We saw last time that the various laws are followed by the sentence, “I am the Lord.” When multiple laws are put together without that sentence in between them, it is because they somehow are expressing the same thing. Let us continue through these laws, starting up in verse 19:
“Keep my decrees. 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. If a man sleeps with a woman who is a slave girl promised to another man but who has not been ransomed or given her freedom, there must be due punishment. Yet they are not to be put to death, because she had not been freed. The man, however, must bring a ram to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting for a guilt offering to the Lord. With the ram of the guilt offering the priest is to make atonement for him before the Lord for the sin he has committed, and his sin will be forgiven. When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden. For three years you are to consider it forbidden; it must not be eaten. In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased. I am the Lord your God.”
Here we find a whole mess of laws together. The first three obviously go together, in that we aren’t supposed to mix. God wants us to keep things pure, and not to mix our lives with things that are pure and things that are impure. When we will mix a little bit of the culture around us with the method of the Kingdom of God, we find that it often results in following the one and despising the other. This is an outward expression of that very principle. You cannot love God and money. You cannot be in the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world. You cannot put your hand to the plow and look back.
Yet, when we come to these next two laws, it seems to take a turn away from this common thread. What is being said here?
Well, it is definitely possible that we can conclude this law regarding a man who sleeps with a slave girl promised to another man would be about mixture. This is perverting the family already established. In other laws, God had required that the man and woman be brought before the assembly and stoned. She has committed adultery, and he has joined her in her sin. Both of them are to be stoned (Leviticus 20:10). Yet, here we find that God says to bring a guilt offering, and the sin will be forgiven. The reason is found in that the woman is a servant (the Hebrew is very careful not to call her a slave). Because she is not just pledged to another man in marriage, but is pledged to work for someone, you can’t simply command that she be killed. She isn’t property of the man she works for, but that man is dependant upon her showing up for work.
With this last rule, the trees are supposed to have three years to grow, and on the fourth year you harvest the fruit as an offering of praise unto the Lord. Then, in the fifth year, you may eat of its fruit. I can find this kind of principle in my own Christian walk, that when I came to my fifth year in Christ, there was something different in my walk. The first three years were certainly years of growing quite abundantly, but the fruit was very much not worth eating. Yet, in the fourth year, I began a process of sanctification unlike the previous three years, and by the time I reached my fifth year in Christ I was altogether different still. That isn’t to say there has been no growth in these last few years, but I can see the pattern.
What is the common link between these three things? What is the point of not mixing, of the guilt offering to atone for the man who sleeps with a servant girl, and the “forbidden” (Hebrew word is uncircumcised) fruit? We can make a correlation between the tree that takes three years to bear fruit, and that the fruit is pledged to the priest (or the Lord), and with the slave girl who is pledged to someone, so you don’t just toss her aside as if she is nothing. Yet, how do we connect these two concepts, then? What is the connection between not mixing and preserving that that is pledged? I honestly don’t know.
“Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it. Do not practice divination or sorcery. Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.”
This would all correspond to the worship of idols. Divination and sorcery is the result of full-fledged demon possession. We’ve discussed the eating of blood, and how this is connected to certain cults and pagan gods. Likewise, we see the cutting of your body and putting tattoo marks upon yourself is in relation to the dead. Yet, the cutting of the sides of your head, and the clipping off of the edges of your beard seems odd. Notice that Leviticus 21:5 says the same thing, only in relation to the priests.
We do indeed find this kind of practice being expressed in certain cults. For example, the Egyptians would cut their hair so that it looked like a halo around their head for sun god worship. We also find Deuteronomy 14:1-2 speaking to this, that there were customs of cutting the sides of your hair to honor (or worship) the dead.
“Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness. Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the Lord.”
Once again we find the command about the Sabbath, but this time in connection with not making your daughter a prostitute. This could be connected with the ancient fertility cults that would practice sexual worship with the temple prostitutes. It was an honor to dedicate your daughter to such a life, and thus she would be dedicated to Asherah, or whatever goddess, at the age of 13 and forced to have sex all day everyday with whoever would desire to worship the goddess Asherah. This would certainly profane the Sabbath in both the literal day of rest as well as the Sabbath rest spoken of in the last post. Notice here that the emphasis is upon the pollution of the land. This is rather common in the prophets. The prophetic man sees a connection between the way the nation behaves and the land’s reaction to that behavior. It is actually said of the Canaanites that the land itself vomited them out (Leviticus 18:25).
“Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.” Once again, this goes back to the demonic. They who practice this sort of thing don’t actually talk to the dead. They talk to “spirits”, which essentially are demons. You can look at stories like King Saul seeking the counsel of the witch of Endor at the end of his life. She is actually surprised when Samuel appears. (You can see the full story in 1 Samuel 28.) Isaiah the prophet also asks Israel the question, “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?”
“Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” We find the same sentiment in the New Testament. 1 Timothy 5:1 says, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers.” In today’s Christendom, this is difficult for me to chew. The elders are obviously to be held with esteem, but at the same time, I look at many boys who are playing grown up games and wonder how much I’m supposed to truly respect that. In all things, we do indeed hold to Paul’s charge to Timothy. We honor when honor is due, and because they are aged (not just in years upon this earth, but in years of walking with God), we reprove them gently, and not harshly. Certainly this is not a bad practice, to honor those who are elders. The problem comes into place when we honor those who are not worthy of honor, simply because we see carnally and think grey hair is wisdom.
“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 you God.”
This is one of those verses that shows from the very beginning God had intended the Gentiles be a part of Israel. It has always been the desire of God to have Gentiles grafted into His people. When Israel would reject this command, and we see it all the plainly in Ezra as well as before, God actually set aside Israel as His people to graft the Gentiles in their place. Though this be temporary, and we look for the day when all Israel shall be saved, don’t miss the significance of that act. We marvel that God would send His only Son. Why do we not marvel that God would even be willing to sacrifice His own people on our behalf? Why do we have no tears while Jesus anguished and even sweat blood over this? Why do we have no gratitude of such a sacrifice, and allow that gratitude lead unto love for God’s people Israel who have been cast off? As Gentile believers, we are often guilty of being conceited toward Israel, either basing our theology off of sentiment or anti-Semitism rather than the Bible.
“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 you God, who brought you out of Egypt.” This one is one that I often find unbearable. This doesn’t just apply to being honest with your sales. We can use unequal weights and measures in the way that we will attack a certain belief. Why is it that often the people who don’t believe in the Bible will hold the Bible to standards that they would not hold any other book up to? Why is it that often the King James onlyists will hold every other version – including the Greek and Hebrew – to higher standards than they will hold the King James? People go to ridiculous lengths to preserve their own bias, while attacking with unrelenting furor anything that would stand against their bias. It often has nothing to do with rationality, but everything to do with emotionalism. That is called having unequal weights and measures, which atheists, Jews, Muslims, Christians, and pagans alike all perform in some regard to something.
“Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them. I am the Lord.”