Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this. 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. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow. Remember that you were slaves in Egypt. That is why I command you to do this.
After years of living in tents in the desert, the people of Israel were about to enter the promised land of Canaan. Through Moses, the LORD reminded them that once they were settled, he wanted them to remember to show kindness.
He mentioned three groups by name. They should be kind to the alien, the fatherless, and the widow. He had some very specific instructions. When harvesting, don’t gather every last sheave of grain. When beating olives out of trees, leave some up there. When gathering grapes, don’t keep them all for yourself. As you go about your daily work, think of the needy people around you who don’t have fields and trees and vines of their own.
To anyone who objected to this practice, the LORD said, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt.” He wanted them never to forget the bitter suffering; the hard labor under the whip of the Egyptians.
We know something about being a slave. Jesus said, “Everyone who sins is a SLAVE to sin” (John 8:34). We were born into this kind of slavery. A slave to sin has to endure the bitter suffering of a guilty, terrified conscience. A slave to sin knows about hard labor; work that’s been emptied of all its meaning and joy.
To this day we still often think like slaves. We know we’re supposed to love and help and be kind, but so often it takes the stinging whip of a guilty conscience to get us moving. At times, we’re not interested in serving, just surviving. If we have any kindness to share, we spend it all on ourselves.
“Remember!” says the LORD. Remember what it’s like to be in need of God’s help. Remember how miserable that can be.
He also said, “Remember that the LORD your God redeemed you.”
He was talking about the way he miraculously rescued them from slavery in Egypt. Remember the tenth plague? Only those families with the blood of a lamb on their doorframes could escape the angel of death. And while the Egyptians were in mourning, the Israelites escaped.
But why did the LORD use the word “redeem”? Redeem is a stronger word than rescue. To redeem has the idea of making a payment.
He used the word redeem because the lambs’ blood was payment to set the people free. It was all a shadow of the cross of Jesus, where the holy, precious blood of the Lamb of God would be ransom price to take away the sin of the world.
In a ransom situation, a kidnapper will usually demand that everything be on his terms. He names the place where the payment should be made. He says, “No cops, or the deal is off!” Not only did Jesus our Savior pay the ransom, but he chose to do it on the devil’s terms. Jesus went in alone. There were no angels there as back-up. There was no heavenly Father talking in his ear. He chose not to make use of the light of glory and honor that was his for all eternity, and stepped into the shadow of death. He was on the devil’s turf now. And in that dark place, at that dark time, Jesus paid dearly. He paid in blood, so we could be free.
There’s love in that word. God owed us nothing. He’d been planning our ransom from eternity. And it cost him the blood of his only-begotten Son.
Every time you hear that message, you hear the Lord’s heart beat for you.
You were the foreigner, and he gave you a homeland. You were the orphan and he brought you into his family. You were the widow, and he bound himself to you in love. You were the slave, and he adopted you as his own dear child.
When your ear is on the Lord’s heartbeat, it’s not the crack of the whip that gets you moving anymore. It’s the love of your Father in heaven. And when you see opportunities to show love to others, you don’t have to think like a slave to sin. You can think like a citizen of heaven, like a child and heir of our Heavenly Father. You can show kindness to others, as God has shown kindness to you.
Think of the amazing role each of us plays. Our heavenly Father wants to show his kindness to the people of the world, to the alien, the fatherless, the widow. He wants them to have clothes and food and enough money to live. He wants them to hear the saving message of Jesus Christ. And how does he show all of this kindness? He does it through you and me.
“Practice random acts of kindness,” some say. But we know the true source of kindness. It is the Lord himself. He had compassion for us when we were slaves and outcasts. He paid dearly for us to make us his own. Now he tells us, “Be who you are. Not a slave to sin. Not an outcast. A son, a daughter of God, who knows that heaven is your home. Be that person in your attitude, and in your Christian kindness.”
Random acts of kindness? With Christians, there’s nothing random about it. Kindness is a fruit of faith.
Devotion by Pastor Jon Zabell
Copyright (c) 2022, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Green Bay, WI 54301
Bible text, NIV (c) Biblia, 2011