Jerusalem fell. When we hear of Jerusalem being destroyed we say ‘No! Never!’ If this was happening today it would rock the Jewish world. Not only that, it would be world news. To be sure, it wouldn’t just be on the front page of the Jewish Chronicle, it would be on the front page of every newspaper worldwide. Yet, I repeat, Jerusalem fell. Not a hundred years ago, not even a thousand years ago, and I’m not even thinking of the tragedy of 70AD, I am thinking of the fall of Jerusalem in 586BC; today we know this horrific massacre as the fall of Jerusalem. The great Jewish prophet Jeremiah warned Israel again and again that it would not end well and he was right. The fall of Jerusalem was nothing short of the spiritual death of Israel. The nation was sent into exile as prisoners and the ruined mass where the great temple of Solomon once stood remained home only to the poorest of the poor that the Babylonians didn’t even bother to take hostage. We might have thought Israel would be archived in the history books along with the Hittites and Edomites, never to be seen nor heard of again, but Israel did indeed rise again like the phoenix.
Why did Jerusalem fall? She fell, because as a nation she had forsaken the LORD and His law.
Why did Jerusalem fall? She fell, because as a nation she had forsaken the LORD and His law. So much so, the book of Chronicles suggests they never kept it at all! Our ancestors may have said they trusted God, but it was nothing but lip service. They never took God seriously, they disregarded His Sabbath years, His Jubilee years, His appointed times of meeting at the Temple. They never took Him at His word despite His endless warnings of curses for disobedience, which mostly constitute this week’s parasha, Behar/Bechukotai. Our ancestors made a vow to God they never intended to keep. What we learn from all this is that God is remarkably patient. Hundreds of years pass and God holds back his anger, but in the end His patience ended and judgement descended, just as He warned it would. God hates it when people do not listen to Him – and our ancestors were all the guiltier because they were called to be His people and have an attentive ear to His sweet voice. But when a son doesn’t listen to his father, he ignores the rules that have been put into place. In this case, our people agreed to rules as delineated in the very contract they signed in the blood of the covenant. His judgement just, their judgement just, their sin outrageous, their end given their attitude, inevitable. God warned He would judge them if they disobeyed, He did, and Jerusalem fell in horrific style (Yiremeyahu/Jeremiah 16:19 – 17:14).
But when a son doesn’t listen to his father, he ignores the rules that have been put into place.
Woven into the repeated curses for disobedience was the repeated appeal to return to the Lord but our people didn’t take it to heart: “But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins.” (Vayikra/Leviticus 26:27-28).
Disobedience was Israel’s downfall and it meant exile for seventy years, just as foretold by Yiremeyahu/Jeremiah (see also Daniel 9:2). After the seventy years were completed they began to return to what was left of their historical homeland. It was a case of starting from scratch and building a city out of the ruins. But after one super power after another pressed hard again them, Jerusalem would fall a second time in equally devastating fashion, this time to the Romans. Come 70AD a four-year war brought Israel to her knees as again horrors descended upon that ancient city. Just as Jeremiah foretold the first destruction of the Temple, another Jewish man foretold of Jerusalem’s second descent to rubble, Yeshua of Nazareth:
When Jesus drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44)
Yeshua is Israel’s promised Messiah and Saviour, Yeshua is the eternal Son of God equal to the Father, and he came from heaven to earth to bring peace between man and God. Here he clearly states that Israel’s rejection of him would be their demise and forty years later Jerusalem fell under truly horrific circumstance. Sixty-five years beyond that in 135AD, Israel was erased from the map. Yeshua was not only a great saviour he was also a great prophet. He warned his disciples:
But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are inside the city depart, and let not those who are out in the country enter it, for these are days of vengeance, to fulfil all that is written. Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people. (Luke 21:20-23)
And yet, just as in the Tanakh, God tells us that He hasn’t abandoned us Jewish people, nor has He forgotten our city (see Romans 11:11). Through His death and resurrection, Yeshua the Messiah made a way for us to have our hearts circumcised (see Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 9:25) and for us to have a new heart and a new spirit – one that is willing to listen to God and obey Him (see Yehezchiel/Ezekiel 36:26). Furthermore, we read that one day God will restore Jerusalem – but that it will be a Jerusalem that comes down from heaven (see
Revelation 21). Will you be there? You can be, if you let the Messiah transform you. Come to him while there is still time!
City of David, City of God