How often when we read the book of Leviticus do we get bored…eyes glazing over as the words on the page drift by without meaning? We yawn and skim over all the detailed instructions given by God to Moses thinking, “This has nothing to do with me. The Temple’s gone…Yeshua’s done away with the sacrifice…ho hum.”
But is God’s Word really dead, and only there for page filler? Let’s take a closer look, shall we? As we do, I believe we’ll see an all-important warning for us today.
Aaron and his sons were anointed for service to the Lord. They were singled out amongst all Israel to minister to the Lord. They were called for a special purpose – one that only they were called to do. (Of course, when man gets involved – like the Romans of Yeshua’s day – that gets watered down, but that’s a story for another day.)
When we read Leviticus 8 we see there was a lot of work that went into preparing the altar and the men for service to the Lord. A simple sentence in the reading passes by so quickly that we often don’t realize the intense amount of work that goes into it.
For instance, Leviticus 8:2 says, “Take Aaron and his sons with him, the garments, the anointing oil, the bull of the sin offering, the two rams and the basket of matzot” we think, “Okay, bring a bunch of stuff to the Tent of Meeting.” (yawn)
Even as we read on, we don’t grasp what is involved. People, we are talking about three large animals that are to be sacrificed. We’re talking slitting the throat…draining the blood…gutting it…cutting it in pieces…skinning it…washing it…and in some instances, carting parts of it outside the Israelite camp and burning it there. What takes us less than five minutes to read had to have taken the better part of an entire day to accomplish!
Now before Aaron and his sons could even be ordained, there were two animals (a bull and a ram) that first had to be sacrificed for a sin offering and a burnt offering. Then came their ordination sacrifice. Truly stop and think about all the worked involved in getting to the point where they were ready for service to the Lord.
No really, I mean pick up your bible, turn to Leviticus 8, and read it as though you were living it. See Moses take the animals one by one. Pause after every few words to see what he was actually doing, the tremendous amount of effort, work, and time that went into each step of the sanctification process. I’ll wait.
Okay, so after all that, Aaron and his sons spent seven days sequestered in the Tent of Meeting. Then, they brought sacrifices for themselves and the people. Another long (but necessary) process of sanctification. Let’s really think about Aaron’s sons for a moment because in chapter 10 we’ll read how two of them sinned and were consumed by fire. A polite way of saying they were burned up, killed.
Was it their misguided zeal to minister to the Lord in a way He did not permit? We may never know their motivation this side of the Kingdom. But whatever the reason, after all the work they went through preparing for a life of service to the Lord, they lost it all in a single moment.
Now think about yourself. What has God called you to do that you are not doing, or doing in a way that He does not permit? Believe me, I am not sitting here pointing a finger. Rather I’m looking deep into my life’s trajectory.
There’s been a lifetime of learning, a lifetime of preparation, a lifetime of work that has gone into my call. There’s also been a lot of missteps along the way.
As I stand outside the Tent of Meeting, I think about all that and wonder if I’m about to throw it all away because of my own misguided motivation. The words, “It’s a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” come to mind.
Because we can so easily throw away our ministry without realizing it, we have to be in constant communion with the Father. And that’s exactly where the enemy gets us – keeping us so busy that our priorities get skewed.
We become slaves – slaves to time, slaves to a job, slaves to money, slaves to debt, slaves to things, and slaves to plans – even slaves to ministry itself.
But God offers us freedom. Passover is the place to start. Clean out all the chametz (leaven) in our lives. Don’t start with the physical things (like our homes), because we can then look around and think we’ve got our act together. Rather start with the heart, the seat of our being.
Clean out all the junk that gets in the way of our communion with the Father. Vacate the throne of our heart, clean it up, and give Him His rightful place. Then celebrate the freedom we have in Him!
He is our Portion. He is our Rock. He is our Provider. Not because He is our genie in a bottle, there to do our bidding, but because He is our Father Who Knows Best.
The only way to find out that best way is to spend time talking with Him. Above all, listening to Him.
Let’s not spend our lives preparing to do the work God has called us to do only to lose it all in a moment of madness. Let’s gird our loins, celebrate His Passover, then journey to His mountain where we can respond, “All that You say, we will do.”
Then do it…His way.
In mainstream Christianity, text such as Lev. 8 tend to get passed by for what you and I know are obvious reasons, and yet, as you say, it was (and will be again, that’s the beauty of it) incredibly relevant and vital to the Israelites who were living there and then, and for many centuries to come.
