By My Regulations
"Remember the Land"
Bchuqotai brings the Book of Leviticus to completion. For ten portions, the Torah student has been learning about many aspects of the Levitical priesthood. This includes instructions about the various offerings, the establishment of the priesthood, the laws of purification, the Day of Atonement, various prohibitions about heathen customs, laws of holiness, and the appointed times of the Lord. Now, as the listing of instructions comes to a close, ch. 26 focuses our attention on the blessings of obedience versus the consequences of disobedience, and ch. 27 closes with details about voluntary contributions for the maintenance of the sanctuary. Among the things we are considering in our Torah portion for this week, one verse really jumped out at me:
[T]hen I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land (Leviticus 26:42).
While reflecting on Bchuqotai, the reality of Gods covenantal faithfulness to His chosen people kept coming to my mind. We are reminded that in spite of Israels frequent disobedience to God, He is still faithful to keep the promises He originally made with the Patriarchs. According to the Scriptures, He will fulfill His Word and bring these promises to their eventual fruition. But here in Bchuqotai, we find that Gods people too have some responsibility, and they too must act in order to receive of Gods blessings.
To Bless or To Curse
As Bchuqotai begins, Moses relays to the Israelites that if they obey the Lord, that He will bless and prosper them, saying:
If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit...Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people (Leviticus 26:3-4; 11-12).
The main benefit of obeying God is that the Israelites would experience Him dwelling and walking among them. The Lord would be Israels God, and Israel would be His special people. Obeying God is not something that people do out of some legalistic obligation or burden, but it is something that comes because of an intimate relationship one desires with the Creator. This does not mean obedience is optional, though. Moses must also speak Gods words about disobedience to the Israelites, which are fairly severe:
But if you do not obey Me and do not carry out all these commandments, if, instead, you reject My statutes, and if your soul abhors My ordinances so as not to carry out all My commandments, and so break My covenant, I, in turn, will do this to you: I will appoint over you a sudden terror, consumption and fever that will waste away the eyes and cause the soul to pine away; also, you will sow your seed uselessly, for your enemies will eat it up. I will set My face against you so that you will be struck down before your enemies; and those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee when no one is pursuing you. If also after these things you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. I will also break down your pride of power; I will also make your sky like iron and your earth like bronze. Your strength will be spent uselessly, for your land will not yield its produce and the trees of the land will not yield their fruit. If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins. I will let loose among you the beasts of the field, which will bereave you of your children and destroy your cattle and reduce your number so that your roads lie deserted. And if by these things you are not turned to Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with hostility against you; and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins. I will also bring upon you a sword which will execute vengeance for the covenant; and when you gather together into your cities, I will send pestilence among you, so that you shall be delivered into enemy hands. When I break your staff of bread, ten women will bake your bread in one oven, and they will bring back your bread in rationed amounts, so that you will eat and not be satisfied. Yet if in spite of this you do not obey Me, but act with hostility against Me, then I will act with wrathful hostility against you, and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins. Further, you will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters you will eat. I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap your remains on the remains of your idols, for My soul shall abhor you. I will lay waste your cities as well and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your soothing aromas. I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle in it will be appalled over it. You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste. Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies' land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it (Leviticus 26:14-35).
As you read this lengthy list of punishmentssome of which are quite grotesquethe gravity of disobeying God is very apparent. The Lord does not desire His people to disobey Him, yet each time Israel will refuse to obey Him, the severity of the punishment against them will increase. First comes illness, followed by defeat from the enemies of Israel. Next, a famine ravages the Land. Then, wild beasts are sent to devour children and livestock. A siege comes from a foreign power that imposes incredible hardship on Israel, including people eating their own children. Finally, when obedience is not achieved, God will scatter or exile Israel among the nations.
What is interesting to note is that during this listing of punishments for disobedienceno less than four timesMoses is instructed to communicate that the judgments will be seven times more (Leviticus 26:18; 21, 24, 28) for the sins. God serves as a Judge issuing the sentence for breaking a law. In His justice system regarding the proper treatment of the Promised Land, a seven-fold payment is required to satisfy severe sins of disobedience. This section concludes with a reminder to Ancient Israel about the requirement for Sabbath rests to the Land.
When reading through this, you can see how the Lord is very interested in the Promised Land receiving its Sabbath rest. One way or another, He is going to make sure that His Land has its rest. Then, while the Land is enjoying its Sabbath rest, His people will be separated from it in exile:
As for those of you who may be left, I will also bring weakness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. And the sound of a driven leaf will chase them, and even when no one is pursuing they will flee as though from the sword, and they will fall. They will therefore stumble over each other as if running from the sword, although no one is pursuing; and you will have no strength to stand up before your enemies. But you will perish among the nations, and your enemies' land will consume you. So those of you who may be left will rot away because of their iniquity in the lands of your enemies; and also because of the iniquities of their forefathers they will rot away with them (Leviticus 26:36-39).
