Parashah #31: Emor (Speak) Vayikra (Leviticus) 21:1-24:23

Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #31: Emor (Speak) Vayikra (Leviticus) 21:1-24:23
Haftarah: Yechezk’el (Ezekiel) 44:15-31
B’rit Chadashah: Mattityahu ( Matthew) 5:38-42
Whereas the last parashah (K’doshim) addressed the necessity for the people to be a holy and offer sacrifices according to a detailed system according to G-d. this parashah addresses the need for the leaders of the people the Cohanim to also maintain spiritual and ritual holiness as G-d’s representatives for the people. G-d makes his instructions very clear regarding dealing with the dead, even close family members, who may be taken for a wife, what he may eat, and the rules for a Cohen with tzara’at. The underlying theme is perfection in all things because G-d is perfect. This is not to say the Cohen are perfect in every way. This fact is substantiated in the instructions of the sin offering in which the Cohen must atone for himself before conducting any service for G-d addressed in Chapter 16 of the last parashah. Today I am going to delve into and establish the connection between our parashah, Deuteronomy 28:15-68, and the connection to the Antimessiah also often referred to as “the Assyrian.”
This parashah also describes the designated times of G-d that are mandated for anyone who considers him/herself one of G-d’s people. Although there are a plethora of calendars and confusion about what is the exact correct date for these designated times, I submit today we must pray about and continue to seek, ask, and knock for knowledge and wisdom in choosing the dates for observance. We cannot simply choose our own dates as the Catholic church and Christianity in general have done with the celebration of Shabbat, the celebration of pagan festivals not mentioned in G-d’s Torah and in some cases, specific instructions not to practice certain festivals such as Easter, Halloween and Christmas which isn’t even the correct time of Yahshua’s birth. These are just a few examples of how far people and some Clergy have diverged from G-d’s from G-d’s commands and instructions while still calling themselves G-d’s people. Just as the Cohanim had to adhere to specific guidelines in leading G-d’s people in the Tabernacle, we must follow G-d’s commands and instructions for worshiping and following Him without any additions or subtractions. These instructions for the designated times are not “Just for the Jews” as many Christians and others like to argue to justify their choice not to observe them, but for anyone who is to be considered a good and faithful servant of G-d according to His standards, not ours. The warning against adding to or subtracting from the words in G-d’s Torah is clearly stated by John in the Book of Revelation 21;18-19.This is no trivial matter, yet many are either unaware of the penalty for doing either of these things or simply choose to ignore this truth. Unfortunately, both Christians and some sects of Judaism are guilty of both. We must study, internalize, and act upon the entire Word of G-d and strive toward the holiness G-d expects of his people. This is our reasonable service!
The theme of perfection and holiness is emphasized through the rules for the Cohanim previously discussed including the prohibition against any of the descendants of Aharon with a physical defect from entering the holy places, and the condition of the sacrifices. Any deviation from these instructions would not only result in the cutting off from the people by G-d, but for future believers, this “less than the best” attitude of offerings to G-d would diminish opportunity to glorify G-d and make his Name known to others. This attitude of mediocrity demonstrates a definite shift to the left toward liberalism in our service to G-d that is not acceptable to G-d. This is evidenced in the accounts of Nadav and Avihu who tried to worship G-d “their way” with unauthorized fire. The strict rule for offering unblemished sacrifices emphasizes the work of Yahshua who was the perfect unblemished Pascal Lamb; the perfect Olah (burnt) offering of total consecration to G-d(the complex unity of the G-dhead). Just as it took effort to choose an unblemished animal from all others for the sacrifices, our salvation in part depends on our “efforts” to become holy and continue to grow in our spiritual lives until our race on this earth is finished. We cannot achieve “perfection” in the context of the human condition, but we can follow G-d’s instructions out of an obedient love for YHVH/Yahshua and not cave to the pagan world around us. G-d provides us the way out of all of our human selfish desires/temptations (1 Cor. 10:13). There is no valid excuse for mediocrity or disregard for G-d’s instructions. G-d makes it very clear what has and will happen to those who choose this path throughout His Torah, but I generally refer people to Deuteronomy Chapter 28:15-28. I summarize this scripture because of the overwhelming “proof” that G-d means what he says regarding disobedience. These verses applied to the early Israelites, and they apply to us today. These verses have two subsections. Verses 15-46 includes a broad range of adverse events such as infertility of crops, livestock, and humans. Verses 47-68 gets more specific addressing foreign invasion, siege and national defeat, and exile. By disobeying the covenant, the nation brings down its own destruction. Calamity, panic, and chaos ensue.
