“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”.
The reading portion assigned for this week starts with the rulings of freeing slaves every seven years (Exodus 21:2). This law of release also applies to fields that are to be let fallow one year out of seven. The purpose of these rulingss is to keep people from oppressing each other, as well as to establish a sense of priority in our hearts. Hashem doesn’t want us to spend our lives aimlessly increasing our wealth at the cost of our relationships and and responsibilities towards human beingsas well as towards our spiritual walk, which also needs attention.
When the people of Israel did not obey the law of release, God sent Babylon against them. The seventy years of Babylonian captivity correspond to the seventy jubilees they did not observe (Jeremiah 25:11). The earth is God’s and everything in it. He makes the rules and He gets His due, you can make sure of it.
The part that compliments this week’s reading portion is in the Book of Jeremiah. As the Babylonians besieged Jerusalem, through the mouth of Jeremiah the Lord convicts the people about not observing the jubilee (Jeremiah 34:8-10). As they obeyed, word reached the Babylonian army that Hophra was coming up out of Egypt with an army to raise the siege. It is not that the Egyptians loved Israel so much, it is just that whoever controls Israel controls the Via Maris, the main trade route between Egypt and Assyria.
Here is where the story changes. When Israel sees Egypt coming to its rescue causing the lifting of the Babylonian siege, they renege on their repentance. They bring their slaves back to labor. They maybe thought they played a good one on God, until Jeremiah unveiled God’s retributive plan. You can read it in chapter thirty-four of the Book of Jeremiah.
Through Abraham, God made a covenant with mankind which cannot be broken (Genesis 15). But the fact that this covenant cannot be broken does not exclude retributions for us breaking it. Though these retributions may not be fatal, they are nevertheless drastic (Jeremiah 34:13-22). In the same manner, when a person goes under Hashem's redemptive covenant made with the world through Yeshua the Messiah, that person becomes liable to the obligations of its contract. Inclusion under Hashem’s covenant is free, but there are particulars to the terms.
As we read Scripture, it is important for us to understand the particulars of our contract. In this day and age of literacy, the only excuses we have for not knowing is distraction, disobedience, or indifference, and all are bad.
James admonished the Israeli community of believers in these very pertinent words, Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (James 1:21-22). May we also take these words to heart!