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Bechukotai (In My Statutes)
Leviticus 26:3–27:34; Jeremiah 16:19–17:14; Luke 22:7–20
"3) If you live by MY regulations, observe MY mitzvot (commands) and obey them;
4) then I will provide the rain you need in its season, the land will yield its produce, and the trees in the field will yield their fruit. (Lev 26:3-4)
Last week in Parasha Behar, G_D instructed HIS Children to give the land a Sabbath rest in the seventh year. This Sabbatical year is called Shemitah (release). As well, G_D commanded that every 50th year also be a Shabbat year, the Yovel, commonly called the Year of Jubilee. Behar ends with G_D's directive to observe HIS Shabbats (Sabbaths) and reverence HIS Sanctuary.
This week's Parasha, Bechukotai, which is the last reading from the book of Leviticus, details the blessings of obedience and the curses of disobedience. G_D promises the People that they will be blessed, enjoying prosperity and security in the Land, if they keep HIS statutes (chukkot) and commandments (mitzvot).
He also warns that if they reject The Torah (HIS Living Word) and abandon HIS covenant, they will be cursed. This ominous exhortation is called the Tochacha (rebuke or reproof) and is one of two Torah portions in which such a warning is given. The other is Ki Tavo (Deut 26:1–29:8).
Walking in HIS Blessings:
Parasha Bechukotai begins with ten verses that describe the general blessings that reward obedience to G_D's commandments.
The first of G_D's promises is seasonable rain in the land, which will produce such an abundance of fruit that the time for threshing will extend until the time for sowing seed.
"then I will provide the rain you need in its season, the land will yield its produce, and the trees in the field will yield their fruit." (Lev 26:4)
The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us...
"For everything there is a season, a right time for every intention under Heaven" (Ecc 3:1)
One needs to look no further than a season of drought in their land to understand how it brings destruction rather than blessing. G_D's blessings are always delivered on time!
G_D also promises that if HIS People keep HIS Torah, then they will live in peace in their land, They will chase their enemies, who will fall before them:
"6) I will give shalom (peace, wholeness or completeness) in the land -you will lie down to sleep unafraid of anyone. I will rid the land of wild animals. The sword will not go through your land.
7) You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall before your sword." (Lev 26:6-7)
This comforting section of blessing concludes with G_D's promise of a reciprocal relationship with HIS People; HIS Children; those who are members of HIS Family. If they walk in HIS ways, HE will accept them as HIS. HE will put HIS Tabernacle among them and be found walking in their midst.
"11) I will put MY Tabernacle among you, and I will not reject you,
12) but I will walk among you and be your G_D, and you will be MY People." (Lev 26:11-12)
The blessings that result from obedience are framed by the metaphor of, "walking (halak) in HIS chukkot (divine decrees or statutes which defy reason, such as the law of the Red Heifer) and keeping (shamar) HIS mitzvot (commandments)."
The list of 13 blessings ends with a curious reminder that G_D set the Israelites free from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.
"I am ADONAI (The LORD) your G_D, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, so that you would not be their slaves. I have broken the bars of your yoke, so that you can walk upright." (Lev 26:13)
We understand from this verse that it is G_D who enabled the Israelites to walk uprightly by revealing HIMSELF to them and setting them free from slavery. It is only within this covenantal relationship that they could walk in HIS ways. These verbs "walking" and "keeping" in this Torah portion imply that blessing comes from deliberate action on our parts. Nevertheless, keeping HIS commandments is only possible because HE has set us free.
It is wonderful to claim the blessings of G_D; however, these promises are conditional upon our obedience. It is futile to walk in disobedience and still claim the blessings that result from our relationship with G_D.
Disobedience (sin) is a symptom of a broken relationship!
Disobedience, Curses, and Exile:
A 28-verse section detailing about 30 specific curses that result from disobedience follows the blessing section of this parasha. It is a list of ever-worsening consequences that will come upon G_D's people if they disobey HIS commandments. These passages are recited in the synagogue with fear and trembling:
"16) then I, for MY part, will do this to you:
I will bring terror upon you -wasting disease and chronic fever to dim your sight and sap your strength. You will sow your seed for nothing, because your enemies will eat the crops.
17) I will set MY face against you - your enemies will defeat you, those who hate you will hound you, and you will flee when no one is pursuing you." (Lev 26:16-17)
This Torah portion underlines the importance of giving the land its Shemitah year of rest by emphasizing that it would finally be able to rest when G_D exiled HIS people because of their disobedience.
"Then, at last, the land will be paid its Shabbats. As long as it lies desolate and you are in the lands of your enemies, the land will rest and be repaid its Shabbats." (Lev 26:34)
Indeed, G_D brought upon HIS people the worst punishment ever — exile from their own land. Although a remnant remained in the land, the Jewish People were scattered to the four corners of the earth where they have been persecuted in the nations.
"You I will disperse among the nations, and I will draw out the sword in pursuit after you; your land will be a desolation and your cities a wasteland." (Lev 26:33)
While the Jewish People remained in exile, the land itself received the rest that the people denied it when they inhabited it. Despite the excruciating description of severe punishments and terrible calamities that would come on Israel for her disobedience, G_D ends with a word of comfort and consolation:
"44) Yet, in spite of all that, I will not reject them when they are in the lands of their enemies, nor will I loathe them to the point of utterly destroying them and thus break MY covenant with them, because I am ADONAI their G_D.
