Do you realize that there are rules for life? Do you realize that the rules are to set boundaries out of love? Do you realize the rules aren’t to keep you from having fun but are to actually grant us freedom? Do you realize the rules aren’t to keep us from having fun but rather to keep us safe? Do you realize the rules are to help us live our lives to the full?
Loving Boundaries — Day 72: Bible In One Year 2017
Devotional, Proverbs 7:1-5, Luke 1:1-25, Leviticus 26:14-46, Leviticus 27
1. God’s loving boundaries … Proverbs 7:1-5
1My son, keep my words
and store up my commands within you.
2Keep my commands and you will live;
guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.
3Bind them on your fingers;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
and to insight, “You are my relative.”
5They will keep you from the adulterous woman,
from the wayward woman with her seductive words.
–from Proverbs 7
God does not invite us to follow his laws, he commands. But these are not the commandments of a dictator, they are the commands of love designed to ensure justice, peace and fullness of life.
The writer of Proverbs is like a parent encouraging their children and passing on God’s commands to them. He urges his children: ‘Store up my commands within you’ (v.1); ‘Keep my commands and you will live’ (v.2a); ‘Keep my law… as the apple (the pupil) of your eye’ (v.2b, AMP); ‘Write them on the tablet of your heart’ (v.3b). This is what the Holy Spirit does. He writes God’s laws on your heart and gives you the ability to keep them (Jeremiah 31:33–34).
God’s commands bring ‘wisdom’ – and wisdom should be our ‘intimate friend’ (Proverbs 7:4, AMP). They bring ‘insight’ (v.4), and they keep us out of trouble (v.5).
–from Day 72: Bible In One Year 2017
2. The example of others … Luke 1:1-25
1Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled, 2just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
The Birth of John the Baptist Foretold5In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.8Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”18Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”19The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”21Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.23When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25“The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”–from Luke 1
One of the things that has helped me most in my life is the inspiring example of others. Sometimes it has been older people who, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, have lived their life ‘walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord’ (v.6, AMP). Other times it has been young people who, like John the Baptist, had been filled with the Holy Spirit and power. Anyone, at any age, can be an inspiring example.
Luke was an educated man, a historian and traditionally thought to have been a doctor. He is the only Gentile in an all-Jewish cast of New Testament writers. This is the first volume of his two-volume work, ‘Luke – Acts’.
Luke made a careful investigation of the events surrounding Jesus (v.3). He wrote ‘an account’ based on ‘eye witnesses’ (vv.1,2) so that you ‘may know the certainty of the things you have been taught’ (v.4). You can have a certain confidence about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
He starts his account with the birth of John the Baptist. In particular, he begins with John’s parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth: ‘Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly’ (v.6). (It is worth noting in passing that there is absolutely no suggestion that Elizabeth was barren because of some sin in their lives – quite the contrary.)
Finally, their prayer was heard (v.13). When we pray, God hears more than we say, answers more than we ask, gives more than we imagine – in his own time and in his own way. They waited a long time for their prayer to be answered. If God makes you wait you are in good company.
God granted their request for a child – who brought them joy and delight. God gave Zechariah ‘a vision’ (v.22) of what would happen. John the Baptist was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit even before he [was] born’ (v.15). He was ‘to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous’ (v.17).
God’s desire is to set the world back to the wise ways of living and away from the chaos that comes from disobedience to his commands. Jesus is the one who makes this possible. John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus.
–from Day 72: Bible In One Year 2017
3. The blessing of boundaries … Leviticus 26:14-27:34
14“ ‘But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, 15and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, 16then I will do this to you: I will bring on you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and sap your strength. You will plant seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it. 17I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even when no one is pursuing you.
18“ ‘If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. 19I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. 20Your strength will be spent in vain, because your soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of your land yield their fruit.
21“ ‘If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me, I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve. 22I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle and make you so few in number that your roads will be deserted.
23“ ‘If in spite of these things you do not accept my correction but continue to be hostile toward me, 24I myself will be hostile toward you and will afflict you for your sins seven times over. 25And I will bring the sword on you to avenge the breaking of the covenant. When you withdraw into your cities, I will send a plague among you, and you will be given into enemy hands. 26When I cut off your supply of bread, ten women will be able to bake your bread in one oven, and they will dole out the bread by weight. You will eat, but you will not be satisfied.
27“ ‘If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, 28then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. 29You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters. 30I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars and pile your dead bodies on the lifeless forms of your idols, and I will abhor you. 31I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings. 32I myself will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled. 33I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins. 34Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. 35All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it.
36“ ‘As for those of you who are left, I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight. They will run as though fleeing from the sword, and they will fall, even though no one is pursuing them. 37They will stumble over one another as though fleeing from the sword, even though no one is pursuing them. So you will not be able to stand before your enemies. 38You will perish among the nations; the land of your enemies will devour you. 39Those of you who are left will waste away in the lands of their enemies because of their sins; also because of their ancestors’ sins they will waste away.
40“ ‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me, 41which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, 42I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees. 44Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the Lord their God. 45But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the Lord.’ ”
46These are the decrees, the laws and the regulations that the Lord established at Mount Sinai between himself and the Israelites through Moses.
