All of life belongs to God
June 17 — Leviticus 25:8-55; June 24 — Deuteronomy 10:12-22, 16:18-20By Regina Shands Stoltzfus
Leviticus 25 details the initiation of a regular period of rest — Sabbath — for the land (25:2). Here we see the interconnectedness of all creation; people, land and animals all enter into a rhythm of productivity and rest.
In this cycle, every 50th year is established as the year of Jubilee, and the land returns to its original owner. In addition, those of less fortunate circumstances, who do not normally profit from the land and livestock, also benefit. That time of Sabbath is holy (25:10).
Sabbath rest for the land also establishes a system of justice around property rights and food distribution. Measures are put in place to prevent one party from receiving more than they should, or the other party less than they should.
The potential of the land — the future harvest — is also accounted for. And once again, Israel is reminded that ultimately, the land belongs to God. Those who dwell upon the land, work it, buy and sell it may presume they are the owners, but they are in fact, tenants — aliens, even (25:23).
Just as the land is cared for, so are family members. Taking care of family members is a responsibility, and one should not exploit them for money (25:35-36).
The guidelines drive home the fact that while humans are charged with the care of the land and of each other, all of life belongs to God. It should not be taken for granted, nor should it be abused.
The memory of slavery in Egypt is never far behind. The story of the long, brutal captivity and the eventual exodus shape the narrative of God’s people. Their experience helps them understand both the depths of despair and the wideness of God’s salvation.
In response, the poor among the Israelites, even if they become slaves, must not be treated harshly (25:39), nor must their situation be handed down to their descendants. Even resident aliens, foreigners in the land, have the right to be released from the bonds of slavery. Regardless of their condition, in the year of Jubilee everyone is released to be free (25:54).
The Book of Deuteronomy is the narrative of Israel that comes as the people are finally poised to enter the land promised to them. It recounts their history and is shaped by Moses’ teachings on obedience — a primary theme in the historical books of the Old Testament.
At God’s direction, Moses ascends to the mountain a second time (10:1) and remains there for 40 days and 40 nights. Upon his descent, Moses brings important instructions for the people that outline what obedience to the Lord looks like.
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