07 Apr 2024

The Call to Obedience [Leviticus 26]


Our final sermon in this 3-month Leviticus series ends with a call to obedience from God. We learn. 1. The Premise. The basis of obedience is a relationship with God, who delivered Israel from the Egyptian bondage. 2. The Persuasion. God offers rich blessings of prosperity, peace & His presence to His people if they should obey, with a language that resembles the Genesis account of life in Eden. 3. The Punishment. Disobedience will result in the reverse of all the blessings attached to obedience. And God will escalate them if Israel persists in stubborn rebellion. The threats turn out to be real, as the passage reads more like a prophecy when one knows the history of the nation. 4. The Problem. The root cause of their rebellion is the "pride of their power". They will forget God in the midst of their prosperity. 5. The Promise. God in His infinite mercy will still bless Israel, not according to the Mosaic or Old Covenant of self-righteousness that was established at Mount Sinai, but according to the Abrahamic Covenant of blessing through the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, the offspring through whom all nations will be blessed. Israel (and us all) can be saved if we confess our sins and humble our hearts, and ask God to circumcise our sinful hearts. Leviticus is a book about drawing near to God. And the key is Jesus. It is a book jam-packed with Christology- from the offerings, to the priesthood, to the cleansing, to the Day of Atonement, to the Feasts, to the Jubilee, and to the Abrahamic Covenant. May you draw near to God through Jesus Christ!

Listen on Google Podcasts



Sermon Transcript

We are looking for sermon transcribers/transcript reviewers.

Email [email protected] to serve or to report transcription errors.

Well, the book of Leviticus chapter 26 is the last sermon we will focus on. And in this chapter, one phrase stands out to me and one word stands out to me and that is, if you will not listen to me.

The word listen in the Hebrew is the word shema which is not just about listening or hearing in the sense of having sound waves hit our eardrums. But it is to pay attention, to give focus to. And really in the Hebrew word means more than just understanding. It means that you don't only listen to understand but you listen also to obey.

You read for example in Psalm 27, hear O LORD, that's the word shema, hear. Because you're asking God not just to understand or to know what you're asking for but to act upon it, to respond upon your request. Because it goes on to say, be gracious to me and answer me. So, when we come to this phrase, if you will not listen to Me, God is saying, not only must you know what I want you to do but you should do what I want you to do. T

his is a concept I think very familiar for many of us here being Chinese. We grow up hearing our parents say, you must ting hua, you must listen, you must obey. Obviously our parents are not saying just understand but also to do what they tell us to do.

So, today as we close out Leviticus in chapter 26, we are looking at a passage that calls us to obedience, calls Israel to obedience.

A story is told of an old lady driving a car along a highway in the United States, when she was then pulled over by a traffic police patrolling that area. She said, sir, what did I do wrong? Did I drive too fast? The policeman said, no, you didn't drive too fast, you drove too slow. But sir, the sign here says 20. Ma'am, this is not a traffic speed limit sign, it's a sign to tell you you are on highway 20. Oh, I'm so sorry sir, I will not drive so slow anymore.

Just when she was about to leave, another traffic police sped to the scene, stopped there and said, ma'am, you are under arrest. The first traffic police said, ma'am, what did you do wrong? She says, I don't know, maybe it's because I just came from highway 200.

Well, okay, if you don't get it, it's fine. Obedience, obeying the laws, obeying what God has said, that's what we are looking at today.

Now, this is a long chapter, there are 46 verses there, but I think we will go through these verses in a quick fashion. There are five things I'd like us to see in these verses, they are, I think, structured quite easily for us to follow. First of all, Moses opens in chapter 26 with the premise for obedience. You see, He said, you have, or God said through Moses, you shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the LORD your God. You shall keep My sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary.

So God, I think, mentions a few of the commandments He has already said throughout the books of Exodus and Leviticus by saying, no idols, no bowing down to them, keep My sabbaths, reverence My sanctuary. I think they are not exhaustive, but they are supposed to represent the entire law, the set of laws that has been delivered to Israel so far.

And He says the reason why I want you to keep these laws is because I am the LORD your God. I am the LORD. So He's saying this is a relationship. I want you to keep these laws because I am your God. In fact, in verse 13, He says, I'm the LORD your God who has delivered you out of the land of Egypt. In fact, this deliverance idea is repeatedly mentioned in the book of Leviticus.

