Developing the Theme of Family through the Torah Portions. Number Thirty-Three.

Dr Clifford Denton.

B’chukotai: Leviticus 26:3-27:34.

1st June 2024/24 Iyyar.

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)

Picture by Helen McNeill

Chapter 26 of Leviticus contains the promises and warnings to Israel that are repeated in Deuteronomy 28.There can be no difficulty in understanding the wonderful blessings of obeying God’s commandments, and the complete opposite: the curses that would result from disobedience to God’s requirements.

We have, with this portion of Scripture, completed our week-by-week study of the first three of the five books of Torah, so we have meditated on much of the foundation on which the nation of Israel was to be built if they were to be prosperous. There is nothing in what we have read that is too difficult, it would seem, yet the history of Israel over the centuries demonstrates two things. One is that God meant what He said. The other is that the application of God’s teaching is harder than it appears on face value.

The teaching of the New Covenant continues to cause us to reflect on this tendency of mankind to disobey God and, consequently, the need for God’s help. That help was and is in the sacrifice of Yeshua and the giving of the Holy Spirit as our teacher.

Israel, in their call to walk with God in a Hebraic lifestyle, had always before them two futures, one that would be blessed and one that would be under a curse. Their everyday life determined which future they experienced. This applies to all mankind in a deeper sense: there is the walk with God that leads to eternity with Him, and that which leads to a lost eternity.

If we consider the Torah, as we have done in our studies this year, we can make the case that family life was the foundation on which the nation was built. Individuals were accountable to God, just as we are,and the family was where study of Torah was centred, so that the nation benefitted when family life was strong.

There are parallels for us. For example, over the coming week across our nation, there will be a remembrance of 80 years since the great invasion of Europe by the Allies that took place on D-day, June 6th 1944, a day which began the final year of the Second World War.

At roughly the same time of year four years prior to D-day, between 26th May and 4th June 1940, Britain was in retreat from Nazi Germany yet miraculously, 215,000 British and 123,000 French troops were evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk. We were on the brink of defeat as a nation. Four years later the war had turned from defence to deliverance.

In Operation Overlord, the code-name of the D-day landings, 156,000 allied soldiers were landed on the beaches of Normandy and within a few days approximately 326,000 troops, more than 50,000 vehicles and some 100,000 tons of equipment had landed in occupied France. By August 1944, all of northern France had been liberated. The defeat of the Nazis in Europe eventually involved millions of men and hundreds of thousands of vehicles and supplies of all kinds. By spring of 1945, the Allies had gained a total victory.

Was that entirely due to the strength of our armies?

In preceding generations, the laws (torah) of God were so embedded in British law and society that family life was much stronger than it is today, and the protection of God was on our nation. Throughout the war men and women sought the God of Israel in prayer and we came out of the second major world war victorious.

D-Day was preceded by a national and international call to prayer led by King George 6th, and so, likewise, was the retreat from Dunkirk. God brought help to Britain and its allies at these times and at other pivotal points in the war – and at other turning points of our national history over many centuries.

At the same time of year as Dunkirk and D-Day, on June 2nd 1953, a new Queen came to the throne with a wonderful promise that to the utmost of her power she would maintain the laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel in our nation. This was only eight years after World War 2 ended and at a time when we needed God’s continuing help to rebuild the nation.

However, despite all that God has done for us in protecting our nation over many years, we have fallen away from keeping His laws in the generation since the Queen’s promise was made. One of the central institutions where we have come out of God’s protection is the family. The protection that was once clearly evident in our nation has been removed in a large measure.

We can survey the history of the nation of Israel and chart its rise and fall exactly in accord with the promised blessing and cursing of Leviticus 26. When the nation sought to follow the ways of God, a period of protection was given. When the nation turned away from God, the nation suffered under the removal of protection and brought the curse upon itself.

We are meant to learn from this. We need to search the Scriptures to see if there are promises for any Gentile nation such as were given to Israel. They are some, such as, Proverbs 14:34, Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. Such promises apply directly Israel but give hope, and also warning, to every other nation.

What does this mean for us and our family in our day? First, we are wise to study what God said to Israel and understand that they were not empty words. Secondly, we must realise that the general drift in the world today, including in our own nation, is away from God.

For us as well as for Israel, righteous living begins in our homes.

However, even if the nation as a whole is drifting from God, we can still find God’s protection for our own family as we study and pray together, seeking out the relevance of Torah in our personal lives. If it were possible, the nation could be rebuilt again under the laws of God. If not, we and our families must still remain strong within the believing community, set apart for God’s purposes in our own life and that of our family, in our day.

(Note on Helen’s picture. Her consideration of promised blessings for obedience extended a metaphor of a plentiful supply of food to an ingathering of people dedicated to the Lord. She writes: This seems to be saying, when Israel follows and walks in the ways of God, they not only receive an abundance of blessings themselves, but they also open the doorway for others to find God – they become fishers of men. Not only does Israel enjoy the increase of all the Covenant blessings, but they are moved to expand the Kingdom of God to gather others into a Covenant relationship with God. This is coming into alignment with what is on God’s heart – to continue to redeem and expand His righteous and holy Kingdom on earth – until it is filled with sheaves of wheat! 

In Rabbinic teaching fish are ‘multitudinous’ and there was a connection made between fish and cereals – a school of fish and a heap of grain were images used to mean the same thing. There is a beautiful passage in Ezekiel that also speaks of fishermen standing on the shores and casting nets far and wide, from En -Gedi to En Eglaim – yielding many fish as they gather in the nets. 

So, these fishermen seem to denote the people God will send to bring people back to Him to that they can walk in His ways – and that God intends to send these people out to gather in even more people to walk in His ways and be in a blessed Covenant relationship with God. All these circles put together seemed to illustrate the message God is giving us – walk in my ways, live out my Torah and the land and the people shall yield more fruit that you could possibly imagine.)