From: Messianic Bible
Sent: Saturday, May 19, 2012 1:22 PM
People use a yad (Torah pointer) while reading from the Torah to prevent losing their place.
Welcome to this week’s Torah study, Behar-Bechukotai (On the Mount-By
My Decrees), two Torah readings that are combined to accommodate the
number of Sabbaths in this calendar year.
Please read along with us, and enrich your understanding of the Bible by
discovering Torah truths in this portion of Scripture that will be read in
synagogues around the world this Shabbat (Saturday).
PARSHA BEHAR (On the Mount)-BECHUKOTAI (By My Decrees)
Leviticus 25:1–27:34; Jeremiah 16:19–17:14; Matthew 21:33–46
Last week’s Parsha (Emor) emphasized that the Cohen (priests) are called to
a greater measure of holiness. It also described seven essential festivals
that are fundamental to Israel’s walk with the Lord.
Orthodox Jews praying at the Western (Wailing) Wall in Jerusalem
“For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and
gather their crops. But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of
sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord.” (Leviticus 25: 3–4)
This week, Parsha Behar-Bechukotai outlines a Sabbath rest for the Land
in the seventh year. This Sabbatical year, which God gives to Moses for Israel,
is called Shemitah (release).
Every seven years, the Land wasn’t to be worked in any kind of way. It
wasn’t planted, pruned, or harvested.
Young Jewish Israeli girls in Jerusalem
You may wonder how the people ate. Although they couldn’t reap or sow,
whatever the land yielded could be eaten (Leviticus 25:7). While the land lay
fallow, fruits growing of their own accord could be eaten by anyone.
And though this may seem like something of a fast, it was actually more of
a feast since God promised that in the sixth year of the seven-year cycle, the
land would yield enough food to last for three years.
“I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield
enough for three years.” (Leviticus 25: 21)
This abundance of crop in the sixth year very much resembles the double
portion of manna (the miraculous food found on the ground each morning in
the wilderness) that God provided on Friday so that the People would have
enough for Shabbat.
Gathering of the Manna
Seven Times Seven Sabbatical Years
“Count off seven sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven
sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years.” (Leviticus 25:8)
Seven is a significant number in the Bible. It symbolizes wholeness,
completeness and rest.
This pattern of seven has been evident since God created the world.
After He was finished creating, He set apart the seventh day and rested. The
Jewish People are commanded to commemorate this by resting on this
seventh day as well.
Similarly, God further commanded the Israelites to allow the land to
rest every seven years.
The Year of Jubilee
“Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all
its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee [yovel-horn blast] for you; each of you
is to return to your family property and to your own clan.” (Leviticus 25:10)
In the 50th year, on the tenth day of the seventh month, which is Yom Kippur
(the Day of Atonement), the shofar was to be sounded, announcing the Year
This year was sanctified, set apart, and holy (kadosh) to the Lord, much the
same as the Shabbat and the Shemitah Year.
The laws of the Shemitah applied during the Year of Jubilee.
This Jewish man, who has his head covered with his prayer shawl (tallit), is
blowing the shofar (ram’s horn) on Yom Kippur.
Additionally, slaves were to go free, people were to be released from debts
and mortgages, and lands outside wall cities were to revert to the original
owner, even if that owner had sold the property because of misfortune or poverty.
“The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you
reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” (Leviticus 25: 23)
Ultimately, both the land and the people belong to God, and He instituted
a just system, which if kept according to His commands, prevented land and
wealth from accumulating in the hands of a rich few, while the majority
languished in poverty.
In God’s system, everyone can and should live a blessed life.
A street market in the non-Jewish quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City
The Rewards for Obedience to God’s Commands
“If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send
you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees their
fruit.” (Leviticus 26: 3–4)
In the Parsha Bechukotai portion of today’s reading, which completes the
Book of Leviticus, God promises to reward Israel for obedience.
Those promises include the following (Leviticus 26: 3– 3):
• Rain in its season;
• An abundant, fruitful cycle of planting, harvesting and threshing;
• Safety and peace;
• Security from threat of wild beasts and military aggression;
• Victory over enemies;
• The presence of God’s dwelling place; and
• Freedom from bondage.