1. The Premise

So why should Israel keep God's laws? Very simple. The premise is a relational one, I am your God. Secondly, we move on from verses 3 to 13. We see God's persuasion of Israel to obey these laws. In an essence, God is saying, obey Me because it will be good for you. So it will be wise for you to obey. I'm going to put up all the verses in verse 3 to 12 here. Please don't be upset with me, that the words are very small. I, I just want you to see that whole structure in one page. So in verses 3 to 12, very small, I know, but don't have to look at everything there. The essence here is if you walk in My statues, I read it out for you, alright, and observe My commandments and do them, then I will give many things to you.

So it will be good for you to obey. It will be foolish for you not to obey. So if you obey Me, what will I give you? God promises rain, increase of yield, fruit, grape harvest, bread, peace, harmful beasts will be removed, enemies will fall, you will be fruitful, you will multiply, My dwelling will be among you and I will walk among you.

So good stuff, right? So what this is, is some commentators pick up that this is very Eden language. Very much like the language used in Genesis chapters 1 and 2, about how God dwells with His people, blesses them with abundance and there's absolute communion and peace with Him.

So God is saying, obey Me, it will be well for you. If you want to summarise the blessings, it can be packaged, I think, into prosperity, er, in that there will be abundance, harvest, rain, grapes, bread, there will be peace, harmful beasts are removed, enemies will fall and most of all, there will be the presence of God. I will make My dwelling among you and I will walk among you. So it is wise to obey.

Now if you should not obey, then we move to verses 14 all the way to 39, where God says there will be punishment. If you do not obey Me, then this is what will happen. If you spurn My statutes, you bochup, you despise them. If your soul abhors My rules, you dislike them, so that you will not do all My commandments but break My covenant.

This is what you agreed with. This is what we agreed to at Mount Sinai. If you keep My laws, I will be your God. So if you disregard these laws and you thereby break My covenant, then this is what will happen to you. I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever. So there will be great pain that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. You will sow your seed in vain, no more prosperity. Your enemies shall eat whatever you sow. I will not walk amongst you and be favourable toward you because My face will be set against you. You shall be struck down before your enemies, there will be no peace. Those who hate you shall rule over you and you shall flee when none pursues you. You will be so traumatised.

So God says, I will bless you with peace, prosperity and My presence,if you obey and if you don't, everything will be reversed. It will be a traumatic, difficult time.

What if Israel does not listen? Well, God says, I'm going to escalate. I'm going to intensify. Because He says, in spite of this, if you will not listen to Me, then I will discipline you again sevenfold. It means a complete upscaling of the punishment that will be rendered to Israel.

And if Israel still won't listen, even though God is going to increase the intensity of the punishment, don't worry, there's a next level. I will continue striking you sevenfold.

And if they're still very stubborn, very rebellious, won't listen, what will God do? Well, I will strike you again sevenfold. And what if they are, they are still so stubborn, they won't listen? I will again discipline you sevenfold. This is what happens when Israel will not obey. It will be intensified to such a degree that we read in verse 29, you shall eat the flesh of your sons and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters.

That's a haunting thought. That's unimaginable. But God says, my punishment on you will be so severe because I want to make sure you turn back to Me. I don't want you to carry on in your sin. And if it takes this, I will do it. You will eat the flesh of your children, your cities will be wasted, your sanctuaries will be laid desolate, and I will scatter you among the nations. You will be called into exile.

Now if you think that this is aah, this is just hyperbole, this is just exaggerated language so that Israel will sit up and listen, I say to you, if you've read the rest of the Bible, you know this is not just an empty threat, because it literally happened for Israel. We know that from passages like 2 Kings.

There was a famine in Israel. It was so severe that two women got together and said, let's take turns to kill our kids and eat them. So one of them said, we boiled my son and ate him. And on the next day, I said to her, give your son that we may eat him. But she has hidden her son. It was so bad, they ate their children.

And Lamentations puts it this way. The hands of compassionate women have boiled their own children, they became their food. I think fathers generally are not as loving, perhaps, women mothers are, and the point here is even compassionate women, mothers would eat their own children. And as you know, Israel eventually, Judah eventually were called to exile because they sinned against God.

So Leviticus 26 is a call to obedience. Obey Me because I am your God who has delivered you out of Egypt from slavery and bondage.

2. The Persuasion

If you obey Me, everything will be good for you. You have peace, prosperity and My presence among you, almost like you re-enter Eden.

