Statistics
1556 sermons as of September 16, 2018.
Site Search powered by FreeFind

bottom corner

   
Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
 send email...
 
Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:The Law of Redemption
Text:Leviticus 27:1-34 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Law is Good
 
Preached:2018
Added:2018-04-29
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 135:1,9                                                                              

Ps 34:5,9                                                                                                        

Reading – Leviticus 27:1-34

Ps 116:1,8,9,10

Sermon – Leviticus 27:1-34

Hy 26

Ps 84:2,4,5

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, we’re all devoted to something. For each of us, there’s probably something that receives our highest loyalty, the greatest share of our time and energy and love. What are you devoted to? I think many of us would say that we’re devoted to our family, to parents and siblings and spouse and children and grandchildren. A person can be very devoted to his work too: always on call, always busy with the next project, always agreeing to do more. Or we’re passionate about an interest of ours: music, or fitness, or art, or studying. “This is what I do,” we might say to someone.

These things can be good. But we know that God calls us to a higher loyalty, to have a devotion deeper than to any earthly pursuit or human relationship, and that is full devotion to Christ Jesus. Because it is to Christ that we belong, in body and soul.

It’s easy to affirm that with our words, a lot harder to work out in practice. Because what does maximum devotion to Christ look like when we’re at our daily job, installing pipes and wires, or folding laundry, or studying chemistry? Is it really possible to demonstrate dedication to God in these ordinary tasks? Sometimes we have this idea that only ministers and missionaries are truly involved in the Lord’s work—only they are truly devoted, full-time, to Christ’s service. Only they have a calling, while the rest of us have to make do with a life that’s only partially dedicated, because most of the time we’re busy with common, earth-bound things.

But then we need to read our chapter again, and re-read Leviticus. As we come to this book's final chapter, we are reminded that all of God’s people are holy priests. The name of this book puts the focus on the Levites—just one tribe out of twelve—but throughout Leviticus, all of Israel is called to holiness and purity. Each of them had to trust and obey in all things, great and small: this was maximum devotion, comprehensive service for God.

Our chapter is about the gifts that the people freely dedicate to the LORD. In some ways, this chapter looks like an afterthought, following the dramatic climax of blessings and curses in chapter 26, that stark choice between faith and unbelief. But this chapter too, speaks about something essential: the LORD’s claim on Israel, and the devotion He seeks. As is true throughout Leviticus, the particular practice in this chapter has changed, but its deeper principle remains. I preach God’s Word to you from Leviticus 27 on this theme,

God gives his holy people the law of redemption:

  1. what was consecrated
  2. how it was redeemed
  3. how this law was fulfilled

 

1) what was consecrated: The first seven chapters of Leviticus described the various sacrifices that God received from his people in different situations. For instance, offerings were made when there had been sin, or a harvest, or some physical impurity. Some of those sacrifices were voluntary, while many others were required. In later chapters we can learn about other mandatory offerings, such as for ordination, and for the festivals, and the Day of Atonement. God was setting obligations for his covenant people, and they had to obey.

But in our chapter, the focus is on voluntary gifts, freewill offerings. There’s a good reason for that. When you’re in a relationship with someone, there are definitely things that you’re obligated to do. For example, children are required to honour their parents, and husbands are required to protect and provide for their wives: obligations. But in a relationship of love, there’s also an impulse to do more. You want to love freely, go above and beyond, and show your affection generously, with spontaneous kindness and even gifts.

God knows that his people will have this spirit too, and that we’ll want to give him meaningful gestures of our love. True love for God moves us to do much more than meet some outward expectation. So our chapter covers two main ways of freewill giving, through vows (vv 2-13), and dedications (vv 14-24).

Look at verses 1-2, “Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When a man consecrates by a vow certain persons to the LORD…’” This refers to the practice of making a vow. God’s people would sometimes make vows, and part of that would be the promise of a gift to the LORD. Often, these vows had the “condition” that God first had to give some help or blessing.

