Torah Portion: Vayikra(And He Called)Vayikra/Leviticus 1:1-5:26

Haftorah Reading: Isaiah 43:21-44:23

Today we begin our study of the third book of Torah, Vayikra. This word translates as, “And He called.” We will look at this name more closely later. However, for now think of this book as being written mostly as a handbook for the priests. Usually we see this as something that has little to say to us today since there is no Mishkan or Temple today. However, to take that approach will cause us to miss a book filled with spiritual lessons for us. It would also cause us to miss many opportunities to aid our understanding of the Messianic Scriptures such as Romans 12:1-2. In these verses we read where Shaul is telling us to present our bodies as living and holy sacrifices to G-d. Our challenge then is how do we do this in our world?  Here in these verses Shaul urges us to set aside our stubborn wills, our wayward flesh and our self-centered egos and submit ourselves to the commandments of G-d.  When we set aside our personal desires and inclinations for the sake of obeying G-d we are sacrificing ourselves for the sake of heaven.  Instead of offering a bull, lamb or goat we are offering ourselves.

In I Sam 15:22 we read, “Has the L-rd as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the L-rd? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to heed than the fat of rams.” Another verse that might help us is Hosea 6:6, The L-rd declares, “I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice and in the knowledge of G-d rather than burnt offerings.” These verses show the importance of studying a book such as Vayikra. So we might ask if we desire to give G-d a gift today, what can we give him?  We give no better gift than our own humble submission to His will. We can give him the simple sacrifice of grateful obedience.  In this book probably more than most, it is important to approach these scriptures with those thoughts.

In our study of Vayikra we will read the instructions to the people and the various sacrifices that were brought to the Mishkan and later to the Temple.  An interesting point to keep in mind is when a sacrifice was brought to the Temple it was a public affair.  The ceremony of these different sacrifices was quite specific and there was nothing private about what was happening.  Everyone would recognize the person whether they were a prince or a priest giving the sacrifice.  They would understand, the nature of why the person was there based on the type of sacrifice brought and the ceremony preformed. Witnesses would also know if  these leading figures had sinned. The person could not hide behind his office but would be admitting before the public that he had done something wrong, even if only by accident.  This would convey a clear message that the leadership was expected to follow the same commandments as the average person.

Every individual is responsible for their own actions. This is a clear principle.  But sometimes leadership in congregations, society or politics escape censure. So, as we study these commandments and sacrifices everybody is held to the same standard. This is an important concept for all of us.

Now to my question of the week, why, in the first verse did it says “And He called Moses.” Instead of, And G-d called Moses? There are two other times that this Hebrew word, Vayikra, is used in Torah. One is Exodus 3:4 and the other is Exodus 24:16.  What is the difference in saying And He called and saying And G-d called? Most English translations read, And G-d called, which is not a direct translation.  The Hebrew says, “And He called.”  Using the pronoun makes it more personal. When we read, “And He called,” it encompasses everything that G-d is. Here it gives the feeling of a parent calling his child. A call filled with unconditional love.  Think now of your own life when G-d called you to faith.  I would expect most of us would have felt this same loving unconditional call of G-d.  All we had to do was answer as Moses did. It did not matter who we had been or what we had done. He called us quietly and intimately and moved us to respond to the One who loves us.

From an early age most of us learned to put a value on our life. We look at what we have and what our liabilities are. We check to see how we measure up to those around us. Sometimes we even carry this idea over to G-d and think this is how He looks at us. For sure G-d is pleased when we do well and saddened by our failures but His love for us is not affected by what we have to show for ourselves. He gives us love just for being. We do not have to earn His love.  

This idea of coming close to G-d and His desire to be close to us carries over now to the offerings G-d instructed Moses to institute.  The Hebrew word for sacrifice is Korban.  It has as its root three Hebrew letters that mean close.  So the sacrifices by their very name was meant to give man the opportunity to draw close to G-d.  

Now let’s look at a few of these offerings to see how it worked. Let’s begin with the burnt offering. In Hebrew it is called Olah, which means to go up or be completely consumed on the fire.  It is a voluntary sacrifice.  You could say it was a person’s way of showing a complete abandonment to G-d. No one received any benefit from it. It was just for the Father.  Yeshua’s life reflects this over and over.  In Matthew 26:39 we read where he speaks these words to     G-d, “Not My will but Yours.”  He lived his life here on this earth completely given over to the Father.  As the Olay ascended to G-d as a sweet aroma so did Yeshua. John 3:13-15.    John 6:62 says, “What if you could see the Son of Man ascending to where He was at the beginning.” He was the perfect living Olah sacrifice to G-d.

Another example of offerings that were commanded to be brought was the grain offering. The grain offering was mixed with oil and frankincense.  It was offered on the altar after the priest had taken his part. It was meant to indicate a life lived to the fullest for the Father. It is important to remember that the grain offering was unleavened. Why? Leaven was a sign of corruption. Again we see Yeshua declaring Himself free of sin and corruption. In John 6:41 he declares Himself to be the bread of heaven. 

In the peace offering, found in Lev. 3:1, the giver kept a part of the offering and shared it with family and friends. The priest also got a part and the fat was given to G-d. The Peace offering was a time of fellowship and peace between man and G-d. In I Cor. 5:7 Shaul said, “Our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.” Passover offering was not a sin offering but a peace offering.

These three are good examples of why we study these offerings. They can help us all come to a deeper understanding in our own walk with the Father.

Blessings to each of you this week. David