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Ruminations

Rumination #25: People who refuse to say 'Yes' to the Almighty's commands, can never expect to truly know His will.

Every time an important decision is presented to a follower of Messiah, we of course want to know what HaShem's will is. The problem with that approach is that it is often that we forget that HaShem has revealed His ultimate will to us already. It seems somewhat trivial when we consider the Commandments of the Almighty as His will - but the Commandments of Scripture comprise the most precise and fullest measure of His will that we can know. His instructions are loving instructions for our good - that much must be clearly seen. But, often those who seek to know G-d's will have no intention of obeying His simplest of commands.

Consider that He spoke creation into existence. Consider that His will created something out of nothing. And yet, that will reveals only general knowledge of the Holy One, blessed is He. The Commandments that He gave us, on the other hand, reveal His infinite wisdom and His righteousness. That is very specific. Which takes us back to why people don't want to obey Him…

So, how much do you want to know His will?

Parashat Tzav - 'Command' (Leviticus 6:1-8:36 or 6:8-8:36 in English)

Imagine a young boy growing up in the Land of Israel in the Second Temple period. Around the age of three, he may experience his first hair cut, possibly leaving the side curls called "payot" like many in the Orthodox community do today. He is an active child, and very bright - but regardless of his obvious intelligence, he will still be taught in the same manner as all the other little boys in his village. Beginning at this age he is taught his letters, and given an appreciation for learning, and for the Scriptures.

When the young boy turns five, it is time for him to move to a more formal education. He walks to the synagogue where he is introduced to Scripture in a careful and prescribed way. The first lesson involves licking honey from his slate, which has Hebrew letters written upon it. His first reading lesson is from these words of Vayikra [Leviticus]. His first memorization project is to commit Vayikra to memory.

Our young boy was like every other boy in his village in the education he received. It was good training. It was according to the prescription and method later written down in the Mishnah:

...A five-year-old begins Scripture, a ten-year-old begins Mishnah [Oral Law], a thirteen-year-old becomes obliged to observe the commandments...
Pirkei Avot 5:25

By the time he was ten, he had memorized the entire Torah and many of the Psalms and writings - just like every other ten-year-old boy of the era was expected to do.

But our young boy was not just any other boy. At age three, He was bright and precocious no doubt - but at age five, with the study of Vayikra [Leviticus], it became clear that He was a gaon, a genius. His grasp of the details and nuances of the opening chapters of Vayikra was uncanny in the minds of the adults around Him.

What was more amazing is how this young boy grasped something that was outside of His family experience. You see the young boy was not a Levite, from the tribe of Levi. His father had never served as a priest. Neither would He ever serve as a priest in the Temple in Jerusalem.

By the age of twelve, even the Sages of Israel would marvel at young Yeshua's understanding of Scripture. And imagine His education all began with these verses we are reading in our weekly Scripture portion. These words of Leviticus were Yeshua's first reading material. These are what He memorized.

One might ask, "Why?" What is the purpose for teaching five-year-olds from the Book of Leviticus? Especially those boys who would never be priests. Yeshua, our Great High Priest, is not a priest according to the order of Aaron. Hebrews 8:4 tells us that he did not serve as a priest while on earth, "For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest..." So why is it so important for children to learn these verses we are studying? Why did the Master excel in understanding these passages?

Yes, they were ultimately His words. And yes, they were about Him - but maybe in ways that you have not yet considered. As we saw last week, there is a lot of misunderstanding regarding the offerings [korbanot] detailed in the Book of Leviticus. Gladly, many Christians come to the good understanding that Yeshua was a "sacrifice" that was efficacious in removing our sin - but sadly, that is far as their understanding of the concept goes.

Why does Scripture devote such large portions to these details - and yet other things that seem much more pressing (for us), are left to what appears to be vagaries? What did Jews of the Second Temple era understand about the importance of the offerings that we do not seem to? As importantly, why did Jews who lived after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE continue to study these verses almost with more intensity, considering there was no longer a Temple in which to do this service? Why do many Jews today pour over these verses, and for hour upon hour examine the commentaries? After all, some might ask, "What do they know about sacrifices?" Sadly, far more than the average pastor is able to muster. Understanding that Yeshua is the embodiment of all these offerings, you would think it would be the other way around.

Why have believers who appreciate the atoning work of Yeshua not developed a desire to understand the Book of Leviticus? Beloved, how can any of us hope to even begin to understand the Epistle to the Hebrews, or Romans, or James - if we do not understand Leviticus?

