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Rumination #31: Without the physical Land of Israel, there is no such thing as the New Covenant.

While it is certainly understandable for Replacement Theology (aka "Supercessionism", aka "Covenant Theology") to try and substitute the Land of Israel for the ethereal "heaven"; it is nonetheless as faulty as so many of their substitutions. The Scriptures are replete with the mention of the Land of Israel as central to the redemption plan of the Almighty. Like the entire inheritance of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, these notable (and ignoble) theologians, by negating the inheritance of the Land undercut their own theologies of redemption. They may have study Bibles that include their names in the titles… but they ignore its words, to their own demise.

Behold, the days are coming, says HaShem, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah...

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says HaShem: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their G-d, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, "Know HaShem," for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says HaShem. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.

Behold, the days are coming, says HaShem, that the city shall be built for HaShem - from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. The surveyor’s line shall again extend straight forward over the hill Gareb; then it shall turn toward Goath. And the whole valley of the dead bodies and of the ashes, and all the fields as far as the Brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east, shall be holy to HaShem. It shall not be plucked up or thrown down anymore forever.
Jeremiah 31:31; 33-34; 38-40

Then say to them, "Thus says HaShem G-d: 'Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land. ...Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children's children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever. Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their G-d, and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, HaShem, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.'"
Ezekiel 37:21; 25-28

It matters not whether you are a theologian with the name of "Ryrie" or "Sproul," or a politician with the name "Obama" or "Trump." If you seek to take the inheritance of the Land either theologically or through some dishonest "peace plan," you will fail. In the end, you are the ones that will be crushed by the Rock of Ages (Daniel 2:34-35). You've been warned: ...Do not touch My anointed ones... Psalms 105:13

Parashat Behar - 'On the Mount' (Leviticus 25:1-26:2)

Parashat Behar is named for a word in the first verse:

Vayedaber HaShem el-Moshe behar Sinai lemor:
Daber el-b'nei Yisrael v'amarta alehem ki tavou el-ha'aets asher ani noten lachem v'shavta ha'arets shabat laHaShem:


And HaShem spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the Land which I give you, then the Land shall keep a Sabbath to HaShem.'"

Leviticus 25:1-2

It seems like an odd thing that, right in the middle of these verses, we are told that HaShem spoke these words to Moses while he was on Mount Sinai. Remember beloved, no word is out of place. If it seems curious to you to mention Mount Sinai before describing events that would take place in the Land, you would not be alone. The Sages pondered this as well. There are various views, and we cannot be dogmatic about it, but think about this -  Moses had been to this mountain before. It was the place where he was called into service.

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of G-d.  And the Angel of HaShem appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, "I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn." So when HaShem saw that he turned aside to look, G-d called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground."
Exodus 3:1-5

Horeb, Sinai: the Mountain of G-d. His place. Holy ground [ad'mat kodesh; that is, ad'mat, from adamah, where we get the name "Adam"]. Interesting... dirt can be made holy. I wonder what does that? Is it the Presence of the Holy One, blessed is He?

These are the days of the Omer. We are counting from the day after the Shabbat of Unleavened Bread [i.e. First Fruits], for seven weeks, or forty-nine days. The goal of our counting will be to arrive at the day after our count is finished: day fifty. It is the Feast of Shavuot [lit. "Weeks," or "Pentecost"]. Remember, these days are about history and prophecy. The history is the history of our ancestors as they came out of Egypt and marched across the wilderness - their destination was Mount Sinai, the Mountain of G-d.

We are supposed to place ourselves into the historical account of our ancestors' escape from Egypt. Think about the third week since we left Egypt. This week our matza that we had prepared in haste in Egypt, ran out. We grumbled. Then we learned more about the One Who leads us by a pillar of cloud and fire - because this week we had manna for the first time. For six days our ancestors gathered manna, and then we learned that HaShem wanted us to rest for Shabbat. At this point in the counting of the Omer, our ancestors were only a few weeks away from arriving at Mount Sinai, the Mountain of G-d. On day forty-five of the Omer our ancestors saw the pillar of cloud come to rest on the top of the Mountain, and they camped at its foot. Read what happened on the forty-sixth day of the Omer:

And Moses went up to G-d, and HaShem called to him from the mountain...

Then HaShem said to Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day HaShem will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people."
Exodus 19:3a; 10-11

Of course, we know what happened "on the third day" - because that was the day we heard the Voice of our Beloved King for the first time. It was the Day that Changed Everything. Yes, He did descend onto the Mountain. It became His Sanctuary on earth. The Mountain became holy - because He was there. Mount Sinai was a dangerous place, because upon it rested a Holy G-d.

