Thursday, May 22, 2008

Parasha B'chukotai, Leviticus 26:3-27:34

This year we read B'chukotai (Lev. 26:3-27:34) all by itself, as it is a leap year. In regular years we read it along with last week's portion, B'har (Lev. 25:1-26:2). I was so excited as I read both of these portions, as it is simply amazing that we are seeing a prophecy from waaaay back in Leviticus come true before our very eyes! Allow me to explain...

In Leviticus 25:1-5, God commands the people to observe a sabbath for the land, a shmittah year. That means that every seven years, they are to allow the land to rest or lie fallow. Basically, it was a year "off" for everyone once every seven years. God taught them to stockpile their food throughout the other six years so that they have enough to eat not only for the sixth year, but also for the seventh and eighth years (remember, since they would not be planting on the seventh year, they would have to have enough to eat during the eighth year as well - see Lev. 25:20-22).

In Leviticus 26:14-16, God sets before the people blessings for obedience and punishments for disobedience. When you read "punishments," don't read it as God is an angry, vengeful being just sitting up there waiting to slap us when we go astray. He really is much more loving than that! Read it as a loving parent who only wants to teach his children the way of life, and to draw his children closer to himself. Here's one of those "punishments" from Lev. 26:31-33:

I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings. I will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled. I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins. Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it. (NIV)

Therefore, God was saying, "If you don't observe my teachings and way of life, I'm going to disperse you throughout the nations and allow the land to have it's sabbaths." And that is just what He did...evidence for the existence of God! Have the Jewish people not been scattered to the uttermost parts of the earth?

BUT, they were not cast away forever. As He says in Lev. 26:40-44:

But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers—their treachery against me and their hostility toward me, which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees. Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them.
I am the LORD their God.
So now God is saying that the Jewish people will be dispersed to all the other nations, and they will be humbled and repent to Him. He says that He will NEVER break His covenant with them. Interestingly enough, some in the Body of Messiah hold to view that God in fact did break covenant with them, and replaced them with the Church. However, if God did do that, then He does not keep His Word. This "Replacement Theology" is unBiblical, anti-God, and must be "replaced" itself with the Truth of the Word. This is a whole other topic for another day, but just as Sha'ul says in Romans 11 says, believers are not replacing the branches, but are grafted-in among them.
So far we have seen God's commandment to observe the sabbath year for the land, the punishment for disobedience, and God's promise to respond in the event of Israel's repentance. Jeremiah 31:1-5 gives us what happens next:
"At that time," declares the LORD, "I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they will be my people." This is what the LORD says: "The people who survive the sword will find favor in the desert; I will come to give rest to Israel."
The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel.
Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.
Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria;
the farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit.
There will be a day when watchmen cry out on the hills of Ephraim,
'Come, let us go up to Zion, to the LORD our God.' "
This is the really exciting part! God promised to bring the people back to the land...and He did exactly that, in our generations! The modern state of Israel is celebrating her 60th anniversary this year! As we watch God's plan unfold, we must remember that God ALWAYS keeps His Word. To me, the fact of Israel's existence is proof that God is. Without Him, there would be no Israel today. I've heard this story many times, but I love it:
One day in the late 19th Century, Queen Victoria of England reportedly
asked her Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, this question...
"Mr. Prime Minister, what evidence can you give me of the existence of God?"
Disraeli thought for a moment and then replied, "The Jew, your
So now that we have this knowledge, what do we do about it? I think that Isaiah 40:1-2 and 40:9-11 give us our answer:
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD's hand double for all her sins...
You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, "Here is your God!" See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
*All Scripture taken from the NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

**Graphic taken by my husband in Israel, May 2007.

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