“All of this has happened before. And it will all happen again.”
– Everyone on “Battlestar Galactica.”
Is it possible that one random chapter of Leviticus is actually the key to understanding the entire narrative of the people of Israel?
I’m gonna go ahead and say . . . maybe.
Again, I’m no Bible scholar, but I’m no slouch either. As I was reading Leviticus 26, light bulbs started flickering in my mind grapes (how’s that for mixed metaphors?). The rewards, punishments, and restorations of the chapter all sounded very familiar.
So familiar that it was like the story was repeating itself. Follow me down the rabbit trail, won’t you?
Here are some things God will do if the people obey his commands.
“. . . the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit . . . ”
” . . . I will look with favor upon you and make you fruitful and multiply you . . .”
” . . . I will walk among you and be your God . . .”
Those phrases should be ringing bells in your head. God is deliberately trying to invoke Genesis 1-2.
In those chapters, the land produced its food for the man and the woman to eat. They didn’t have to work for it. God’s first command to people was to “be fruitful and multiply.” God also had a habit of walking around the garden of Eden.
Eden must have been a place where the covenant was lived out, even if it hadn’t been explicitly given. Or it functions as a parable for the covenant life (but that could be a whole other post!)
When the Israelites obey the covenant, Eden, in some mysterious sense, is restored.
Now look what happens when the people don’t obey.
” . . . you shall flee though no one pursues you . . . ‘
” . . . your foes shall rule over you . . .”
” . . . your strength shall be spent to no purpose: your land shall not yield its produce, and the trees of the land will not yield their fruit . . . ”
” . . . I will scatter you among the nations . . . . you are in the land of your enemies . . . . you shall perish in the land of your enemies . . .”
Suddenly, we are in Genesis 3. When the man and the woman ate the fruit, everything started unraveling. They started making bad choices and God revealed to them the consequences of their actions.
They hid as though God was hunting for them. The woman’s desire was for her husband and he would “rule over her.” The ground would only produce food for the man by the sweat of his back. Ultimately, the couple had to leave Eden. They died in a place they were never supposed to be.
The man and the woman broke the covenant and were booted from the garden. When Israel breaks the covenant, they get kicked out all over again.
But when the people repent, we enter a different book of the Bible.
” . . . then will I remember my covenant with Jacob. I will remember also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.”
” . . . I will remember in their favor the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, to be their God: I am the LORD.”
The most significant time God remembered his covenant was when he spoke to Moses out of the burning bush. Eleven chapters later, the people were on the other side of the Red Sea, out of Egypt, and free.
God is deliberately invoking the Exodus here.
It is as if he is telling them that what was once their story can be their story again. They just get to choose what part of it they want to live in. Do they want to go back to Eden? Or would they rather take their chances with exile? And should they find themselves in exile, will they remember that their God is the one who brought them out of Egypt in the first place?
That is their story. Genesis and Exodus are THE great narrative.
God creates a people. God dwells with the people. The people disobey. The people end up in captivity. God rescues the people. God creates a people. God dwells with the people . . .
“All of this has happened before. And it will all happen again.“