" (26:40-42).  But how?  How could they pay for their sin?  They couldn't!  They needed a Redeemer ... and God would send them a "kinsman-Redeemer," one who was Himself a true man and a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Judah ... (now you know why the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1 is so important!).  JESUS would do what they couldn't do.

Meanwhile, God promises that "in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them.  I am the LORD their God.  But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God.  I am the LORD" (26:44-45).  The promise of grace existed even in the Old Testament as it pointed to the One who Himself would redeem all who put their faith in Him ... Jesus, the Christ!

All the rules of "redemption" pointed to Jesus, and as much as the people in the days of Moses needed redeeming, so do you and I.  We have in so many ways sinned against God and sold ourselves into slavery to sin.  We have disobeyed God's laws and, yes, we have pursued and worshiped idols of our own making in this world.  Were it not for God's grace, we would most certainly perish under God's just judgment.  But "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should NOT perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).  We inevitably come back to Jesus as our only hope, as the fulfillment of God's promises, as our Savior, our Redeemer, our Lord.

Through Jesus there will be a continual Year of Jubilee in the glories of heaven, and eventually in the new heavens and the new earth.  God will dwell among us and never again will there be any sin or need for redemption, for we shall be made like Him and will live with Him in the glory of perfection.  How can you and I not long for that time to come??  That is the hope towards which all of Scripture points and for which our hearts must long.

For those who know Christ, the celebrating begins now ... as we look to the future.  We celebrate true FREEDOM in Christ because God says that our redemption is certain and even now He sees us as holy "in Christ Jesus."  May our lives be lived in thanksgiving and praise to God for His remarkable gift of grace in Christ and may we daily live to serve Him, our Redeemer, our Lord and our God!!

"Almighty and everlasting God, to be able to call You, 'Abba, Father,' is the greatest privilege anyone can receive.  I confess my sin before You today and trust in the cleansing blood of Jesus for forgiveness and life.  You are MY God and I am yours, in body and soul, in life and in death.  I thank You for redeeming me and vow to live my life daily for You until I receive my inheritance among the saints by Your amazing grace.  I love You, Father ... in Jesus' name, Amen"

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