How To Tackle: Gleaning

If you’re nervous about reading a post on Leviticus at the start of your weekend – don’t be! Rachel brings us a really inspiring and challenging post on how God’s words in the Old Testament show us how to ‘live life best’ in the here and now. Great wisdom for a Happy Saturday! x

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…and some of the more obscure-sounding commands in the Book of Leviticus.

Reading Leviticus may feel like a daunting task. It doesn’t always get a great press! When reading through the Bible, we are often forewarned not to start with the Book of Leviticus. The going can get tough pretty quickly….

So being reminded that “all scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16) should encourage us to persevere and keep digging for treasure.

I just want to take one example from near enough the middle of the Book of Leviticus and see how we might go about this excavation work and how we can bring this part of the Bible alive:

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God.”
(Leviticus 19:9-10)

In 21st Century Britain most of us don’t live in agrarian communities any more. We buy our food ready to go and vacuum-packed! The closest we get to gleaning is picking wild blackberries in hedgerows when we’re on holiday. So what does this part of the Bible have to teach us? Why is it helpful for me to know about this command about gleaning?!

The Book of Leviticus is a continuation of the Book of Exodus and is located just after the giving of the Law at Sinai and the construction of the Tabernacle. Leviticus is concerned with what it means to be the holy people of a holy God. It gives instructions for holy living and tells of God’s gracious provision for His peoples’ failures. This includes details about priests, sacrifices, festivals and laws for holy living.

The practice of gleaning allows for God’s people to care for the poor and foreigners in their midst. God makes provision so that those who have, share with those who do not. Left over bits of the harvest would sustain those who had no land of their own because they were poor or were just passing through.

We see this beautifully enacted in the Book of Ruth where Boaz not only allows Ruth to glean in his fields, but also arranges that she gets more than just what is left over. There is room for generosity in this command. The temptation would be for the landowner to take all that they can get. Profit-margins and targets, in our culture and world, scream out to us of this to us, don’t they?

Gleaning means distinctive counter-cultural living.

It is striking that God should end this command in Leviticus with the reminder that He is the LORD your God. This is a refrain we see again and again in Leviticus and it is also a refrain that comes at the beginning of the giving of the 10 Commandments. We obey God because he is the faithful promise keeping God, worthy of our devotion and obedience. We care for our neighbour because God is the LORD and he commands us to (Leviticus 19:18).

Although we are no longer under the Law, since Jesus is the fulfilment of the Law and has taken the punishment for our failure to keep the Law, yet the Law is still instructive for us. The Law still reveals God’s character to us and shows us in essence how life works best, even if some of the details may now seem archaic and irrelevant to us.

We now have God’s Spirit living in us who gives us the power to please God and to look to the needs and interests of our neighbours.

So for instance – the home we live in, the belongings we have, the food on our tables – when we belong to Christ, all that we have belongs to Christ and so we are to be generous people.Our understanding of “gleaning” as Christ’s people, nudges us to share those things with our neighbours.

We share with others as we have opportunity, freely, sacrificially because we remember that our LORD is God and we do it for his glory.

So as we look to the New Testament perhaps we see this obscure -looking command framed like this for us:

“A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
(Galatians 6:7-10)



Rachel has recently joined the Christ Church Cambridge staff team after ministering to women and children on the South Coast in Hastings for 7 years. She loves having friends round, giving her the excuse to bake! Rachel has been a great supporter of the MP team and we are very grateful to her.

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