International Sunday School Lesson Study Notes
Lesson Text: Leviticus 19:9-18, 33-37 Lesson Title: Acting with Compassion
Leviticus is not the book in the Bible that you would want to read to your children for a bedtime story. In fact, even the most devoted Bible student and seasoned teacher would describe this book as hard to understand. It reads like a book of odd rules that don’t mean much to New Testament believers. But, as with all of God’s Word, it is profitable. The difficult sections of Leviticus shed light on the vast difference between our sinfulness and God’s holiness. The strange instructions and sacrifices demonstrate the distinctness of God from man. In reality, Leviticus illustrates the significance of Jesus’ work on our behalf.
Leviticus details how the Israelites were to become a holy nation and how they were to treat one another as God’s people. God not only wanted to be their God, He also wanted them to reflect that relationship in their relationships with one another. The title “Leviticus” means “pertaining to the Levites,” which points out that the priests and Levities were responsible for seeing to it that the regulations God gave in this book were followed. The first 10 chapters deal with the sacrifices, priestly duties, and a focus on worship and holiness. Beginning in chapter 11 the focus turns to daily life and purity before God.
The most notable fact about Leviticus is that the book opens and closes at the same location, Mount Sinai, where God gave the Law. After the Israelites left Egypt and before they began their wilderness wanderings they were camped at the foot of the mountain for one year.
Chapter 19 of Leviticus emphasizes certain areas of the Law that Israel was to obey and keep. God may have been emphasizing these particular subjects due to their weakness in certain areas. Since the Israelites belonged to a holy God, they were expected to be holy themselves. “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:1-2). Every area of life, family relationships (Leviticus 15), worship (Leviticus 16-17), sexuality (Leviticus 18) and their relationship to justice and the poor (Leviticus 19) were to reflect the character of God.
Compassion and Prosperity (Leviticus 19:9-10)
Sometimes blessings and prosperity can cause us to forget our responsibilities to others. God would not allow His people to glean everything for themselves. They must show compassion toward others when God had blessed their fields and vineyards.
“And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God.”
God has a heart for justice and the poor (Psalm 146:7-9). And His heart in reflected in how His people treated them during time of harvest. These two verses record the “harvest laws” to be obeyed by God’s people. Israel must demonstrate compassion for those in need through the proper use of their harvest fields and vineyards.
When the Israelite reaped the “harvest,” they were not to “wholly reap the corners of the field.” This meant the farmer was not to go back over the field a second time and “gather the gleanings” or gather what he missed the first time. Whatever a farmer did not reap his first time around must be left “for the poor and stranger.” The biblical method of harvesting by hand would often leave 10 to 20 percent of the grain in the field. Whatever was left in the field was “for the poor and stranger.” The same law applied to their vineyards.
This harvest law was more than a simple handout. The “poor” and the “stranger” were responsible to go into the field and gather what was left (Ruth 1:3-5). Some people who were “poor” were in that condition because of bad choices. Others were “poor” because of circumstances. The “stranger” was someone who didn’t own land or have a right to be in any field or vineyard. For God to provide “for the poor and stranger” was a powerful act of compassion.
It is easy to lose compassion for those who act as if they deserve a handout. Government control of financial aid and assistance is not always fair and often promotes dependence and laziness rather than thankfulness and a work ethic. God’s way of taking care of “the poor and stranger” is the best way. God is glorified, the poor and stranger receive the help they need while also working to receive it. And the Israelite displays God’s compassion through obedience to His law.
It seems the early church practiced compassion in much the same way. “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common” (Acts 4:32). The prevailing attitude of the early church was that everything and anything they had actually belonged to God and not to them. And since it all belonged to God, when someone needed help, they willingly shared (James 2:15-16). They were not motivated by government but rather by grace!
The object of the “harvest law” was to encourage a spirit of compassion and mercy. God wants His people in every age to show kindness one to another and especially to the poor and needy.
Compassion and Honesty (Leviticus 19:11-13)
“Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.” This could be called the “honesty law.” There are three prohibitions in this verse. First, “ye shall not steal.” This is a repetition of the eighth commandment (Exodus 20:15). Stealing can occur in many different ways. In biblical times it often occurred by taking a man’s property. Second, “neither deal falsely” refers to putting on a front in our dealings with others. “Falsely” means “deceptive.” Whatever we have in this world we must get honestly and not by deceptive means. God requires truthfulness of the heart (Psalm 51:6). Third, “neither lie one to another” is crucial to being right with God, right with each other and in maintaining a testimony to those who do not know the Lord. If God’s people cannot be truthful “one to another,” why should the lost world believe what we tell them about Jesus Christ?
