This week we have a double parasha, Behar and Bechukotai, these parashas cover Leviticus 25:1–27:34 and close the book of Leviticus. Our parashas for this week remind us of the importance of keeping our promises to the Lord.
We begin in Leviticus 25 which records the Sabbath year and the year of Jubilee. The Lord commanded that every seventh year would be a sabbath for the physical land of Israel. We were only to eat what naturally occurred from the land and not plant crops. The Lord promised to provide for us during the Sabbath year and to give us enough crops in the sixth year to survive. What the Lord told our people to do was not just an act of faith, it was also good farming. It is important to allow land to rest from being farmed to maintain proper nutrient levels and not exhaust the soil.
After seven sabbath years, 49 years, the 50th year was to be a special year, the year of Jubilee. During this year, all debts were to be cancelled, slaves were to be set free, and any land that had been sold was to be returned to the families that originally owned it.
Leviticus 26 lays out for us the rewards for following the Lord’s covenant and the punishments for disobeying. The Lord promises us a rich land and peace if we follow His commandments. We will find victory over our enemies and closeness with our Creator. But if we decide to sin and abandon the Lord, we will experience the opposite. There will be wars, diseases, and terror.
Unfortunately, the punishments in this chapter are much more specific than the blessings. There is an escalation of punishments in this chapter as we continue in our disobedience. First, there will be diseases for people and for the land. Our enemies will also defeat us. If we continue to defy Adonai, He promises to punish us seven times over. He also promises to break our pride and again the land will bear even less fruit. Should we continue breaking our covenant then the Lord will send wild animals against us and kill our children and animals.
If that is not enough then the Lord will bring us war and plague and we will be given over to our enemies as we starve in our cities. We are promised to then become cannibals, a horrifying image. Finally, the land will enjoy its sabbath years while we are exiled into the country of our enemies. Those who are left in the land will be so afraid that they will react fearfully to anything that happens and see imagined enemies.
Among these punishments we also have the promise of restoration. If after all these things we confess our sins and turn back to the Lord, He promises to restore us. We will be hurt in the land of our enemies but not destroyed completely.
Leviticus 27 ends the book of Leviticus with a discussion of vows. The Lord outlines how we are to redeem our firstborn and the importance of keeping the vows we make to Him. This chapter and Leviticus end with a final detailed discussion on how to properly keep vows involving property.
As we reflect on these parashas the importance of keeping promises is made crystal clear. We know from our people’s history that we never followed Adonai’s command for a year of Sabbath rest and a year of Jubilee. We violated our promise, our covenant with the Lord and experienced the punishments in these chapters during the first exile of our people. We experienced all these sufferings and more for our consistent and constant disobedience. As Adonai promised, the land of Israel finally enjoyed Sabbath rest after we were exiled from it.
But the Lord’s promises of restoration were also fulfilled as well. Just as He promised we were eventually restored to the Land of Israel after we repented, and the first exile of 70 years was completed. Worship was then restored to the Land and our people began to rebuild during the time of Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. It is clear to see that Lord is completely faithful to His promises, whether those are for reward or punishment. As we read in Numbers 23:19:
God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?
The Lord is an unchanging and unmoving Rock in a very flimsy world. We may be wounded for our sins, but He also heals us again. While we are very unfaithful, the Lord is completely faithful, and His faithfulness does not depend on us. Because of the Lord’s love for us we are not consumed. Even though we have sinned, He still sent us Messiah Yeshua to atone for our sins and provide a way to live forever with Him.
Our parashas remind us that following the Lord’s commands are not optional if we want to enjoy true peace and not suffer. The Lord has made the way to Him clear in our day through the New Covenant in Messiah Yeshua. Yeshua Himself said there was no other way besides Him. Just as our people had to repent and turn back to the Lord, so we today must do the same as well. We need to acknowledge our sins and turn to the Promised Messiah, Messiah Yeshua. Then our time in darkness will end and we will be on our way to the Lord’s eternal kingdom.
For those of us already part of Messiah’s Community these parashas are a reminder that the Lord is faithful, even when we are faithless. If we have strayed from the Lord, He invites us to return, but we should do so quickly. The more we persist in our stubbornness, the more suffering we will experience because of it.
May the Lord enable us to faithfully live our lives in accordance with His Will and not our own. May each one of us enjoy the rewards and not the punishments of the Lord. Finally, may each one of us turn from our rebellion against Adonai and experience the salvation and restoration found only in Messiah Yeshua.