Shalom All, Welcome to “Vayikra” (And He Called), our study of the Torah / Bible section for this week. Leviticus 1:1–5:26; Isaiah 43:21–44:23; Hebrews 9:1–28. “YHWH called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting.” (Leviticus 1:1). Last week’s section, “Pekudei” was the final Torah portion in the book of Exodus. This week we begin studying the Book of Leviticus. In Hebrew, Leviticus is called Vayikra after its opening word וַיִּקְרָא, which means “And He called”.
One thing to note is the various type of offerings. Burnt (1:3), Meat (2:1), Peace (3:1, 7:11), Sin (4:2, 6:24), Trespass (5:15). Later we shall also read of Heave offerings in Lev 7:32. Sin offerings were not only for known sins; but ones done in ignorance. Just as in today’s judicial system “ignorance is no excuse”, one still pays the penalty for a crime done, so it is with God. So we must find out and know what is sin otherwise we may pay for our ignorance with our lives Hos 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee,.. These sacrifices did not start with Moses or Israel. They were known of and practiced i.e. by Noah and Abraham (Gen 8:21, 22:2).
“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When any man of you brings an offering to Yahweh, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock. If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before Yahweh.” (Leviticus 1:2–3).
The Torah portion, Vayikra, presents the laws of korbanot (קָרְבָּנוֹת offerings), including the korban olah (קָרְבַּןעוֹלָה) or burnt offerings. The Hebrew noun “olah” means “goes up” because the priest would burn the offerings on the wood of the altar, the aroma would “go up” to be accepted by Yahweh God. The Hebrew word “korbanot” comes from the root word k-r-v (קרב), which means “to be close” (karov). The sacrifices, once accepted by God, restored closeness and intimacy between Him and His people. It is our iniquities and sins that separate us from God and prevent us from establishing or maintaining a close relationship with Him. Therefore, sacrifices are not done away with, though the type of sacrifice has changed! “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2).
It could be the aroma of the sacrifice is pleasing to YHWH God because it is a token of His children's obedience. When God "smells" the sacrifice, He delights in the human being who has gone to such effort to draw close to Him. Regardless of how we understand it, the Torah is clear that God takes delight in the sacrifices. He graciously accepts the gifts of His people, and the smoke that rises from the altar fires is as a soothing aroma to Him. This seems difficult to reconcile with many statements in the prophets where God speaks out against the sacrifices. For example, in the book of Isaiah He says, "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats ... bring your worthless offerings no longer" (Isaiah 1:11-13). Likewise, in the book of Jeremiah He says, "Your burnt offerings are not acceptable and your sacrifices are not pleasing to Me" (Jeremiah 6:20). In the book of Malachi He says, "[If only] you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar ... nor will I accept an offering from you" (Malachi 1:10).
In the early days of Christianity, the church fathers often cited texts like these to try to prove that God had never wanted the sacrificial system. Some used these and similar passages to suggest that God had given the sacrifices to the Jews as a punishment. They argued against the Jewish people, claiming that Jesus had done away with the sacrifices because God had always hated them. That does not make sense. If God always hated the sacrifices, why did He command the children of Israel to bring them in the first place? Why did He state over and over that He was pleased with them? A better explanation comes from a more careful reading of the prophets. When the prophets seem to speak against the sacrificial system, they are not condemning the mode of worship, they are condemning the worshippers. In every instance the prophetic rebuke is directed toward the immoral, disobedient people among the Israelites who were violating the covenant of Torah while continuing to go through the motions of the sacrificial system. Though their hearts were far from God, they continued to perform THEIR religious rituals. Examination of the verses in the context they are written shows God is not pleased with THEIR way of doing HIS sacrifices compared to His way “Isa 1:12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Isa 1:13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; ... Isa 1:14 YOUR new moons and YOUR appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; (note it says their new moons etc not His as in Lev 23:2 “feasts of the Lord... my feasts”). Isa 1:16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Isa 1:17 Learn to do well;...
This can be compared to a wicked womanizer who beats his wife; mafia members or other habitual sinners who continue to faithfully attend church every week and participate in its functioning. The religious ritual is meaningless and an insult to God. Or suppose the same fellow, after beating his wife, dutifully sends her a bouquet of roses. Would she be pleased to receive the flowers? Hardly. She would say, "Your flowers are an abomination to me!" In the same way, God hates religious rituals when they are performed hypocritically. These lessons should be a warning to all of us. We must be careful not to develop any sense of right standing with God because of ritual observances. This does not mean the observance of the occasion as instructed by God has ceased. God is also interested in the state of our hearts. Our outward rituals of obedience should reflect our inward conditions. Equally the heart without the action of obedience to His commandments are also flawed.