“And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.” The term LORD (with small capital letters) is God’s personal name. It is sometimes rendered in English letters as Yahweh. This term is distinct from the word Lord (with only the first letter capitalized), which in the Old Testament is a translation of the word elohim, the general word for deity. For example, elohim is the word behind the translation “all gods” in (Exodus 18:11) and “their gods” in (Exodus 23:24). The name LORD, then, is a specific name for Israel’s God and Him alone. God’s personal name means “I Am.” Israel’s God is not a god of philosophical abstraction but of actual being. All people can know something about Him through creation (Romans 1:20). We know even more about Him through the special revelation of the Bible. The verse before us, which is part of that special revelation, tells us something about God: His name is important, (Standard Lesson Commentary 2011-2012).
It is a terrible sin to tell a lie but even worse to “swear” or use God’s name to give credibility to your lie. “Profane” means “to desecrate or pollute.” When we use God’s holy name for any other purposes than that for which it was meant we rob Him and His name of its worth. And certainly to use God’s name “falsely” to support a lie robs God of the sacredness of His name.
“Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.” Workers in biblical times were paid on a daily basis. Thus, if you owed a man a day’s wages and did not pay him, it was unjust. People did not have savings accounts and a storehouse full of food as we do today.
The heart of this law of compassion was given by God to prevent mistreatment of employees by employers. “Defraud” means “violate or wrong.” “Rob” means “to take away by force.” When dealing with their neighbors in a work relationship the Israelite was not to wrong them or intentionally take from them what they were owed or deserved. It grieves the heart of God when employers mistreat employees and when employees cheat their employers of an honest day’s work. It’s sad when employers who don’t know Christ treat their employees better than those who do. God does not take this action lightly (James 5:4).
A biblical example of this type of activity is that of Laban and Jacob in Genesis 29-31. Laban, Jacob’s father-in-law, could squeeze every penny out of a dollar and didn’t seem to mind who he hurt in the process. He viewed it as good business.
Compassion and Dignity (Leviticus 19:14-15)
“Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD.” God protected His people and those with disabilities from discrimination long before man even knew what discrimination was. Living with compassion means treating people fairly and that doesn’t happen by legislation but through salvation!
Not “cursing the deaf” or putting a “stumblingblock before the blind” shows tender care and concern. It also shows respect and dignity. To “curse the deaf” is obviously an act of cowardice since the “deaf” couldn’t hear and might think you were complimenting them. The one cursing would be using the deaf to his advantage and God forbids it. How sick to place an obstacle in front of a “blind” person and cause a fall, injury, or possible death.
The point of this prohibition is that God’s people are not to take advantage of people. People we live around and work with may be easy targets but we are to respect them for who they are no matter what their limitations or disabilities might be. To fail to show that respect implies a lack of fear and reverence for God. When we “fear” the Lord we respect those He created.
“Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour.”
The words “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment” carry a powerful word of conviction. Whether we are judges on a bench or a committee member in a local church, who are we to sit in judgment and show preferential treatment based on our personal preferences? May God help us to be honest and fair in all we do!
Justice is to be given to all. “Unrighteousness” is “deeds of injustice.” God’s forbids that we treat people unjustly and unfairly because of who they are or what position they hold in life. The less danger of “respecting the person of the poor” has to be guarded against, as well as the greater and more obvious danger of “honouring the person of the mighty.” Neither the “poor” nor the “mighty” are to receive preferential treatment. The Apostle James said, “But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors” (James 2:9).
Compassion and Integrity (Leviticus 19:16-18)
“Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD.” Matthew Henry says a “tablebearer” is “one who publishes another man’s faults.” This often occurs when we “go up and down” or in our daily conversations. If the money spent in America on publishing peoples faults were applied to missions we could easily take the gospel to every person in the world! And while it is not our calling to put the media, the local newspaper, and FaceBook out of business, it is our calling to “not go up and down as a talebearer” (James 3:1-12).
“Neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbor” means our gossip and lies have the potential to taking the life of our neighbor. The “blood of thy neighbor” is a reference to his life. Sometimes the words we say and the lies we tell actually puts the lives of people in danger. The prophet Ezekiel said, “In thee are men that carry tales to shed blood…” (Ezekiel 22:9).
“Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.” If we live with compassion then there is no possible way to “hate thy brother in thine heart.” As we live there will be wrongs committed against us by those we know and love. But we are not to “hate” our “brother.” And the only way to avoid “hate” is to love. On the other hand, we are to “rebuke” our neighbor. That doesn’t mean we are to be ugly, arrogant, or harsh but rather to tell them the wrong that has been committed against us. “Not suffer sin upon him” means “whoever fails to tell his neighbor about the wrong that has occurred, will bear the sin on his own account.
The Bible is clear in its teaching concerning how we are to react and respond when people sin against us (Matthew 18:15-17; Luke 17:3).
“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” “Avenge” and “bear any grudge” means God forbids the attitude of getting revenge or getting even with those who have wronged us. So many people hold grudges and nurture hurt feelings that eventually destroy them. But God’s Word is not just about “thou shalt not.” God also says, “but thou shalt.” The answer to all these negatives is found in one positive commandment, “…but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD.”
The Apostle Paul said, “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10). We have neighbours in our family, our church, our state, and our nation. And God commands that we “love” them all.
Compassion and Identity (Leviticus 19:33-37)
God had called, chosen, and set Israel apart from all other nations on the face of the earth. They were His by design and purpose. Based on the Law God had given them and His purpose for them, the Israelite knew they were different from all other nations, yet they must not allow their God-given identity to give them a spirit of superiority. They did not have the authority to walk over or look down upon the strangers of the land.
Christians have certainly been blessed by the Lord. We have been called, chosen, and set apart as God’s peculiar people in the midst of a lost world. But we also live among people who do not know the Lord. We must have compassion and not allow our identity in Christ to cause us to be authoritative and uncaring.
“And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” The command to not “vex a stranger” had already been given in Exodus 22:21, but now it is expanded as God tells His people they are to “…love him as thyself.” Israel was always conscious of preserving their true identity as Israelites and not mixing with the heathen nations as God commanded. However, their true identity could be maintained while caring and showing compassion to the stranger.
The Israelites having been slaves in Egypt knew firsthand what it was to be a “stranger.” They were not to “vex” or mistreat someone whose skin color or nationality was different from theirs. The “stranger” was to be treated kindly and loved. He was to be a reminder to them of how they were treated while in Egypt.
Sometimes Christians use “biblical separation” as an excuse not to show compassion to “strangers.” God did call us to be a separate people and He also commands us to “love.” Christ never missed an opportunity to identify with sinners while at the same time remaining holy and pure. Christians should do the same.
“Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt” speaks of showing compassion by being honest in our business dealings. Verse 15 begins with the same words, “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment” and pertains to one being forbidden to pass judgment or show preferential treatment in judicial matters. Here the thought is expanded to the merchantman or businessman being forbidden to practice dishonesty.
“Meteyard, weight, measure, balances, just weights, just ephah, just hin” all relate to not tipping the scales in our favour but being honest. An “ephah” is a dry measure, equal to about six-tenths of a bushel; a “hin” is a liquid measure, equal to about a gallon. A “meteyard” is a measuring rod and speaks of God’s abhorrence of dishonest balance scales and weights. God forbids taking advantage of strangers in our business dealings (Proverbs 11:1; 20:23).
Again, because God “brought you out of the land of Egypt” the children of Israel were to be different. And so are God’s children today. Believers have been saved by grace. We live by a higher standard than the law. We love by God’s Word and His love in our heart. Our identity must be consistent with compassion and just dealings.
“Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: I am the LORD.”
Whether or not the Israelite agreed with all God commanded or not, they were to “observe” and “do them.” As Doctor J. Vernon McGee said, “God is the Lord. That is reason enough for obedience to what He commands. Can you think of anything to add to that” (Thru The Bible with J. Vernon McGee).
“All” is the key word in verse 37. This is not a Bible buffet world we live in. We are not free to pick and choose which commandment or principle we like best. “All” means no area of life is outside God’s jurisdiction.
God commands holy conduct from His children on the basis that He is holy. God still commands the same conduct today (1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Peter 1:13-16). The major difference between conduct required under the law in the Old Testament and under grace in the New Testament is that today the power and motive for holy living is supplied by the Holy Spirit and not fear of the law.
How can we obey God’s command to show compassion without becoming legalist, cold, and predictable? Part of the answer is to ask the Lord to search our hearts and our motives for everything we do (Matthew 6:5-6).
The Christian life demands more than we are sometimes willing to give. However, when we are willing to give what Christ demands, the results are more than we could ever imagine.
Contact Information Office: 828-758-2818Click to contact me.
Physical Location311 Abington Rd. N.W. Lenoir, N. C. 28645
Mailing Address311 Abington Rd. N.W. Lenoir, N. C. 28645
Designed by TTM Consulting