Part of the advantage of taking larger sections together is seeing how seemingly different laws actually fit together. Here, we have a passage that begins with worship, flows out into criminal justice, and concludes with Israelite economic policies. The overarching point is that justice and economics are always thoroughly theological matters. We are always appealing to God or some god, when we adjudicate crimes, buy, sell, lease, or forgive. There is always an ultimate standard. It is not whether but which.
“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, command the children of Israel that they bring unto thee pure oil olive beat for the light…” (Lev. 24-25).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
God reminds His people the covenant with Him is their light and life, and so they were to picture that continually with candles and bread in the holy place (Lev. 24:1-9). Because God’s covenant is the source of light and life, His law prohibits blasphemy, and therefore, depending on its severity, can be a capital crime because it is an attack on life itself (Lev. 24:10-23). Related to this principle, was the requirement of sabbath years where fields were left fallow, culminating in the fiftieth year of jubilee (Lev. 25:1-12). In the year of jubilee, rural lands and houses were returned to their original owners, creating a fifty year lease/rent cycle, with the Levites and cities excepted (Lev. 25:13-17, 29-34). God promised that obedience to these laws would cause the land to be blessed, and that Israel would dwell in safety (Lev. 25:18-22). These sabbath years also included the forgiveness of debts and the release of debt slaves (Lev. 25:25-28, 35-46). But debt slaves could always be redeemed by their close relatives (Lev. 25:47-55).
OIL & BREAD, BLASPHEMY & JUSTICE
Jesus said that He is the Light of the World (Jn. 8:12) and He is the Bread of Life (Jn. 6:48). In Him is life; and the life is the light of men (Jn. 1:4). But this is not merely a “spiritual” or “religious” fact. He made all things (Jn. 1:3), and therefore it applies to all things. His light and life show the way to the Father, and that fellowship is light for the world (cf. 1 Jn. 1:7). His light and life are for justice, economics, finances, debt, planting, harvest, restitution, redemption, safety, and blessing.
We noted previously that murder is the one mandatory capital crime in biblical law but a possible maximum penalty for other crimes. That principle is underlined here, since they needed to inquire of the Lord to see what the appropriate penalty would be for the blasphemy (Lev. 24:12). The following verses, reinforce the lex talionis (“eye for eye”) principles of restitution, prohibiting all personal vengeance, and applied equally to all (Lev. 24:17-21). Between the blasphemy and physical altercation, this crime amounted to murder, and was not just a casual taking of the Lord’s name in vain. It was high-handed covenant treason. We see the results all around us of not learning the lesson here: you cannot have life, liberty, or justice for all apart from honoring the Triune God who is their source. Blasphemy laws are inescapable; it’s not whether but which.
SINS, DEBTS, & LIBERTY
When men reject the living God and His Word, sin does not go away, it merely gets renamed and new (false) gospels are invented to pretend to deal with it. Freud taught that since sexual sin caused guilt and shame, people should be free to do whatever they want so they don’t feel bad and do bad things. Secular statists believe that people commit crimes because they are poor or don’t have equal opportunities, therefore, the state must provide universal basic income and enforce equal opportunities, including things like abortions, universal day care, parental leave, social security, and reparations. Related is voting to legalize sins and crimes to try to make everyone feel better. The problem with all of this is that it doesn’t work. Giving into sin/approving sin never actually deals with sin. There is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood, but it must be the blood of perfectly pleasing sacrifice (Heb. 9). And the blood of babies, broken families, and other victims cannot take away sin. Government programs are not real grace. But it is true that real grace deals with real sin in the real world and it affects everything from public policy to taxation to inheritance laws and restitution.
Jesus came proclaiming “the acceptable year of the Lord,” the great Jubilee (Lk. 4:18-19). He came doing this centrally through proclaiming the forgiveness of sins that He was about to accomplish in the Cross. This is not because He didn’t care about poverty or injustice but because He knew that sin/guilt is at the root of all of it. Remember that the seventh month was the month of the Day of Atonement/Feast of Booths, and the seventh years and jubilees (with their trumpets) were echoes of that. All liberty and justice flow from the Great Atonement in the blood of Christ.
This freedom and justice begin at the Cross restoring fellowship between God and man, but it flows out into the world. Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This is a prayer for Jubilee. Do you want liberty and justice in the public square? Then practice it in your heart, in your home, in the church. And remember that the foundation of it all is forgiveness and release.
Jesus is our Kinsman Redeemer, our Great Boaz, who has paid all our debts and set us free, and He has set us free so that we might do the same for others. Practice forgiveness/grace. Practice sabbath and diligence in your work. Keep the light and life of Jesus central. He has purchased us and the ends of the earth for His possession. We belong to Christ, and He will keep us safe.