Remember the Land
As you read further on in our parashah, you see how the covenant-keeping God of Israel is prophetically declaring His plan to restore His exiled people to the Promised Land after it experiences its years of Sabbath rest. But it is not enough for the Promised Land to just lay fallow for a period of time, as there are some requirements His exiled people will have to demonstrate. In order for them to be returned to the Promised Land, the Lord requires His scattered people to confess and repent of the sins that exiled them out of it in the first place:
If they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their forefathers, in their unfaithfulness which they committed against Me, and also in their acting with hostility against MeI also was acting with hostility against them, to bring them into the land of their enemiesor if their uncircumcised heart becomes humbled so that they then make amends for their iniquity, then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land. For the land will be abandoned by them, and will make up for its sabbaths while it is made desolate without them. They, meanwhile, will be making amends for their iniquity, because they rejected My ordinances and their soul abhorred My statutes. Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God. But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God. I am the LORD (Leviticus 26:40-45).
Gods exiled people are required to acknowledge the wrong that they have committed before Him (Leviticus 26:40). They must recognize how their transgressions have kept them from a right relationship before Him. Israel must acknowledge that its ancestors committed evil and acted with hostility against God, and desire corporate forgiveness and restoration.
The Lord does acknowledge that as Israel repents of its sin, I walked contrary to them and brought them into the land of their enemies (Leviticus 26:41, RSV). This qeri, or opposition, contrariness (BDB), was required because the severe sins of Israel had to be judgedalthough we do not see any implication here that God wanted to judge His people. Quite contrary to this, Moses communicates how the Lord will remember His covenants with the Patriarchs, and that He will remember His covenant with the Land (Leviticus 26:42). Then, the blessings of remembrance and the mercy and faithfulness of Him toward His people can again be bestowed (Leviticus 26:43-45).
After the Promised Land has had its Sabbath rests, the Lord will restore it to Israel. God says He will not reject, abhor, or destroy Israel for breaking the covenants with Him (Leviticus 26:44). Instead, this great restoration will be done leinei hagoyim or before the eyes of the nations (Leviticus 26:45, YLT), as a great testimony of His faithfulness to those who are repentant.
The Promised Land Today
It is interesting to see how the words of Bchuqotai do not just compose some kind of farfetched idealismbut they involve prophecies being fulfilled in our day. In the past century, the Land of Israel went from being largely desolate and underdeveloped, to now being a place of great agricultural and economic prosperity. Via the advent of the Zionist movement, and many Jews wanting to return home to the Promised Land, we can certainly consider how much (or at least some) of their attention was directed to words like Leviticus 26:35-38 in wanting to once again have a safe Jewish homeland.
Throughout Jewish history we see how many lived in the lands of their enemies, or at least those of people who were not always neighborly to them. There was often very little strength to stand up to the authorities, and Jewish communities were frequently harassed, restricted, regulated, and subjected to various degrees of persecution. Is it possible that after all of the persecutions, pogroms, inquisitions, and the Holocaustsome of the inheritors of Gods promises began to confess their sins and the iniquities of their ancestors? It appears that in Gods mercy toward His people, He heard their pleas and responded by making a way to restore them to the Promised Land. The creation of the modern-day State of Israel in the Middle East is a great testimony to God honoring His word to remember the land (Leviticus 26:42). Today, the Jewish people have their own state and homeland, that is a regional power quite capable of defending itself, and has great respect in the eyes of many nations.
Much more regarding Israel, of course, may be said to be transpiring. Today in the Messianic movement, not only have we witnessed thousands upon thousands of Jewish people come to faith in Messiah Yeshuabut also a great number of evangelical Believers embrace their Hebraic Roots and consider the value of following Gods Torah. God is bringing His people together in a unique way.
The emerging Messianic community we see forming in our generation has a way to go, involving a great deal of Bible study and consideration for the mission that the Father wants us to perform. I think people are beginning to see that as important as the formation of the State of Israel has been, there is much more on Gods agenda that needs to be accomplished. He will remember the Promised Land. But in order for any of us, whether we be Jewish Believers who can become Israeli citizens, or non-Jewish Believers who become part of the Messianic movementthe key is that we confess and repent of our sins. Only by acknowledging that we have committed things abominable and unacceptable in the eyes of our Creator, can we be restored to His purpose. Individual redemption must precede corporate redemption.
Have you offered the necessary prayers of confession? Only when we have all done this, can all of the great promises, the Father has issued regarding His Land, come to pass! Only then can Yeshua the Messiah return to take up His throne from Jerusalem.
For even more prophetic details, read the curses of Deuteronomy 28.
Outreach Israel Ministries
P.O. Box 516
McKinney, TX 75070