Moses' eighth speech, Part 10, Law of gleanings
May 14, 2013
Moses says in Deuteronomy 24:19 says,
19 When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
We see this law put into practice in the book of Ruth, while she gleaned in the field of Boaz. Ruth 2:15 and 16 says,
15 When she rose to glean, Boaz commanded his servants, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not insult her. 16 And also you shall purposely pull out for her some grain from the bundles and leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her.”
Boaz was extra generous with Ruth, going beyond the requirement of the law. He actually instructed his reapers to pretend to forget some sheaves along the way. It is a good example of love, which does not violate the law but exceeds its righteous standard.
Gleanings were given to the alien, orphan, and widow, who all had one thing in common. They had no covering, no kinsman redeemer. So God provided such covering Himself, showing us that if believers have no “covering” in a church, God becomes their covering. He takes their case when they cry unto Him (Exodus 22:23).
And so also, when David’s parents forsook him on account of Saul’s threat, God covered him directly. David wrote in Psalm 27:10,
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up.
As a spiritual orphan, David received special protection and training from God Himself. He was adopted into God’s household and thus became a “son of God.” When we see that all such “aliens, widows, and orphans” are adopted by God when they come into the Kingdom and join themselves to His covenant, we can begin to understand Isaiah 56:3-8, which speaks of aliens and eunuchs being given “a name better than that of sons and daughters.”
The law of gleanings is one of God’s ways of providing for those who are under His direct covering. Moses continues with another part of the same law in verses 20-22,
20 When you beat your olive tree, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not go over it again; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow. 22 And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing.
Once again, the law of gleanings is something that the Israelites ought to appreciate, having been aliens in the land of Egypt. Their treatment at the hands of the Egyptians was God’s lesson to them about how NOT to treat aliens—and by extension, widows and orphans as well.
Moses had already established the law of gleanings earlier, with an extra detail, as we read in Leviticus 19:9 and 10,
9 Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, neither shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God.
This gives us a few more instructions about gleanings. Not only were the reapers to leave any sheaf behind that they forgot, but they were also to leave the corners of their fields for the needy to reap. Likewise, in gleaning one’s vineyard, if they dropped some of the grapes, they were leave the droppings on the ground for the needy. This law is repeated in Leviticus 23:22, but with no further details.
The law gives us the basic teaching, but how do the prophets understand it? How is the law applied spiritually and prophetically? We find the answer in Micah 7, where the prophet laments over Israel because the law had been put away in favor of “the statutes of Omri.” Omri was one of Israel’s most powerful kings in its history, and he had instituted a new Law Code to replace the laws of God. So the prophet says in Micah 7:1 and 2,
1 Woe is me! For I am like the fruit pickers and the grape gatherers [olelah, “gleaners”]. There is not a cluster of grapes of eat, or a first-ripe fig which I crave. 2 The godly person has perished from the land, and there is no upright person among men. All of them lie in wait for bloodshed; each of them hunts the other with a net [haram, “devotion”].
To glean is alal, and a grape gleaner is olelah. The word is also used in Arabic to denote a second drink to quench the remaining thirst that one might have after his first long drink. In Scripture we find Balaam using the same word in Numbers 22:29, where he accused his donkey of insulting him. The NASB reads, “you have made a mockery of me!” In another place, Judges 19:25 speaks of the wicked men of Benjamin who took the Levite’s concubine, raped her and “abused” (insulted) her that night. The word “abused” is alal, “gleaned.”
So the idea behind the word is to go beyond one’s lawful authority, taking more than what God allows through greed or lust. So also Balaam accused his donkey of overstepping his bounds and behaving badly. This idea is also seen when we look at the spiritual meaning of the word itself. Alal is spelled עלל (ayin, lamed, lamed). The ayin means an “eye,” and signifies seeing or manifesting something. The lamed is an ox goad, a symbol of authority. The double lamed signifies that second drink, overstepping the bounds of authority. So the word alal signifies manifesting behavior which oversteps the bounds of lawful authority.
So the prophet Micah laments over the fact that Israel had replaced the law of God with the laws of Omri. He expresses it in terms of grape gleanings. It is likely that Omri had abolished the law of gleanings, which then left the needy without sufficient sustenance. “The godly man has perished from the land” can mean that no Israelites were following the law of God anymore; or it can mean that the poor and needy, who are “the godly” in this case, have died of starvation.
