The title for this blog post comes from Leviticus 26:13, "I am YHWH your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be their slaves no more; I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect." When I read that today I felt a deep sense of gratitude, humility, relief, joy, and hope. "I have made you walk erect." I have, and have had for as long as I can remember, self-esteem issues. All of my successes and accomplishments tend to vanish with the wind, and I'm often left behind feeling impotent, weak, frightened...bent under a weight I'm not sure how to carry. I feel trapped and limited by chains of my own making. I know as a Christian, and especially as a minister, I'm supposed to portray myself as confident and firm in my trust toward God, but most days I struggle. Many days I wrestle with the slavery imposed by a lack of confidence and trust.
But God is a god who makes us stand tall, with shoulders back. There's more to this then simply being freed from literal slavery in Egypt. God gives the Israelites identity, restored humanity, value, and purpose. Because of the love of God, the Hebrews have a reason to stand with back straight and eyes forward. The bars of their yoke have been broken. Because of what God has done for them in the past, they can walk into unknown futures with courage and hope. They can stand with a sense of pride, not for their own accomplishments, but because of the value they've found in God's accomplishments on their behalf.
As God's people, we are a community that walks tall. That, for me, is a great image, a great metaphor for what God has done for all of us. (As a total side note, this language reminds me of the story where Jesus heals a women stooped over for 18 years in Luke 13).
On a different note, the second half of chapter 26 deals with what will happen if the Israelites refuse to listen to God. I found it interesting that God says he will give the land its sabbath, if the Israelites refuse to let it rest, when he removes the Israelites from their home. What stood out to me was not how harsh this may seem toward the Israelites, but how much God loves and cares for all of his creation. Israel (and to a greater extent Christians, as an extension of God's people) was meant to be a caretaker for God's creation, a reincarnation of Adam in the beginning. If it failed in that task, God would not allow the land to suffer forever. God loves his universe, and although he loves humanity as part of that universe, if we refuse to fulfill our responsibility, God will not allow his creation to suffer forever do to our negligence. The land will have its rest regardless.
Stopping point: Leviticus 27