Rising above sin
Vayikra (And He called) Vayikra/Leviticus 1:1-5:26
Haftorah Reading: Isaiah 43:21-44:23
Today we will talk about a Torah portion that on its face seems to have little to say to us in our modern world, but that is not correct. It begins with the duties of the priests in the offering of animal sacrifices for a variety of issues. In Leviticus 2:13 we read, “and all your offerings you shall offer salt.” Why did G-d make this stipulation? The Torah went so far as to require this rule concerning every offering. Salt and sometimes the absence of leaven were used to avoid corruption and to keep the holy things in an imperishable state. We could say these two requirements represented a never ending covenant relationship.
We see this idea of salt mentioned twice in Numbers 18:19 and II Chronicles 13:5. In both of these passages we again read of the everlasting nature of these covenants of salt. The passage in Numbers speaks of the Aaronic priesthood being an everlasting covenant of salt between the L-rd and the descendants of Aaron. In II Chronicles 13:5 we read of G-d’s everlasting covenant with the house of David and their being set aside forever to rule over Israel.
The commandment to salt all sacrifices is a symbol of G-d’s eternal covenant with His people. Today we as believers in the Messiah have been grafted in to the Jewish people. (Romans chapter 11). G-d loves all His people. In fact He loves all people and does not wish that any should perish. When we celebrate the Sabbath each week, and the biblical holidays, this covenant of salt is remembered as we salt the challah bread before it is eaten. This tradition of salting the challah at these special times relives and reaffirms these verses about a permanent, eternal covenant of salt. We are symbolically sitting at the table of the L-rd.
Now, I want us to look at the list of offerings brought to the priests for sacrifice. Which of these were brought for intentional sin? None! This might come as a surprise to us but the only remedy for an intentional sin was a broken and contrite heart. (Psalms 51). The sacrifices brought for the sin mentioned in our verses were for unintentional sins. G-d expected His people and us to know His word and strive to live by it.
Let’s look at Leviticus 1:2. This verse reads in English as, “When one of you offers a sacrifice to the L-rd the sacrifice must be taken from the cattle, sheep or goats.” I want us to look at the beginning of the verse a bit more closely. “When one of you offers a sacrifice.” The order of the words in Hebrew gives us a slightly different meaning. In the original Hebrew it reads more as, “When one offers a sacrifice of you.” This reading speaks to us about what we are actually offering. The animal that was offered was to be only an external manifestation of an inner act. The real sacrifice was to be “of you.” We give G-d something of ourselves. We are offering to G-d through this act, our shortcomings or sin. These animals were only a physical symbol of their failure to live up to G-d’s word. The word for sacrifice is korban. It means to bring our issue close to G-d.So the whole point is we seek to restore a closeness to G-d that has been broken by our actions.
Our lives are to be lived above our natural instincts. We are not to live as an animal, doing whatever feels good. We were created for a higher calling than that. We were created in the image of G-d to be a reflection of Him. His word never changes but is the same today as yesterday.
One of my favorite movies is the African Queen. In that movie Katherine Hepburn said to Humphrey Bogart, “Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we were put on earth to rise above.” Let us never be swept up by the world and follow the masses down a long path to destruction.
Please continue to pray for the terrible situation in Ukraine.