Parasha Vayikra (And He Called): Drawing Near to God

Parasha Vayikra (And He Called) וַיִּקְרָא

Leviticus 1:1–5:26; Isaiah 43:21–44:23; Hebrews 10:1–18

“The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting.”  (Leviticus 1:1)

In last week’s Parasha, the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was completed and the cloud rested over it, signifying that the Divine Presence had come to dwell within it.

In this week’s Parasha, God reveals to Moses the laws for the sacrifices performed in the Temple, including the sin offering and the guilt offering.

This Shabbat is also the first Sabbath (day of rest) in the Hebrew month of Nisan, which God ordained as the first month of the Biblical calendar.  Biblically speaking, then, we are in a new year!

Traditionally speaking, however, there are four different new years in Judaism:

  1. The new year for kings and festivals on Nisan 1;
  2. The new year for tithing cattle on Elul 1;
  3. The new year for the reckoning of years on Tishri 1 (Rosh Hashanah); and
  4. The new year for trees on Shevat 15 (Tu Bishvat).

God made Nisan the first month of the year because it was the month in which the Jewish people were freed from slavery in Egypt and became a nation.

Nisan is regarded today as the start of the ecclesiastical new year, but the first of Tishri, which is the seventh month, is regarded as the start of the civil year.

Before the tenth plague came upon Egypt, the Lord told Moses that Nisan would be the first month of the year.

“The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, ‘This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year.’”  (Exodus 12:1–2)

According to Jewish tradition, the Israelites received the first commandment to sanctify the New Moon as the first day of Nisan after being delivered from Egypt.

So, in the Hebrew reckoning of time, the month of Nisan begins at the New Moon, and a day begins at sunset, in keeping with the creation account in Genesis.

“… and the evening and the morning were the first day.”  (Genesis 1:5)

In following this lunar calendar, the Israelites made a solid departure from the Egyptian solar tradition of Ra worship.

Leviticus: Finding a Deeper Revelation of Yeshua (Jesus)

“You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  (Exodus 19:6)

The oldest name for the Third Book of Moses is Torat Kohanim (Law of the Priests).  It describes the Temple sacrifices, the functions of the priesthood (Kohanim), and the duties of Israel, the priestly nation.

Leviticus has so much information about how to serve God that, even though there is no longer a Temple or Temple sacrifices, Jewish children begin their study of Torah with this book.

Far from being irrelevant to New Covenant Believers, Leviticus can bring deeper insight and fresh revelation that will enrich our relationship with the Lord.

Moreover, a failure to understand the spiritual principles that are behind the blood sacrifice and substitutionary atonement makes it truly difficult to understand the significance of Yeshua’s (Jesus) death on the Roman execution stake.

The significance of Yeshua’s shed blood cannot fully impact our soul until we come to understand the laws of blood sacrifices and sin-offerings found in Leviticus.

They are foundational to understanding our faith.

Who Can Bring an Offering to the Lord?

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  (James 4:8)

Chapter 1 of Leviticus deals with the various types of burnt offerings and sacrifices.

In Hebrew, the offering is called a Korban, which is derived from the word karov, meaning near.  So, the offering made a way for the person to draw near to God.

When we take even baby steps to draw near to God, just like the father of the prodigal son, our Heavenly Father will see us from afar and run to meet us!

The Lord instructed Moses to speak to the children of Israel about bringing their offerings to the Lord.

“When any man [adam] of you brings an offering to the Lord…”  (Leviticus 1:2)

The Hebrew word for man in this verse is adam, which is the root of adamah, meaning earth, ground, or even dirt.

In this context, the word adam means not only man, but all of humankind, regardless of race or gender.

“So God created the man [adam] in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.”  (Genesis 1:27)

This reveals that it was not only a Jewish male who could bring an offering to the Lord, but anyone—even a foreigner’s offering would be accepted by God.

“If any of you—either an Israelite or an alien living in Israel—presents a gift for a burnt offering to the Lord, either to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering, you must present a male without defect from the cattle, sheep or goats.”  (Leviticus 22:18–19)

Even a foreigner could come to the Temple to pray and God would hear their prayers and answer them, so “that all peoples of the earth may know Your name and fear You, as do Your people Israel.”  (1 Kings 8:4145)

Peter received an incredible revelation in realizing that “God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”  (Acts 10:3435)

We are all created in God’s image:  Jew and Gentile, male and female, “according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Messiah is all and in all.”  (Colossians 3:11)

An Offering Without Blemish Means Giving Our Best

“If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect [tamim].  You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord.”  (Leviticus 1:3)

Leviticus specifies that the burnt offering was to be without blemish.  The Hebrew word for without blemish is tamim, from tamam, which means pure, perfect, undefiled and whole.