3 The Punishment

But if you don't, then severe punishments await you. And I will escalate and escalate and escalate as is necessary to turn you back to Myself." So these words in verses 14 to 39 are not threats but they are prophetic, they are real. They actually took place.
4. The Problem

Now what's the reason Israel will not obey God? I think God identified the reason, the problem in verse 19 when He said, and I will break the pride of your power. The problem with Israel is that when God gave them Canaan, the Promised Land, they entered into it, they became proud.

They thought to themselves, we have gotten these things for ourselves. And so they set themselves out to be defiant and rebellious against God. God knew all that. He knew this is what's going to happen to their hearts. He made it clear in a passage like Deuteronomy, but when He said, Beware, lest you say in your heart, my power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth. You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He, it's not you, who gave you the power to get wealth. And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish.

So why did Israel sin against God? Because they were proud. They were proud of their own achievements when actually it was God who gave them. I think we live in a day that is very similar to the days of Israel entering Canaan. Singapore is an extremely wealthy, affluent society, extremely. Does it make it easier for people to come to Christ? I think humanly speaking, no. It is very hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven or the Kingdom of God.

It's easier, proverbially speaking, during the times of Jesus, for a camel to enter the eye of a needle. Why? Because it's easy to be proud. You may not say it, and in Singapore, we may not flaunt it, but that's how we think. I'm a self-made man. I'm able to sustain my life. I'm able to live it up. Why would I need God? And why would I even bother with Him? Until God disciplines a man. Sevenfold, sevenfold, sevenfold, sevenfold.

Some may be so hardened that they curse God and die. But some may respond to that punishment and turn their hearts around. Israel was a nation that needed all these things.

5. The Promise

I do not want to end on a negative note, because that's not how this chapter, this is not how Leviticus ends. It ends on a bright, positive, hopeful note. Because finally, in point number five, we see the promise. The promise is found in verses 40 onwards, when God said, but if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers. I love this word, but.

It's like a major turning point. It is so depressing to think that Israel will keep on disobeying God. But it is so heartening to know that there is a way back for Israel, if they confess the iniquity and the iniquities of their fathers. If they only admit that we are wrong, we have wronged God and our fathers have sinned against God.

Not only that, but Moses goes on to say, If then their uncircumcised heart is humbled. Why will a man admit his sins? Only if their heart is humbled. So if they admit their sins, if they humble their hearts, God says, I will remember My covenant with Jacob, I will remember My covenant with Isaac and I will remember My covenant with Abraham.

So let me put this together, just to simplify it for you. God is saying, if you confess your iniquity with your lips, and if you are humble in your heart, then I will bless you. I'll bless you with the covenant that I've made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Now what is the covenant? The covenant, the word, simply means an agreement. What is God's agreement that He has made with Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham? Well, very simply, let's take a look. God made a covenant with Jacob. It is found in Genesis chapter 28, when God said, The land on which you lie, I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east, to the north, to the south. And in you and your Offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

So God promises in this covenant, number one, the land, number two, a multitude of offspring, and number three, a special Offspring through whom all the families of the earth be blessed. Now what if a tycoon, CDL or Far East owner comes to you, I promise you, I'll give you this land. Wah, you'll be very happy.

God comes to Jacob and says, I'll give you this land, not only that, I'll give you many offsprings and through one of your offspring shall all nations be blessed. You will sit up and listen, won't you? I mean, this is a tremendous promise and God did not predicate this promise on how Jacob will perform. He just tells them, I will bless you, I'll give this to you.

This same covenant is given also to Jacob's father, Isaac, and that is found in Genesis 26. We go further back ah, because it's Jacob then the father. The father's promise was given earlier on when God said, I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and I will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. Same thing, land, many offsprings, and one special Offspring through whom all the nations of the earth be blessed. Isaac, Jacob, same.

How about Abraham, Isaac's father? Again, Genesis 15, God said to your offspring, I will give this land. So these are the geographical boundaries, it will be given to you. This is the same land that will be given to Isaac, this will be the same land that is given to Jacob, I'll give you this land, and I will bless and multiply your offspring so that they are, they are numerous like the stars of heaven and the sand on the seashore. And in your Offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.

We are all very excited about land because we are in Singapore. But you should not be so excited about land as you should be excited about this last phrase. This is the real crown jewel in the Abrahamic covenant. That in this one Offspring shall all nations be blessed.

So this is what is repeated in all three covenants. It is important for us to then know who is this one Offspring. Now, the Apostle Paul made it clear for us that when God said in your Offspring, He is not referring in your offsprings, as in many, but in your Offspring as of one.