And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with G-d, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because HaShem descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And when the blast of the trumpet sounded long and became louder and louder, Moses spoke, and G-d answered him by voice. Then HaShem came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And HaShem called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up. And HaShem said to Moses, "Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at HaShem, and many of them perish."
Exodus 19:17-21

The Mountain was holy, because it had become the dwelling place of the Holy One of Israel, blessed is He. It was upon this Mountain that HaShem gave Moses the pattern for the Mish'kan [Tabernacle]. The Mish'kan was to serve as a portable version of the Mountain. The Mish'kan was built by HaShem's pattern so that He could dwell among us. The infinite and omnipresent Creator of the Universe dwelled among us. He was our King, and we were His people.

We have studied in this book of Leviticus the protocols of approaching the Holy One of Israel. We have learned of the ever-increasing levels of holiness from the edge of the camp inward through the people, through the gate of the Mish'kan and into the courtyard. From there only the priests could continue inward, and only the High Priest on only one day of the year, Yom Kippur. We have learned that all the camp had a level of holiness. All the camp was His dwelling place, because HaShem dwelt among us - He dwelt in the midst of us.

Parashat B'har is about being "in" or "on" the Mountain of G-d. The instructions found in this portion are about the Land of Israel, and the sh'mittah year. The sh'mittah was the seventh year in the cycle of years in the Land of Israel. It was something we were instructed to count once we went into the Land. The sh'mittah year was to be the year we left the ground fallow and gave the Land its Sabbath rest. In addition to that, were to count seven cycles of seven (does that sound familiar to you, oh Omer counter?). The seventh cycle of seven sh'mittah years was to be the yovel [Jubilee year]. The yovel was when the Land was returned to those who were originally given it as inheritance. It was the year of release. Slaves were to be set free! How odd that these instructions were given, we are told, "b'har" on the Mountain... What is that all about?

In this Scripture portion, HaShem tells them about the time when they would enter the Land:

The Land shall not be sold permanently, for the Land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me.
Leviticus 25:23

You shall not make idols for yourselves; neither a carved image nor a sacred pillar shall you rear up for yourselves; nor shall you set up an engraved stone in your land, to bow down to it; for I am HaShem your G-d. You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I am HaShem.
Leviticus 26:1-2

Remember the Mountain? Remember that it became the Sanctuary of the Living G-d? Remember the Mish'kan? Remember that it became the dwelling place of the Holy One Who longed to dwell among His people? Beloved, the Land was to be the site of the Camp of Israel. The Land was to be the site for His Mish'kan, and later for the Holy Temple. The Land was His Land. When He told Solomon that His Name would forever be in that Place, He truly made the Land into the Holy Land. It was, and is, His Land. All of it. No matter what anyone says.

During the reign of the kings of Israel, the people sinned against G-d and did not obey these instructions regarding the Sabbath rests for the Land. In so doing, they sinned against G-d's holiness. They murdered and did not follow G-d's instructions regarding murderers. In so doing, they sinned against the holiness of G-d, and the Land cried out. G-d drove our ancestors from the Land. Then He brought them back over four hundred years before the birth of Messiah. After 135 CE, He drove them out again into the nations. But they were still His people, and it was still His Land. All of it.

The time is coming when He will once again show that He is holy, and the Land is His. We see glimmers of it at times. Recently we celebrated the anniversary of the birth of the modern State of Israel, and we were reminded that the Land is His. Once again G-d's people dwell in the Land. Some, but not all, are keeping these instructions in the Torah. There are also some who divide this Land that G-d says is His. The President of the United States and his emissaries have not studied this week's Scripture portion. They take council with the enemies of G-d's people. They threaten and cajole them over the State of Israel's security. They think that their decrees and "suggestions" to Israel which compel them to "give up" parts of HaShem's Land to a people who worship a foreign god, is good foreign policy. It most certainly does not constituted godly wisdom. In fact, by doing this, they have placed themselves and all of the people of the United States at great risk - if you seek to divide the Land that belongs to HaShem, you can know that you are trampling on the very promises of the King of the Universe. Nothing is more frightful. In recent years, more and more  of the political leaders in Israel also are willing to give away the Land. Although promised as an inheritance, it is still HaShem's Land, it is not theirs to give.

Like the Mountain, He will one day thunder and descend upon the Land, and the U.S President, his Secretary of State, his Special Envoy to the Middle East, and Israeli politicians had better step aside. The Land is Holy. The Land is His. All of it.

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of HaShem's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.

Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of HaShem, to the house of the G-d of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths."

