Leviticus 19:9-18, 33-37
The words before us were spoken by God to Moses in the interim between the setting up of the tabernacle (Ex. 40:17) and the departure of the children of Israel from Sinai (Num. 10:11). In the fifty days between the completion of the tabernacle and the departure of Israel from Sinai, God issued instruction to Moses more than forty times. God’s instruction in Leviticus 19 deals with the manner in which His people were to conduct themselves once they took possession of the promised land.
In verse 2, God states, “Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.” In the specific instruction in the text before us, God links His holiness to manner in which His people are to conduct their everyday affairs.
Verse 9 deals with gathering the harvest. The manner in which harvests were gathered three thousand-plus years ago was much different from modern day methods, but God’s instruction to ancient Israel has application in the affairs of men today. When the fields were harvested and the grapes of the vineyard were gathered, not all grain and not all grapes were to be collected. A portion was to be left in the field and in the vineyard for the poor and for the stranger. The purpose of leaving the grain unreaped and the grapes unpicked was to provide for individuals who lacked resources to satisfy their needs. God did not instruct the owners of the fields and vineyards to give of the produce that their workers had gathered. God instructed the owners to make it possible for the poor and the stranger to help themselves. The poor and the stranger were not given a handout; they were given a means by which they could help themselves. The holy God who said: “Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy” requires His people to make a provision for the needy such that they can help themselves. That instruction was given to Israel, but God’s standard of holiness remains unchanged.
God requires New Testament believers to love one another as He loves us (Jn. 15:12). The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob instructs us to make it possible for those who have not to partake in that which He has given to us. His love is to be shared with all who will receive it.
In verse 10, the Lord states why Israel is (and New Testament believers) are to do as He has commanded: “I am the Lord your God.”
In verses 11 and 12, God specifies the manner in which His people are to be known. His people are to be known by their honesty and by the manner in which they uphold His name. Their conduct, in dealing with their equals, was to be such that an observer outside the camp of Israel would look upon their honest dealings and attribute them to the God which they served. It is God’s intent that the world should know Him through His people.
In verses 13 and 14, God’s instruction turns to the conduct of individuals who enjoy a position which would enable them to victimize others. Neighbors, hirelings and the handicapped, are specifically listed. God forbids His people from engaging in any practice which defrauds, inconveniences or puts others in harm’s way. God says: “… fear thy God: I am Lord.” All who would victimize others will find that they must face God’s judgment. In some instances it is possible to unintentionally place a stumbling block before the blind or to accidentally trade something of low value for that which is of great worth with no intent to defraud. Such happenings do not reflect the holiness of God. Thoughtfulness and diligence are part of the holiness of God.
One is to judge his neighbor in righteousness (v. 15). One is to judge as God judges. God is neither a respecter of the poor or an honorer of the rich.
God’s standard for regarding one’s neighbor is spelled out in verses 16-18. Verses 16 and 18 close with the phrase: “I am the Lord.” God holds His people to a standard uncommon to the world because He is God. He is holy and His people must be holy as He is holy. His holiness extends beyond refraining from harmful acts. His holiness requires His people to reach out and to love their neighbor as thyself.
God’s people are to be known for the manner in which they deal with strangers (see v. 33-34). The stranger is to be as one who is native born. God’s people are to regard the stranger as their neighbor. They are to love the stranger as thyself. God would have all men to know His love.
“Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment” (v. 35). This is the same words which the Lord spoke in verse 15. Verse 35 addresses business dealings while verse 15 addressed dealings involving individuals of differing status. God is righteous in all of His ways. Again, God’s people are to reflect His righteousness.
In verse 37, God tells His people to both observe His statutes and to do them. God does not require anything of His people that He does not require of Himself. We, His people, are to extend our love to others as He has extended His love to us. The children of Israel knew Him to be the God who brought them out of Egypt. We are children of the New Covenant. We know Him as the One who made us free from sin. He gave His only begotten Son to die in our place such that He might justify all who believe.
Let us live before men, extending care and concern, such that men may know the God who so loved us, the undeserving.