At the end of the book of Vayiqra (Leviticus) in dual Torah reading בהר Behar/בחקותי Bechukotai, we look back at the journey through the parable of the Tabernacle. At the end of the book of Shemot (Exodus), the LORD moved into the newly created Tabernacle, and everyone had to get out. “And He called out” (Vayiqra) from the Tabernacle at the beginning of Leviticus for the people of Israel to draw near to Him. Vayiqra teaches how God is helping us move closer to Him and to each other.
“during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord.” (Lev. 25:4 NASB)
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28 NASB)
“For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.” (Heb. 4:10 NASB)
We’ve all had days when we are so physically or mentally exhausted that we long to go home and relax, or better yet, nap. The LORD gave our forefathers in faith memorials and reminders in time to nudge us to seek Him Who can truly bring us rest from guilt, fear, loneliness, etc. That’s the lesson in the combined Torah reading that wraps up the book of Leviticus.
The Shemittah (sabbatical year) is a seven-year cycle and holds obvious parallels to the Shabbat (Sabbath) and is supposed to draw your attention to it. Man works six days and rests on the seventh. Man is made from the dirt and the dirt is supposed to rest as well. Man and dirt are one and the same. When we abuse the seven-year cycle of the land, we are abusing ourselves.
When you make the land work on its shabbat, it’s an abuse of the land, just as a man making a maid or male servant work on the seventh-day Shabbat is abuse.
The 50th-year Yobel (Jubilee) is part of the pattern of rest and release. These cycles described in the Torah reading בהר Behar (“on the mountain,” Leviticus 25) were not invented by man. We are not in the habit of resting. We are driven to work, and gather wealth. We work to live, not live to work.
A common catchphrase for believers in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus the Christ) is “walk by faith and not by sight” (2Cor. 5:7). Key memorials from God’s calendar that help with practicing the faith that is preached are the שְּׁבִיעִת Shevi’it or שְׁמִטָּה Shemitah (“seventh” [year] and “release,” respectively, i.e., sabbatical year) and the יוֹבֵל Yobel (Jubilee). They are the focus of the Torah reading this week, בְּהַר Behar (“on mount” [Sinai]), covering Lev. 25:1-26:2.
The complementary reading (haftarah) commonly accompanying Behar is Jer. 32:6-27.
Keeping the Jubilee year with both crops and servants was an act of faith by the people of Israel. It is difficult to live in freedom — liberty — and it is so easy to fall into bondage and slavery. God set up a safety net to protect the people from permanent bondage and slavery and to protect the land from being over consumed and dried up.
The shabbats (sabbaths) of the land and the Yobel (Jubilee) are not about the U.S. or other countries, but about the land of Israel. Yet even in the diaspora (outside the land), there are lessons we can learn about how we should trust in God, how far God can take care of His people and how we are to take care of our families and each other.
“Therefore he (Pharaoh) treated Abram well for her sake; and gave him sheep and oxen and donkeys and male and female servants and female donkeys and camels.” (Genesis 12:16 NASB)
God is not an American. As we study the Torah reading לֶךְ-לְךָ Lech Lecha (“get going!” Genesis 12–17), we should remember that the Bible He divinely inspired should not be interpreted through the lens of American history.