I know. The title of this post conjures a rather ugly image, but I think if you study Leviticus 18:21-28, you will understand its meaning. Actually, I've read this passage many times over the years, but never quite noticed the wording Moses (quoting the Lord) uses here regarding the land. Though God Himself is the one in charge, whose laws have been violated, the metaphor of land vomiting out its inhabitants makes quite the word picture, does it not? In my mind's eye, I see volcanoes erupting with hot lava, or sink holes devouring whole buildings. I imagine earthquakes that topple reinforced structures, creating tsunamis that can totally devastate anything along the shore. I see fissures and land shifts and cracks that won't hold water. Or mud slides that destroy everything in their path. (And these things have happened throughout history, not just in our current day. The city of Pompeii, buried under volcanic ash comes to mind.)
In Genesis, God told Cain (after he killed his brother Abel) that the voice of Abel's blood cried out to Him from the ground. (Again, a possible metaphor, and yet a pretty powerful one. Did the land groan because of Abel's blood?)
Again in Romans 8, Paul says, "that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption...For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now."
And I wonder if the earth itself was created in such a way that it can only take so much before even it grows weary of its bondage. Does the land recall its perfection in Eden, when creation was pure and new?
What does it look like when the earth groans? Human vomit is pretty gross. What does it look like for the land to vomit out its inhabitants because they have gone too far?
God most likely used this phrase as a metaphor of judgment on the peoples that once inhabited the Promised Land. He also warned Israel that the same could happen to them if they didn't keep His laws and righteous decrees. They were not exempt because of their heritage. None of us are.
Sometimes it is hard to understand God's judgment and justice portrayed in the Old Testament and promised in the future of Revelation. We want to hear about God's love and mercy and kindness, which makes Him much more likable to our way of thinking. It makes excusing our own sinfulness, mistakes, poor choices, falling short, however we word it, easier. No one likes the idea of judgment for sin. Especially our own.
But even the land we stand upon would disagree. How much blood can it absorb before it says enough? I never thought of sexual sin or covetousness or murder as something that could make the earth sick. But can it?
Do sin's consequences extend even to the very dirt upon which we stand?