God had set the Israelites free from being slaves of the Egyptians. As they camped at Mount Sinai, they were being formed into an orderly nation. As we will see from the census in Numbers 1, there were over 600,000 men, aged 20 and over, who were able to go to war. Conservative estimates, taking into account that there are generally more females born than males, plus the elderly who couldn’t bear arms, those under 20, and the tribe of Levi, would give a nation of at least two to three million people. That would place them around the same size as Lithuania, Nambia or Slovenia today. But they did not yet have land and were living in tents in the wilderness.
To prepare this new nation to enter the Promised Land, God made promises to them. These were conditional on their obedience and living by the commands he gave them. And for a budding nation, these were quite powerful promises.
“If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall last to the time of the grape harvest, and the grape harvest shall last to the time for sowing. And you shall eat your bread to the full and dwell in your land securely. I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid. And I will remove harmful beasts from the land, and the sword shall not go through your land. You shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword…I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” (Leviticus 26:3-13 ESV)
When you read through that list of promises God gave, you might be tempted to think: “who wouldn’t be faithful with those kind of promises and blessings?” The nation of Israel had the potential of being the most powerful and blessed nation on the face of the earth!
But what happened? Despite such great promises, they did not remain faithful to God. In fact, they struggled throughout their history to follow God for more than a few years at a time. Maybe they thought these promises were just too good to be true. In the remainder of Leviticus 26 God listed all the things he would do to them if they did not remain true to him – and if you know Israel’s history, we can see these things were fulfilled in detail.
But what about us today as Christians? God has made us great promises, as well. Peter referred to these as “his precious and very great promises” and emphasised that God has given us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3-4). Whatever it is that we need to live faithful lives as God’s people today, God has already given it to us. What a great promise!
But there is more. God’s promises are not just for our lives today, but concern our future, as well. John wrote this about our ultimate promise.
“Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life” (1 John 2:24-25).
What a great promise – eternal life with God! But it depends on our making our home in God.
Let us remember the promises God has made to us. Let us keep God’s word in us as we live in him. Eternal life will then be ours.
Readings for next week:
6 February – Leviticus 25:29-55
7 February – Leviticus 26:1-26
8 February – Leviticus 26:27-46
9 February – Leviticus 27
10 February – Numbers 1