Weekly Torah Section: Tzav (Command) Leviticus 6:8-8:36, Haftorah: Malachi 3:1-4:6
I would like to start with the Torah section, Leviticus 6:8-8:36 and then finish with Malachi 3:1-4:6. The first verse of the Torah section begins with the word, Tzav. In English this word means “Command.” What is interesting is that this word is used rather than some other Hebrew word that would mean to tell or to speak. These words are often used when the person wishes to get across a sense of urgency. Command, on the other hand, seems to say do it now and keep on doing it. So, the question arises why did G-d feel He had to use this word here? Would G-d have doubted the commitment of Aaron and his sons? After all, they were at the top of the religious hierarchy. One thought that carries a hint was that maybe G-d wasn’t worried about the immediate future but as time went on would their attentiveness wane. It is one thing to be excited and committed early in our walk with G-d and another to hold on to that zeal as time goes on. So like Aaron and his sons we are challenged to not lose our fire but to stay close to G-d no matter what we experience in life.
The priestly acts mentioned next had to do with keeping the fire burning while taking out the ashes of the altar. Pretty menial work, right? The work might not be considered glamorous but something that had to be done day in and day out. There is a story in the Mishna about this. It says that each day there was a race to see who had the privilege of taking out the ashes. I pray that this same continual fire drives each of us in our lives. Anything G-d calls us to do is never menial but is in service of the King of Kings.
Before we leave the Torah portion I want to look at the verses in Chapter 6 of Leviticus verse 11. Why did the priest have to change clothes before taking the ashes out? It was because the priestly garments were holy and only to be worn in their duties inside the tabernacle. Also, there is a tradition in the Mishna that it also kept him from being prideful. He wore simple clothes out among the people not his fine priestly garments. Are we ever guilty of showing a little pride as we mingle with people of the world each day?
Today is known as the Great Sabbath because it is the last Sabbath before Passover. Speaking of Passover, what do you think would have happened to the children of Israel if G-d had not sent Moses? What would have happened if He had not provided a way of redemption? They would still be in Egypt. The same is true for us. If G-d had not provided a way of salvation through Yeshua we would still be living in sin. As we will see in Malachi 3:1-4:6, these verses cover the final redemption. Passover is a beautiful picture of redemption and these verses speak of that redemption.
What does the name Malachi mean? It means my messenger or my angel. I want us to keep to the same train of thought, “Don’t let our zeal diminish.” A little background first. Malachi prophesied during the early 2nd Temple period. The people he was speaking to were children and grandchildren of the generation that had returned from Babylonian captivity. So their fathers and grand fathers were the ones that built the 2nd temple. Yet here in Malachi we read where they had lost their zeal and settled into a pattern of being lazy in living out their faith before G-d. The priest shirked their duties and the people treated the temple without the proper respect. In Malachi 2:17 we see their question, “Where is the G-d of justice?” Has that question ever been on our lips? The evil seem to prosper and the righteous go hungry. So it is easy to become cynical and lose our zeal.
G-d provides an answer in our verses today in Malachi. G-d says he is sending His messenger and he will clear the way before Him. Who is this messenger that will clear the way? Elijah the prophet is the messenger and G-d will bring him back to usher in the Messianic age. On Passover we always leave an empty chair because we expect Elijah to show up – as a forerunner of the Messiah. Passover is that time of redemption. Yeshua came initially to preach repentance. When John was at the Jordan what was his message? Repentance. He was clearing the way for Yeshua. Isaiah 40:3-5 speaks of this same idea but clarifies what clearing the way means. Mark 1:2-4 ties both Malachi and Isaiah together.
In Matt 3:11-12 and Malachi 3:2 we read who can endure the day of His coming. What does refiner’s fire and fuller’s soap seem to mean. We need to always be ready. Do not lose our zeal. Keep our eyes open. We are priests and cannot, like the ones mentioned here in Malachi, treat the kingdom of G-d with irreverence or disrespect.
So, as we clean the leavening from our homes before Passover we can allow G-d to speak to us about the leavening in our hearts and in our spirits and allow him to remove sin from our lives. So that when we come to Passover no leaven will be found in our lives. One of the qualities of leaven is that it puffs up things – pride. Passover is the beginning of the spiritual year. Spend some time with G-d this week and check yourself. See what He would like to change in your life. Where would you like to be spiritually this time next year? May we be faithful to everything G-d puts before us to do – from taking out the trash to greater things G-d gives us to do, that our offerings will be pleasant to the L-rd.