Parashah #24: Vayikra (He called) Leviticus 1:1-5:26

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah 24: Vayikra (He called) Leviticus 1:1-5:26
Haftarah: Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 43:21-44:23
B’rit Chadashah: Hebrews: 10:1-14

The Tabernacle is complete and dedicated. G-d has “moved in” and now it’s time to get down to the business of developing a close relationship with Him. Drawing close to G-d means following his instructions (Torah) to include physical offerings that have spiritual application. This is the subject of our lesson this week. As we discuss these offerings please keep in mind they are designed to assist us in understanding the atonement process and the necessity to pay close attention to detail. Remember, we have to play by His rules (Torah). The Book is not open for debate.
The offerings are categorized as follows: Burnt offerings (Lev. 1:3-17), Grain offerings (Lev. 2:1-16), Peace offerings (Lev. 3:1-17), Sin offering (Lev. 4:1-35), and Guilt/Trespass offering (Lev. 5:1-26). There is a subcategory of Sweet and Non-sweet savor as determined by G-d. Lev. 1:9, 2:9, 3:5; Eph. 5:2). Sweet does not imply that burning meat ever smells good. This designation is given because the Burnt, Grain, and Peace offerings represented the perfection and absolute obedience of Yahshua to the Father. On the other hand, the Sin and Trespass offerings were called non-sweet because sin is never pleasing to G-d. The only reason the Sin offering is called a sweet savor in Lev. 4:31 is because the fat of all of the offerings was a sweet savor. The fat was as highly regarded as blood (Lev. 3:17, 7:22-27). Fat represented perfection in a sacrificed animal and it was understood that in the animal world fat contributed to the health of the animal. Fat in any organism serves as insulation, thereby protecting it from overheating, overcooling, and injury. Take this information and apply it to the Torah; Yahshua. Living within the boundaries of Torah insulates us and provides a means of protection from the evil that is all around us (if we follow it). Anyone who ate the fat of the offering was to be cut off from the people. YHVH demanded the absolute best for this offering as it represented the sin Yahshua willingly bore. Fat also made the fire much hotter, thereby consuming the entire sacrifice. Again, we can apply this to the refinement process; the hotter the furnace, the stronger the steel. G-d demands our entire allegiance, devotion and progress in our obedience.
Before Yahshua’s appearance on the earth, G-d provided for this system of forgiveness through animal sacrifices. However we can now look back with the understanding that Yahshua’s death was necessary as the ultimate sacrifice for our PAST sins (Rom. 3:25; 2 Pet. 1:9). Not just any man would do. Only His death was accepted by G-d as expiatory (Heb. 10:4). This brings us to the first type of offering; the Sin offering.
The first offering was given when Aaron and his sons were set apart as priests (Lev: 8:15).This was the first offering because it was and is sin that separated us from G-d. We have to start at ground zero, examine ourselves and make a U-turn before we can ever hope to establish a relationship with YHVH/Yahshua. To mediate between the people and G-d required a sinless High Priest, a foreshadowing of our Cohen Gadol (High Priest) Yahshua. This offering made people acknowledge the price of sin. Another life, an innocent, perfect life had to be sacrificed. Not only that, G-d made it harder by demanding young animals. Doves, pigeons, goats, sheep, bulls are all so cute when they are young. The people and we are made to confront the horror of sinning. For the Israelites, the price of sin confronted them by having to look into the eyes of the young, perfect, innocent animal, placing their hands on its head, and confessing their sins over it. For us, looking at the accounts of the innocent, perfect, Lamb of G-d; G-d Himself coming from heaven to such a lowly place and allowing Himself to be bruised, beaten, rejected and crucified without dignity for our sin. Think about it.
