Meditations in the Law : No.41 : Miscellaneous Laws (2)
Lev 19:19,37 Keep my decrees….. Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them. I am the LORD.
We continue to observe these various laws found in chapter 19 but note again, from the start, that they are God’s decrees, the things He has established, orders that He has put in place because they conform to how He has designed the human race, and therefore He speaks against those things that would harm this human race. Bear in mind throughout, that God’s intention is the well-being of His people.
The first instructions, in the next verses we consider, confuse some people but, I suggest, simply say, “Respect God’s order and God’s design and recognise the distinctive nature of things that He has established. “Do not mate different kinds of animals. Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.” (v.19) These may or may not have scientific reasons behind them, or they may be simply what I’ve suggested already, a call to be distinctive and by conforming to these rules will constantly act as a reminder that God is Creator and He has made things differently. Verses 20 to 22 are about sex with a slave girl and seek to provide for her protection while calling to account the man who took advantage of her. Verses 23 to 25 are simple laws of horticulture that say give a tree sufficient time to grow before you take its fruit and, when it matures in the fourth year, give its fruit to the Lord as a means of honouring the Creator and Provider of all good things. Then we come to a series of single specific decrees.
First, “Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it.” (v.26a). For this see Meditation no.38. Then comes, “Do not practice divination or sorcery” (v.26b) which can be linked with, “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.” (v.31) In Deuteronomy Moses stated, “The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the LORD your God has not permitted you to do so.” (Deut 18:14) Occult activity is about seeking out hidden powers, powers that can be controlled without God and as such are forbidden.
We then come to rules that will probably seem strange to us: “Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.” (v.27) and “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.” (v.28) The reference to hair referred to the pagan practice of shaping the hair as part of mourning practices, and the disfiguring of the body and tattooing were similarly performed in such pagan rights. Anything that was associated with the pagan practices of the former inhabitants of the land were to be shunned. It may well be that the following injunction was similarly linked to the practices of the land but generally it provides for the care and protection of girls: “Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness.” (v.29) Turning to prostitution suggests a failure in respect of God’s design for marriage and is therefore spoken against.
Verse 30 calls for reverence for the Lord: “Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the LORD,” (v.30) a reminder that constantly needs to be brought. In the midst of the laws, don’t lose sight of the fact that they are all to do with a special people, God’s people and His relationship with them is to be constantly remembered, for it is the foundation of all else. But then we come back to the way God has designed the world and how we should act accordingly: “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.” (v.32) Note yet again the use of the authority for this law: “I am the Lord” which emphasizes the importance of it. Honouring people is a key thing that comes up often in Scripture, recognizing their worth. If for nothing else, honour the aged for having gone before and survived. They should have wisdom and experience that outweighs that of a younger generation and, as such, should be honoured. Remember, God says it!
Not only should there be honour for the aged, there should be care for the foreigner now living in the land: “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” (v.33,34) This injunction is a call not to look down on aliens, for Israel had once been an alien people in Israel.
Finally there is a call for honesty in everyday dealings: “Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt.” (v.35,36) Again it is a call for honesty to be the currency of the community, together with a reminder that they are the Lord’s people and (implied) they should stand distinct from nations round about who were not honest. In the same way as some nations have a bad reputation for requiring bribes at every turn, Israel was to have a reputation for honesty in dealing.
Let’s remind ourselves just once more, the purpose of these laws was to help Israel be a distinctive nation, a nation that was to be looked up to for they could be trusted for the standards they held. These standards are to make them distinct from other nations by the way they cared for one another and created a secure community.