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A Blessing and a Curse
“Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God. Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD. If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit...But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments; and if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant: I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you…But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the LORD. These are the statutes and judgments and laws, which the LORD made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai by the hand of Moses.” (Leviticus 26:1-46)
Hear the Word of the Lord. — “I set before you this day a blessing and a curse” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28). — This is God’s Word to you and me. It is a word about obedience and disobedience, about great promises of grace and great threats of wrath. This 26th chapter of Leviticus is God’s own commentary on his holy law. Here, the Lord God himself tells us the doctrine of all the Levitical Law.
A Fence of Protection
In verses 1-2 the Lord God graciously sets up a fence of protection for our souls, a fence for which we can never be sufficiently thankful. The fence he has cast around our souls is the blessed fence of public worship. I say, without reluctance, that this is our greatest earthly blessing, our greatest privilege, our most important aspect of every believer’s life
The Lord God demands that we worship him, and worship him alone, because he alone is God. — “Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God” (v. 1).
Our God demands our whole heart, our entire soul, our undivided devotion. He will have no rival. Salvation is neither more nor less than knowing and owning the Lord God our Savior as our God. It is bowing to and worshipping him as he is revealed in Christ, as “a just God and a Savior,” confessing Christ as Lord (Romans 10:1-13).
If we would worship this holy Lord God, we must worship him in the way he requires. We must worship him in spirit and in truth, without rival (John 4:23; Philippians 3:3). Our worship of God must be spiritual, not carnal worship. All idols, all images, all religious relics, all religious images (crosses, pictures of angels, representations of God, etc.) are prohibited.
In verse 2, the Lord tells us what this worship is. — “Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.” This Old Testament requirement of sabbath keeping was a portrayal of faith in Christ. The only way a sinner can know and worship God is by this blessed rest of faith in Christ, by ceasing from his own works and trusting the finished work of Christ, the sinner’s Substitute (Matthew 11:28-30; Hebrews 4:9-11). Come to Christ, and rest. In this Gospel Age we must not keep a legal sabbath of any kind (Colossians 2:16-23). Our Sabbath is Christ. We rest in him.
“Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.” — This commandment to reverence his sanctuary is a great commandment of mercy. The sanctuary in the Old Testament was the place of worship, instruction, and pronounced blessing, the place where God met with men and men met with God, the place of God’s dwelling, the house of God. All spiritual declension, all spiritual decay begins with the neglect of public worship. This is the fence the Lord has put around us to keep us from idolatry, to keep us believing, worshipping, and loving him (Hebrews 10:22-27). This is exactly what John and Jude are referring to in 1 John 5:21 and Jude 21.
How I give thanks to God for establishing this blessed ordinance of public worship for the honor of his name and the benefit of our souls! — “Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 38:23).
In verses 3-39 the Lord God promises bounteous blessings of grace upon all who obey his commandments and threatens indescribable wrath upon all who disobey. Without question, our obedience or our disobedience to the revealed will of God are matters of indescribable importance. Let no one imagine otherwise. If we are disobedient to that which the Lord God has revealed in his Word, we bring upon ourselves great trouble. He will manifest his disapproval in chastisement. If we are obedient, we walk in the path of blessing.
But this passage is not teaching conditional grace. Leviticus 26 is God’s explanation of his law. He is here declaring how he always deals with sinners in absolute, strict, unbending justice. The text clearly reaches far beyond temporal, earthly blessedness and temporal, earthly wrath.
Promises of Bounteous Grace
In verses 3-13, the Lord God promises bounteous, indescribably bounteous grace to all who obey his commandments. As we read these verses, note that the blessings here promised are seven, the number of perfection and completion, and the number of grace. These are “the precious things of heaven” (Deuteronomy 33:13-14) promised to all the sons of Joseph. Understand them spiritually as referring to gospel blessedness, and you understand them correctly. The things here promised, using carnal, earthly things to portray spiritual, heavenly things are blessings of grace promised to the obedience of faith in Christ.
1. Fruitfulness (vv. 3-4) — Since our Savior ascended his throne, having obtained eternal redemption for us, by the sweet, irresistible grace and power of his Spirit, there has been and continues to be a constant ingathering of his redeemed from the four corners of the earth.
2. Satisfaction and Safety — “Ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely” (v. 5).
3. Peace — “And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land” (v. 6). — Where sin abounded grace much more abounds. God not only promises plenteous redemption and plenteous grace, he promises peace with it!
4. Triumph — “Ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword” (vv. 7-8). — “We are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). — We overcome and shall overcome all our foes, “because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). — “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD” (Isaiah 54:17).
5. Divine Favor — “For I will have respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you” (v. 9). — When God the Holy Ghost gives us life and faith in Christ, in the sweet experience of his grace, he who is the Seal of the covenant, seals to us all the blessings of the covenant of grace (Ephesians 1:13-14; Galatians 3:13-14).
6. Blessings upon the Old and the New — “And ye shall eat old store, and bring forth the old because of the new” (v. 10). — Our Savior promises, “at our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, old and new, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved” (Song of Solomon 7:13).
7. Divine Presence — “And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people. I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright” (vv. 11-13). — That is God’s promise of salvation to his covenant people. — “Remember me, O LORD, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation!” (Psalm 106:4)
What is it that all the commandments of God require? All the law requires that we love God with all our hearts and our neighbors (our most implacable enemies) as ourselves. There is only one way that we can keep God’s commandments; and he tells us exactly what that way is. It is believing on the name of his Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 3:23; Romans 3:31; 10:4).
These blessings of grace, promised to all who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, speak of the perfect, full inheritance of grace in salvation, the blessedness of heaven’s eternal glory, the blessedness of eternal life (Ephesians 1:3-7). They speak of that grace and glory God promises to give his people.
There is a day coming when we shall enjoy the rain of heaven, the former and the latter rain, perfectly, by the gift of God (James 1:17). In that day, there will be no barrenness in the earth. The earth shall yield her fruit to the full satisfaction of our souls (Amos 9:13). In that day when our God makes all things new, there shall be nothing to cause us pain or tear, sorrow or sighing. The former things shall be passed away forever, never to rise again (Zechariah 12:8; Revelation 20:6; 21:1-5).
“My soul shall not abhor you” (v. 11). —The holy Lord God would have us remember, and we shall forever remember it, that all the blessedness that we shall enjoy forever in heaven is a matter of free grace, established to us and given to us by covenant love. We deserve his wrath; but he has given us his grace for Christ’s sake, because he loved us with an everlasting love (Psalm 47:1-9).
Threats of Indescribable Wrath
But some who read these lines will not all enjoy such blessedness. These infinite bounties of everlasting mercy are reserved for sinners who obey God, who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. To you who believe not, the Lord God promises all the horrid terror of his indescribable wrath and justice (vv. 14-39).
If you are yet without Christ, without faith, without God, without hope, your rebellion and unbelief have brought misery of heart and soul to you already. Your life is a wreck. You are constantly terrified. But your present misery and terror are only forerunners of hell’s everlasting woe! That is what these verses describe. Look at verse 18, and learn this. — In hell you shall reap exactly what you have sown. You shall eat the fruit of your own way and be filled with your own devices. — “And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.”
Notice that the Lord promises seven plagues to all who despise his Word. In verse 21 he promises seven more. In verse 24 he promises seven more. In verse 28 he promises seven more. Yet, if you count them, there is not a single time when the number seven is succeeded by seven plagues. There are six, then four, then ten, but never seven. Why? These plagues are symbolic of the complete, perfect justice of God in punishing men according to their deserts. In other words, the greater the light you despise, the greater shall be your condemnation. The Lord God says, “I will appoint over you terror” (v. 16; 2 Corinthians 5:10-11).
In hell you will experience the everlasting consumption of your soul. A burning ague, burning fever that shall consume your eyes and that shall everlastingly consume your hope with eternally increasing sorrow of heart! The triune Jehovah says, “I will set my face against you” (v. 17). All that you have sought, labored for, and spent your life to gain will prove vanity and vexation. Wild beasts of darkness, famine in your soul, pestilence in your body, unsatisfied lusts, divine fury, and mockery by your refuge of lies will torment you forever (vv. 18-30).
The Lord God will rid the earth of you and of all evil and cause all his creation to rest. — “Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths” (vv. 34-36). The wicked and unbelieving, being cast into hell, shall fall upon, trample upon, and devour one another. You shall perish among the heathen.
Read verse 29. Maybe, you will begin to see what awaits you. Behold the wrath of the Lamb! — “And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.” In hell the lost mother shall curse her lost daughter, the lost son will curse his lost father, the lost sinner shall curse his lost pastor forever, wishing them to be dammed with whom they are dammed!
Such is the death you have chosen. Such is the wrath you deserve. Such is the end to which you run. But this does not have to be your end. In verses 40-46 the Lord God himself, the God whose honor you trample under your feet, whose character you attempt to rape, who’s very being you despise, opens to sinners like us a door of hope
A Marvelous Call to Repentance
Here the Lord God himself calls hell bent, hell deserving sinners to repentance, and promises eternal salvation to all who turn to him, confessing their sin, trusting his Son.
“If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; and that I also have walked contrary unto them, and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity: Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land. The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity: because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes. And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God.” (vv. 40-44)
There is yet a remnant according to the election of grace who must and shall be saved. And, as Robert Hawker wrote, “Of this we may be very confident, that wherever a soul is made a partaker of the riches of his grace, most heartily and fully will that soul subscribe to the rights of God’s justice. This is accepting the punishment of our iniquity.”
“But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the LORD. These are the statutes and judgments and laws, which the LORD made between him and the children of Israel in mount Sinai by the hand of Moses.” (vv. 45-46)
“Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger forever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.” (Micah 7:18-20)
That is the message of God in the commandments of the law he gave by the hand of Moses at Sinai. — “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).