It Pays to Obey

1 You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the Lord your God. You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.

“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land. You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. I will turn to you and make you fruitful and multiply you and will confirm my covenant with you. 10 You shall eat old store long kept, and you shall clear out the old to make way for the new. 11 I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12 And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. 13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect. Leviticus 26:1-13 ESV

After all that God has said and done since their arrival at Sinai, the Israelites are now given the conditions surrounding their covenant relationship with Yahweh. They have received His Decalogue and Book of the Covenant and agreed to keep all the laws and regulations contained within them. Moses delivered to them all of God’s instructions concerning the sacrificial system and the Levitical priesthood. Moses also provided them with God’s detailed plans for the construction of the Tabernacle which was to serve as Yahweh’s earthly dwelling place. God had provided them with instructions concerning all the holy days and feasts that were to celebrate each year throughout their generations. And all along the way, it seems that the people quietly agreed to do all that God had commanded them. They showed no signs of disagreement and displayed no hint of disobedience. But God knew that it wouldn’t be long before His people found His laws and regulations to be a burden rather than a blessing. When they arrived in the land of Canaan, they would see other nations that were not required to live up to God’s exacting standards. The Canaanites would be free to do as they pleased, unhampered by God’s restrictive legal code.

But all throughout the book of Leviticus, God had called His people to live in obedience to His will. He would not let them forget that He had saved them and had great plans for them, but their submission and obedience were non-negotiable requirements if they wanted to experience the full extent of His blessings.

I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” – Leviticus 11:44-45 ESV

You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord. – Leviticus 18:4-5 ESV

So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 18:30 ESV

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them: I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 19:36-37 ESV

They shall therefore keep my charge, lest they bear sin for it and die thereby when they profane it: I am the Lord who sanctifies them. – Leviticus 22:9 ESV

They shall not profane the holy things of the people of Israel, which they contribute to the Lord, and so cause them to bear iniquity and guilt, by eating their holy things: for I am the Lord who sanctifies them.” – Leviticus 22:15-16 ESV

“So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the Lord. And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the Lord who sanctifies you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 22:31-33 ESV

God had made His expectations perfectly clear. Obedience was an obligation, not an option. But their adherence to His commands was not to be viewed as a burden. He wanted them to understand that their faithful commitment to the covenant He had made with them was designed to be a blessing, and in chapter 26 He outlines all the amazing benefits they can expect to receive as a result of their obedience to His commands.

And God opens up the chapter with a reminder of the two most fundamental and foundational laws He had given them.

“You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the Lord your God. – Leviticus 26:1 ESV

According to the Decalogue, the Israelites were forbidden from worshiping any other deity but Yahweh. They were not to follow the polytheistic ways of the Canaanites, willfully worshiping a host of assorted deities of their own making. Yahweh was the only true God and they were to revere and honor Him alone. And because He had set apart the Sabbath as a day of rest and a sign of their reliance upon Him, they were to honor it at all times. This applied to the Tabernacle as well. God had ordered its construction so that it might serve as His earthly dwelling place and guarantee His presence among them. They were to treat His sanctuary as holy and give it the honor it deserved as the house of Yahweh.

What the Israelites needed to understand was the truly unique nature of their relationship with Yahweh. He had chosen them to be His treasured possession. He had singled them out among all the nations of the earth to become His chosen people. And His laws were designed to regulate their lives and distinguish them from every other people group on the planet. By obeying His commands they would demonstrate their distinctiveness and prove their status as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6 ESV).

But their status as God’s treasured possession came with a condition: Obedience.

“…if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, [then] you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine.” – Exodus 19: 5 ESV

This is a conditional statement. To continue to enjoy their one-of-a-kind status as His chosen people, they would have to remain fully committed to and in compliance with His covenant commands. The covenant was conditional. But the good news was that obedience was well worth it. If they chose to keep their covenant commitments, God would pour out His blessings upon them – abundantly and in every area of their lives.

God was going to bless their land with rain and produce an abundance of crops – well beyond anything they could have imagined. They would experience prosperity in the form of fruitfulness in their fields and vineyards. God promised to extend their growing seasons so that they were able to harvest long after their neighbor’s fields had gone barrren. This was a promise of divine intervention and sovereign provision.

But not only did God promise them fruitful fields and full stomachs, but He also guaranteed their safety in the land.

“I will give you peace in the land, and you will be able to sleep with no cause for fear. I will rid the land of wild animals and keep your enemies out of your land. In fact, you will chase down your enemies and slaughter them with your swords. – Leviticus 26:6-7 NLT

God would provide for them and protect them. He would feed them and defend them. And along with fruitful fields, they would experience the blessing of fruitful wombs.

“I will look favorably upon you, making you fertile and multiplying your people. And I will fulfill my covenant with you. – Leviticus 26:9 NLT

God would see to it that the land was filled to overflowing with His chosen people. Their number would increase exponentially but never outstrip the ability of the land to provide because God would supernaturally and sovereignly supply all their needs.

But the greatest blessing they stood to gain from a life of obedience was the ongoing presence of Yahweh. He promised to remain with them and to live among them – as long as they remained faithful to Him.

“I will live among you, and I will not despise you. I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people.” – Leviticus 26:11 NLT

God guaranteed His ongoing provision, protection, and presence but it was conditioned upon their obedience. He would not tolerate unfaithfulness or turn a blind eye to idolatry. He would not and could not dwell among those who refused to honor Him and treated Him with disdain. His presence was the key to His provision and protection, and His ongoing presence was directly tied to their obedience. They stood to gain greatly if they would simply remain faithful to their covenant commitments. And lest they forget, God reminded them once again of all that He had done for them.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so you would no longer be their slaves. I broke the yoke of slavery from your neck so you can walk with your heads held high.” – Leviticus 26:13 NLT

Obedience was not to be viewed as a burden. It was not a “yoke” of oppression like they had experienced in Egypt. God was not their slave master, but their liberator. He had released them from bondage so that they might walk in freedom. No longer weighed down by the unjust laws placed upon them by Pharaoh, the Israelites were free to walk in the light of God’s glorious presence and in keeping with His life-transformative laws. And as long as they did, they would be blessed.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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