The revelation that I received on May 28, 1991 was the latter interpretation. The gleanings were given to the elect remnant, those under God’s direct covering, pictured as widows, orphans, and aliens. Spiritually speaking, the gleanings represented the elect. And so Micah was lamenting much as Elijah had done earlier, when he complained to God in 1 Kings 19:14, “the sons of Israel have forsaken Thy covenant, torn down Thine altars and killed Thy prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”
Of course, God then told him in verse 18 that there were yet 7,000 in Israel who were true worshipers. Paul tells us in Romans 11:5-7 that these were the “remnant of grace” who were also called “the elect.” Whereas Israel as a whole had been “called” by God to administer the blessings of Abraham to the nations of the world, in reality only the elect remnant was “chosen” and obtained that promise.
And so it was revealed to me in 1991 that the modern remnant was being called once again to obtain the promises and to do the work that Israel and the church had refused to do on account of their unbelief. I also received a divine commission to engage in spiritual warfare in the overall work of the Kingdom. My calling is unique, as is everyone’s calling, but this final work is not exclusive, for it involves the entire “remnant of grace.” Each person’s calling is specifically suited to the individual who is being called.
At any rate, I wrote about the 1991 revelation in chapter 9 of my book, The Wars of the Lord, which relates how God led me back into the ministry after spending ten years in my own “wilderness.” The calling was expressed as a gleanings work, which I understood to mean a work given to the remnant of grace in our day. I learned that these were the ones “devoted” to God. Hence, I learned the close relationship between the law of gleanings and the law of devotion.
The legal term, devotion, has a meaning that goes beyond mere commitment and focus. It is the Hebrew word haram, which denotes a special relationship, as a wife or the temple site, or anything “devoted” to God. The law of devotion is stated in Leviticus 27:28,
28 Nevertheless, anything which a man sets apart [haram, “devotes, consecrates”] to the Lord out of all that he has, of man or animal or of the fields of his own property, shall not be sold or redeemed. Anything devoted [haram] to destruction is most holy to the Lord.
Thus Jericho was “devoted” to God (Joshua 6:21), for the city was destroyed, in order to place all of its gold, silver, bronze, and iron into the treasury of the Lord (Joshua 6:24). In fact, all of the cities that Israel conquered were said to be “devoted” to God. Why, then, were those cities destroyed? Is it such a bad thing to be devoted or consecrated to God?
Devotion requires death, and if we are truly devoted to God, He works in us to kill the flesh. It is only by dying with Him that we are raised in newness of life (Romans 6:4). In fact, this is the difference between the average believer and the one who is devoted to Him. Those devoted to Him seem to be the most mistreated people of all. We all feel sorry for them, but Jesus says of them in John 10:28 and 29,
28 and I give aionian life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
This was the way Jesus expressed the law of devotion, for no devoted thing, once given to God, could be “sold or redeemed” from God’s ownership. In other words, they are not for sale at any price. When carnal things were devoted to God, He destroyed the flesh in them in order to consecrate them as a useful vessel in the house of God.
And so, we see that the law of gleanings speaks of a remnant, or portion of a field, vine, or tree that is devoted to God. The gleanings are identified with the remnant of grace, which God has claimed for Himself. For those gleanings to be useful to feed the poor and needy nations of the world, He has put that remnant through a vigorous training program in order to kill the flesh and set their spirit free to walk in a new way of life in accordance with the laws of the Kingdom. The gleanings company—the remnant of grace—are called to distribute the blessings of Abraham to all nations of the earth.
Those who have experienced the rigor of God’s training know how different it is from the way that other kinsman redeemers train those who are under them. Therefore, it is not surprising to see that those who are under the covering of men and of churches are not usually as well trained as those who are church orphans under God’s direct covering. Men are simply not equipped to train others in the divine manner. In fact, if they tried, they would be prosecuted for abuse.
I too have accused God many times of child abuse. I did not like my wilderness training from 1981-1991. But in looking back at it, I would not trade it for the world, because it has made me who I am and has made it possible for me to do the work that I am called to do. I learned that being devoted to God meant that my flesh was devoted to destruction. But I also learned that whoever the Father gives (devotes) to His Son can never be plucked from His hand.
Theologians have long argued over the idea of “eternal security,” based upon this passage and others like it. The saying is, “once saved, always saved.” But the verse is really rooted in the laws of devotion in Leviticus 27, which are also linked to the law of gleanings in Micah’s prophecy. All New Testament doctrine has its roots in the law of Moses and is explained further by the prophets. It is only when we view the Bible as a single book with a progressive revelation that we are able to understand New Testament doctrine in a lawful manner.
This is the tenth part of a series titled "Moses' Eighth Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones