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A Midweek Devotional - Hope for the Oppressed

In Leviticus 25, several themes are highlighted. First among them is the truth that the LORD God reigns over all Creation, including His chosen people, the Land, and the sojourner in the Land. A second prominent theme in the chapter is the care of the Lord which is articulated for His people, for the Land, and for the sojourner...even in times of slavery. Finally, we see the theme of redemption, which is articulated in context and anticipated in Christ.

Wednesday, June 5th

Larger Portion of Scripture - Leviticus 25

Focused Passage for Reflection - Leviticus 25:47-55

Reflecting on the Text:

For good reason, the mere mention of slavery evokes a response of angst. Images of Southern chattel slavery and its long tail of racial discrimination flood into our minds. So then, how do we deal with Biblical discussions of slavery, both in the Old and New Testaments, which at least on the surface seem to condone the institution? First of all, let’s stay in context and separate the two. Southern chattel proved to be an evil, which the Lord removed in His timing. On the other hand, Leviticus 25 (and most likely Ephesians 6:5-9) speaks of an economic proposition by which a person sold himself in order to pay a debt. Mind you, no one is advocating this kind of economic proposition today, but let’s see the text for what it is. This was a way to pay a debt.

Given this type of economic transaction, the LORD is advocating here for the slave. He has not commanded the action, but He is showing care for those in slavery. His care might seem a little slow paced for some of us, though. We deal with the same struggle in Ephesians 6, where we might expect the LORD to condemn the slaveholder and command the slave to run. Yet there is no such language. In Ephesians 6 we will see the call for slaves to be respectful of their masters. In both, we see the call for masters to rule without being ruthless.

Is that the care you expected? Maybe not. But how about the provision for redemption? Again, this is an economic proposition and the LORD God is affirming His reign over economics, setting the framework for how terms will be settled. It will all be according to the time served, and the years until Jubilee. Order will reign. Master will not take advantage of slave. A fair redemption price will be set.

This is redemption in context. Either a relative of the slave, or the slave himself, will pay the appropriate redemption price to cover the debt owed. Yet even as we discuss the terms, our minds and hearts move from redemption articulated in context to redemption anticipated in Christ.

Most all of us will not find ourselves in a state of economic slavery, yet all of us are (or have been) in bondage to another master. Our sin has caused an accumulation of debt before the LORD which none of us can pay. We will not be able to work our way out of this slavery. We have no relative who can foot the bill. But there is a Redeemer...the Lord Jesus Christ. He has come to pay our debt, taking the burden upon Himself, in order to secure our eternal redemption. And there lies the connection to the final Jubilee.

For His chosen people of Israel, the LORD provided a regular Jubilee every 50 years. The rhythm of Jubilee was meant to point to the LORD’s reign over all, and His provision for all. He gave the land rest, restored the oppressed, and provided for His beloved. We need this rhythm to remind us in periods of bondage that our LORD still reigns, that we are His, and He is making all things new. Just as He promised redemption for the slave in Israel, He has promised, and secured redemption for the sinner who has placed his or her faith in Christ Jesus.

Questions for personal reflection:

  • In what ways do you see this passage in Leviticus 25 pointing to the absolute power and sovereignty of God? In what ways do you see this picture of His power and sovereignty as pointers to His grace?

  • How might this passage point to the ways in which employer and employee should relate to one another in light of God’s design for work relationships?

  • What hope does this passage hold out for the poor and oppressed?

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