We can't.

Our Master memorized these words. As a child, they were sweet like honey to Him. These words speak of Him, so they should be as sweet to us as well.

Let's briefly prepare for this week's parasha, shall we? Taste the honey.

The title for this week's portion comes from the word tzav [command], which is found in the second verse:

Vayedaber HaShem el-Moshe lemor:

Tsav et-Aharon v'et-banav lemor zot torat ha-ola hiv ha-ola al mokda al-ha-mizbeach kol-ha-laila ad-ha-boker v'esh ha-mizbeach tukad bo:

Then HaShem spoke to Moses, saying, "Command Aaron and his sons, saying, 'This is the law of the burnt offering [korban olah]: The burnt offering [korban olah] shall be on the hearth upon the altar all night until morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it.

Leviticus 6:1-2 (8-9 in English)

Command [tzav]? To whom was the Command to be given? What was Commanded?

The "Command" [tzav] was to be given to Aaron and his sons, and it was concerning the torat [instruction] for the olah [that which goes up, i.e. fully consumed].

For the next three chapters we will read the intricate and sometimes confusing details of how the priests were to go about their jobs in the Mish'kan [Tabernacle]. It is enough to make your eyes cross, but it is the Divinely ordained protocol by which a worshipper could draw near to the Presence of the Almighty in the Mish'kan. It is like an "offering manual" for the priests of the Mish'kan. Although it is a spiritual exercise, it is completely practical. Always remember that. Beloved, always remember that when you read such things that they are describing real things, done by real people, for a very real reason. These verses are not there so that some could merely spiritualize them - which stands to reason when you consider that most people who are predisposed to reading the Book of Leviticus as one big metaphor, never really bother to truly study this Book - this book that our Master memorized at an early age.

That does not mean these words do not have spiritual, or homiletic value. They do. They are a shadow that shows us the outline of the Redeemer. By these verses you can know the "shape" of His redemptive hand.

This week, try to pay attention to the details. It will be worth it. These details relate to how Aaron and his descendants were to handle the korbanot [offerings]. Remember the five major korbanot we learned about in last week's portion?

Remember, that of these five, only two were directy sin related. And not all are mandated - some are voluntary.

What I am immediately drawn to when I read parashat Tzav is the way that it opens and the way that it closes. It begins with:

Command Aaron and his sons... Leviticus 6:2

And it ends with:

So Aaron and his sons did all the things that HaShem had commanded by the hand of Moses.
Leviticus 8:36

Wow. They did it all. Not, "they tried to do it." Not, "they did the best that they could." Not even, "they did it." They did it all. Apparently, Aaron and his sons understood something that we may not. G-d is not only a G-d of detail, He is infinitely more holy that we can imagine.

Once you get a glimpse of the korbanot [offerings] as something good and necessary, you will begin to see these verses in a new light. Remember, although the korbanot did not all have to do with the sin of the worshipper, they all were about providing a covering for the worshipper so that they could be in the Presence of the Almighty without dying in the process.

Remember, our G-d is a dangerous G-d. As well, remember that He is a loving G-d Who desires to fellowship with us. He delights in our worship of Him. What a service of worship it must have been to draw near to Him in the smoke of korbah olah [offering that goes up, a burnt offering]!

How much more a service of worship it is to draw near to Him in the korban of Yeshua who has ascended into His Presence and sits at His right hand. Yes, dig deep beloved. There is much of Yeshua in these words and even in the very letters.

The Passover, the Pesach 

Speaking of korbanot [offerings], what kind of korban would you think the Passover Lamb was?

The Passover Lamb was called the "Pesach" [Passover]. It is the name of the Festival, but is also the name of the korban offered and eaten at the time of the Festival. Knowing that fact takes some of the difficulty out of reading verses like this:

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover [Pesach]. His disciples said to Him, "Where do You want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover [Pesach]?
Mark 14:12

You ate the Pesach. You ate the Passover. The korban of Passover is thus simply called the Pesach. But what kind of korban is it? It is clearly unique because although it was to be killed in the Mish'kan (or where ever G-d placed His Name, i.e. Jerusalem), it was to be eaten by each family in their place as they did in Egypt.

And no leaven shall be seen among you in all your territory for seven days, nor shall any of the meat which you sacrifice the first day at twilight remain overnight until morning.