45) Rather, for their sakes, I will remember the covenant of their ancestors whom I brought out of the land of Egypt -with the nations watching -so that I might be their G_D; I am ADONAI." (Lev 26:44-45)
G_D's love for HIS People is not based on the fickleness of human emotion; it is based on the bedrock of covenant. Although the covenant blessings promised to the Israelites when they left Egypt came with specific, "if / then" conditions, the Abrahamic Covenant upon which they were based was given without conditions.
For evidence of the reliability of The Scriptures and the faithfulness of G_D, we need to look no further than the establishment of the modern-day state of Israel, the restoration of the land to amazing fruitfulness, and the drawing of HIS People home to the Promised Land from the four corners of the globe.
Trusting in G_D:
"Here is what ADONAI says: "A curse on the person who trusts in humans, who relies on merely human strength, whose heart turns away from ADONAI." (Jer 17:5)
The prophetic portion of Bechukotai follows the theme of the blessings associated with walking with G_D in a covenantal relationship and the curses associated with walking away from HIM. In this portion, the prophet Jeremiah rebukes the people of Israel for idolatry and faithlessness, telling them that they will go into exile.
Alternatively, the Haftarah section ends with a note of anticipation when Jeremiah shows his trust in the Hope of Israel by praying,
"Heal me, ADONAI, and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved, for YOU are my praise." (Jer 17:14)
Elsewhere in Jeremiah, G_D promises through this Prophet a New Covenant (B'rit Hadashah), in which the law of G_D would be written on the heart.
"31) "Here, the days are coming," says ADONAI, "when I will make a New Covenant with the house of Isra'el and with the house of Y'hudah (Judah).
32) It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers on the day I took them by their hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt; because they, for their part, violated MY covenant, even though I, for MY part, was a husband to them," says ADONAI." (Jer 31:31-32)
This New Covenant was sealed in the blood of Y'shua, The Messiah when He died on the Roman execution stake. On the Pesach (Passover), less than a day before His death, Y'shua held up the Cup of Redemption and said,
"He did the same with the cup after the meal, saying, "This cup is the New Covenant, ratified by My blood, which is being poured out for you." (Lk 22:20)
Under the strength of this covenant, our sins are forgiven and remembered no more.
"I, yes I, am the one who blots out your offenses for MY own sake; I will not remember your sins." (Isa 43:25)
Does this new-found freedom in Messiah give us a license to sin, forsaking the standards set forth in G_D's law? The Jewish Rabbi Sha'ul (Apostle Paul) answers this question with a resounding chas v'chalilah! (G_D forbid!)
"1) So then, are we to say, "Let's keep on sinning, so that there can be more grace"?
2) Heaven forbid! How can we, who have died to sin, still live in it? " (Rom 6:1-2)
Sha'ul goes on to point out,
"For sin will not have authority over you; because you are not under legalism but under grace." (Rom 6:14)
The way of the Jews was to continually add walls around the statutes of G_D, making it "appear" to be harder and harder to sin. What these walls actually created was a system which made it harder and harder for anyone to draw near to G_D.
Sha'ul goes on to explain this by making this analogous to a marriage covenant.
"1 Surely you know, brothers - for I am speaking to those who understand Torah - that The Torah has authority over a person only so long as he lives?
2) For example, a married woman is bound by Torah to her husband while he is alive; but if the husband dies, she is released from the part of The Torah that deals with husbands.
3) Therefore, while the husband is alive, she will be called an adulteress if she marries another man; but if the husband dies, she is free from that part of The Torah; so that if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress.
4) Thus, my brothers, you have been made dead with regard to The Torah through The Messiah's body, so that you may belong to someone else, namely, The One who has been raised from the dead, in order for us to bear fruit for G_D.
5) For when we were living according to our old nature, the passions connected with sins worked through The Torah in our various parts, with the result that we bore fruit for death.
6) But now we have been released from this aspect of The Torah, because we have died to that which had us in its clutches, so that we are serving in the new way provided by The Spirit and not in the old way of outwardly following the letter of the law.
7) Therefore, what are we to say?
That The Torah is sinful? Heaven forbid!
Rather, the function of The Torah was that without it, I would not have known what sin is." (Rom 7:1-7a)
While Y'shua has paid the price for our sins and the resulting curse of the law, and we can abide in G_D's love through faith, the New Covenant in no way nullifies our call to walk in holiness. He has set us free from slavery to sin and we need no longer serve that evil master, suffering the curses of the law. Neither do we need to serve G_D in fear of punishment; rather, we are now free to enjoy the relationship promised in this Torah portion.
"HE walks among us, and we are HIS People who serve HIM out of love, devotion, and gratitude for all HE has done for us."
The Apostle Sha'ul wrote in the Book of Romans that there is nothing — absolutely nothing — which can separate us from the love of G_D which we find in Messiah, Y'shua.
Now that is truly the good news!
"38) For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers, neither what exists nor what is coming,
39) neither powers above nor powers below, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of G_D which comes to us through The Messiah Y'shua, our Lord." (Rom 8:38-39)
The question now before us is simply, "Will we; will you walk in Bechukotai; the statutes of G_D through the legalism of Judaism or in The Spirit of the B'rit Hadashah?
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