Parasha Tzav (Command): The Transforming Power of Praise

“These, then, are the regulations for the burnt offering, the grain offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, the ordination offering and the fellowship offering, which the Lord gave Moses at Mount Sinai in the Desert of Sinai.” (Leviticus 7:37–38)

Because this Shabbat is just before Passover, which starts Monday night, this Shabbat is called Shabbat HaGadol (Great Shabbat), and a special Haftarah portion from Malachai is added that speaks of offerings and the coming of Messiah.

Shabbat HaGadol is a commemoration of God telling the Israelites in Egypt to obtain a lamb for sacrifice and bring it into their homes (Exodus 12:3).  

Obtaining the many sheep was definitely a miracle since the Egyptians worshiped the ram god Amun, and the Israelites did not hide that they intended to sacrifice the lambs of Egypt.  According to the Rabbinic writings, many Egyptians, upon learning of the coming 10th plague, tried to have the Israelites set free.

Because this occurred on a Shabbat, it is a tradition to remember this event on the Shabbat even if the actual anniversary falls on another day of the week.

In last week’s Parasha, God gave to Moses the laws of the korbanot (animal andmeal offerings).  Those offerings include the olah (burnt offering), minchah (meal offering), shelamim (peace offering), chatat (sin offering for unintentional sin), and the asham (guilt offering).

This week’s Torah portion describes how these different sacrifices were performed.  

While such offerings seem strange, even outrageous, to modern man, they do pertain to worship and the attitude of the heart.

Understanding them ultimately helps us to understand what Yeshua (Jesus) did for us on the Roman execution stake (cross), and why His death was necessary.

These offerings shed light on the Brit Chadashah (New Testament), in particular the challenging Letter to the Hebrews.

“The offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.”  (Malachi 3:4)

Torah (Law) of the Burnt Offering

“The Lord said to Moses:  ‘Give Aaron and his sons this command:  ‘These are the regulations [Torah] for the burnt offering.’”  (Leviticus 6:8–9)

The burnt offerings, which were freewill offerings, were blood sacrifices of innocent animals that impressed upon the repentant person the seriousness of their sin before God.  

They were offered every morning and evening on a fire that originated from God and burned continually (Leviticus 9:24).  These offerings burned on that fire until they were totally consumed while the priests stood watch making sure that the fire did not go out.

Because of this, the burnt offering speaks of consecration and a life of continual service to God.

“The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.”  (Leviticus 6:13)

That eternal flame is a good analogy for our love for God.  Let us tend to the fire in our heart for God and never let it go out.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”  (John 4:23)

Suffering Outside the Camp

“The High Priest [Cohen HaGadol] carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp.  And so Yeshua also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through His own blood.”  (Hebrews 13:11–12)

Leviticus specifies that the Cohen (priests) were to carry the ashes of the burnt offerings outside the camp (Leviticus 6:11).

In prophetic fulfillment of this, Yeshua (Jesus) also gave Himself as an offering outside the camp—outside the gates of Jerusalem.

“Let us, then, go to Him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace He bore.”  (Hebrews 13:13)

We are required to go “outside the camp” of this world to meet Yeshua where we will likely become objects of criticism and be considered unclean or unworthy by man; but in doing so, we are in God’s sight holy as He is holy.

Although we might be hated by men, and sometimes feel defeated and downcast, we know we are deeply accepted by our Beloved Father in Heaven (Ephesians 1:4–10).

May God so fill you with the deep knowledge of His love that you will be willing to suffer outside the camp and stand alone in the Truth, if needed.

God delights in you!

Torah of the Peace Offering: The Sacrifice of Praise

“If he offers it as an expression of thankfulness, then along with this thank offering he is to offer cakes of bread made without yeast and mixed with oil, wafers made without yeast and spread with oil, and cakes of fine flour well-kneaded and mixed with oil.”  (Leviticus 7:12)

The peace offering was a freewill offering that was an expression of thanksgiving.