–from Leviticus 26
Redeeming What Is the Lord’s
1The Lord said to Moses, 2“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If anyone makes a special vow to dedicate a person to the Lord by giving the equivalent value, 3set the value of a male between the ages of twenty and sixty at fifty shekels3 That is, about 1 1/4 pounds or about 575 grams; also in verse 16 of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel3 That is, about 2/5 ounce or about 12 grams; also in verse 25; 4for a female, set her value at thirty shekels4 That is, about 12 ounces or about 345 grams; 5for a person between the ages of five and twenty, set the value of a male at twenty shekels and of a female at ten shekels; 6for a person between one month and five years, set the value of a male at five shekels of silver and that of a female at three shekels of silver; 7for a person sixty years old or more, set the value of a male at fifteen shekels and of a female at ten shekels. 8If anyone making the vow is too poor to pay the specified amount, the person being dedicated is to be presented to the priest, who will set the value according to what the one making the vow can afford.
9“ ‘If what they vowed is an animal that is acceptable as an offering to the Lord, such an animal given to the Lord becomes holy. 10They must not exchange it or substitute a good one for a bad one, or a bad one for a good one; if they should substitute one animal for another, both it and the substitute become holy. 11If what they vowed is a ceremonially unclean animal—one that is not acceptable as an offering to the Lord—the animal must be presented to the priest, 12who will judge its quality as good or bad. Whatever value the priest then sets, that is what it will be. 13If the owner wishes to redeem the animal, a fifth must be added to its value.
14“ ‘If anyone dedicates their house as something holy to the Lord, the priest will judge its quality as good or bad. Whatever value the priest then sets, so it will remain. 15If the one who dedicates their house wishes to redeem it, they must add a fifth to its value, and the house will again become theirs.
16“ ‘If anyone dedicates to the Lord part of their family land, its value is to be set according to the amount of seed required for it—fifty shekels of silver to a home of barley seed. 17If they dedicate a field during the Year of Jubilee, the value that has been set remains. 18But if they dedicate a field after the Jubilee, the priest will determine the value according to the number of years that remain until the next Year of Jubilee, and its set value will be reduced. 19If the one who dedicates the field wishes to redeem it, they must add a fifth to its value, and the field will again become theirs. 20If, however, they do not redeem the field, or if they have sold it to someone else, it can never be redeemed. 21When the field is released in the Jubilee, it will become holy, like a field devoted to the Lord; it will become priestly property.
22“ ‘If anyone dedicates to the Lord a field they have bought, which is not part of their family land, 23the priest will determine its value up to the Year of Jubilee, and the owner must pay its value on that day as something holy to the Lord. 24In the Year of Jubilee the field will revert to the person from whom it was bought, the one whose land it was. 25Every value is to be set according to the sanctuary shekel, twenty gerahs to the shekel.
26“ ‘No one, however, may dedicate the firstborn of an animal, since the firstborn already belongs to the Lord; whether an ox or a sheep, it is the Lord’s. 27If it is one of the unclean animals, it may be bought back at its set value, adding a fifth of the value to it. If it is not redeemed, it is to be sold at its set value.
28“ ‘But nothing that a person owns and devotes to the Lord—whether a human being or an animal or family land—may be sold or redeemed; everything so devoted is most holy to the Lord.
29“ ‘No person devoted to destruction may be ransomed; they are to be put to death.
30“ ‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. 31Whoever would redeem any of their tithe must add a fifth of the value to it. 32Every tithe of the herd and flock—every tenth animal that passes under the shepherd’s rod—will be holy to the Lord. 33No one may pick out the good from the bad or make any substitution. If anyone does make a substitution, both the animal and its substitute become holy and cannot be redeemed.’ ”
34These are the commands the Lord gave Moses at Mount Sinai for the Israelites.
–from Leviticus 27
God loves you. He does not want you to get hurt and mess up your life and the lives of other people. That is why he gives you his instruction manual and warns of the dangers of living outside of his loving boundaries.
The last verse of Leviticus summarises what the whole book is about: ‘These are the commandments that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai for the People of Israel’ (27:34, MSG). His boundaries were intended to bring blessing.
Today’s passage describes the disastrous results when God’s people ‘will not listen to [him] and carry out all these commands’ (26:14). ‘If you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, then I will do this to you…’ (v.15).
We see the chaotic world that results from ‘stubborn pride’ (v.19). The relationship with God is broken. Prayers do not get through. God says, ‘I will… make the sky above you like iron’ (v.19). Disobedience is draining, ‘Your strength will be spent in vain’ (v.20). However successful you are materially, it does not satisfy: ‘You will eat, but you will not be satisfied’ (v.26b). These are described literally as ‘the curses of disobedience’.
God gives every possible opportunity to repent. He puts all kind of obstacles in our way to persuade us to turn back to him (vv.18,21,23,27). In his faithfulness, and in spite of continual rejection, God is always ready to receive us back if we confess and humble ourselves (vv.40–42).
This all points forward to Jesus. The sad thing about all these commands is that no one is able to keep them. It is clear in these verses that God knows that the people will break them and bring all these curses upon themselves. Yet that is not the end of the story, God promises that even then he will act to save and redeem his people (vv.42–45). Ultimately God did this by taking the curses of the law upon himself.
It is only as we see the background to all of this that we understand quite how amazing the cross is and how much Jesus took upon himself by becoming a curse for us, and the extraordinary blessing of being justified by faith and receiving the promise of the Spirit (Galatians 3:10–14).
God’s Holy Spirit changes us as he writes his boundaries on the tablets of our hearts. As Paul says, ‘Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh’ (5:16). God’s Spirit produces within you the fruit of ‘love, joy, peace’ and much more besides (v.22).
The boundaries were given out of love. Jesus summarises the commandments, ‘Love the Lord your God… and… love your neighbour as yourself’ (Matthew 22:37–40). ‘We love because he first loved us’ (1 John 4:19). In love, he died for you and now he gives you his Holy Spirit to enable you to follow his commandments by living a life of love.
–from Day 72: Bible In One Year 2017