Vindictive or Compassionate?

A few days ago I started reading Leviticus in the Old Testament.  Most of you would ask, “Why are you reading Leviticus?  Isn’t it the most boring book in the bible?  Don’t you have something better to read or do?”  Every year starting in 1970 I start from Genesis and read through the bible, and Leviticus is the third book on my schedule.  It is a boring book with sacrifices, rules for priests and people alike, times of celebration, etc.  Today was a different experience with this book that I would like to jlog about.

The passage is found in Leviticus 26: 1-46.  I’m not going to print the whole passage on this jlog but what I found interesting defines the heart of God.  It seems as you read through the bible a picture of God emerges that is characterized by vindictiveness.  It  seems there is death wherever you read in the Old Testament and that God is giving up on His people who don’t seem to want to listen.  But this passage causes one to pause and begin to think of God in a different way.

This passage is set up in an “If–then” structure.  “If you follow my decrees. . .obey my commands” is followed by all the things that the Lord is going to do “Then”.  Send rain.  Bring crops.  Abundant crops.  Have enough food.  Live in safety.  Will give you peace.  Will lie down in safety.  No fear.  Remove the enemy.  Bring safety from enemy.  Will have favor.  Increase your numbers.  Will keep my covenant to you.  I will walk among you.  Will be your God. Leviticus 26:6-13

“But if you will not listen. . .reject my decrees . . .abhor my laws. . .fail to carry out my commands. . .violate my covenant.” is followed by the “Then I will do this to you” statement.  Bring sudden terror.  Wasting diseases.  Fever.  Destroy your sight.  Sap your strength.  Enemy will take away your harvest.  Defeated by your enemies.  Haters of you will rule over you.  Fear.  Paranoia.  Leviticus 26:14-18

An interesting thing begins to happen throughout the rest of the chapter.  God uses the negative consequences to get the Israelites attention to turn them back to himself.  “If you will not listen to me. . .if after this you will not listen to me. . .If you remain hostile toward me and refuse to listen to me. . .if in spite of these things you do not accept my correction. If in spit of this you still do not listen to me” Leviticus 26:14, 18, 21, 23, 27  These passages don’t picture a vindictive God, but a God who is loving and compassionate and uses negative consequences of our lives to turn our hearts and minds back to Him.

The key passage that shows a compassionate God is in Lev 26:40 which says, “But if they will confess their sins and the sins of they ancestors–their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me. . .I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham.”  God uses negative circumstances in our lives to turn our hearts and minds back to him.  It doesn’t mean that if there are problems happening in our lives that we have necessarily done something wrong.  Bad things do happen to good people.  It does mean that God wants our attention whether things are going good in our lives or when life is crappy.

This journey is a step by step process and seeking God for the steps we take will allow us to see His heart even when things don’t go our way.


About James Gorton

I am happily married to Nadine, a person I've known for 20+ years. She and her late husband owned Airpark Auto Service where I took my car for years. Four years after my wife died we began dating and the rest is history. We have a blended family of 6 children between us and love visiting them across this country. We recently had our third grandchild between us. We love to hike, bike and ski. I am a psychologist and do relational life coaching for marriages and families primarily. I love what I do and never get tired of seeing marriages and families move to more healthy places in their lives. Five years ago my oldest daughter Deborah encouraged me to begin writing my thought into a blog I call my Jlog (Jim's log). I have become more and more passionate in connecting everyday experiences to spiritual truths. I hope that as you read my Jlog, you will gain insight into your personal life and experience true growth in your personal and relational life.
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