Although some New Testament believers consider the laws in Leviticus irrelevant and obsolete, they remain relevant and are indeed extremely important. For instance, without them we cannot grasp the concept of blood sacrifice to atone for sin. That core concept in God’s plan for redemption helps us rightly understand the sacrificial death of Yahshua the Messiah. Attempting to understand Yahshua’s death on the Roman execution stake without comprehending the blood sacrifices is like trying to build a house without a foundation. The home may last for a time; but will not withstand the fierce storms without that solid base. So to fully understand the purpose of the Messiah’s death, one should try and fully understand the former type of sacrifices and their purpose from a Jew / Hebraic mentality, rather than from the common Christian’s. Likewise, we must have a solid foundation in the Word of God (especially Exodus – Deuteronomy) to rightly understand the Word of God. They aid a successful navigation through the storms of life.
For some people, a guilty conscience over past sins causes them to be alienated from God, despite having received forgiveness once confessed and truly repented. The blood sacrifice of Yahshua however, was shed to restore us to right relationship with God and to completely cleanse us of any trace of a guilty conscience: “How much more will the blood of Messiah who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14). Despite this, some followers of Yahshua still struggle with guilt and condemnation, even though the Word of God promises that those who are truly in the Messiah are free: “There is therefore no condemnation to those in Yahshua the Messiah who do not walk in the flesh.” (Romans 8:1). However, there is a big difference between being in the Messiah and thinking you are. The difference is as big as committing iniquity and yet thinking you are in Him. [Mat 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? Mat 7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity]. It is therefore imperative we know what is iniquity and do not kid ourselves. If we are walking in the things that please us or the world rather than God’s commandments, we are still in the flesh not spirit.
Just as the blood of the lamb had to be applied to the doorposts of homes in Egypt, so must the blood of Yahshua be applied to our hearts, by faith, to wash us clean from every trace of guilty conscience and shame over our past sins. Let us strive to be like transformed Paul who was confident he was in Yahshua. A keeper of the law who also became a believer in Yahshua as the promised Messiah as needed in Rev 14:12. The laws Paul kept included everything Moses received from God and passed onto Israel. “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22), Php 3:6 “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. Luk 1:6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless”. The pure waters refer to the mikvah, the ritual water immersion, which is symbolic of our new spiritual birth, or calling not permanent saving. That comes with keeping the laws and enduring to the end.
The Salt Requirement.
When discussing the Levitical sacrifices, the Torah says, “all your offerings you shall offer salt” (Leviticus 2:13). The priesthood kept a pile of salt near the altar for this purpose. Unlike so many other rituals and ceremonial commandments, in this instance, the Torah explains the meaning of the symbolism, defining it as a covenant symbol: “the salt of the covenant of your God.”
The Torah coupled the commandment to salt the offerings along with the prohibition on leaven. Both rules helped avoid corruption and helped keep the holy things in an imperishable state. People in the ancient world used salt primarily as a preservative. In the days before chemical additives and refrigeration, heavy salting was the best means of preserving meat. Because the ancient world considered salt as a preservative, salt came to represent a state of permanence. The term “covenant of salt” indicates a covenant of perpetual obligation, an everlasting covenant relationship. Two other biblical passages refer to “salt covenants,” and both of the passages describe the salt covenant as everlasting and eternal:
• A salt covenant with the Aaronic Priesthood: It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the LORD to you and your descendants with you. (Numbers 18:19)
• A salt covenant with the house of David: Do you not know that the LORD God of Israel gave the rule over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt? (2 Chronicles 13:5)
The commandment to salt the sacrifices as a symbol of the salt covenant provides us with a key for unlocking the mystery of much of the sacrificial system. It provides a basis for interpreting the sacrifices as covenantal gestures. Salting of the offerings symbolizes the eternal nature of God’s covenant with Israel. If so, the offerings themselves must represent various aspects of that same covenant. Each korban and each function of worship within the Tabernacle will symbolize some characteristic of the covenant between God and Israel. In this sense, we can interpret the sacrificial services as dramatizations of the God’s covenant relationship with His people.
Traditional Jewish teaching says that every home is as a small temple. The table within the home corresponds to the altar. On every Sabbath and festival, we place bread and wine before YHWH on the table. We pronounce blessings over the cup and share the wine. We pronounce a blessing over the bread, salt it, break it, and share it. These simple covenant rites have survived over 3,000 years. By partaking in the cup and the bread on Sabbath and the festivals, we re-enact a covenant remembrance that originated on the altar. We eat from the table of YHWH.
