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Scripture Reference: Ruth 2 and Leviticus 19
Learning Grace from Law
“Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that
have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien.
I am the LORD your God.” --Leviticus 19:10 NIV
In our study of the book of Ruth we have come to learn well the verse from the Law of Moses quoted above. We have learned how this law benefitted Ruth and Naomi, and also how this passage speaks to the immigration issue, causing us to make important distinctions between our politics on the one hand, and our practice of love for the immigrant on the other.
Whenever we study the Law of Moses, it is important to clarify that this law code was for the Hebrew people in their culture and historical context. It makes up the core of the “old covenant” with his people. After the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we have entered into the “new covenant, which fulfills the old covenant and replaces it. That is why most Christians, Gentiles that they are, do not follow kosher laws, ceremonial laws, laws of animal sacrifice, etc.
This does not mean that the Law of Moses is unimportant. Far from it. When we come up against a verse like Lev. 19.10, we have to take it seriously as part of God’s revelation to his people. But rather than ask “how can I do this law today” when we are not required to do so, we can instead ask a different question:
What does this passage teach me about the heart and mind of God?
I think you would agree that it teaches that God cares, in a special way, for the poor and the immigrant. Actually, it goes farther than that. This is not the only place we read of this command. We also see it in other places.
"Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in
.” Exodus 22:21 NIV Egypt
“When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the alien, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.” Deuteronomy 24:19 NIV
So now we have immigrants, the poor, the widow, and the fatherless. I think you can see that God has his eye on those who are at a disadvantage in society. But how would this “law of gleaning” look in our world. We’re not farmers!
Here are some suggestions:
- I need to have what God has: a heart for the poor and marginalized. I don’t have the luxury of ignoring those who live close to the edge of economic or social oblivion. I need to pray that God will sync my heart with his heart; my loves with his loves; my mercies with his mercies.
- I can create a law for myself. This personal “law” for me is actually a “habit of the heart.” Maybe at the end of the day I’ll put my loose change, or all my dollar bills, in a jar. When the jar is full I’ll cash them in for grocery gift cards to give away, or help someone pay their rent, or put gas in their car so they can get to work. You get the idea.
- I can identify the excess in my life in order to “bless others” with it. And believe me, most Americans have excess. Why not take all those canned foods from 1983 that are in the back of my cupboard and put them in the church pantry, or give them to a friend I know could use a boost? Why not let my tax return bless a homeless organization or the benevolence fund at my church? Maybe instead of selling that old couch on Craigslist so I can make a lousy fifty bucks, I first look to see if someone in my church or neighborhood could use a free couch?
Can you now see how this Law of Moses that does not bind us in this new covenant age, teaches us about the heart of God? And can you see how understanding God’s heart can “free us” to be better disciples?
So find ways to allow others to “glean” from your abundance.
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another,
for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8 NIV