You can imagine that a person would make this kind of vow when he was in trouble: “Lord, if you get me out of this tight spot, I vow that I’ll give you three of my bulls.” Think of Jonah, praying in the belly of the great fish, and promising to sacrifice to God if the LORD delivered him. This might sound like sinful “bargaining,” but not if it was done with a firm trust in God’s power. And once you came out into a place of peace, and you paid your vow, it showed deep thankfulness to the LORD. You didn’t forget where your help had come from, but you gladly acknowledged God’s grace.

What’s extraordinary in these first verses is that the gift isn’t just a handful of sheep or some choice cattle, but a human being: “When a man consecrates by a vow certain persons to the LORD…” (v 2). The word “consecrate” means to dedicate something, to set it apart for a special service—and here, to devote a person’s life!

This obviously isn’t referring to human sacrifice, but a person’s heartfelt dedication to serve God. “LORD, if you will rescue me, I’ll give myself to your work and your cause always. If you’ll grant this prayer, I promise that I will be your servant forever.” It could take remarkable circumstances for a person to consecrate himself to the LORD like this. But people could feel their need so deeply, or be so desperate for his help, that they’d make such a vow.

As an example, consider what Hannah promised to the LORD. She was agonizing in her prayers to receive a son, and she vowed: “If you will give your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life” (1 Sam 1:12). And that’s what happened: God heard Hannah’s prayers, and He gave her Samuel; later Elkanah and Hannah brought Samuel to the tabernacle, to give him back to the LORD, whom he served as a judge and prophet.

Now, Samuel’s case was unique. Few people were called to the same kind of task that he was. And the privilege of serving at the Lord’s sanctuary at the tabernacle was reserved for those from the tribe of Levi. Even so, a person’s vow had to be taken seriously. With a solemn promise they had bound and dedicated their entire life to the LORD like this, and they needed to make good this vow. A little bit later we’ll see how they did this.

So a person could be vowed to the LORD. Probably far more frequently, an animal could be vowed: “If it is an animal that men may bring as an offering to the LORD, all that anyone gives to the LORD shall be holy” (v 9). When praying, a person would be specific about the animal he was going to offer God, and it’d be a valuable one. Again, it showed that he was serious about depending on God’s answer.

It could happen that a person didn’t have an animal suitable for sacrifice. Perhaps he only had unclean animals—these too, God was willing to accept. Verse 11: “If it is an unclean animal which they do not offer as a sacrifice to the LORD, then he shall present the animal before the priest.” This isn’t as strange as it seems, like it wasn’t strange for a non-Levite to offer himself to God for service. An unclean animal could still be used for fieldwork, so it could sold by the priests to raise some money for the tabernacle. Point was, God accepted the gifts of his people.

Vows were one way to consecrate something to God, and dedications were another. Unlike vows, dedications went into effect immediately; there was no waiting-period to see whether God would answer the prayer. For instance, a person might be deeply grateful to the LORD for all of his goodness, and he would dedicate the value of his house or his land as a gift—these things became the possession of the sanctuary at once. Later in the chapter, God mentions the dedication of the tithes, ten percent of the herd or flock or harvest; these goods too, were “holy to the LORD” (v 32), set apart for him. They had been given to the LORD, and the LORD’s priests could handle them as needed.

This is a good place to pause and start considering this chapter’s application. I don’t know for sure, but I doubt that many of us have done this, making a special vow to give something to God if He answers our prayers. Certainly you could do this, in humble reliance on the LORD. And if you have made such a promise, it’s probably something to share with at least one other person, so they can hold you to account.

Maybe the thing we can best relate to is the last verse we mentioned, about tithing. That’s something we still talk about, giving the LORD a portion of what we earn. And tithing or giving firstfruits is a good practice, though I wonder sometimes how voluntary we consider it to be? In terms of being part of this church, it’s a basic requirement—it’s expected. For a lot of us, it happens automatically: it’s a monthly transfer of funds that we set up, and don’t think about again. I’m not saying that our financial giving isn’t done thoughtfully, or cheerfully, but we do need to think about it in this way—as a sincere and grateful gift—and that it’s not just a matter of course. What’s more, we should remember that money really is just a small piece of an entire life that is devoted to God.

