Just like we saw with the rewards for obedience, the punishments for disobedience can also find their counterparts in later prophetic texts.
“You will plant in vain, because you enemies will eat it.” Isaiah 62:8 gives this implication by saying, “Never again will I give your grain as food for your enemies.” Jeremiah 5:17, “They will devour your harvests and food, devour your sons and daughters; they will devour your flocks and herds, devour your vines and fig trees.”
In reference to Leviticus 26:17, Jeremiah 19:7 reads, “I will make them fall by the sword before their enemies, at the hands of those who want to kill them…” Ezekiel 15:7 says, “I will set my face against them. Although they have come out of the fire, the fire will yet consume them. And when I set my face against them, you will know that I am the Lord.”
We read in verse 19, “I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. Your strength will be spent in vain, because you soil will not yield its crops, nor will the trees of the land yield their fruit.” We already discussed the second half of this, so let us turn our focus upon this “breaking down your stubborn pride”. In Daniel 12:7, we read, “When the power of the people has finally been broken, then all these things shall be completed.”
This idea of “multiplying afflictions seven times over” goes throughout the chapter. It makes me to think of the same concept being expressed throughout the book of Isaiah when he says, “Yet for all this, his anger is not turned away, his hand is still upraised.”
In verses 21 and 25, we find three judgments given: wild animals, the sword, and plague. We have places like Ezekiel 5:12, 17, and 14:21, Revelation 6:8, Jeremiah 15:3 and 32:24 that speak of these three judgments as well as famine (which comes in Leviticus 26:26). Ezekiel writes, “A third of your people will die of the plague or perish by famine inside you; a third will fall by the sword outside your walls; and a third I will scatter to the winds and pursue with drawn sword… I will send famine and wild beasts against you, and they will leave you childless. Plague and bloodshed will sweep through you, and I will bring the sword against you. I the Lord have spoken… For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: How much worse will it be when I send against Jerusalem my four dreadful judgments – sword and famine and wild beasts and plague – to kill its men and their animals?”
Notice that I cite Revelations 6:8 as a reference. John is indeed quoting these Old Testament passages. Because John is referencing these Old Testament passages, we cannot assume that they took place at the exile in Jeremiah’s time. There still lies a future calamity that Israel must endure, where all of these judgments will be poured out upon all who are unrighteous – whether Jew or Christian.
Jeremiah writes, “I will send four kinds of destroyers against them, declares the Lord, the sword to kill and the dogs to drag away and the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth to devour and destroy…
Probably the most horrifying of all of these judgments would be found in Leviticus 26:29, “You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters.” In 2 Kings 6:29, this actually happened. Yet, there are still prophetic words that go beyond that time in Jeremiah 19:9 and Ezekiel 5:10. Lamentations 4:10 speaks of the eating of children during the siege of Jeremiah’s day. From the context of Ezekiel 5, which seems to imply both an immediate as well as future fulfillment, I hesitate to wonder whether this might actually come to pass again in modern times…
Of course, we continue and find that God will eventually exile the children of Israel. We read this in verse 33, but 34 picks up this idea and adds the detail, “Then the land will enjoy its Sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies…” Is it possible that God knew that the Israelites would not obey Him and would not keep the Sabbath year? From 2 Chronicles 36:21, we know that the ancient Israelites did not keep this command. There are some who keep this in Israel today, but the truth is that the majority who keep it are wealthy professors and rabbis.
As we continue through Leviticus, it is difficult to read some of the words spoken against the people. God will utterly devastate His people, whether Jew or Christian, if they will continue to disobey Him and continue to scorn His commands. This is not something to take lightly. However, the chapter ends with hope. It ends with a people who will confess their sins and the sins of their forefathers. It is when their “uncircumcised hearts” (verse 41) will be humbled and they have paid for their sins that God will remember Jacob, and will remember the land. Once again, notice how it is Jacob and the land together.
This phrase “circumcised heart” appears in the words of Jeremiah. It is not a New Testament phenomenon, even though the New Testament also picks up on it as the original and ultimate intention of God. The prophet Ezekiel claims over and over again that the people will be punished in accordance to their sin. The point is pressed that God is just and will never hold them accountable beyond what they have committed. Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 are the sole influences of many of the prophets who prophecy judgment and calamity to come to Israel, and ultimately also prophesies of their redemption and restoration. This is the pattern set up even from Leviticus. It takes nothing short of the coming of Jesus, after the people have been sifted through extreme conditions in the nations during the time of Tribulation, for Israel to come to the end of themselves – for God to “break the power of their pride.”
When such words are said, don’t think for a minute that it is only for this “stiff-necked” people. This is a harsh rebuke to all of us. How many of you are without sin? Did you know you will be held accountable for that sin one way or another? Somehow it will be judged. It will either be judged in the man Christ Jesus, who bore our sin and became curse upon the tree, or you will be chastised until you have finally paid for your sin and it gets taken out of your hands. How long will you waiver between two opinions? How long will you clutch your idolatry before the Lord shall come like a hammer to break into pieces everything that you hold dear? What will it take for you to finally let it go and be free? How far will the Lord have to take you? It is for this reason that I don’t think there will be a pre-tribulation rapture. The condition of the Church says that they need to be sifted just as much as Israel needs to be sifted. The time is coming when the Church will undergo just as harsh judgment as the Jewish people, and there will be no rest for you until Christ Jesus shall come. Maybe at that time you will finally have given up your vanity and pride, and by that time you will have finally believed that with God all things are possible, and you truly can be sinless.