The Burnt offering also known as the Olah was in existence before the sacrificial system of the Levitical priesthood was established. Its meaning may have been expiatory during this time but came to mean something more specific as the sacrificial system was outlined to include the other types of offerings. This offering was made for several reasons but most often was made as an overt gesture of renewal and consecration after the commission of sin. It was also offered if an individual wanted to devote more time to G-d. For us as Messianic believers, this offering speaks of the need for total allegiance and consecration to the service of G-d. Lukewarm is not an option that is also addressed in the book of Revelation. Recall what Yahshua tells us about being lukewarm as He did the Laodicean assembly (Rev. 3:16). Keep in mind the assemblies spoken of in Revelation were and are types of people not confined to a single assembly.
It is interesting but not surprising that animals used for the burnt offering had to be examined more carefully than those used in other offerings. They had to be flayed to allow for close examination for any imperfection. If they passed inspection their inner parts and legs were washed signifying that they passed inspection for purity. Yahshua represented the epitome of such a sacrifice acceptable to YHVH (Heb. 4:15). He was a sweet-savor offering (Eph.5:2).
In Lev. 1:4 “to make atonement” does not mean the same thing as making atonement for sin as in the sin and trespass offerings. The person offering the burnt offering approached YHVH in a state of reconciliation since the trespass or sin offering was already made. The burnt offering identifies with YHVH in total consecration, t’shuvah (repentance and change). The burnt (Olah) offering may be described more easily as Paul describes in Rom. 12:1-2, “presenting your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto YHVH which is your REASONABLE service.” This is EXPECTED of us. How many of us gloat in performing a mitzvah such as observing Shabbat or not eating catfish with the idea that our expected obedience is worthy of a ticker-tape parade and an appearance on American Idol? Our obedience and total consecration to YHVH/Yahshua is expected! The offering of the entire animal confirms the command that we are to love G-d with all our heart, soul and might (resources) (Deut. 6:4). The variety of animals makes it clear that G-d expects all of us to meet His requirements, no matter our station in life or other circumstances. Everyone is capable and expected to devote all they possess in their consecration to YHVH. Holding out will get us nothing but trouble. We must take this seriously. Recall the story of Hananyah (The L-rd has been gracious) and Shappirah (the well of oath) who outwardly had people thinking they were unselfish in selling their land and took an oath to share all they had. Yet, they withheld some of the proceeds that had initially planned to give to the emissaries and for that G-d killed them (Acts 5:1-11). We cannot purpose that we are going to do something for G-d and then hold out. We may think we’re getting away with it, but we’re not. The very meaning of the names of these two people illustrates the severe nature of their sin. G-d had been gracious and they had taken an oath, yet they tried to inwardly mock G-d. The Olah offering makes it possible for the one making it to be consecrated and to remove prior sin from his life (atonement). Once more this speaks of the definition of a true-believer defined in the Seven-Fold witness in Revelation. Unlike the evolution of human language over time, G-d’s Word never changes (Num. 23:19, Isaiah 55:11, Matt.24-35). Olah (burnt offering) actually means to ascend. Only those who (trust) and obey through t’shuvah and total consecration to G-d and His Torah can be acceptable to YHVH and ascend as a sweet savor (2 Cor. 2:15). We must remember that we cannot continue to live contrary to Torah and then decide we will make an Olah offering at the end and expect G-d to honor it. Jeremiah spoke of a time when the nation of Judah forgot and no longer obeyed G-d’s Torah and their offerings were for nothing (Jer. 6:10); just like Hananyah and Sapphirah. There was and is no excuse for skimping and cheating G-d or our fellow believers. In G-d’s economy as in the case with the Olah offering, the rich could express their devotion to G-d by the value of their offering. At the same time the poor who could not afford animals of more value could be as great in G-d’s eyes as the thousand burnt offerings offered by Solomon ( 2 Chron. 1:6). By the way, burnt offerings were given on a daily basis. This indicates the need for continual self-evaluation and repentance of sin we commit every day. This requirement shows us that we are sinners inherently and we must recognize that we commit some sort of sin daily. We have a need for G-d to show us our sins so that we can turn from them, clean up our act and offer ourselves in a closer relationship on a daily basis.