For out of Zion shall go forth the Torah, and the Word of HaShem from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of HaShem.
Isaiah 2:2-5

Come, let us go up to the Mountain of HaShem! He will teach us His ways!

Parashat Bechukotai - 'In My Statutes' (Leviticus 26:3-27:34)

This portion is named for a word in the first verse:

Im-bechukotai telechu v'et-mitsvotai tishm'ru va'asitem otam:
v'natati gishmeichem b'itam v'natna ha'arets y'vula v'ets hasade yiten piryo:

If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.

Leviticus 26:3-4

Parashat Bechukotai is the last parasha of the book of Leviticus, [VaYikra]. VaYikra is the heart of the Torah - it is the essence of the call of HaShem to His people. The word bechukotai ["in My statutes"] refers to the royal commands the King gives to His people that are not meant to be understood. This parasha provides the definition to the command, "Be Holy, for I am Holy" (Lev 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7; 20:26; 1Pet 1:15-16). This last portion from this wondrous book is powerful. It describes the seven consequences of disobedience.

While commentators are often quick to point to the "curses" in the Torah as the reason for Israel's dispersement into the nations, they rarely follow through on the rest of the story. Rightly, they often reveal that the consequences for disobedience as outlined in Leviticus 26 are national consequences for national disobedience. It is the end of the cycle that is often overlooked.

Before getting into the consequences for disobeying G-d's instructions, He presents us with the results for obedience: that He will dwell with us. Now say what you will about the "Law" - this is a pretty good thing in my mind. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the promise and fulfillment in Messiah: G-d dwelling with us (John 1:14). It was the purpose of the Mish'kan.

Here are the stages of disobedience:

1. Sickness, famine, and war (26:14-17).
2. Drought, destruction of the Temple [see RASHI] (26:18-20).
3. Wild beasts, and robbed of children (26:21-22).
4. Given into the hand of the enemy (26:23-26).
5. Starvation, eating the young (26:27-32).
6. Scattered among the nations (26:33-30).

If you read through these stages you will see a number keep coming up. Four times in this portion HaShem declares, "I will chastise you seven times for your sins." (26:18, 21, 24, 28). So, one might expect a seventh stage in disobedience. This is where the Replacement Theologian stops reading.

7. Repentance, Redemption, and Return (26:40-46).

Of course, the last stage is repeated in Deuteronomy and is a consistent theme in the Prophets. Paul was a Torah scholar, unlike our friends who are insistent that G-d is finished with Israel as a nation. Which is why he could faithfully declare in Romans 11:26, "And so all Israel will be saved..."

This week's portion has something of a warning for those who are great followers of Concept Religion.

Concept Religion works something like this: "G-d uses physical things and various commands to teach us concepts about faith. What matters is that we get the concepts. The method that G-d uses is not important. After all, G-d uses different things to teach different people."

We've talked about this before, beloved. Nothing could be further from the truth. While it is true that G-d uses object lessons to teach us about Him; we would be quite wrong if we thought that as long as we "get the concept" the actual object lesson is unimportant. A case in point is found in Leviticus 26:42-43, and the sabbatical (sh'mittah) year where the ground was to lay fallow. The sh'mittah does teach an important thing to us - it teaches us that all that comes from the land is in fact in G-d's hands. He is the one Who gives it, and if He promises enough in the sixth year to last until the sh'mittah is over, then we must trust Him.

Apparently Israel, much like some in modern Christendom, thought the concept was the whole idea. Like the young person who only hears half of the instructions and tells their elder, "Yeah, yeah, I've got it;" as they proceed to entirely miss the whole point of the instructions. Israel was wrong to think that only the concept mattered. For 490 years, Israel disobeyed G-d's instructions regarding the sh'mittah year - and G-d kept record. For each of those years that was missed (70 missed years), Israel was taken out of the Land, and was in exile in Babylon.

[The 70-year Babylonian exile was] to fulfill the word of HaShem by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.
2Chronicles 36:21

The actual command mattered, not merely the concept. Judah learned her lesson after the exile in Babylon. She abandoned her idols once and for all, and she began keeping the sh'mittah years each seven year cycle. Likewise, they understood that just as the sh'mittah is a practical thing that teaches a concept, so too they understood that the weekly Sabbath is a practical thing that teaches a concept.

Would that all the followers of Yeshua would likewise learn the lesson that Judah did regarding G-d's instructions. Following Yeshua's example is not something we should do in concept - but in actual practice. But tell me, do you practice Concept Religion?

This week we will conclude our reading of VaYikra [Leviticus] for this year's reading cycle. We conclude with the traditional call to one another upon completing a book of the Torah,

Chazak, Chazak, Venitchazeik!

