Parsha: Bechukotai (Leviticus 26:3 – 27:34)
The Big “IF…”
B’chukotai בְּחֻקֹּתַי (“In My Statutes”) Leviticus 26:3-27:34
How many times have you heard it said that God’s love is unconditional? Maybe you’ve said it yourself. Now if what you mean by that is that God loves all people and that His love doesn’t depend on our behaving ourselves, and that those who reject Messiah will nevertheless go to eternal judgment, then I concur. But while His love may be ‘unconditional’ His favor is decidedly conditional.
The Torah portion for this Shabbat is called B’chukotai, meaning “In My statutes”. If it were up to me, I would call this section HaIM HaGadol – “The Big IF” and I’ll explain why as we go through it. The passage is Vayyikra (Leviticus) 26:3 through 27:34 which brings us to the end of this book.
God says to Israel: “IF you will walk in My statutes and my commandments, to observe and to do them… THEN…”
In response to Israel’s obedience, the list of what God will do is marvelous. He will give our people rain seasonally and proportionally such that every year we’ll see a bumper crop. From sowing time to harvesting and from planting time to gathering, abundance will be the rule. One crop will overtake another and the same will be true for the fruit of the land. God further promised that He would give us secure borders, peace in the land, victory over our enemies and, most blessedly of all, He would delight to dwell in our midst and be our God.
But it’s all conditioned by that one word: (“IF”).
In response, however, to our disobedience, Adonai forewarns the appalling circumstances that will overtake us. Instead of feasting we’ll have famine. Invasion and defeat before our enemies will be our lot. Our once beautiful land would be laid waste, and we would go into exile. Our rebellion against God would even lead us to starvation and cannibalism! The passage also says that we would become completely paranoid – fearful for no cause, superstitious, running away when no one is chasing us. Verse 36 says The sound of a driven leaf will chase them. What a lamentable condition.
But that too is conditioned by the big (“IF”).
The Haftarah reading (Jeremiah 16-17) accompanying this section of the Torah, draws a similar dichotomy: Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes… Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness…
The focus of chapter 27 concerns assigning fair value to the things a person might dedicate to the Lord, as well as the tithe of our income, and the great importance of following through on the vows that we make.
You and I have the benefit of hindsight. Everything described in Leviticus 26 came to pass, just as God, speaking through Moses, foretold. Likewise, the Prophets gave the same warning which, sadly, went unheeded. Yet this same passage, which cautions of the dreadful consequences of despising God’s Covenant, also promises that if our people would humble ourselves, confess our sins and return to Him, God would remember us, remember His Covenant, and bring us back to the Land and restore our prosperity. Those who teach Replacement Theology – the idea that the Church has replaced Israel and that God is finished with the Jewish people, seem to have ignored that provision of the Covenant. Ironically, they ascribe to what is called covenant theology. I think they need to go back and review this Covenant!
Let me close with this: There’s something here we need to take to heart and Yeshua Himself affirmed it: there are absolutes – as much in the spiritual realm as in the physical realm. We are called to declare our loyalty one way or the other. God’s Kingdom is not for the indecisive. We must not deceive ourselves into thinking there’s a comfortable middle when it comes to Yeshua – God’s promised Messiah. It was a hard line Yeshua drew in the Galilean sand, when He said, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters” (Luke 11:23).
The Scriptures speak of an ongoing cosmic war. There is no question about who will win the war. The only question is where individual human beings will find themselves when the dust settles. Blessings and curses follow your decisions, and if you would have blessings, you must choose Yeshua, which is the essence of obedience to God’s New Covenant.
Note: Each Torah portion is named from the first word or first few words of the portion of scripture. This portion is called Bechukotai בְּחֻקֹּתַי. Other transliterations: Bechukotai, Bechukosai, or B’hukkothai