On a personal application level, we can see that God doesn’t want the leftover, tainted, or blemished stuff that we were going to throw away anyway.

All too often, our gifts and offerings to God and to others consist of what is extra, what we don’t really want, or what is easy to give.

Such gestures are not sacrifices at all, and can even be interpreted as an insult.  When we give anyone our leftovers or garbage, we convey a message that “this is not good enough for me, but it is good enough for you.”

A sacrifice must cost us something.

 

King David said, “I will not take for the LORD what belongs to you or offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”  (1 Chronicles 21:24)

Of course, something must coincide with the act of sacrificing.  That something is sincere repentance, good deeds, and the regeneration of the heart.

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.  Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the Lord, as in days gone by, as in former years.”  (Malachi 3:3–4)

Tamim: A Pure Sacrifice

Scripture makes it abundantly clear that Yeshua, as the Suffering Messiah, was found to be without fault, sin, or blemish.

For example, Pilate symbolically washed his hands in a basin and said, “You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.”  (John 19:6)

A less direct, but prophetic testimony of His purity, perhaps, comes from the inspection process for the Passover sacrifice.

During the time of the Temple, before the Passover lamb was slain as a sacrifice and offered to God, it was to be inspected for four days in order to make sure that it was pure and without blemish (tamim).

Similarly, before Yeshua was slain on Passover as the unblemished Lamb of God, He entered Jerusalem and taught in the Temple for four days in full view of the people and religious leaders.

Atonement: Being Reconciled to God

“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)

The Torah reveals that our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:2), and that the offering (also called oleh in Hebrew, which means to go up) or blood sacrifice is necessary to reconcile us to Him.

“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”  (Leviticus 17:11)

The sacrifice made atonement for the one giving the offering.

The word atonement in English actually comes from at-one-ment, and it originally meant to be at one or in harmony with someone.

Behind this word is a sense of a dispute being resolved and a relationship reconciled.

The Temple Sacrifice and the Covering for Sin

In addition to offering a pure sacrifice, the priests had to be in a state of ritual purity to bring offerings to the Temple.  The same was true of people bringing their own Passover offerings.

The law is clear about how to create this state of ritual purity.

The ashes of a red heifer were used in ritual purification ceremonies in the Holy Temple.  Numbers 19:2 specifies that the Red Heifer itself had to be without spot or blemish, and must not have been used to perform work.

Since the Temple in Jerusalem no longer exists and sacrifices cannot be offered, a new way of covering sin has been developed by the rabbis.

According to Rabbinic tradition, instead of the blood sacrifice, three things are now sufficient to cover our sins: Teshuvah (repentance), Tzedakah (giving of charity), and Tefilah (prayer).

Nevertheless, God’s ways are not our ways.

He still requires a blood sacrifice.  Without it, all we have is a distant hope that our names are written in the Book of Life.

Similar to the word atonement, the Hebrew word koper means to atone, to reconcile, or to bring back into unity, persons at variance with one another.

The atoning sacrifice, therefore, re-establishes a right relationship with God.

When we place our faith in Yeshua’s “once-and-for-all-time” sacrifice of His own life, we have an assurance that our sins are forgiven.

Yeshua’s blood not only covers our sins, it removes them—as far as the east is from the west!

“He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.”  (Hebrews 9:12)

Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice did far more than the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of the red heifer could ever do.  They could make the person ritually clean.  But only Yeshua makes the repentant sinner inwardly clean.  (Hebrews 9:11–15; 10:4)

Burnt Offerings and Being Reconciled to God

“It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.”  (Leviticus 1:17)

Leviticus emphasizes that the burnt offering presented to God has a pleasing aroma.

In Hebrew, the phrase is reiach nichoach l’YHVH—a satisfying aroma to God.  The root of nichoach is nuach, which means comfort or rest.

Do you wonder how the roasting flesh of one of God’s creatures can be a pleasing or comforting aroma to God?

Since this burnt offering could only be offered to God with a free and willing spirit, it’s the person’s heartfelt desire to be restored into right relationship with God that brings comfort to His heart.

The resulting reconciliation also brings rest to the soul of man.

A Living Sacrifice

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”  (Romans 12:1)

As Believers in Messiah Yeshua, we are to be living sacrifices.

When we freely choose to be led by His Spirit, rather than submitting to the desires of our flesh, it is a sweet aroma to God that brings Him great pleasure and even comfort.

Every sacrifice costs something, but with it also comes the promise of a reward.

Yeshua’s sacrifice on the execution stake (cross), has brought hundreds of millions of people back into a right relationship with God.

He is our example of a living sacrifice.

Every sincere act of self-sacrifice for the good of another holds the promise of a future reward.

And really, there’s nothing to lose in offering our lives as a living sacrifice, since Yeshua promised that “He who loses his life for My sake will find it.”  (Matthew 10:39)

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