The Grain offering is next and is the only bloodless offering in the Levitical system of offerings. This offering was always made with the other offerings except the sin and trespass offerings. It was to be offered baked or dry. A more detailed description of this offering is given in Numbers 15. A drink offering was always given with this offering. This offering was always made with matzah (unleavened bread). This symbolizes the idea that G-d wanted this offering to be given through a humble heart consciously attempting to present it honestly without a personal agenda.
Chapter 5 dispels all excuses that we are not accountable for what we don’t know. How can this be? Verse 2-3 reads, “If a person touches something unclean, he is guilty, even though he may not be aware that he is unclean. If he touches some human uncleanliness, no matter what the source of his uncleanliness is, and is unaware of it, then, when he learns of it, he is guilty.” Then in verse 17 we read, “If someone sins by doing something against any of the mitzvot of Adonai concerning things which should not be done, he is guilty, even if he is unaware of it; and he hears the consequences of his wrongdoing.” Verse 21-24 reads, “If someone sins and acts perversely against Adonai by dealing falsely with his neighbor in regard to a deposit or security entrusted to him, by stealing from him, by extorting him, or by dealing falsely in regard to a lost object he has found, or by swearing to a lie, he is to restore it in full plus an additional one-fifth; he must return it to the person who owns it, on the day when he presents his guilt offering.” So what do we do with being guilty even when we don’t know we’ve sinned? It is important to note two things. First, G-d says we are already guilty even if we don’t know we’ve committed a sin by touching the carcass of an unclean wild or domestic animal or a reptile. In contrast, He says if we touch some human uncleanliness, we are guilty once we have learned of the sin. He says we are to make a guilt offering once we are made aware of any of the sins described in this section. Isn’t this interesting? Why the difference? The Sages are silent on this in the Chumash. However we can understand this if we examine the book of Numbers and what it means to be guilty in the context of the priesthood.
It is not sinful to become ritually unclean; such defilement is inevitable in the course of living. The performance of certain ritual commands entailed defilement (Lev. 16:26, 28; Num. 19:7, 8, 10). You cannot remove a dead frog from your house, tend to people suffering from certain illnesses, or bury the dead without becoming defiled. The rabbis classify such types of impurity as “defilement of the body.” Sin occurs only if one who has been defiled enters the sanctuary or eats consecrated meat without having been purified; when the tame (ritually unclean) comes into contact with the kadosh (holy). But there has to be more of an explanation of Chapter 5:16-18.
According to several commentators such as Matthew Henry, Barnes, and Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, the law of G-d is so broad [in some areas] that it is easy to sin, especially because man is evil by nature. Accordingly, we need to approach G-d with fear and trembling, praying always that our sin be made known to us if we should stumble. Ignorance of the law or even the consequences of the act at the time that it was committed, was no excuse and the obligation to offer the sacrifice remained. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary maintains that this concept also refers to the holy things, and the case where ones’ conscience suspects, but the understanding is in doubt about whether a sin has actually been committed. Some of the rabbis give the following case as an example: a person who, knowing that ‘the fat of the inwards” is not to be eaten, religiously abstained from the use of it; but should a dish happen to have been at the table in which he had reason to suspect some portion of that meat was intermingled, and he had, inadvertently, partaken of it, he was bound to bring a ram as a trespass offering (Lev. 5:16). These provisions were designed to convict the conscience with a profound responsibility to G-d and keep at the forefront of the heart and mind a salutary fear of doing any secret wrong.
In the case of Chapter 17, the difference in the sin described here and the one in chapter 4 is that the person cannot specify what he may have done against the commands of G-d. The difference is indicated in the words “though he knew it not.” They are not the same as the Hebrew expression rendered unwittingly. In Leviticus 5:18 they occur as a further qualification of a thing done ‘unwittingly.’ The sins of Chapter 4 are those of which a person becomes conscious. In the case of Chapter 5:17, the individual brings a ram as a Guilt-Offering which is the same as in Chapter 4, but no restitution is demanded as the amount cannot be estimated, since the offence remains unknown. This was a voluntary offering, and it served to relieve a guilty conscience.