The teeming fruit stalls in this open-air market in
Jerusalem are evidence of God’s blessing upon Israel,
since the Holy Land lay desolate for so many years.
Consequences of Disobedience
“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.” (Leviticus 26:34 –35)
Scripture makes it plain that if Israel refused to give the land its required
rest during the seventh year, the land would fall desolate, and the Jewish
People would be scattered to the nations to make up for the years that it
was denied rest.
Disobedience also brought about other consequences, as well. Those
consequences include military defeat, lack of rain, failed crops, disease,
fever, plague and terror.
Israeli agriculture: God commanded Moses that the fields were to lay fallow
every seven years in Israel.
Today, terrorism is such a concern everywhere in the world, but especially
here in Israel. And yet, the reality is that God promises to keep us safe from
terror if we will obey Him.
“If you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, and if you
reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands
and so violate my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will bring on you
sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and sap
your strength.” (Leviticus 26: 14 –15)
“IF” is a tiny word with enormous ramifications.
If we listen to the Lord and keep His commandments, then we don’t need to
fear terrorism, plagues or any evil thing. God will keep us safely under the
shelter of His wings (Psalm 17:8).
“Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is
kept safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the
Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1)
Many animals and birds fiercely protect their young. Here we see one
sheltering a chick under her wing. God is also fiercely protective of His
people, and He shelters those who trust in Him!
Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People?
“Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he
is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8)
Suffering is not always brought about by God’s judgment, so we must be
careful not to fall into simplistic thinking.
Take, for instance, the example of Job. Although he was a righteous man, he
suffered the loss of family, finances and health.
His friends were convinced that he was guilty of secret sin and was therefore,
responsible for the suffering that came upon him. Job denied this, and God
eventually vindicated him.
Job’s suffering actually came about because he was righteous. God
blessed him because of that righteousness, and Satan targeted his blessings
thinking that they were the very reasons Job served God.
But even with everything stripped away from him, he still served God.
Job linked his suffering to fear, which perhaps indicates Satan’s root of access.
“What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.”
An open scroll of Job on display in a museum
Sometimes the reasons behind a person’s suffering are surprising.
In John 9, Yeshua’s (Jesus) came upon a man who had been blind since birth,
and his disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that
he was born blind?” (John 9:1)
Yeshua said that neither were the cause. The man’s blindness was not due to
anyone’s sin. The purpose of the blindness was to reveal the glory of God!
“This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”
If we jump to conclusions about the source of someone’s suffering, we risk
losing an opportunity both to pray for that person, and to see the glory of
God manifested before our very eyes.
Israel Defense Forces soldiers welcome a child in their midst.
God’s Faithfulness is Unconditional
“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.” (Leviticus 26:44)
Although God’s rewards for obedience may be conditional, His covenant
with Israel is most definitely unconditional.
Even when the people of Israel suffered because of their sin in the nations
where they were persecuted, tortured, and killed, God did not reject them.
Neither did He destroy His people completely, nor forget His covenant with Israel.
We can look at the example of Israel and gain wisdom for our own
personal lives and for future generations.
There are so many areas where we might actually be disobedient and therefore,
not experiencing everything God has for us; for example, harboring anger,
unforgiveness, hatred or anti-Semitism, and ignoring the plight of the poor may
be robbing us of the blessing.
Lifting the Torah (Hagbah): It is considered an honor to lift the Torah so that
the entire congregation can see it.
In this Parsha, the Book of Leviticus ends with an important source of
divine blessing—to give the ma’aser (tithe), which is holy, to the Lord.
“A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from
the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.” (Leviticus 27: 30,
see also Numbers 18: 21–26)
Failing to contribute financially to the Kingdom of God can have
undesirable consequences in our lives.
We must never forget that everything we possess belongs to the Lord, and that
we honor him by giving a portion back to Him. This includes a variety of
giving, including charity (Deuteronomy 26: 12).
May we be found good stewards and faithful servants of the Lord, and enjoy
the blessings of this Shabbat!
Shabbat shalom from our ministry team!
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