Really! Leviticus 25:35-55 (Part 4)
This post will end the series on Leviticus 25:35-55. I hope it has been helpful, or at least interesting. We have looked at the overall context of the passage and then looked closer at the passage itself. This post takes a look at what it means for us as Christians in the 21st century. I have chosen to include a list of all the works cited in this series. Be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you have thought about the series.
When we try to interpret and apply Leviticus 25:35-55 to modern Christianity, we must deal with many differences between the Israelites of Moses’ day and the 21st century Christian. While there are many differences between the society and culture of ancient Israel and today, there are some principles which transcend these differences.
One of the major themes of the book of Leviticus is the holiness of God. More than once, we are told to also be holy. It is the duty of the believer to imitate God. One of the primary motives given for the care of the poor in our text is that showing mercy to an Israelite brother who is poor imitates God, who had compassion on the Israelites in slavery in Egypt. Is there any less standard for us today? In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus himself tells us that second only to our love for God should be our love for our neighbor. Over and over in his epistles, Paul exhorts us to love one another, care for one another, pray for one another, and serve one another.
Rooker also made these observations:
The sabbatical year and especially the year of jubilee became patterns or types for later acts of God. In Isaiah 61:1-3 it is to be noted that one feature of the work of the Messiah includes proclaiming “liberty” to the captives. The word “liberty” is the same term found in Leviticus 25:10 in describing the year of jubilee. In the New Testament this passage is cited by Jesus to explain his mission at the beginning of his ministry in Luke 4:18-19….Moreover, the trumpet blast at the commencement of the Jubilee may be a type for the trumpet announcing the return of Christ (Matthew 24:31, 1 Corinthians 15:52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16). (Rooker, p. 311)
Just like God redeemed his Israelite people from slavery in Egypt, so God has redeemed us from the slavery to sin. We do not belong to ourselves or anyone else. We belong to him.
The passage closes with verse 55: “They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” About this verse, Rooker says:
God is not only the owner of the land but the Israelites are his possession. Consequently he has every right to dictate these laws regarding the rest for the land and the emancipation of his people – the two subjects of Leviticus 25. (Rooker, p. 310)
Ross closes his discussion of verse 55 with this:
Leviticus 25:55 reiterates the basic theological idea governing all of these laws: if no one actually owned the land upon which they lived, then certainly no one could own another person either. The land belonged to God, and the people were God’s servants because he redeemed them. These two truths governed the way that faithful Israelites looked at possessions and debtors. (Ross, p. 462)
The same is true for us today. If we have been redeemed by God, we are his. We cannot be slaves to another.
Constable, Thomas C., Dr. Constable’s Notes on Leviticus, Sonic Light, http://soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/leviticus.pdf, 2009.
Currid, John D., A Study Commentary on Leviticus, Webster: Evangelical Press, 2004.
Hartley, John E., Word Biblical Commentary: Leviticus, Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002.
Harris, R. Laird, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Editor Frank E Gæbelein, Grand Rapids: The Zondervan Corporation, 1990.
Lindsey, F. Duane, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, SP Publications, Inc., 1985
Rooker, Mark F., The New American Commentary: Leviticus, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.
Ross, Allen P., Holiness to the Lord, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.
Stedman, Ray C., “The True Basis of Social Concern”, from the sermon series titled “Basic Human Behavior”, preached March 26, 1972, Palo Alto: Discovery Publishing, a ministry of Peninsula Bible Church, http://www.pbc.org/files/messages/3582/0522.html.