Parashah #24: Vayikra (He called) Vayikra (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

We are at the beginning of a new book; the book of Leviticus which is generally a seldom read and rarely understood by Christians. The commands for animal sacrifices, the description of the priestly ritual, the instructions for what was to be worn and eaten make the Biblically ignorant bored. The practice of disregarding this book and generally the entire Old Testament is tragic because they miss the many blessings that come with diligent and prayerful study of this book and the insight into the deeper meanings behind the literal descriptions.
The book of Leviticus deals with the Mosaic covenant; rather the constitution for Israel (all true believers) that consists of three parts: the moral, sacrificial, and judicial or legal. We can already see G-d’s grace AND law incorporated into these instructions. A fourth area describes the specific models for worship and the general lifestyle such as Shabbat , the dietary laws, and cleanliness. Yahshua followed these instructions, and it is difficult to understand why Christian clergy teach that these instructions were nailed to the cross and abrogated in total. Logic tells us that if we profess to love and worship Yahshua, then we will learn His instructions and follow them out of our love for Him. All four parts served and still serve as the guidebook for every aspect of our lives. These instructions have not changed save Yahshua’s sacrifice that eliminated the need for animal sacrifices until the Millennium when the sacrificial system will be reinstated as described in the book of Ezekiel (45-6). The moral aspect provides the ethical standards for maintaining a life pleasing to G-d as a holy people. The sacrificial system teaches wonderful lessons about the cost of sin, the lessons of salvation, dedication to G-d, thanksgiving, and fellowship with G-d His way. The entire system is one of reverence (an awesome fear of G-d), and joy in being chosen to serve Him. Remember that many are called but few are chosen. Few are chosen because few choose to follow G-d’s instructions. We have free will and are not simple pawns in the universe to be manipulated by G-d. I repeat that we have free will to either choose life or die in our sin. The juridical part was the system the nation used to handle civil and criminal claims.
Interestingly, Leviticus is found in the middle of the Books of Moshe to provide instructions for how Israel (and all true believers) should worship G-d. The people had now become a nation delivered from Egypt and now needed instructions for worshiping a holy G-d. He was not a mere tribal deity but was and is the G-d of the whole earth. He had revealed Himself as a holy G-d, so it was necessary for Israel to know how to worship and approach Him. There was no charismatic flailing; no running up and down isles speaking in unknown tongues; no entertainment. Service to G-d was given with a humble heart and reverence.
That only a few Jewish people recognized that Yahshua was and is Messiah cannot be blamed on the Mosaic constitution. Men had added their traditions to G-d’s Torah so that some of the most significant teachings fell to the background or were obscured (Mark 7:9,13). The Mosaic covenant was to be the teacher and guide that would lead Israel to the Messiah (Gal. 3:24). It is no surprise that the Book of Leviticus is replete with types that are linked to His person, ministry, and death. A type is a historical person, event, or object that has historical significance AND divinely intended significance for the future. It foreshadows a corresponding person, event, or object called an antitype. Types are extremely useful and important in gaining understanding about the relationship of the Book of Leviticus to Yahshua’s ministry. The fact that this book addresses the priestly tribe of Levi in addition to the nation alludes to our status as true believers who are the new priesthood described in 1 Peter 2:9 “ But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, G-d’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” So, we can see the correlation between the past through this book and the present which was the future when the book was written before Yahshua’s ministry.
Unlike the Old Testament culture, modern culture is not based on a sacrificial system. Many people question the necessity of sacrifices, and some Christian clergy like to quote scripture such as Isaiah 1:11 and Hosea 6:6. In the case of Isaiah, the situation is as most faulty teachings that do not read or teach the entire scriptural narrative but only teach selected parts of scripture to meet the agenda of the institution. The message of these passages is that G-d does not want sacrifices given out of a sense of self-aggrandizement and without love. When sacrifices and offerings are made simply to meet the obligation or to parade the act in front of others, they are worthless. This is just what G-d says to us in these passages, among others. We must understand the significance of the sacrificial system to fully appreciate the sacrifice of our Messiah and L-rd.
After the Fall of adam (Gen 3) the perfect relationship with G-d was broken. The act of eating the forbidden fruit placed Adam and all mankind outside of G-d’s will. How to get back into fellowship with G-d has posed a problem to this day although G-d alluded to the need for a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin when He clothed Adam and Eve with the skin of an innocent animal, an animal sacrifice. G-d’s principle of substitutionary sacrifice for sin was perverted as time passed, but man’s desperation and emptiness and spiritual separation from G-d continued. If man had any religion at all, he invented his own religious systems to try and fill that longing to reestablish a positive relationship with G-d. The problem is that these systems were built on the idea of works alone. Man was trying to redeem himself with his own idea of what was required to please G-d or whatever god they were following without regard to G-d’s system of substitutionary blood sacrifice.
Leviticus was written for just this purpose; to provide precise guidelines for sacrifice, worship, and service. Not only to be applicable to the nation of Israel, but also for gentiles who chose to trust in and submit to the G-d of Israel. This book clearly described G-d’s instructions for implementing and carrying out the system of substitutionary blood sacrifice. To reject His specific revelation concerning sacrifice will result in forfeiture of the blessings that come with following G-d’s Word and ultimately spiritual death and separation from G-d for eternity.
The Book of Leviticus outlined a system of sacrifices that revealed G-d’s way of salvation to include sacrifices for sins that were unknown at the time. Personal accountability to G-d and man are emphasized. Although many Christians erroneously believe that “Jews” “live under the law and legalistic works,” the sacrificial system revealed the abundant mercy and grace side of G-d. Through the sacrifices, the Israelites learned how to serve G-d with a focus only on Him out of obedience and love.
Israel was and is to be a blessing to all people. Being a minority and always persecuted in some way begs those who observe a true Israelite (believer and follower of G-d) to wonder how one can live such a life. We are to be a holy people, not perfect, but striving for a deeper and growing relationship with YHVH/Yahshua with each day we are given. There is enough evidence to demonstrate that many strangers and foreigners from pagan nations followed and joined the Israelites and converted when they saw the blessings of the One True G-d upon His people Israel. They “got it” and grasped the meaning of salvation in the Levitical system. They accepted it and became a part of the people of Israel. This concept is described again as a type (an event) of future significance described in Ezekiel 37:15-22). I invite you to read this passage carefully to enrich your understanding of types used in the Book of Leviticus.
The theme of Leviticus tells how an elect, holy people should worship a holy G-d. Now that Yahshua has provided the ultimate perfect sacrifice for our past sins (Rom, 3:25 and 2 Pet. 1:9), we no linger need the animal sacrificial system. However, we are still required to make spiritual sacrifices for our sins. We must seek strength to resist temptations, and when we fall, we must sincerely repent and correct our behaviors. Again, the sacrificial system will come into play during the millennial reign of Yahshua but those who are ministering His kingdom will be those who are the true believers at that time. Those making the sacrifices will not have accepted Yahshua as Messiah evidenced by the fact that He will be ruling with an iron scepter at that time(Rev. 2:27). The English title, Leviticus, comes from the Septuagint, where the word refers to the Levitical book that provided instructions to Aharon and his sons for functioning as priests.
The key words used in the Book of Leviticus are “holy” which is used 87 times, “atonement” used 49 times, and “sacrifice” also using oblation and offering about 300 times. The crux of this book can be stated in one phrase: It is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (Lev. 17:11).
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 or types 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. Katherine Hepburn made a comment in the move “African Queen” where she tells Humphry Bogart that “nature is what we are put on this earth to overcome.” 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) previous 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 parashah, 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