“‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you.’” — Leviticus 25:35–36
The year 2018 is important for Israel and the Jewish people as we celebrate the modern State of Israel’s 70th Birthday. You can be part of this momentous milestone with Rabbi Eckstein’s 70 devotions offered now through April 19, Israel’s Independence Day. These devotions are tied to our Keys to Israel – six fundamental principles underlying God’s covenantal relationship with His chosen people and His Holy Land using the acrostic I.S.R.A.E.L.
This devotion is part of ten devotions focusing on the letter “L” for Love your neighbor — one of the greatest commandments that God gave to both Christians and Jews.
Judaism’s Oral Tradition provides a startling insight into the actions of some of the most righteous figures in the Bible. The Jewish sages claim that if Reuben had known that God would record in the Bible that he had saved Joseph’s life, he would have carried Joseph on his own shoulders back to their father, Jacob.
The sages continue and explain that if Aaron had known that it would be recorded by God in the Bible how his heart was joyous and not even a bit jealous when he saw that Moses was appointed the leader of Israel, he would have gone out to greet Moses with music and dancing.
As a third example, the sages say that if Boaz had known that it would be recorded in the Bible that he gave grain to an impoverished Ruth, he would instead have fed her with fattened cows. The sages conclude: When you do a good deed, do it with all your heart, in the best way possible.
In these verses from Leviticus chapter 25, we are instructed to help a brother in need. “If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.” Then the next verse continues with the following stipulation: “Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you.”
It’s understandable that the Bible would deter us from profiting off another person’s hard times, but we might think that this injunction would be based on “but love your neighbor like yourself.” What does “but fear your God” have to do with it?
Fear of God means living with the awareness that God is watching and recording everything that we do. It says in the book of Malachi: “Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name” (3:16). When we do something, God notices and He records it. So how could we possibly charge the poor man interest or give aloan while making a profit? How could we do any good deed in any way other than our very best?
This week, try to bring “fear of God” into your life in a new way. Any time you do a good deed imagine God Himself writing it down. How does that change the way you do things? Live your life like it’s an open book – because the truth is, it really is!