[Be strong, be strong! And may we be strengthened!]

Haftarot Behar - 'On the mount' (Jeremiah 32:6-27)

Maybe you have noticed that many of our readings from the Prophets have contained rebukes for disobedience? You may have also noticed that in the midst of the rebukes, there is a persistent theme of HaShem's forgiveness and the reassurance of His promises. These half-portions from the Prophets do just that.

The haftarah reading for Behar draws on the Torah teaching from Torah portion B'har. It is connected because of the truth that the Land is Israel's eternal inheritance - not because of obedience, but because of HaShem's promises. In the midst of Jeremiah's rebuke of Israel and the insight that they were to be driven from the Land because of disobedience - G-d tells Jeremiah to buy a field. What field? Why, land that was allotted to his ancient ancestors? A very interesting correlation exists between the Land, Israel, and HaShem. Notice from parashat B'har:

The Land shall not be sold permanently, for the Land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me.
Leviticus 25:23

And from the haftarah for B'har:

You have brought Your people Israel out of the land of Egypt with signs and wonders, with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, and with great terror; You have given them this land, of which You swore to their fathers to give them - "a land flowing with milk and honey."
Jeremiah 32:21-22

So, which is it? Is the Land Israel's, or is it G-d's? Beloved, it is both. Israel and HaShem are inextricably linked by His covenant promises. The Land is of vital importance to the covenants of HaShem. Too bad those who claim a "covenant theology" have such little understanding of this truth. The Land matters more than any of us fully realize.

Even though the Land has been given as an eternal inheritance, our own sin can corrupt it. In our modern theologies we don't think about material objects or parcels of land being corrupted by sin. That is because our modern theologies know almost nothing about the Mish'kan [Tabernacle] and the system of worship that G-d inaugurated there. It is about HaShem dwelling in time and space amongst His people. And the Land is of vital importance to that - and obedience within the Land is commanded, lest the Land be corrupted.

Haftarot Bechukotai - 'In My statutes' (16:19-17:14)

Our portion from the Prophets is Bechukotai ["in My statutes"]. Remember, a chok [statute] is a Divine decree that is not easily explained. It does not make real sense. The statutes in mind are the ones from our last reading from Leviticus and have to do with allowing rest for the Land every seven years. Beloved, it is disobedience to these commands that led to Israel's seventy year captivity in Babylon.

"How odd," we may think, "why would G-d make such a big deal out of letting the Land lie fallow every seven years? There must be far worse sins that Israel committed." That would be incorrect. The Land matters. Our second half-portion from the Prophets this week again comes from Jeremiah and this time is tied to the consequences for disobeying G-d regarding the seven year rest for the Land. We read this at the end of 2Chronicles:

[The 70-year Babylonian exile was] to fulfill the word of HaShem by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.
2Chronicles 36:21

And from haftarat Bechukotai:

And you, even yourself, shall let go of your heritage which I gave you; and I will cause you to serve your enemies in the land which you do not know; for you have kindled a fire in My anger which shall burn forever.
Jeremiah 17:4

Ah, all hope is lost. Or is it? No beloved, always remember: when it appears that HaShem should give up on Israel, and when He would have abandoned any other people, He will never give up or abandon Israel. Ever.

What hope is there? A healing. A healing for the people. A healing for the Land. Redemption draws nigh, beloved.

From the last verse of haftarah Bechukotai:

Heal me, O HaShem, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for You are my praise.
Jeremiah 17:14

Prayer Focus for Behar - Second Blessing of Birkat Hamazon

The Birkat Hamazon prayer is the prayer we pray after eating. Depending on what is eaten, and what day of the week or month it is, there are four or more blessings in Birkat Hamazon. Although most believers practice the tradition of "praying before we eat" - it is only the blessing after eating that we are commanded to pray. In our home we follow the tradition of blessing the Almighty before we eat, and we traditionally fulfill the commandment of blessing Him after we eat by praying Birkat Hamazon.

The second blessing of Birkat Hamazon is the Blessing for the Land. This is where we formally thank HaShem for the Land of Israel, His own possession, given to us and all Israel as an inheritance.

We thank you, HaShem, our G-d, because You have given to our forefathers as a heritage a desirable, good and spacious land; because You removed us, HaShem our G-d, from the land of Egypt and You redeemed us from the house of bondage; for Your covenant which You sealed in our flesh; for Your Torah which You made known to us; for life, grace, and lovingkindness which You granted us; and for the provision of food with which You nourish and sustain us constantly, in every day, in every season, and in every hour.
-- ArtScroll translation

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