The peace offering is so important that when King David brought the ark of God back to its place in the Tabernacle, the first thing he did was offer burnt offerings and peace offerings.

He also appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel with psalms, stringed instruments, harps, cymbals and the shofar.

“He [David] appointed some of the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord, to extol, thank, and praise the Lord, the God of Israel.”  (1 Chronicles 16:4)

“Through Jesus [Yeshua], therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess His name.”  (Hebrews 13:15)

Offering our thanksgiving and praise to God is perhaps, the greatest sacrifice we can give—especially when things don’t seem to be going our way and our flesh doesn’t feel like praising and thanking the Almighty.

“He who sacrifices thank offerings honors Me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.”  (Psalm 50:23)

Gratitude is so important.  Becoming a truly thankful person is transforming!

We need to notice the good things that God does for us each day, and cultivate an attitude of gratitude for those people God has placed in our lives.

Albert Einstein, the most famous Jewish physicist said, “A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving.”

Another grateful man, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945), who was a Lutheran Pastor killed by the Nazis in WWII for his stand for the Jews, said,

“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.  It is very easy to overestimate the value of our achievements in comparison to what we owe others.”

We are so thankful for all of our ministry partners—people who love God and the Jewish people—who are determined to stand with Israel.  You are such a blessing to us!

The Consecration of Priests

“Moses slaughtered the ram and took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.  Moses also brought Aaron’s sons forward and put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears, on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet.”  (Leviticus 8:23–24)  

Before a priest could be fit for service, he had to be consecrated.  In the eighth chapter of Leviticus, we read that Moses consecrated Aaron and his sons to serve the Lord by taking the blood of the purification offering and putting it upon their right earlobe, the thumb of his right hand, and the big toe of his right foot.

These three areas represented the consecration of the entire body for the priestly service.  They also provide an important lesson for the type of lives we are to lead as Believers.

To live a consecrated life, we must have the following:

  • Consecrated ears that are attentive to God:  “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  (John 10:27) 
  • Consecrated hands that are ready to do His will and the good works He has pre-appointed for us to perform, “bearing fruit in every good work.”  (Colossians 1:10) 
  • Consecrated feet that continually walk in His holy ways:  “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him.”  (Psalm 37:23)

Worship in Obedience

In the Haftarah (prophetic) portion of Tzav, the Prophet Jeremiah denounced mechanical acts of worship that were combined with ungodliness and unrighteousness.

“When I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command:  Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people.  Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.”  (Jeremiah 7:22–23)

God’s blessing comes with worship accompanied by real obedience.

It remains a central teaching of the Tanakh (Old Testament Jewish Scriptures) that God desires obedience and a right heart rather than empty compliance to the sacrificial system.

Yeshua (Jesus) also drew attention to the problem of going through the motions of worshiping God, when the heart was in reality far from God.

Quoting Isaiah 29:11, He said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”  (Matthew 15:8–9)

The people of Israel held an almost superstitious belief that Temple rituals would guarantee their spiritual security, even while being divorced from God’s moral laws regarding justice and righteousness.

As followers of Yeshua, we can fall into the same trap, believing that going to a congregation and singing worship songs gives us a right relationship with God.

Worshiping God is so much more than “punching in and out of the time clock” at congregational services.

Religious ritual cannot justify us or save us.

If we want to progress in our spiritual journey, to move forward, and not backward, then God has to be our beginning, end, and center.  We need to obey God at all times (Jeremiah 7:24).

If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that our sin nature resists God’s laws:

“For the sinful nature is always hostile to God.  It never did obey God’s laws [Torah], and it never will.”  (Romans 8:7)

 Nevertheless, in Messiah Yeshua we are transformed into a new person in which our innermost being desires a life that follows in the footsteps of the Master to do His good works, and to share the Gospel of His love with the world.  The prophet Ezekiel told us about this transformation:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; …  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”  (Ezekiel 36:26–27)

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