Verses 21-44 reflects back on states treaties imposed by the Neo-Assyrian empire upon its vassal states to ensure tribute and loyalty. This is especially significant. Assyria was located in the northern part of Mesopotamia which corresponds to most parts of modern- day Iraq, parts of Kuwait, Iran, Syria , and Turkey. There are several scriptures in which the prophets refer to the Antimessiah as “an Assyrian” or “Assyria.” Assyria as a country does not exist today, yet I submit it will be revived in the near future. The apostle John called the Antimessiah the beast that rises from the sea while Isaiah and Micah call him “Assyrian.” In the English Bible translation of the Old Testament, he is known as” Asshur” which is normally translated as “ Assyrian.” Assyria as a world empire with its capital city of Nineveh, was located in Northern Iraq. The conclusion determined by several authors such as Arthur Bloomfield, The Institute for Creation Research and other expositors suggest that this is correct. Quoting Micah 5: 5 “And tis man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land and when he shall tread in our palaces, then shall we raise against him seven shepherds and eight princes men.” “This man” is the “ruler in Israel” and he is “the Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6-7), so He can put down all human rebellion and establish perfect peace in the world.” “The Assyrian.” Since Assyria was the chief threat to Judah at the time Micah was writing, many expositors maintain that this refers to all of Israel’s enemies. However, the context is strongly Messianic and prophetic which is why I am placing so much importance on this subject today. Keep in mind that Assyria was a dead nation long before Yahshua first came to Earth. Therefore, it seems most likely that “the Assyrian” is another name for the Antimessiah of the last days, the leader of the last significant invasion of Israel before Yahshua returns. He is an Assyrian not by nationality but because his capital will be at restored Babylon.
So, how can we “connect the dots” so to speak between our parashah, Deuteronomy chapter 28, and “the Assyrian” or Antimessiah? Our parashah explains the regulations/instructions for the priests who at that time the communal connection between the people and G-d. They had to be holy inside and out, having to make a sin offering before they undertook any other services in the Tabernacle. We too, must emulate that concept of continually evaluating ourselves. confessing our sins and repenting of them and setting the example of a Torah-observant individual and community of Messianic believers. If the Cohanim neglected to follow G-d’s instructions, G-d would kill them (Lev. 22:9). Likewise, if we profess to be one of G-d’s people and we choose to ignore His commands, laws, and statutes, we will be taken out of the Book of Life(Rev. 22:18-19). In other words, choosing to ignore or change G-d’s instructions (Torah) in any way is the same as adding to or subtracting from G-d’s Word. The consequences of this path are obvious and progressive based on continued disobedience and disregard of G-d’s instructions, the curses outlined in Deuteronomy 28:15-68.
As we have learned today, there is no disconnect, no change in G-d’s plan for mankind, no abrogation of His laws, commands, and statutes. Just as He was and is and is to come, so is His Word… because He is the Word.
Haftarah: Yechezk’el (Ezekiel) 44:15-31
This scripture addressed the L’vi’im Cohanim in the context of their service in the Millennial Kingdom. First, we see that there were L’vi’im who fell away from G-d following their idols who will be punished with a lesser role in the Millennial Temple. However, the Cohanim who are L’vi’im and descendants of Tzadok who remained faithful when other fell away will be given the privlege of serving G-d, given access to Him. They will teach the people the difference between clean and unclean and between holy and common. This substantiates the belief that there will be people in the Millennial Kingdom who have either not yet been taught these things or have not considered making life changes to include the critical importance of living according to G-d’s standards. The festivals will be kept including Shabbats, noting that this is pleural; all Shabbats. So, what is the role in the Millennial Kingdom for us described as a chosen people and a royal priesthood according to 1 Peter 2:9? The narrative goes on to say that we will “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” It is not possible to say with authority what our role will consist of but exegetically we may say with a high level of confidence that we are to be living witnesses to the fact that G-d’s Torah can be followed; it must be followed out of an obedient love, and that the fringe benefits and retirement plan are out of this world! The designation of being a chosen people and priests is taken from Exodus 19:15-16 “ Now then, if you will obey me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all the peoples. Indeed, all the earth is mine, but you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. We can deduce from this that we will be a living testimony to G-d’s perfect Torah and the fulfillment of His plan for those who lovingly follow His Torah/instructions.
B’rit Chadashah: Mattityahu (Matthew) 5:38-42
Although we did not cover this narrative today, there is a profound theme of righteous self- nullification that needs to be addressed because this concept is so misunderstood and mistranslated.
Verses 38-9 are not instructing us to allow someone to beat up on us no matter how mean someone may be. It makes no sense to “turn the other cheek” as interpreted by many clergy and parishioners as allowing someone to become a pallet to be trampled. This narrative instructs us not to allow ourselves to become upset over character assassination that will definitely come our way eventually. Yahshua never retaliated for attacks on His character. However, when His Torah was attacked, He demonstrated righteous anger without reservation.
If someone calls us a bad name or gossips about us, we are to give this concern to G-d and go about our way. G-d will vindicate us in His time. We are also shown that we should take the upper hand and choose to go an extra “mile” if asked to go one mile. This is just one example of chosen submission to G-d through the act of going beyond what someone asks of us. Is it not a mitzvah to give someone an entire plate of cookies when they ask for only one? Or to offer to drive someone to their destination if you are able, even if they only informed you they plan to make arrangements to hire a taxi? I think you get the idea that we are talking about self- nullification and kindness. The last sentence in this passage supports this theme by lending someone that for which they ask. However, G-d’s Torah also tells us “ If you are faithful in obeying G-d’s commandments, you will be blessed and able to lend and not borrow (Deut. 15:6).
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart