The Psalmist wrote, “The Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul” (Psa. 19:7). While we feel blessed to live in America, and hold its constitution in high regard, I doubt we would say that it is a perfect system. Yet, David had no reservations about proclaiming the perfection about God’s law. Sadly, many Christians fail to read the Torah (The Mosaic Law), particularly the books of Leviticus-Deuteronomy. While we aren’t governed by the Mosaic Law, we still discover beautiful truths and principles which help us to know God and His will. It was in reference to the Old Testament that Paul wrote “All scripture is God breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). If we open our Bible to Leviticus 19 we discover certain laws which explain David’s praise.
Provision for the needy (19:9-10). In this instruction, God commands the Israelites to not harvest the entirety of their fields or vineyards. Instead they are to leave some for the “poor and sojourner.” Even in the midst of their prosperity, God demanded that the needy not be forgotten. While those who planted the vineyards and grain may have thought the bounty was theirs, the reality is that the land and the harvest belonged to the Lord. Personal prosperity wasn’t prohibited, but it was never allowed at the expense of the destitute.
Regulated labor laws (19:13). Here, God commands the people to pay individuals for the work they hire them to do–promptly. They were not allowed to keep back payment overnight; rather they were to compensate their workers immediately when the job was finished. This prevented the Israelites from backhanded business dealings, and insured fairness and justice in the workplace. Anything else was considered “oppression” and would be dealt with accordingly.
Defense of the Physically Challenged (19:14). Ancient times were difficult for anyone, but they were particularly difficult for those who were physically challenged (i.e. the deaf and blind). In fact, in many ancient societies, if a child was born deaf or blind they would be exposed to the elements and left to die not long after their birth. Even in our own country, children with disabilities are aborted at an alarming rate (particularly those with Down Syndrome). Not so in Israel. God specifically prohibited the persecution and oppression of the deaf and the blind. As we previously mentioned, he also provided for them (since many who were deaf and blind during this time would find it difficult to provide for themselves, they would depend on God’s provision for the needy).
Impartial Justice (19:15-16). When justice is personified, it is often depicted as a woman who is blindfolded, holding out equal balances. This depicts what we hope is conveyed in court: justice is blind. Justice has no agenda other than truth and fairness–or at least that’s how it should be. Recently in our own country it seems some no longer hunger for impartial justice. They would rather court decisions be determined–not by truth–but by race, social status, or political agendas. In contrast to this, God very strictly commands the Israelites to not show partiality to the poor or to the great. Out of pity, someone may give deference to the poor; out of favor, someone may compromise justice for the great. In contrast, God tells the Israelites that the only measure of justice within their courts will be “righteousness.”
As we examine these laws, take a brief moment to stop and think about how much better we would be if we followed just these four. Not only do these laws transcend many ancient near eastern law codes, they also cast a light on our own deficiencies. No wonder David declared that the law of the Lord was perfect!
Interestingly, all of these commands are anchored in a greater reality: after every law the phrase, “For I am the LORD” is given. That is, these prohibitions and incentives were not arbitrary, but were deeply rooted in the character and person of Israel’s God. Not only do they regulate the nations conduct, they also convey the reality of God Himself. This is the type of God they serve. He cares deeply for the destitute and challenged. He helps the suffering. He is just and fair; impartial and true in all His judgments. This shows the ultimate purpose for the Law of Israel: that the people would reflect the character of their God. This was the call all along. They were to be holy as their God was holy (Lev. 11:44-45). A rejection of this law would not simply be a rejection of a legal code, but a rejection of the person and presence of God from the community of His people. When they forgot God’s law, they forgot Him (Hos. 4:6).
This of course is a caution for us as well. If we forget God’s truth and fail to follow His commands we are not simply rejecting a perfect law–we are refusing a perfect God.