For we non-Jews, even being associated with the Messianic movement, since we can’t Priests and keeping upcoming Pesach in mind, won’t be eating of the Pascal lamb when the Temple and Priesthood are re-established by Rav Yeshua, it’s harder for us to get excited.
However, Hashem did say his house (Temple) would be a house of prayer for all peoples, so we do have some share in it.
It’s funny, James. When I follow all the comments on your blog, I often remain silent because one thing keeps coming to mind – Catholicism.
I was raised a Roman Catholic (though I opted out of the church at 16 over a disagreement with policy.) One thing I clearly remember learning is that one was not able to take communion unless one was christened in the church and underwent a year of study before being able to participate in the body and blood at age 7 (First Holy Communion). This was followed by more years of study to reach 12/13 where one no longer fell under their parent’s decision to follow Christ but stepped out in a ceremony that confirmed their identity as a Christian. Which ended, by the way, with a slap from the bishop, signifying submission to the authority of Christ and his representatives.
So when I hear the discussion about partaking of the lamb, I can’t help but think about my years as a Catholic with the understanding that if you aren’t Catholic, you can’t partake of the communion wafer and the cup of wine. I am always amazed at the similarities between Judaism and Catholicism. Of course, they stem from the same place, so it shouldn’t be such a surprise.
Years ago, when my dad was in the hospital (from a broken leg while riding/crashing – his motorcycle) a Catholic priest came by and gave his roommate communion. When he was finished, the priest asked my dad if he wanted to partake. Having been raised a Catholic but now a member of a Protestant church, he knew he shouldn’t and shared his apprehension with the priest.
The priest asked him if he was a baptized Christian, and after my dad acknowledged his standing with Messiah, the priest said, “That’s all that’s necessary.” Definitely an unusual outlook for a Catholic priest.
My Torah study is currently going through FFOZ’s Chronicles of Messiah. Lancaster discussed being ‘born again’ and immersion – how it is symbolic of death to the old gentile life and raised up new (as a member of the Jewish community). Now, he was talking about conversion to Judaism, but I find it interesting.
Rav Shaul talks about being raised a new creature in Messiah Yeshua.
I know there are distinctions between Jew and Gentile. Yet, there also aren’t. I can’t seem to explain the understanding I have in my heart, but I’ll try.
It’s like marriage – the two become one. Yet there are distinctions. Yet there aren’t. They are man and woman, but also one combined creature that is neither and both. Each has a role to play, but as they play their roles, they both accomplish what one alone could not.
This is how I look at Jew and Gentile – one in Messiah. Different, but not.
As to the Pesach celebration when Yesua returns, I cannot imagine him telling me or any of His followers that we can’t join in the celebration of freedom. Now, I could be wrong, and I trust He will tell me so. But I remember being in Shiloh and learning the importance of the community having their meal along the hillsides facing the Mishkan. I thought I heard there (or somewhere) that the Passover lamb is a peace offering.
In preparing my teaching for Passover, I came across this on JewishEncyclopedia.com:
The paschal sacrifice belongs to the “shelamim,” thus forming one of the sacrifices in which the meal is the principal part and indicates the community between God and man. It is really a house or family sacrifice, and each household is regarded as constituting a small community in itself, not only because the lamb is eaten at home, but also because every member of the family is obliged to partake of the meal, on pain of excommunication (“karet”), although each man must be circumcised and all must be ritually clean. The fact that the paschal lamb might be killed only at the central sanctuary of Jerusalem, on the other hand, implies that each household was but a member of the larger community; and this is indicated also by the national character of the sacrifice, which kept alive in the memory of the nation the preservation and liberation of the entire people.
Several things stand out to me.
– First, the meal is community between God and man.
– Second, when Yeshua returns, will we not all be ritually clean? For that matter, are we now unclean? Or has His blood sprinkled on our hearts purified us? How much more so when in His presence?
– Third, without negating the importance of physical circumcision, I know Hashem desires circumcision of the heart. The physical is an outward manifestation of the inner being (or it should be).
– Fourth, are we not part of the community/family of Yeshua? (Again, not negating the difference between Jew and Gentile.)
Please don’t get me wrong, James. I am not trying to convince you. This is simply the way I see it. Again, when Messiah returns He’ll straighten it all out. But His words come to mind from Matthew 8:11, “Moreover, I tell you that many will come from the east and the west, and they will recline at table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”
When He mentions reclining at the table, I can’t help but think of the Seder, where we bring pillows for our chairs and where we lean to the side as we drink, symbolically reclining because we are no longer slaves (to Egypt or to sin) but freed from bondage to live as royalty.