You may not sacrifice the Pesach [Passover] within any of your gates which HaShem your G-d gives you; but at the place where HaShem your G-d chooses to make His Name abide, there you shall sacrifice the Pesach [Passover] at twilight, at the going down of the sun, at the time you came out of Egypt.
Deuteronomy 16:4-6

Yeshua died at Passover, and it was clearly for our sin that He gave Himself voluntarily - and His work both atones for us, and carries our sin away, never to be remembered. But the Pesach was not a really sin offering. Remember, of the five major korbanot only two are directly for sin.

Truly the Pesach belongs in a category all its own very much like the Yom Kippur korbanot. However, unlike the Yom Kippur korbanot, the Pesach was eaten. Not only that, it was to be eaten by each household. No sin offering is ever to be eaten by anyone other than the priests (ah, but if you are a student of the Torah, you already know that!). All sin and guilt offerings fall into the category of "most holy" - which means that they either are not eaten at all, or they remain in the Temple confines and are eaten only by the males among the kohenim [priestly families].

The closest of the five major korbanot that the Pesach could be compared to would be the Personal Peace Offering which Leviticus 3 calls, "Peace Unto HaShem" [shl'amim La-HaShem]. It is similar in these ways:

Reading some of these and trying to see a homiletic reason behind them might make you wonder if Yeshua really is represented in the Pesach. After all, it seems as if this is a minor korban. But appearances can be deceiving, and the Pesach was anything but minor.

Seeing the similarities between the Pesach and the Personal Peace Offering shows us not only the purpose of the first Pesach, but also of the Ultimate Pesach, Yeshua the Lamb of G-d.

The Purpose of the Personal Peace Offering was to bring unity and wholeness in the relationship between the worshipper and HaShem. It was a voluntary act of intimate worship.

That first Pesach was the way that G-d covered His people from the wrath that He poured out on Pharaoh and Egypt - and it was the means by which their freedom was finally realized. But remember the reason for their freedom? G-d said, "Let My people go, that they may serve Me..." (Exodus 7:16). The first Pesach was to bring harmony and unity between G-d and His people. It brought intimacy between G-d, and His betrothed.

Likewise, Yeshua our Pesach has brought wholeness and unity between HaShem and each individual who is His disciple. Yeshua's work that Passover so long ago was an act of love and intimacy. It was truly a Peace Offering. As Scripture tells us,

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have shalom with G-d through our Master Yeshua the Messiah."
Romans 5:1

To bring shalom is not the absence of conflict, but to bring wellness, completeness, and intimacy to a relationship. Our shalom with the Almighty leads us to shalom with our brothers and sisters. This explains the passage that says,

Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Messiah, our Passover [Pesach], was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast [Passover], not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
1Corinthians 5:7-8

In a way, Yeshua is our Pesach. His work is pictured in the Pesach Offering - and the Personal Peace Offering.

As we examine the korbanot of the Torah we can clearly see Yeshua's work being outlined in them. Truly, Yeshua's work at the cross was an expression of all of them. But some things about the Pesach that differ from the Personal Peace Offering are hard to simply gloss over. See if you can see some reasons why the differences are important:

Yes beloved, these details reveal shadows of our Master's work do they not? His outline is clearly seen in them - even in these apparently minor points.

Tzav - 'Command' (Jeremiah 7:21-28; 9:22-23)

Our Torah portion this week continues where we left off last week, with the discussion of korbanot [offerings] and worshipping in the Mish'kan [Tabernacle]. As we saw last week, these are difficult and complex verses, often simply relegated to the category "Fulfilled, no need to understand - merely analogy." Nothing can be further from the truth. The korbanot are always about worship. They are all about relationship with the Holy One of Israel, blessed is He. If by "fulfilled" commentators mean "abolished," again they err. In theological arrogance they have removed themselves from appropriately appreciating the depth of Messiah's atoning work on their behalf. Beloved, it is our duty to study and to know the intricacies of the korbanot. In so doing, we show honor to our Messiah. In ignoring them, we may treat His work on our behalf as "cheap." One day, we will all have greater understanding of the korbanot as our King Messiah explains them to us as we experience them. Until then, always remember: they are about relationship.

This week's haftarah, in the same manner as last week, connects to the korbanot. Interestingly enough, passages like our haftarah in Jeremiah have been used by the theologically arrogant to point to what they consider the uselessness of the Mish'kan [Tabernacle] and its offerings. It is often pointed out that "obedience is better than sacrifice," which, by the way is quite true. Usually, those who make such statements are simply trying to de-ritualize the Scriptures - and they misunderstand that to obey is to offer korbanot [offerings] in the Mish'kan or the Temple (at least the Passover lamb, and various other life-cycle korbanot like for childbirth etc.). They twist the words of Scripture around to their own perspective.

