Tag Archives: slavery

Leviticus 27 – Belonging to God

I was not expecting the last chapter of Leviticus (the book of the law) to be what it is.  I don’t quite know what i was expecting.  For some reason i figured it would be about some parting words the LORD had for Moses before leaving Mount Sinai, or that Moses and the sons of Israel packed up what they had and began to head out to Canaan.

Instead this last chapter is about value, ownership, dedication to the LORD, and tithe.  It starts out placing a monetary value on people of different ages.  Each has a different value depending on their age, sex, and the amount of time until the year of jubilee.  What i think is interesting about this is that it pushes this concept that ownership of people, animals, homes, and land only truly belongs to the LORD / YHWH.

When most things of true value are sold or redeemed, they are done so with reference to the year of Jubilee.  If a field is dedicated to the LORD, the priest places the value of that field at a certain price, related to how many years until the year of jubilee.  After which the LORD reverts that land back to the family that He initially gave it to.

Thus it is not slavery, but servanthood.  When a person is “sold”, they are done so in reference to the amount of labor that person would do between then and the year of jubilee.  It is understood that the “Master” is not “buying” a person.  They are simply paying for service from a person for a certain time period.  This would be similar to a person signing a contract to work for a company for a certain number of years.

The other major theme is that of tithe.  Of all of the animals that the people of Israel own, one out of every 10 must be returned to God.  As they go through the gate, every 10th, whether male or female, the pick of the flock or a little sickly one, the 10th gets dedicated to Him.  Also, the first that opens the womb is holy to YHWH.  Thus the first lamb, the first goat, the first bull, etc. that are born; they must be dedicated to YHWH and returned to Him.

The emphasis here is ownership.  Everything; the land, the people, the flocks, the fruit of the harvest, they all belong to YHWH.  We are simply caretakers receiving back a part of the profits from our hard work.  Do we view life and our work  that way?  Do we recognize that all that we “own” belongs not to us but to YHWH?  Do we treat people and our things as if this is the case?  Should we?

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Leviticus 25 – Understanding Ownership

During this time that my hand has been in a cast, it has not been totally useless.  As a result, i have been able to finally get chapter 25 finished.

As i am working through all of this, i’ve been starting to get a bigger / stronger picture.  Leviticus 25 has been about ownership, and understanding our place in the bigger picture of it.  The LORD promises to the people that He will give them the land of Canaan.  Yet at the same time, even while He is giving it to them, it does not belong to them.  The people of Israel are simply caring for the land and reaping of its harvest as a result.  They do not have true ownership.  God alone reserves that right.

Every seven years the people are to respect the land by letting it lie fallow / dormant for a year.  This Sabbath rest allows the land to rest and heal from use and prevent abuse due to over-use.  It is YHWH’s command to His people to not mistreat and abuse His land.

Then after every seven Sabbath’s is the year of Jubilee.  In the year of Jubilee the land rests for a second year, all debts are released, and all land ownership goes back to the original caretakers.  Anyone that has been paid for in slavery / servanthood is released and their freedom is returned to them.

It is a time of understanding that the land, the animals, the people; they do not belong to the people, they belong to YHWH.  They are His and they must be returned to His plans for them.  In the same sense, by understanding this concept, it means better understanding of and treatment towards others.

Outside of this project, i have also been reading about Abraham Lincoln, the civil war, and slavery.  In processing through all of this information, i think that i understand slavery a little bit better.  There will always be the wealthy and the poor.  There will always be those with more than they need, and the ability to improve on their financial situation.  There will also always be those who just can’t seem to break free of poverty.  Whatever the reason is, there will always be those who struggle to get by.

When the basis of a person’s understanding is that no one and nothing is truly owned by another.  That there is no one of more value than another.  That YHWH owns all and demands respect for His creation… Then, those who have more and have the ability to continually manage well what has been given them, can care for his fellow man by providing for them.  So the riches of the rich help to sustain the poor while the poor is having difficulty sustaining themselves.  The wealthy provide for the poor, in the meantime the poor work for and learn to manage that which belongs to the rich.  Thus slavery is not about abuse and mistreatment of man.  In fact, it is just the opposite.  Slavery / servanthood becomes about taking care of and providing for those who cannot care for themselves.

However, this concept ONLY works when the wealthy (and everyone else) truly understand ownership.  When those who are prospering understand that all belongs to YHWH and not themselves, then respect of personhood prevails.  As a result there is not abuse and maltreatment, there is love, caring, and provision for those in need.  Slavery / servanthood becomes about love and compassion rather than abuse and maltreatment.

It all stems from understanding ownership… do we?

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Leviticus 23 – Celebrate

That’s one of the things that i like about YHWH.  It’s not all just about rules and regulations.  It’s about utilizing all kinds of aspects of life.  It’s about creativity and connecting the past, to the present, to the future.  Worship is not just about sacrifices and burnt offerings.  It’s also about bringing something before God that you are to consume in his presence.  It’s about festivals and rest as well.

