“As for those of you who are left, I will fill their hearts with anxiety in the lands of their enemies. The sound of a driven leaf will frighten them, so that they will flee as one flees from the sword and fall when no one is pursuing. Yes, with no one pursuing they will stumble over each other as if fleeing the sword — you will have no power to stand before your enemies. And among the nations you will perish; the land of your enemies will devour you.”-Leviticus 26:36-38
The latter half of Leviticus 26 gives us a heart wrenching description of what will happen to the Israelites during their dispersion over the centuries.
From the text, we can glean the following six characteristics of the condition of the Hebrew people during these times.
FEINT OF HEART
The Hebrew word used for “faintness” here is MOREKH. This word literally means “to be soft” and interestingly it is the same word used to label those who are unfit for military in Deuteronomy. This word carries the sense of cowardice and lack of inner fortitude. As a punishment for their disobedience, the Lord will take the courage He had placed in His people’s hearts and replace it with submissive fear.
BEING STRUCK WITH UNFOUNDED FEAR, PARANOIA AND PANIC
Recently I read about this incident that happened not too long ago in Iraq. One day while a large group of people was marching across a bridge, somebody suddenly shouted out “BOMB!!!“. Instantly pandemonium broke out with everybody pushing, shoving and running over each other. The guardrails ended up breaking and hundreds of people fell 60 feel below into the Euphrates river. When all was said and done, about 700 people had lost their lives. But here’s the thing. There was no bomb! The people were reacting to nothing. Well, that’s the kind of irrational fear God says His people will through while in exile.
ISRAEL WILL LACK THE GUTS TO STAND UP TO THEIR ATTACKERS
When attacked, instead of fighting back, Israel will be meek and give in to the aggression of their enemies. Indeed, to this very day, the general disposition of Israel has always been to appease rather than fight. Where does this weakness come from? It stems from feelings of hopelessness and lack of confidence. If they feel from the outset that they can’t win the battle, why even try?
THE ISRAELITES WILL PERISH IN THE FOREIGN LANDS OF THEIR EXILE
When one has reached the very last hours of his or her life, what could be more sad and lonely than to die in a strange land where you don’t belong? It’s been said that the greatest fear a soldier has is to perish in a foreign land. Well, this is the very thing YHWH is threatening His people with if they disobey. The agitation and anxiety that plagued the Israelites throughout their lives will follow them up until their deathbeds.
THE ISRAELITES WILL BE HEARTSICK EVEN IF THEY DIE IN THE LAND
Even if the people of Israel find there way back to the Promised Land, due to their disobedience, the Lord says they will stricken with unshakeable “heartsickness“. The Hebrew expression used here is YIMMAKKU and literally it means “to melt away”. We read about how the eyes of God’s chosen people will “melt away” in their sockets because of their sin. This is NOT speaking about the results of some nuclear bomb attack as is the common mistake of many evangelicals. No, YIMMAKU is a Hebrew idiom that refers to a horrid sense of dread that just won’t go away.
ISRAEL WILL MOURN OVER THE INIQUITIES OF THEIR FATHERS
The Scriptures tell us that while harboring all of these feelings of gloom and doom, the people will come to the realization that they are suffering not only because of their own sins but the collective sins of previous generations as well. They will begin to mourn over the iniquities of their fathers.
After experiencing all of these terrible things, one very important question will arise in the people’s minds.
How can we escape this terrible condition we find ourselves in?
The answer is given to us in verse 40.
“Then they will confess their misdeeds and those of their ancestors which they committed against me in their rebellion; they will admit that they went against me.”
In other words, Israel will be called to do what all believers are exhorted to do in the New Testament, which is to of course confess and repent.
However, there is one interesting distinction between the Jewish and gentile mind when it comes to repentance.
For the Jewish person, the repentance he offers will be as part of a collective repentance, admitting that him and the people group he is a part of were collectively hostile to YHWH.
In other words, it is THEY who trespassed against God’s Holiness, not simply me.
They will approach ADONAI as a collection of individuals, as a nation and NOT as individuals.
Again, the principle being demonstrated here is that when national judgement occurs, every citizen of that nation bears the burden of confession.
It doesn’t matter what may have been done or believed individually.
Even the righteous prophets of God who refused to participate in the sins of Israel ended up suffering right along with the unrighteous.
When it comes to national judgment, the righteous are expected to stand side by side with the unrighteous and confess and repent.
This collective repentant consciousness is foreign to the gentile church which believes that all spiritual matters concerning grace and God’s wrath are all individual matters.