Who is this singular Offspring, this one person from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, through whom all nations of the earth be blessed? Ah, there is only one answer. The Bible makes it clear for us in the New Testament, when it says, and to your Offspring, Paul says, who is Christ?

So long ago, with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God is saying, I promise you, I'll give you the land. You have many descendants and from you will come Jesus Christ, through whom all peoples of the earth will be blessed. This is a covenant that God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

So, what I'm saying is that so far in Leviticus 26 verses 1 to 39, it's about Israel's obedience. Obey Me and things will be well. Disobey Me and you will be punished. But I know you will not really turn to Me because you have a problem in the heart, it's pride.

And as the history of Israel goes, we know their obedience cannot make it. They keep sinning against God. But God does not give up on Israel. God is still faithful to Israel, will show mercy to Israel. And so if their obedience cannot make it, God says, I promise you, I'll give you an Offspring through whom all nations be blessed. And My Offspring, that Offspring is Jesus and He, as My Son, obeys Me perfectly. And He will be the source of your blessing.

He will be the One who will lead you to forgiveness and restoration. So Israel, you're going to blow it. You're going to blow the Ten Commandments. You're going to keep failing to keep the commandments. But My Son will keep My word and My laws perfectly. And He will die. And He will rise again. And He will credit to you what you can never earn by yourself. He will give you His righteousness. He will cleanse you from sin. He will restore you to myself. He will do it. And this is the glorious promise in Leviticus.

Leviticus is a book about drawing near to God. And I hope you see by now that the key to drawing near to God is Jesus Christ. From the beginning to the end, it's all about Jesus. He is the real key. He is the way, the truth and the life to draw near to God.
You see, in the offerings in chapters 1 to 7, it's about Jesus. Jesus is the perfect sin offering. Then in chapters 8 to 10, we learn about the priesthood. But actually, these priests are shadows to point us to the Ultimate Priest, Jesus Christ. We read about the cleansing of leprosy and so on. And we know Jesus is the only One who can cleanse us from the leprosy of sin.

We read about the Day of Atonement. It's all about Jesus. We read about the feasts. It's about Jesus. We read about jubilee. It's about Jesus. And when we read about the covenant in Leviticus 36, it's about Jesus. The whole book of Leviticus points us to Jesus because He is the key to enable us to draw near to God.

Can you imagine if you are a Jew today, what a difference this passage would make for you? I mean if you are a Jew living in the days of Judges, super sinful and messy. Or if you are a Jew living during the times of Ahab, super sinful and messy. Or if you are a Jew living during the times of the Pharisees, or during the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, or if you are a Jew living today, this is a tremendously encouraging passage. Because God says, I will remember if you only confess, if you only humble yourself, I will bless you. Not because you are good, but because I made a covenant that in My Son, that in your Offspring, shall all nations of the earth be blessed.

Today, you can be blessed not because you are a good man. Why? Because in the eyes of God, we are all sinful. There is none righteous, no not one. There's no good man or woman here who deserves the favor of God. We all fail. But Jesus lived that perfect life, gave it all up on the cross, and He's willing to give you His righteousness. This is the beautiful promise of the Good News of the Bible. If you only confess and humble yourself, God says to Israel.

Now you may say, eh Jason, you've been talking so long, but it's all about Israel what. I'm not a Jew. I don't belong to the nation of Israel. I say, don't worry, you're not excluded. Because in that same Abrahamic covenant, God said, in your Offspring, shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. God was not just thinking about Israel. He was thinking the whole world.

I know that He's thinking about non-Jews here, because the Apostle Paul said, quoting that Abrahamic covenant, Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith. So it was always in the mind of God, not just to save the Jews, but to save the Gentiles through this one Seed, one Offspring, Jesus Christ.

So today we can be saved, if only we will confess our sins and humble our hearts. I hope today if you come to church, you might have said, I've heard this Gospel many times. It's one thing to hear and another thing to respond. And the response God is calling for is that like Israel, we will admit our sinfulness and we will humble our hearts at the foot of the cross. That's the only way you can be saved.

I'd like us to focus not only about these words, but to just take a look at this word, uncircumcised. Circumcision is generally applied to the flesh, right? Every Jewish male, they have to be circumcised on day eight. But this is the first time in the Bible, circumcision is applied to the heart.