There are a number of festivals that are to be celebrated throughout the year; the Passover, Pentacost, the feast of weeks, the feast of booths, etc.  They all have meanings and important interpretations.  For instance, passover is a celebration of freedom from bondage and slavery under the Egyptians.  It is a celebration of new life and hope.  It is a celebration of freedom.  Meanwhile, the feast of booths is a week long celebration in which the first day is a day of rest and the only work that can be done is the building of small booths made of the branches, boughs, and fronds of trees.  It is a celebration as a reminder of the Israelite’s time in the wilderness where they had to rely on God for protection and provision.  It is a time of blessing.  The feast of booths begins and ends with a day of rest to the LORD.  I mean honestly, how many religions do you know that celebrate rest?

Are we taking seriously what YHWH has done for us?  Do we make it a point to remember and celebrate together the ways that He has brought health and healing to our lives?  Do we remind one another and celebrate together His work and purpose in and through us?  How can we do this more?

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Exodus 21 – Treatment of Others

Yesterday was on the 10 commandments and the Israelite’s reaction to God, so i don’t know what i expected for chapter 21, but it certainly wasn’t this.  To put things in perspective a little bit; there were originally no chapters and verse in the scriptures.  They were added later on to help people study and reference the Bible better.  As a result when the text was originally written, there was no real division between what was commanded in 20 and then in 21.  So, God gave the people the 10 commandments / promises, then almost immediately we get into the topic that opens chapter 21: slavery!

Now i know that back in the day both supporters of and those opposed to slavery used the Bible to prove their point of view.  Ultimately though, it was those who understood that God’s view of humanity being created in His image and his redemption bringing equality to all that overcame and was a driving force in especially Great Britain’s move to make slavery illegal.  But when i started copying this chapter over it hit me.  Almost immediately after giving the 10 commandments / promises God begins the rest of the law and legal instructions with rules about slavery?  Isn’t that a huge piece of evidence that God is in SUPPORT of slavery?  Doesn’t that justify that abominable practice?

I was really struggling through this idea and concept for a good chunk of my writing this morning.  It was really bothering me.  Then, as i was writing, struggling with this, and questioning God about it; He brought an answer to my mind.  It’s not that He supported slavery.  It’s that He knew slavery was going to occur no matter what.  He set His 10 primary promises / commands then immediately He set the rules to protect those who would end up as slaves.  It wasn’t an attempt to encourage the mistreatment of His creation.  It was making it a priority to protect those least able to protect themselves.

The chapter continues by dealing with how to respond to murder / accidental deaths from other people as well as animals.  Obviously this is a very important aspect of the law to deal with.  This theme of protecting the innocent continues with the instruction that if two men are fighting and a pregnant woman is struck resulting in premature birth but no harm is done, then the husband may demand any fine he requests.  If there is an injury it is an eye for eye, tooth for tooth, burn for burn, hand for hand, etc.

If we call ourselves Christians, are we protecting those less able to protect themselves?  Do we live our lives taking responsibility for those around us?

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Exodus – Introduction

It’s amazing to me  to consider that Genesis is done.  I have made a personal copy of one of the most powerful and influential books ever written.  All 50 chapters word-for-word.  Now we enter a new era.  It is a time of re-revelation; a time of hope, struggle, inspiration, and new life (revival).

Four-Hundred years have passed since the close of Genesis.  The Israelites have gone from blessed and honored guests to mistreated and abused slaves.  The Pharaoh who knew and loved Joseph and insisted that the Israelites had to stay there has long since died and been forgotten.  Since then the Egyptians have become concerned with how blessed the Israelites have been, and how quickly they are growing.

The Israelites are here residing on their land and overrunning them like rats in the sewer.  The Egyptians realize that if they don’t do something about this “Hebrew problem” soon, it’ll be too late.  So a “wise” Pharaoh decides that it’s time to turn the table on these Israelite invaders.  He begins by hiring them.  He uses them for cheap labor.  Pharaoh even goes down to help work in the trenches.  He takes his clean robe off and becomes one of the men; doing the work of the masses.

However, what has started out as hard work for a decent wage becomes sweatshop work, then eventually slavery under whips and cruel taskmasters.  The Israelites are toiling and dying under the abuse and under the expectation of their daily quota.  So, they begin crying out for help from the God of their fathers.

This is the God that they know only from their history; the stories passed down of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob / Israel and their covenants with Him.  The Israelites are surrounded by the many gods of the Egyptians, each one with a name, a face, and a purpose.  Yet their God seems to have none of those things.  Yet in order to worship Him properly, the Israelites need to know these things.  Is He one of the gods of the Egyptians?  How about one of the Baals from a neighboring nation?  Maybe he’s Moloch of the Ammonites?

How do you serve a God that you do not know?  How do you cry out to Him?  How do you appease Him when He is angry at you for some unknown transgression and therefore allowing you to be mistreated, beaten, and killed, and He doesn’t appear to be doing anything about it?  What do you do!?!

