Lent Devotion for February 20
"The land belongs to me."
Reader: “You are only foreigners and tenant farmers…”
Response: “…working for me.”
1 The Lord said to Moses at Mount Sinai, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a Sabbath to the Lord.
23 “‘The land must not be sold permanently because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
One of the challenges for the Israelites was to grasp the truth that all of the lands belonged to God. The Israelites (and we) are simply stewards of dirt and property that is God’s. In this portion of Leviticus, the Lord laid out very clearly the guidelines as to the use and sale of the land among His children. As in the notes of the New Living Translation (25:23, p.239), the ownership of the land was derivative rather than absolute. In other words, land could be owned for a time, but not permanently—it was God’s. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” We find it very easy to believe we own things and make decisions about “our things” when in fact we have been called by God to steward things He gives us. What we have, be it children, spouse, friends, work, or health, we have them for a time. We are the tenants working in His vineyard, be it business, education, investing, raising children, or mowing the yard. As you read both chapters, did you notice how often the Lord’s instructions to the Israelites concerned caring justly, fairly, and compassionately for those around them? God is driving home the point that all people are made in His image and need to be treated with respect and compassion. We are part of the same human family. Dignity and respect for all people, slaves included, was a major sticking point in the culture of the world at that point in history. God boldly commands to treat all people as equals including slaves and foreigners. The sense of community and caring for the children of Israel was of great importance to God. It is a hallmark of godliness. He reminds the Israelites again and again about His role in bringing them out of Egypt in the Exodus. As with the Festivals, He is helping them to see how all-consuming their walk with God is to be. There is a tremendous reminder in this pericope that we come before God humbly and with gratitude for all that He has given to us.
“The Heavens Are Telling” by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (Watch on YouTube)
We give thee but thine own, what e'er the gift may be,
all that we have is thine alone,
a trust, O Lord from thee.
May we thy bounties thus
as stewards true receive,
and gladly, as thou blessest us,
to thee our first-fruits give.
- William Howe, 1858