And this, being the first mention, will be developed further through the rest of the Bible. For example, we read in Deuteronomy 30, that God is the One who will circumcise your heart. There's only one Surgeon qualified to operate on the heart, spiritually speaking. Not a cardiologist, not a cardiothoracic surgeon, but God Himself. Only God can cut away the foreskin of sin and rebellion from our hearts.

It is clarified further in Romans, when God says that circumcision is a matter of the heart by the Holy Spirit. He's the only One who can take away the hardeness of the heart. Colossians chapter 2 tells us that circumcision is made without hands. It's not made by man. It's made by God, by His Spirit, as we are united with Christ, in union with Christ. So the cleansing of sin, the softening of the heart, that circumcision is done by God.

But just in case we think that we should be passive in our response to God, we are reminded in Leviticus 26, that yes, this uncircumcision is made circumcision by the Spirit of God. It is also something that we need to respond to. We need to be humble. Deuteronomy makes it clear. Circumcise, therefore, the foreskin of your heart and be no longer stubborn. So don't be rebellious, humble yourself. That's the human response that is required.

If you and I are to be saved, this is what we need to understand. God must be the One who works in our heart. Jesus affirmed it by saying, except a man be born again or born from above by the Spirit, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. Yet at the same time, the Bible offers to us this promise, if anyone should repent and believe Jesus Christ, you will be saved.

And so I say to you today, if you are saved, it's because God has been gracious in your life. And if you are not yet a Christian, God's call is for you to humble yourself, confess your sin, and look to Jesus for forgiveness in life.

Last week, I, we had a dinner, kind of a dinner with my wife, my son. Uh, it was an expensive place. I, I felt, wah, I cannot order too much ah. If not, we'll go broke that way. And so I ate very little, did not eat a lot. It was such, it was kind of just like starters for me, the amount.

So we, we went off and wanted to look for hawker centre, and that's my style. Uh to look for something cheap and good. We drove a bit and I realized we are very near Maxwell Market. So I went to Maxwell Market. And as you know, I had that stall that I mentioned at the beginning of our series. I went back to the uncle, I went back to the stall, I went back to the ang ku kueh seller, and he is exactly the same. The stall is exactly the same. The ang ku kueh still looks the same. And the queue is exactly the same. No one.

No one went to his stall. He was just sitting there, kind of slouching there. And I thought to myself, yah, Leviticus will remain like this. Sadly so. If Leviticus is like a stall in a hawker center, it will be probably one of the least patronized ones. But I hope for you, you have joined me in kind of tasting the ang ku kueh from the uncle. I hope you have taken a bite in the book of Leviticus and found that the ang ku kueh ah, though the skin is a bit thick on the outside, its jam-packed with liao on the inside.

Leviticus is jam-packed with Jesus Christ. It is full of the Person and work of our Saviour. He is the key to drawing near to God. And may you today come into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ and draw near to Him. Let's bow for a word of prayer together.

Father, we thank You for this journey we have taken in the book of Leviticus. Sadly, it is a book few would even try, and less so a book that people understand. But we thank You that through these weeks and months, You have taught us that this book is not about rituals and rites and rules and regulations primarily, but it's about drawing near to You in intimacy, having a real life-changing relationship with You. And thank You, You have shown us from the beginning to the end, it's all about Jesus Christ.

Oh LORD, help everyone here see, we will never make it on our own. Help everyone here realise self-righteousness never works because we are sinful, fallen beings. But we praise You today that there is that glorious but in verse 40, that You will remember the Covenant You have made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Indeed, a Covenant that is actually hinted of already back in the Garden of Eden when You said, the Seed or the Offspring of Eve will crush the serpent's head. Thank You, Jesus has always been the only way sinful man can come back to You.

So dear Lord, clarify this for us. And I pray for Your Spirit to do His work in human hearts, to circumcise our hearts, to give us grace to see, and that we all may humble ourselves, confess our sins and believe upon Jesus for salvation and life. And then we pray for the church that out of that recognition of Your amazing grace for us in Your Son, we will give our lives to You.

Lord, purify us, cleanse us, help Your people endeavour and fight to live a holy life. And may we be faithful to serve You in being witnesses of the Gospel. Help us to fulfil the Great Commission here at Gospel Light, because I think this is what brings You glory.

So thank You for this time. Humble us. Pass us not, O gentle Saviour. May many come to You through Your Son. We thank You in Jesus' Name, Amen.


We are looking for sermon transcribers/transcript reviewers.
Email [email protected] to serve or to report transcription errors.