Haftarah: Isaiah 43:21-44:23.
This week’s haftarah begins with words that should shame us all and cause us to examine and consecrate ourselves once again to the service of our YHVH/Yahshua. In this passage, G-d rebukes the Israelites for abandoning Him through neglecting to follow His laws on offering Temple sacrifices and running to worship empty idols (anything that takes us away from serving G-d). We can almost feel the weariness and sorrow G-d must have felt then and feels now when we say we are bored with keeping his mitzvot and reading the Torah or decide we can put them off for a more convenient time. He reminds them and us that we do not always Him His rightful due through our hearts, souls or resources as we are commanded. He reminds them and us that his Torah is not burdensome, that he forgives our sins if we will do our part. He tells the people that those of whom they have turned to in idolatrous worship know nothing, understand nothing (44:18) He tells them and us how futile it is to worship empty idols. He confirms that Yahshua is G-d in verse 44:6, “Thus says Adonai, Israel’s King and Redeemer, Adonai Tzva’ot: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no other G-d.” Compare this to Revelation 22:13, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” He admonishes Israel to return to him and serve him because he is the one who formed them, will forgive and redeem them.
B’rit Chadashah: Hebrews 10:1-14
This passage speaks of a subject Christians love to claim as proof they are eternally saved while here on earth. Christian clergy love to teach that all of the Temple sacrifices were for nothing and G-d wanted no part of it. Let’s examine the truth of the matter.
We are told in the beginning verses of this passage that the Torah provides shadows of the originals; not the manifestations of the originals. The Temple sacrifices were designed to provide the people a way of having their sin acts forgiven before Yahshua came to provide forgiveness for our PAST sins. In 10:5-8 we are told that continuation of such animal sacrifices was not the ultimate will of G-d for the forgiveness of sin, because they were not effectual in providing a way to overcome our sin nature. The animal sacrifices atoned for the sin acts of the people only. This is an extremely important point that we must clearly understand. Heb. 10:9 tells us that Yahshua came to set up a different system by which we may come into a saving relationship with him. The single sacrifice spoken of in verse 12 is that of Yahshua whose sacrifice provides us a way to overcome our sin nature. Does that mean that we do not struggle daily with sin? Does it mean that we no longer have a sin nature? The answer is no to both questions. We were born with a sinful nature. However, we do not have to act on the tendency to sin. We have a way out, a way of escape, “No temptation has seized you beyond what people normally experience and G-d can be trusted not to allow you to be tempted beyond what you can bear. On the contrary, along with the temptation he will also provide a way out, so that you will be able to endure. Therefore, my dear friends run from idolatry!” (1 Cor. 10:13-14).
What we have seen in the (4) foregoing Parashot of Sh’mot is YHVH bringing together the material and spiritual into One, Echad. It is a blueprint for our service to Him, and in this Parasha we learn the whole purpose for the construction of the Mishkan. It is found in the word Korban, which means sacrifice in Hebrew; Korban is related to the word Kiruv meaning, “close.” First, we must build the Tabernacle according to the Pattern (Torah) YHVH has given us. Then we are to draw “close” to Him through the Written and Living Torah, Yahshua. Only through both can we ascend towards Him with our physical and spiritual selves. Even now you and I are constructing our tabernacle within our material selves by being doers of His Torah through the power of the Ruach HaKodesh who was sent on Shavuot to empower us after Yahshua’s ascension. YHVH wants to live within His people Yisrael (true believers), but we cannot change the pattern He has given us. We cannot abandon or abridge His Torah to suit our own desires if we truly want to have YHVH live in our bodily tabernacle. If we obey His Torah and carry the Testimony of Messiah Yahshua we can truly bring the material and spiritual together as ONE-Echad, He in us and we in Him.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart