(c) Jordan White Enterprises
August 23, 1999
Leviticus 19:9,10 reads; “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 sojourner: I am the Lord your God.” (KJV)
The meaning here is clear. God was directing the early Israelites to leave a margin of unharvested grain or fruit on a planted field. To do otherwise was blatant disobedience to the law of God. What was God trying to teach his people? To be generous to the needy? Yes, in part. To learn not to be entirely selfish about one’s belongings? Certainly. There were many good lessons to be learned here, but I believe the main one was this: The land upon which the Israelites resided belonged to God and God alone, and it was up to God to decide the administration of it.
In the Book of Ruth, we see this law carried out in the life of a man of Israel named Boaz, who spied a young woman gleaning in his field of grain. When he asked about who she was, he was told that she had come from Moab (modern-day Jordan) with her mother-in-law. Eventually Boaz discovered that Ruth had recently been widowed and that she had left her parents and homeland to cast her lot with her dead husband’s people in a strange land. Impressed with her selflessness and fidelity, Boaz made sure she was provided for in every possible way. Eventually, he married her and had a family, through which they became earthly ancestors of Jesus Christ.
Boaz had learned that his land was there to serve the purposes of God, however
God chose. Boaz probably never understood the full implications of his obedience, but he obeyed nonetheless. That is why he was willing to allow a foreigner free access to his land, and take a share of his proceeds to care for her family and herself. Boaz understood the principles of the margins, that is, allowing enough leeway in his life to give God an opportunity to do something great through him. The uncut margins of his land served as a constant reminder to him of his obligation to reserve a part of all of his resources, mental, physical, spiritual, for the use of God.
It is a principle that is necessary for all to heed. To do otherwise is to take a lesson from the failed Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9), where prideful men attempted to put all their resources into finding a way to rid themselves of the rule of God, and to establish themselves as lords of their own domain.
Boaz’ example should be one we all follow; and, since it is based on Jewish law, one wonders why it is not followed by the nation of Israel, which is acting more like the men of Babel than a Boaz. Strange, for a people who pride themselves on strict adherence to such aspects of the law as dietary restrictions and observance of the Sabbath. For they have made sure that the borders of their fields, i.e. the land that they reside upon, is for their use and their use only. They have not considered the needs of the non-Jews residing upon that land, a land which, according to their own law, belongs to God and God alone. They have selfishly excluded these people, leaving no “margins” which would allow God to work out His will and thus bring blessings upon the land. Unfortunately, the lessons of Scripture clearly show that such attitudes bring about judgment and death, such as the example of the Tower of Babel.
It is not too late for Israel to turn from its disobedience and recognize God’s sovereignty over their lands, and thus, their lives. It is not too late for them to begin to practice the obedience of Boaz, and thus to witness the beautiful working out of God’s plan, which surely involves sharing this beautiful land with the Palestinian people, who, like themselves, were created in the image of God.
Credit to: Leron Heath, pastor of Valley Community Church, Pleasanton, California, for concepts concerning margins of fields vs. Tower of Babel.