Allow me to take a moment and pray for the East Coast folk upon whom Hurricane Irene is about to land.

God, it looks like there’s a doozy of a storm headed for the American East Coast. Lots of people live there. I’m sure some of them know You, and some of them don’t, but know You or not, they are all Your’s. Protect their lives and health, please. Look out for their hearts. Turn this potential disaster into something good, and strengthen the faith of Your people. Show us all how good You truly are. Amen.

Moving on to oatmeal, I found out this morning oatmeal cooked with raisins, cinnamon, and a little orange zest tastes ridiculously good. I added maybe half a teaspoon of honey to mine as well. It almost didn’t taste like oatmeal, but I suppose that’s one of the really fun things about morning servings of oatmeal. It seems to appreciate the company of flavor and does its best to support it. Give it a try!

Earlier this week, I was snooping the Old Testament laws, looking for information about the treatment of death. I was curious how God and His prophets told the Hebrews to treat death, dead bodies, and mourning. I also managed to get completely derailed, because there is all kinds of interesting stuff buried in OT law. The part I want to chat about today can be found in Leviticus 19. If you have a few minutes, take a look at the whole chapter. It’s well worth the look.

When I think about law, I, probably helplessly and without conscious thought, associate it with judgment. The law’s there, somebody breaks it, and – shazam! – they get judged. The law and judgment – or perhaps more accurately, punishment – are two sides of the same coin. One without the another renders both ineffective. Of the two, I undoubtedly pay more heed to judgment or punishment. Those effects are more immediate and personally drastic, I suppose. Some laws I’ll obey because I think they’re good and wise and benefit both myself and society. Others, I’ll obey because I don’t like being punished. I’m not always wise enough to see the value in those other laws and must therefore be ruled by some fear.

One value of law which I often fail to consider is protection. Laws aren’t (shouldn’t) be there just to beat the crap out of you. They should also be protecting you and others – protecting those who are vulnerable – from cruelty, injustice, and force. Let me pull in a couple of specific verses from Leviticus 19.

14(R) You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall(S) fear your God: I am the LORD.

32(AN) “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall(AO) fear your God: I am the LORD.

Don’t curse the deaf. Don’t trip the blind. Honor and respect the elderly. These were part of the laws given to the Israelites by God, and I find it fascinating. I have a younger sister with Downs syndrome. I’ve spent most of my adult life working to care for people who are often elderly. My job requires annual training on abuse and neglect. Would you like to take a guess on the identities of a couple of populations that are particularly vulnerable to abuse? If you’re guessing the handicapped and the elderly, you’d be right. They tend to be people without a lot of personal power.  For instance, they may be cognitively impaired, so they can’t outsmart a predator. Physically, they’re often weak, so they can’t defend themselves, etc., etc. They also are often not assigned much value by the other people around them, probably because they usually require care instead of giving it, and this also makes them vulnerable. Their personal weakness makes them fair game to some folks, and their positional weakness in society means they can’t always count on others to help defend them from those predators.

Apparently, God’s not cool with that human trend toward callousness and lack of respect for those weaker than others, because here He is telling the Israelite nation that, basically, the handicapped and elderly are people, too. He’s insisting that they be treated like people, and He set up laws to establish that. I don’t think He likes bullies very much, and I think He loves people a lot.

Know what else in Leviticus 19? Here’s the last bit of verse 18:

you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Funny, isn’t it, how you just never get away from love?