For let’s consider the bigger theme tying this chapter together: the people’s desire to be consecrated to God. They were his servants, not just through their official worship at the tabernacle, and not just through their giving of material gifts, but in everything. This was their life! Leviticus has shown it so clearly: they were a people holy to God. God had delivered them, and now they belonged to Him.

The same is true for us. Remember what Peter says, that through Christ and his Spirit we have all become priests, “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Pet 2:9). This holiness means that you need to be set apart for the LORD in everything. Think about how your days are made up of many parts: responsibilities at work, relationships in the home and in the church, earning and spending and relaxing, and much more. Or how do you conduct your business? What is the spirit of your home and marriage? Do the songs that you listen to, and the movies that you watch, show that your God is a holy God? Are your words holy, and your thoughts pure?

Being consecrated to God means freely presenting ourselves to God—and not just our money, but presenting him with our time, and our talents, and our energies. In Christ Jesus God has rescued us from sin and death, so we want give ourselves to his work and his cause.

Brothers and sisters, does service to the LORD receive your constant attention? Is this the thing that’s most important to you, what you’re passionate about? If your life was examined and considered, would it be obvious that your whole purpose is to glorify God? Would it be clear that you’re living not for yourself and your own plans and interests, but you’re living for Him? We’re not Samuel at the tabernacle, and we’re not a missionary in the jungle or inner city, but do we embrace this as our calling? For this kind of service we have been redeemed.

 

2) how it was redeemed: God values our loyalty—no, He demands it. So if a person has vowed to give himself, or to give an animal, or to make a gift of his field, the LORD holds him to that promise. God knows it’s easy to make vows in the heat of the moment, but later, when the crisis is over, your vow can seem kind of silly. You might want to forget it, or fulfill it only part-way. But God says that what is vowed must be given.

At the same time, God shows in this law that He’s compassionate and understanding. He understands that there might be some valid reason that a person might want to get out of a vow. He knows that keeping a vow down to its letter might not be very practical.

For instance, if every person who vowed his life to the LORD became a servant at the sanctuary, the priests would be overwhelmed with helpers. The tabernacle would be a crowded place, and there wouldn’t be sufficient work to go around. For this reason, in our chapter God provides a solution—it’s the solution of redemption, or buying something back by paying a price. An Israelite could vow to give himself or someone else, and then be released from this vow by paying a certain amount to the sanctuary.

The price of redemption went according to a fixed scale. For example, “If your valuation is of a male from twenty years old up to sixty years old, then your valuation shall be fifty shekels of silver” (v 3). To free an adult male from his vow, this was the price paid to God.

Looking at this scale, you can see that there are different variables, such as gender and age. Setting a price on someone like this seems strange to us. Can we really say that there’s a monetary value to a human life, and that an adult is worth than a child, or a man is worth more than a woman? The price of a person was based on his expected productivity and lifespan. It was a simple question of how much benefit the sanctuary was going to receive if a person joined its workforce as a servant.

Part of this chapter’s purpose was to prevent people from making rash vows; if you were going to promise God something big, you had to be serious about it. So to get out of such a vow, there was a relatively high price to pay.

The law of redemption showed God’s understanding, also when other gifts were vowed or dedicated. For instance, a person might’ve vowed to give some of his animals to the LORD, but then he has second thoughts—perhaps there’s a harvest coming up, and he needed heavy wagons pulled. Or a person might wish to take back the dedication of his house—turns out his family needs a place to live!

So God allows for redemptions. An unclean animal could be redeemed at a value set by the priest, plus twenty percent. Or a house could be redeemed in the same way: the priest would set a value to the house, and add twenty percent. If the person paid, the property could be released back to the person. They felt the high cost of redeeming something, but they were also able to carry on afterward.