The korbanot are good. They are commanded. Just as we do not make private korbanot today because without a Temple they are forbidden, so too, we will one day obediently worship HaShem with korbanot again. But if we are to offer them, we will be wise to do it as a part of our obedience, not instead of it. In this lies the difficulty of many things in Scripture: we often pit Scriptural things against one another which were never meant to be held in tension. Faith and works are meant to go together. Grace and Law work in concert with one another.

Imputed righteousness is revealed in righteous living.

So to, the korbanot are to be a part of a loving relationship with the Almighty. They are to be a part of our obedient love... not to replace it. This was the sin of Israel. This was the sin that is addressed in Jeremiah, from our haftarah. The korbanot were never meant to be a replacement for an obedient life - they were to be because of it.

Our haftarah opens this way:

Thus says HaShem of hosts, the G-d of Israel: "Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat. For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, 'Obey My voice, and I will be your G-d, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.' Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.
Jeremiah 7:21-24

The people had completely forgotten why they were to offer offerings. Like so many today that "go to church each Sunday," "walk an aisle," or "invite Jesus into their hearts" they considered their religious acts to be sufficient to earn them an audience with the King. Oh, to be sure, like so many today, they found Scriptural reasons for doing it... but in the end all of their religiousness still lacked relationship. Like so many today, they thought that having the right "theology" was a replacement for actual obedience. Like so many today who "join and attend" they were counting on their participation in religious activities to be a replacement for "walking in the ways" commanded by HaShem. From verse 28, we are told what HaShem's words are to those who have a religious affiliation without obeying the words of HaShem,

This is a nation that does not obey the voice of HaShem their G-d nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth.
Jeremiah 7:28b

In much the same way, many of those claiming to have a relationship with Messiah do not live by His example. They have relegated His lifestyle, the lifestyle of the Torah, to "fulfilled" (which to them means "abolished"). They have taken His precious offering of Himself and used it as an excuse to continue in sin. They have bought the lies of their theologians who declare that "Jesus did away with the Law." Jeremiah's words of warning regarding how G-d would not regard the offerings of the disobedient favorably give us pause. One must wonder of the same is true regarding those who claim the offering of the atoning work of Messiah. Can one flaunt unrepentant sin before the face of the Almighty; and still claim the work of Messiah on their behalf to be efficacious? This is dangerous ground.

This week's haftarah is sobering indeed. As we approach our season of Redemption, the Passover, let us renew our dedication to Yeshua by carefully examining our lives and repenting from our sin. Let us renew ourselves to careful obedience to all the words of HaShem - while at the same time maintaining our faithfulness to religious observance.

Beloved, keep the commandments; and because your outward religious observance will identify you before others; be ready to tell people why. Tell them about the hope that lies within you. Be ready to tell them that you have been set apart by the work of Messiah Yeshua.

Prayer Focus for Tzav - 'Tit'barach' - [May You be blessed]

The shacharit [morning] prayer service begins with prayers of praise for G-d as Creator. In His work of the beginning, we know that angels were created early on. Drawn largely from passages in the Prophets, this prayer reflects upon the angels' response to the Almighty and how they praise Him continually. As Isaiah and Revelation tell us, these holy ones are ever before Throne of the Almighty, singing His praises. May we join them in praise or our Redeemer and King! May we too accept upon ourselves the yoke of heavenly sovereignty daily...

Tit'barach

May You be blessed, our Rock, our King, and Redeemer, Creator of holy ones; may Your Name be praised forever, our King, O fashioner of ministering angels; all of Whose ministering angels stand at the summit of the Universe and proclaim - with awe, together, loudly - the word of the Living G-d and King of the Universe. They are all beloved; they are all flawless; they are all mighty, they all do the will of their Maker with dread and reverence. And they open their mouth in holiness and purity, in son and hymn - and bless, praise, glorify, revere, sanctify, and declare the Kingship of...

The Name of G-d, the great, mighty, and awesome King; holy is He. Then they all accept upon themselves the yoke of heavenly sovereignty from one another, and grant permission to one another to sanctify the One Who formed them, with tranquility, with clear articulation, and with sweetness. All of them as one proclaim His holiness and with awe:

'Holy, holy, holy is HaShem, Master of Legions, the whole world is filled with His glory.'
-- ArtScroll Translation

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Standing in Prayer with all Israel,

Rick Spurlock
Bereans Online
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B"H