- The Explore the Bible lesson for Nov. 26 focuses on Leviticus 26:3-16, 40-45.
Once again, we arrive at a new text after fast-forwarding through several chapters. Rather than asking your group to read Leviticus 17-25, encourage them to note the section titles in those chapters and hone in on Leviticus 25. This is where we encounter the unique ideal of the Sabbath system.
After we see the potential blessing of the “Year of Jubilee,” it is a bit easier to stomach the reality of Leviticus 26. We do not typically enjoy following up the potential blessings with potential curses. Frankly, we tend to want the “good stuff” whether we are obedient or not.
How willing are we to receive this information today—both blessings and curses? Even Job asked following his family’s disaster, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10b). Today, we see that God is just in his reward and discipline, and we play a part in what God gives to us.
As the summary for this lesson opens, God promises to bless those who are faithful to him. After a stern warning in verses 1-3, we get the reliant “if” from God to his people. We must see this section of verses as they are intended—a true promise.
The New International Version translates verse 3 as “If you follow,” yet this should be literally read as, “If you walk in my laws” (Baruch Levine, Leviticus, 182). How could we learn more if we “walk in” instead of “follow” God’s way? Notice how this speaks of a more accountable action: Receiving God’s promise means literally walking in his ways.
There is so much to discover in this section. Consider focusing on verse 6 and its promise for “peace in the land.” The “peace” or shalom is the fullness of a prosperous life, where all is well and we lack nothing. How might peace in the land be the overwhelming blessing?
Also, ask your group: What is shalom-peace? Why are we so desperate for it? The fullness of shalom-peace is even more real as God promises in verses 11-13 that he would live among them. The only way to live shalom-peace is to live obediently with God. Dream together: What would this perfect peace look like?
We do not linger in the “blessing” for long before the opposing “curse” is brought up in verses 14-39. What does it say to us that God’s curse for disobedience is described more fully than God’s promise for obedience?
When we hear “disobedience,” perhaps we think of it as choosing the less-than-ideal option. In verse 14, the phrase, “But if you will not listen,” in the NIV may be more accurately rendered, “But if you reject my laws” (Baruch Levine, Leviticus, 185). When you disobey, do you think of it as rejecting God?
Such rejection begets curses that are in opposition to the potential blessings we read first. Truth be told, it is not the lacking of blessing that should stir us in fear, but verse 17: “I will set my face against you…” The warning here is that rejecting God by your own disobedience sets God against you.
By stomaching the information of this warning, we take notice more easily of what our lives will look like should we reject God by our own disobedience. In fact, I would pose that we cannot fully appreciate potential blessing if we do not fully understand potential cursing.
Say this out loud: “Thank you, God!” Why do we say this? Simply put, God provides a way back from disobedience to a restored relationship. Imagine that the chapter finished with verse 39, and talk about how that would make you feel.
Hope is the clear opportunity: “The hope is that the people will accept their guilt and punishment, and see the death that their disobedient living brings. In that hoped-for scenario, God will remember them and especially the ancestral covenant” (W.H. Bellinger, Leviticus/Numbers, 159).
God already had made steps towards his people, even recently in our study through the construction of the tabernacle as well as the opportunities for offerings. It only makes sense that he would continue to reach out in desire for reconciliation. In fact, we should come to expect this of our God.
This was then, and today is now. Yet, there is no reason we cannot apply Israel’s opportunity for disobedience and obedience, for curse and for blessing. How we respond to God’s way—obeying or rejecting—coincides with God’s response to us.
What encourages us and also discourages us about this reality? Perhaps there is a greater question to ask: Will I walk or will I not walk in God’s way? On a closing note, consider reading Psalm 1 and notice how it correlates with Leviticus 26.
As a word of encouragement, be sure to notice the cycle of “obedience/disobedience/redemption” and how no matter where we find ourselves, God has made it so that we may be brought to full shalom-peace. The opportunity already is available, and the decision to walk in it is ours.
Heath A. Kirkwood is lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Lorena.