If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel…
Okay – the first thing I am going to say is that greater minds than mine have spent combined millennia working out the complications and consequences of this commandment. It is so complicated that most Jewish authorities have banned its practice. It is not however the practical implications of this commandment that will open your mind.
Most people who have had little dealing with Torah will not realize that what the Church calls “The Law” is not in fact a simple instruction book on right and wrong: you heard me correctly! Though usually translated Law in our Bibles it would more accurately be translated as “Instruction.” Instructions for what? Not a technical manual on life as some suppose, but as an instruction on the heart of God. This scripture is the perfect one to demonstrate this.
The problem that this scripture causes people who treat the Law as rules is that this instruction goes directly against other commandments. Consider Leviticus 18:16:
You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness.
This commandment is given regardless of the living state of the brother. If we treated the commandments as rules then we would find ourselves in an unresolvable conflict. Wait: There’s more. What if the surviving brother is already married? Marriage is that exclusive union between a husband and his wife, right? Absolutely right, of course it is! Did the Lord not think this out before He gave this commandment to His people?
This is the point that will blow your mind open: There is something more important to the Heart of God than simply doing right and avoiding wrong!
Anyone who has followed the weekly Torah readings and the associated readings from the Prophets and the New Testament will know that there are three things on God’s Heart: Justice, Mercy and a word that very hard to properly translate, but we call it “Lovingkindness.” Our response is reflected in Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13:13)
And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
These are our response to Justice, Mercy and Lovingkindness shown by God. You see: He saw the plight of the widow, her hopelessness and lost future, and the injustice of a lost inheritance for the deceased brother, and He decided that Mercy and Lovingkindness for her was more important that maintaining sexual purity and even the exclusive bond of marriage. Selah. Let that sink in a bit.
So if you find yourself in a hopeless situation not of your own making, and you are being instructed to do what is right (as I find myself at this time) but leaving you without a hope and a future, childless, abandoned or alone, then consider the Heart of God: Have faith in God’s sense of Justice, have hope in His Mercy, and trust in His Lovingkindness.
Oh, and forgive those who think the Bible is a rule book; sympathise with them; they don’t yet know God like they should and they need your love to shine this reality in their life.
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