In Israel, this week’s parashah is Bechukotai, Leviticus 26:3 – 27:34.1 Bechukotai (in my statutes) opens with a discourse on the benefits of keeping or observing HaShem’s statutes (mitzvot) followed by the natural consequences of disobedience to HaShem’s mitzvot. The ultimate consequence is exile from the land promised to the patriarchs, Avraham, Yitzchak & Yaakov.
However, the exile was never to be a permanent situation.
“Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I hate them into utter destruction, and break My covenant with them, for I am ADONAI their God. But for their sake, I will remember the covenant of 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 ADONAI.” (Leviticus 26:44-45)
Disobedience to the mitzvot of HaShem has consequences, for sure, but also has good results just as with HaShem’s discipline described in Hebrews,
“Now all discipline seems painful at the moment—not joyful. But later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)
However, a tricky phrase appears here, “at the moment” Discipline is not permanent or forever. It addresses a specific issue. While it may seem like forever to us while we are experiencing HaShem’s discipline or the consequences of disobedience to the mitzvoth, we need to remember Peter’s words to the Yeshua-believing communities in the Diaspora,
But don’t forget this one thing, loved ones, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some consider slowness. Rather, He is being patient toward you—not wanting anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9)
Just as surely as disobedience will bring discipline, so too restoration and blessing will eventually follow.
This week’s Haftarah, Jeremiah 16:19 – 17:14 begins with the declaration that even in exile, “Adonai, my strength, my stronghold, my refuge in the day of affliction…” (16:19) and ends with Jeremiah’s impassioned plea on behalf of himself and all of Israel, “Heal me, ADONAI, and I will be healed. Save me, and I will be saved. For You are my praise”(17:14). Discipline will surely come for the chosen of HaShem, just as a loving father chastises his children (Hebrews 12:6), but in the said discipline, there is always hope, comfort, and healing – even if it is difficult to experience at times.
One of the suggested readings from the Apostolic Writings, John 14:15-21, stresses the positive aspects of obedience without nullifying the natural consequences that come from disobedience. Yeshua told His disciples, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (14:15). In the closing verse of this passage, we hear Yeshua repeat the obedience imperative, “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me” (14:21a). This reminds us of the beginning of Bechukotai as HaShem declared, “If you walk in My statutes, keep My mitzvot and carry them out…” (Leviticus 26:3) which is followed by ten verses of blessings that come as a result of obedience. It stands to reason then, that if obedience brings the blessings of HaShem, then disobedience brings consequences but not abandonment. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l reminds us, “The choice – God is saying – is in your hands. You are free to do what you choose. But actions have consequences.”2 The idea of choice leads us to Deuteronomy and then a passage in Romans that indicates that the ability to obey HaShem’s commands is quite doable.
...this mitzvah that I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it far off. … No, the word is very near to you—in your mouth and in your heart, to do it. (Deuteronomy 30:11 & 14)
“But the righteousness based on faith speaks in this way … “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” – that is, the word of faith that we are proclaiming” (Romans 10:6 & 8).
Just in case the need to obey the commands of HaShem is not clear, consider this statement from James,
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22, NIV3)
Obedience is not hard, but it is a choice and with practice, it can become habitual. When being faithful in obedience the blessings will flow as promised by HaShem. Therefore, just as the old Nike commercial says, Just Do It and thereby walk in the blessings of Hashem.
Shabbat shalom u’mevorach!
1 All Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.
3 New International Version, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.