I grew up Catholic. We observed Ash Wednesday because it marked the beginning of Lent. It didn’t mean much to me then except that I knew my forehead was going to get dirty (sorry, total germophobe). Lent means a lot more to me now that I know my Jesus.
It seems fitting that the readings today is on Leviticus 26 and 27. I noticed a lot of “if/then” statements particularly in Chapter 26.
If we walk in God’s statutes and observe His commandments and do them, then
- God will provide for our physical needs (Lev 26:3-5).
- God will give us peace and security (Lev 26:6).
- God will give us victory over our enemies (Lev 26:7-8).
- God will make us fruitful (Lev 26:9-10).
- God will be with us (Lev 26:11).
- God will walk among us and we shall be His people. He has freed us from the bondage of this world, never to be enslaved again. (Lev 26:12-13)
As many blessings as we get from obeying God, the rest of the chapter talks about the punishment for disobedience. If you have not read it, it’s much longer than the 13 verses of blessings listed above. The ESV breaks it down in 5 stages:
Lev. 26:18–20 The Second Stage. If the people continue to walk in disobedience, the Lord will target their pride and power by stopping the rain.sevenfold (v. 18). Rather than “seven times,” it means “fully” or “completely.” If the Hebrews refuse to alter their behavior as a result of the first series of judgments, these punishments will be added.
Lev. 26:23–26 The Fourth Stage. This stage is characterized by the Lord’s wrath that manifests itself in the sending of sword and pestilence on the people (cf. vv. 5–6, 8). For the first time, the deliverance of the people into the hand of the enemy is mentioned.
Lev. 26:27–39 The Fifth Stage. This is the final set of curses. Intensification is clear in this last series as the people continue in their stubbornness and God increases his punishments. The final place for the covenant breakers will be in exile (v. 34).
Lev. 26:27–33 The punishment includes an unbelievable form of cannibalism and the destruction of the religious centers, the cities, and the land. The Lord’s wrath is actually carried out by the people’s enemies.
(ESV Study Bible)
Given the choices above, wouldn’t we want to be blessed? Note though it is conditional: “if” we walk in His statutes. How do we do that? It begins by observing His commandments – by reading His word faithfully, whether we understand it or not. But the verse does not stop there, does it? Not only are we to observe His commandments but also do them.
Being a Christian is not a spectator sport. It is not enough that we merely observe the traditions of old, and not bear any fruit. Having a relationship with the living breathing Jesus Christ requires a living breathing faith – one that is lived out. How about instead of giving up something for Lent like sugar or chocolate or the cell phone (yeah, that’s gonna happen), we also take something on? Karen Ehman has a great idea – she is writing notes of encouragement everyday for 40 days. Who couldn’t use an encouragement these days? Our church is doing this 40 day prayer for the City. My point is, we can’t just sit in the sidelines and be content to observe and watch others do the work while we wait for Jesus to come back. God has given us gifts to help the body of believers. Yes, our gifts may be different but they are gifts nonetheless. We need to get out there and use them, doing otherwise would be disobedience.