Gifts For YHWH God.
What gift can you get for the Almighty? It's hard to shop for a God who has everything. The Hebrew word for sacrifice, korban, could be translated as “something brought near,” or to put it another way, it could be translated as “gift.” The Israelites were to view the sacrifices as gifts that they could bring to God. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf (Leviticus 1:4).
In Romans 12:1, Paul urges us to present our bodies as a “living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God.” What does this mean in practical terms? Is Paul asking us to build altars and literally sacrifice ourselves upon them? Of course not. Paul is using the sacrificial language as an illustration for obedience. He is urging us to set aside our stubborn wills, our wayward flesh and our self-centred egos and force them to submit to the commandments of God. When we set aside our own personal desires and inclinations for the sake of obeying God, we are sacrificing ourselves for the sake of heaven. Instead of offering a bull, a goat or a lamb to God as a gift, we are offering ourselves. This is why the prophet Samuel declared that obedience is better than sacrifice: Has YHWH as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams (1 Samuel 15:22).
Through the prophet Hosea, YHWH declared, “I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). Yahshua was fond of quoting this verse to prove that God was more concerned with ethical behaviour than perfunctory ritual obedience. This is an important principle for all religious people. Regardless of one’s religion, it is always easier to attend to ritual concerns than to live Godly lives. The writer of the book of Hebrews says, “Do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:16). In today’s world there is no Tabernacle or Temple in which a person might offer a sacrifice. If we desire to give God a gift today, what can we give Him? We can give no better gift than our own humble submission to His will. We can give Him the simple sacrifice of grateful obedience sprinkled with praise Heb_13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name (see also Jer 33:11).
Blood on the doorpost.
Only when our hearts have been cleaned (sprinkled with the blood of Yahshua) and our bodies immersed in the mikvah can we have this assurance of our faith that allows us to draw near to God. A guilty conscience over our past will separate us from intimacy with God, as well as other Believers in the Body of Messiah. It will make us think we are not good enough to come to God with a repenting heart. Remember, His hand is always outstretched to you. You simply have to acknowledge any error and grab His hand to lead you. His hand is His Words of instruction. Pro 6:23 For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
The above Scripture (Hebrews 10:22) is followed by an exhortation to make sure we continue to meet together with other Believers as the Body of Messiah (Hebrews 10:24–25). We cannot expect to walk free of sin if we isolate ourselves from those who follow Yahshua and I mean in the right way, spirit and TRUTH. We need to exhort one another to live a life of holiness. Not those who say or think they do; but those who do the actions. Doers of the law not hearers, speakers or readers only. Since each of us has been given the ministry of reconciliation, we should be agents of healing and restoration to a fallen, wavering or seeking believer to ensure they stay, find or return to the straight road to Yahweh God. Rom 2:13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. Jas 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. Jas 1:23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
The Blood of Sprinkling.
“He shall slay the young bull before Yahweh and Aaron’s sons the priests shall offer up the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar that is at the doorway of the tent of meeting” (Leviticus 1:5). The Cohen (High Priest) not only sprinkled the blood around the altar, he dipped his finger in it and sprinkled it seven times before Yahweh, in front of the veil (Leviticus 4:17). Some suggest that, likewise, the blood of Yahshua, who was the High Priest (Cohen HaGadol) of the New Testament, was also sprinkled before His Father. Yahshua perspired drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane when He prayed to the Father seven times: “And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44).
He was struck in the face until it was “marred beyond recognition.” (Isaiah 52:14)
His back was scourged with a whip. (Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 27:26)
The soldiers put a crown of thorns on His head. (John 19:2)
They plucked out His beard. (Isaiah 50:6)
They pierced His hands and feet. (Psalm 22:16; Luke 24:39; John 20:27)
They pierced His side with a spear and blood and water came out. (Psalm 22:14; John 19:34)
Animal rights activists are likely appalled to read of all the sacrifices that the Torah requires. Some people, even Christians, are uncomfortable with the whole idea of blood sacrifices. One of the reasons is our natural human aversion to blood. Another reason is because of the association with evil satanic rituals. Satanism observes its own system of blood sacrifices to the powers of darkness. As well, Satan often attempts to twist and pervert the Word of God, using it for his own evil purposes. Luke 4 gives us an example of how he did this with Yahshua when He was tested in the wilderness. Satan misleads by substituting wicked counterfeits for the holy things of God, such as blood sacrifices. People of various pagan religions have practiced the ritual killing of animals to appease their false gods. Many cultures used animal sacrifice in purification ceremonies. Some of these include (in addition to the Hebrews): Greeks, Romans, Ancient Egyptians, Aztecs and Yoruba. Is animal sacrifice still practiced today? Not currently in Judaism, as the korbanot cannot be offered without the Temple; but most probably in some satanic rituals. Outside of Judaism, it is practiced. Followers of Santeria (a religion of Caribbean origin) to this day do offer up some sacrificial animals to cure the sick or give thanks to their god (Orisa) as part of their ritual activities. There are also some Christians in certain Greek villages who, in a practice called kourbània, sacrifice animals to Orthodox saints.