That’s the backdrop of this book.  The Israelites don’t realize that this is part of a plan much bigger than they are.  A plan with a story that is about to play out for all of history to see.  Their Exodus is about to begin…

In the meantime, what does this say about us?  How are we treating those who are sojourning in our land?  …those who have left their homes due to famine, troubles, and a desire for a better life?  Do we treat them with contempt because they don’t speak very good English?  Do we kick  them out and tell them “We don’t want your kind here”?  Do we put them into sweatshops, one step above slavery; sometimes not even a step above?  Do we fear  them like the Egyptians did, or do we embrace them?  What is God’s plan?

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Genesis 42 – Testing

Joseph is more than 37 years old at this point.  He was sold into slavery at the age of 18.  He has lived more of his life in Egypt than he ever did in Canaan.  Now, for the first time in 19 or more years he comes face to face with his brothers.  They sold him into slavery because of his dreams and their jealousy of him and their father’s love for him.

Now, here they are bowing on their faces before him.  After more than 19 years, Joseph has the opportunity to exact his revenge.  He could arrest them, imprison them, and sell them into slavery, or worse.  He could mock them, laugh at them and let them starve to death.  He could reveal himself and simply threaten their lives.  So what does he do?

Joseph decides to test them.  He wants to know if they are the same jealous, angry, bitter men that they were when he was a child.  He wants to know if there is remorse or if there is humility and love.  He wants to know if they care more about themselves, or if they care about their family.  So he accuses them of being spies, questions them, and puts them for a short stay in prison.  Then he tells them that in order to be released or to get more grain they need to bring their youngest brother Benjamin back to Egypt with them.  Meanwhile, he took Simeon and held him until the other brothers returned with Benjamin.

The brothers return home and tell Jacob, their father, what happened in Egypt.  Jacob is upset and as time goes by they begin to run out of grain again.  The brothers know that they can’t return to Egypt empty handed, so Reuben takes responsibility for Benjamin placing Benjamin’s fate on his own sons heads.

Are there situations that occurred a lifetime ago that you are still bitter and angry about?  Do you have anger and unforgiveness towards someone that did something to you, or have you forgiven and moved on.  It’s not a question of whether there is someone who hurt you.  I don’t think that there is a person over the age of 20 who does not have emotional scars from something someone said or did to them.  The question is, what are you doing about it?  Joseph tested his brothers to see if they were still angry and bitter towards him and his brother Benjamin, but at the same time, God was testing Joseph to see if he still held anger and hostility towards his brothers.

When (not if) you are tested, how will you respond?  Have you allowed anger and bitterness to take root in your life.  I know that this is something that i am struggling with, and that i am in the process of trying to deal with.  What about you?

Rev. John

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Genesis 39 – God’s Blessing

Well, it looks like i labeled yesterday’s chapter 39 instead of 38.  It’s fixed now, but if you were confused as  to why Genesis 39 didn’t have anything to do with Judah and his family, that’s because it doesn’t.  It was supposed to be Genesis 38.  Well, now on to the real Genesis 39.

Why does it seem at times that God’s blessing is immediately proceeded by some sort of trial or struggle?  At times through my life it has felt like the moment things start going right and smoothly, that is the moment it all starts to fall apart.  It feels like i just start to bounce back from one problem and… BANG!  I’m hit by the next.

That’s what appears to be happening here in Joseph’s life.  Joseph was a good young man, but his brother’s were jealous of him and his father’s favoritism towards him.  So they tried to make him miserable.  In turn God blesses him with dreams foretelling a future in which his brothers will bow down to him.  At which point his brothers decide to kill him, then at the last minute sell him as a slave.  So he gets sent down to Egypt and is sold into the household of an important leader.  Joseph does the right thing and God blesses Him.  Joseph continues to do  the right thing and as a result of doing the right thing he ends up accused of something he didn’t do with no way to defend himself.  So now he’s in a maximum security foreign prison with no hope of release.  I mean honestly, how much lower can a guy get? So what does he do?  He does the right thing.  He does his job well, and he becomes the most respected prisoner in that foreign maximum security facility.

Where is that going to get him.  Every time he does  the right thing and begins to excel beyond his situation, he loses out.  He drops deeper and deeper, like a man falling in a pit trying to climb out and each time he finally starts to make progress, he falls deeper in.

For those who already know, we know where this is going.  For those who don’t, this isn’t the end.  At one point in my life as i saw this happening, God spoke to me.  He told me that He loved me and not to worry.  Do you know what my automatic reaction was?  My reaction was, “Oh great, NOW what’s going to happen?”  You see, this had become my mentality.  This is how i had begun to see God and how He worked.  I began to believe that as soon as God began to bless me, it was just a predecessor to another trial… to another struggle, and i began to lose hope.

I know better now, but this is still how i feel sometimes.  I know a number of you can relate.  If that’s where you are.  You feel like it doesn’t matter how much you try… how much you do the right thing time, and time, and time, and time, and time again, and it seems like it’s a waste of time and life.  Well it’s not.  There is hope.  There is always hope.  It may not feel like it but God does love you, and He is taking care of you.  It’s never as bad as it seems, so just trust Him!  (I know, easier said than done sometimes, but do it anyways.)

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