9 “‘I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you. 10 You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new. 11 I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. 12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. 13 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high. (Leviticus 26:9-13 NIV)
These verses are part of a longer section beginning at 26:1 that promises God’s blessings if the Israelites obey the Lord’s decrees and laws. God promises to keep the covenant – but contingent on this obedience.
The promise “to walk among them” seems reminiscent of the Garden of Eden when God walked there and spoke to Adam and Eve. The promises of blessing and over-abundance are a kind of Eden returned or at least Eden embodied anew in the Israelites’ land.
Many of God’s promises – as here – are linked to the reminder that God brought them out of Egypt. If God could and did such things, then God can do the things promised here as well.
These passages are tricky to interpret all these generations later. They are spoken to the Israelites and it may or may not be that they apply directly to us today in the same way. Reading the entire chapter (Leviticus 26) makes me wonder how much they apply.
But today I hear the reminder that God broke their bonds of servitude. They were slaves – now they are not. Once they relied on their masters for their welfare. Now – if they will – they rely on the goodness and the faithfulness of God who delivered them.
That is the word for me today. That God delivers us from slavery to all kinds of things – to systems, to thoughts, to fears, to our own sinfulness – and desires to give us abundance that is embarrassing in its volume. But those blessings – most of all the blessing and promise to walk among us – is contingent on, in a sense, a new servitude. A being bound to the only one worthy of our submission, the Lord.
Faithful One of Israel, teach me again your ways and also your promises of blessing and abundance. Teach me, transform me, from one who is bound to fears and to sin and is instead bound to you. Where I am bound by chains, may I be bound instead to you in love. Where I am oppressed by the yokes I have taken so willingly upon my shoulders, place the gentle yoke of Christ upon me instead. Amen.