Another Satanic counterfeit to God’s sacrificial system is found in some cultures and religions in which human beings were sacrificed as a way of giving their very best to their god. In times of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, or volcanic eruptions, which have historically been interpreted as evidence of their deity’s anger or displeasure, other cultures have offered up human sacrifice in the hopes of appeasing the wrath of their gods. This was a satanic thing also found in the bible i.e. Lev 18:21 And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD. (See also 20:2-5, 1 King 11:7). Even in the West, rumours abound on the Internet and the Hollywood scene that a human blood sacrifice will serve to move one into the extremely wealthy club ($20 million+). Whether or not it is actually practiced as it once was, Satan worshipers and those who worship evil have been performing human blood sacrifice since ancient times, so it is likely that this continues to this very day among his followers within secret communities just outside of mainstream culture.
Judaism, on the other hand, abhors the concept of human sacrifice, because it is abhorrent to Yahweh God. This is one reason why most Jewish people find it difficult to believe in Yahshua’s sacrifice; human sacrifices always being associated with paganism and is strictly forbidden. The One True God completely forbade His people from pagan worship customs and especially the practice of human sacrifice:
“You must not worship Yahweh your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things Yahweh hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:31). See also 1Ki 16:34 In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereof in Abiram his firstborn, and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun (Jos 6:26).
Knowing that God detests human sacrifice, especially of a son or daughter at the hand of a parent, the Jewish people naturally assume that God would never allow someone to die a substitutionary death the way animals do. This is a significant stumbling block to receiving salvation through Yahshua the Messiah for the Jewish People. However, the ancient prophet Isaiah revealed that long ago God planned to lay all of our sins and iniquities upon the Messiah:
“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:5–6).
God did not intend for His korbanot to be performed by a people who were determined to live lawless lives. They were never a substitution for living in fellowship with Him and being right-hearted. Likewise, Yahshua’s sacrifice was meant to restore fellowship with our Father upon a person seeking to draw near to Him, sincerely repenting of their sins, and accepting the sacrifice as a free gift on their behalf. The blood of the Lamb of God (Yahshua) takes away the sins OF THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN WHO HE IS, WHAT HE DID, TURN FROM THEIR SINS AND FOLLOW HIM IN KEEPING GOD'S COMMANDMENTS AND COVENANT. God does not delight in the sacrifice; but in the right heart of the person who offers it. Nothing material we can offer Him is ours anyway, We can offer our freewill, obedience and praise.
All of the Hebrew prophets warned the people that offering sacrifices without accompanying inner morality and goodness would be in vain. Ultimately, what God requires of each one of us is to practice justice, mercy and humility toward God and man. This is the law which many say was nailed to the cross! “It has been told to you, O man, what is good, and what the LORD does require of you: only to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8). Yahshua, who has set us free from the evil master of sin through His death and resurrection, has given us the power to be just, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.
Prophetic section Reading (Haftarah).
I will simply quote some verses from the section.
Isa 43:21 This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.... Isa 43:24 Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. Isa 43:25 I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Isa 43:26 Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified. Isa 43:27 Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me. Isa 43:28 Therefore I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary, and have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches.
Read Isa 44:6-19 [Isa 44:6 Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. Isa 44:7 And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.
Isa 44:8 Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any].
Isa 44:17 And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god. Isa 44:18 They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand. Isa 44:19 And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?
Heb 9:1-28 : There are far too many relevant verse for me to be able to adequately select a few, so read the whole chapter and compare with Lev 16 Day of Atonement. What the High priest did on that day etc. However, omit the word “covenant” from v1. It is a wrongly inserted word. The original only said first; but Christian translators assumed it was referring the covenant. The rest of the chapter clearly shows it is referring to the sanctuary sacrificial system.
Shalom and Happy studying.
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