Weekly Torah Section: Vayikra (He Called) Leviticus 1:1-6:7, Haftorah: Isaiah 43:21-44:23
I would like to begin with the Haftorah reading in Isaiah 43. My question is, why was Israel formed and likewise, by adoption, why were we created? We were created to praise G-d. How do we do that? By living our lives in total dedication to Him. Here I would like to bring in one Hebrew word from the Torah portion, Korban. We will talk more about it later but when you read the Torah in Leviticus this word, or a form of this word appears over and over. So what does it really mean? Usually you think of this word meaning sacrifice but It also means to draw close or draw near. So, to really praise G-d we must draw close to Him. Now back to Isaiah.
Israel was created to praise G-d, to draw close to Him. But what picture do these verses of Isaiah 43:21-26 portray? As we read Isaiah 43:21-26 listen and tell me what emotion you feel from G-d – the maker of heaven and earth. The same One who seraphim praised continually singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy!” To me, maybe because I am a parent, it sounds like a father weeping over a wayward child. Sounds like G-d is saying, “Can’t we just sit and talk for awhile? You can state your case, let’s discuss it. But no, you have grown weary of Me. You don’t bring the sacrifices anymore. You are busy with work, vacation, everything and anything seems to be a reason to forget Me.” Ask yourself, “Is this how I am in G-d’s eyes? Does the day go by without one word of conversation between me and my Maker? I can’t give up chilling out in front of the TV after a long day of work. But many nights I put my head on the pillow and drift off to sleep without a word to the One who formed me, formed me to draw near to Him, to contend with Him.” G-d has given us free choice to come to Him or not. He does not force us to do so. He even tells us He will blot out our sins and remember them no more if we only confess them.
Here G-d in His mercy tells us that even though we have no time for Him, He is still there for us. He is the first and the last. There is no god besides Him. He goes on to compare the futility of idols made by our hands to Him, the Maker of the universe. He calls us to remember Him who formed us (verse 21) And His mercy in blotting out our sins (verse 22). Psalms 147:10-11 says G-d does not take pleasure in how strong we are but in us and our relationship to Him.
Now to Leviticus. As I said, in this Torah section the sacrifices are covered in some depth. What does this have to do with us in today’s world? To help us here think back to the word, Korban. Here G-d was instituting a system which allowed a sinful or unclean person to come close to Him. Let’s look at the sacrifices as they are mentioned in Leviticus.
1. Olah – or burnt offering: It was an offering completely consumed on the fire. Most of the first chapter speaks of it. A person is not compelled to bring it. It is out of their own desire to draw near to G-d. The one offering the sacrifice brought his sacrifice, put his hands on its head and symbolically transferred his concerns, sins, or prayers to the animal which went up to the Father as a “comforting” aroma. Usually this word is translated as sweet or pleasant aroma but the Hebrew word implies more of a comforting feeling – that we are comfortable with G-d again. Our relationship with Him is restored. No matter if you were rich or poor the issue was the same. Whatever the actual sacrifice, big or small, it was the same in G-d’s eyes. Yeshua brings this same principle out when He speaks of the widows offering. One last point since it was completely consumed on the fire it represents the complete surrender of that person to G-d.
2. Minhah Offering or Grain Offering: The word itself usually means a gift or tribute like in Genesis 44 where Jacob brings a tribute to Joseph. So here it follows the Olah offering and was given to honor to G-d. What spiritual reason could there be? The Minhah offering was given out of thankfulness for G-d’s mercy granted by the Olah offering.
3. Shalem Offering or Peace Offering: As its name denotes, it is representative of the peace between the one offering the sacrifice and G-d. It is not all consumed on the altar but some is used in a festive meal with the person, family, friends and priests. The festival meal represents a time of fellowship between G-d and man.
4. Chatot or Sin Offering: What kind of sin was this offering for? It was only for unintentional or accidental sin. Missing the mark is the meaning of the word so it was a sin committed in error. This happens when we are not disciplined in our walk. Just because we don’t know is no excuse. It still has to be confessed and forgiveness given.
5. Ashem or guilt offering: This offering was for a serious sin, slander, false witness, etc. It not only required an offering but also restitution of 20% over the value placed on the act. These sacrifices served as a substitute for the person who had actually committed the act or sin. I Peter 1:19-20 speaks of Yeshua fulfilling this role for us as the unblemished Lamb. Confession had to be made. Is confession easy? No, especially when you had to confess to the person you wronged. I John 1:9 it states if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Blood was also shed. Ephesians 1:7 Yeshua shed His blood to redeem us. The sacrifice died instead of the person. II Corinthians 5:21 says that Yeshua who knew no sin became our substitute. These offerings paint a clear picture of what the Messiah has accomplished for us and gives us the spiritual order in how we can approach G-d