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    Mercy in the Old Testament

    September 26, 2018 Aaron Yoder
    Filed Under:
    Faith, Scripture

    My wife and I enjoyed the sitting in the back row of the Sanctuary a few days ago to watch “I Can Only Imagine” with a few others from FMC.  We had never sat in the back row before!  Neither had we seen this wonderful movie.  One of my favorite moments was when Arthur, the father, started to talk with his son about the Bible.  “Leviticus?” he blurts out, “I mean, what is that?”  I love the honesty and humor of the question. 

    There are many who, like Arthur, struggle with various parts of the Hebrew Scriptures, especially sections of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers.  (If you are reading along with the Daily Reading Guide, you’ve encountered some odd portions in Exodus as well.)  After reading commands like, “you shall not wear a garment made of two kinds of material,” (Lev 19:19) “you may not eat rabbits or pigs,” (Lev 11:6-7) and “anyone who curses his father or mother shall surely be put to death” (Lev 20:9) it can be easy to believe that God’s word is too weird or outdated for us in the 21st century. 

    However, it’s important to remember that many portions within the Law of Moses were written to a particular people (Israel) for a particular reason (to set them apart among the other nations) and to help them worship God through rituals of blood sacrifice to atone for their sins.  They were also given to help these former, Egyptian slaves and herdsmen survive in the wilderness.  But let’s make it even simpler.  Most of the laws were either civic or ceremonial in nature.  And for those who are in Christ, these laws no longer apply.  In this way, we are free!

    However, this does not mean that the Law of Moses has no bearing on our lives now.  For in addition to civic and ceremonial laws, God also gave laws which displayed his Holy, Covenant love.  In fact, much of this love shows up by God giving commands to show mercy towards foreigners, neighbors and the poor.  For example, did you know that the Golden Rule “love your neighbor as you love yourself” comes from the Book of Leviticus?  Listen to some other commands.  “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you.  Love him as yourself” (Lev 19:34).  “You shall leave grapes on the vine… for the poor and the sojourner” (Lev 19:10). “Don’t harvest your field right up to its edge.  Leave the corner crops for the poor and the sojourner” (Lev 23:22). 

    Now, I’m certainly not giving farming advice.  The bigger point is this…throughout the Old Testament law, the Lord was reminding his people to be merciful to their neighbors, merciful to strangers and merciful to the poor. 

    Better yet, these laws were not nullified by Jesus.  In fact, he encouraged his disciples do to the same.  Although parts of the Hebrews Scriptures may seem odd, don’t overlook God’s commands towards merciful living.  If mercy flowed from God in the Law of Moses, and in the life of Jesus, it is certainly expected to flow from those who have been filled by the Holy Spirit - by grace through faith.  This fall, let’s continue to show the mercy of God to foreigners, neighbors, and especially to the poor.

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