Some things, however, God would not allow to be redeemed. A clean animal could not be exchanged: it was holy to the LORD (v 9). Likewise, the people were not allowed to dedicate any of their firstborn animals (v 26). This is because firstborn animals already belonged to God.

There was another category of things that could not be redeemed. Verse 28 says that “No devoted offering that a man may devote to the LORD of all that he has, both man and beast, or the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed; every devoted offering is most holy to the LORD.” The word for “devoted” in this verse refers to things that have been totally consecrated to God, through a more solemn vow than ordinary dedication. An example of this is how God required Jericho to be “devoted” to him—nothing could be taken from the city as plunder, because all of it was his.

These are the exceptions, but the point was clear: God allows redemption! And in this we see God’s rich mercy. He could’ve insisted that anything vowed was his forever, without any sort of compromise. He could’ve been a harsh Lord over his people. But that’s not the kind of God He is. He had set them free: He had redeemed them from bondage in Egypt, and redeemed them from the guilt and misery of their sins.

This theme of redemption runs throughout God’s law. Earlier in Leviticus there are laws about how a family member could be a redeemer and set someone free from his debts, or how in the Year of Jubilee people were redeemed from slavery. Here too, God allows a price to be paid so that normal life can carry on. No, God didn’t want them to think little of their vows and dedications, but He did want them to see that could be redemption, redemption at a cost!

Beloved, we need to know too, that devoting something to God—devoting ourselves to him—is costly. Maybe it’s your desire to live your whole life as God’s servant; it’s your earnest longing to be devoted to Christ in everything, till the day you die. This is the work of the Holy Spirit in you, and it’s a great miracle.

But devotion is costly. Being a disciple of Christ is demanding. The life of faith requires constant attention, it takes prayer and perseverance and struggle. Just like for the Israelites, there’s a price. “Take up your cross and follow me,” Jesus said—and the cross was a heavy and a deadly burden. “Fight the good fight of faith,” Paul said—for faith will be a fight.

I say this not to discourage, of course, but so that we’re prepared. Devotion to God is not quickly done. Consecration is not easily achieved. It’s not as simple as being baptized, or professing your faith, or making a one-time decision. Holiness is a life-long activity of putting aside the temptations of the evil one, it’s a constant process of growing in the service of Christ. It’s only possible through him.

 

3) how this law was fulfilled: With this chapter we come to the end of Leviticus. As we mentioned, it seems a strange way to conclude. But when we look more closely, vowing and redeeming are closely related to the core themes of the book, which is about the dedication of the Levites and all of God’s people to the LORD’s service. There were specific men to minister before God in the sanctuary, but those not of Levi’s house were still called to be holy to the LORD. God had claimed all of Israel, and He had redeemed them as his own.

That links us again to Christ. Here in chapter 27, we see faint shadows of his work. For God has not left us in captivity and misery, but He has freed us. This freedom comes at a cost, for God has put a high value on each of us, whether old or young, man or woman. We’re so valuable that God gave his one and only Son to die in our place. Such a price!

“You were redeemed,” Peter says, “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet 1:18-19). He was the perfect ransom, He was the final sacrifice that was brought before the Lord. It cost him everything—more than we can ever say—as He carried the full wrath of God against our sins. Through his blood Christ set us free, so that we can enjoy God forever.

And this redemption has a consequence. “You are not your own, you were bought at a price,” says Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” Christ has redeemed us completely so that we can devote ourselves to the Lord’s service, and all our life to glorify his name.

Or listen to how Romans 12 puts it, “I beseech you therefore… by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God” (v 1). That’s what God calls us to give to him, and that’s what we want to devote: our body, our life, our everything. This is the one worthwhile purpose for our existence here on earth, it’s the one thing worthy of being devoted to: the glory of our Triune God!  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

Please direct any comments to the Webmaster


bottom corner