Parashah Emor (Speak) Leviticus 21 – 24

There is enough in here to fill a book. I could write a whole chapter of a book just on Leviticus 23, the designations of the Holy Days…oh wait! I already did- it’s Chapter 7 in my book.

God tells Moses and Aaron the requirements for priesthood: about who they can marry, keeping clean (ceremonially) and who may eat of the holy foods. He also tells them those who serve must not have a blemish or an unnatural (today we would say challenged) physique.

It also, as I mentioned above, designates the Festivals of the Lord, the 7 Holy Days (not holidays, but Holy Days- read my book) that God has separated and commanded us to observe:

The Sabbath

Passover Passover is not 7 days long: it is just from the evening meal until midnight, when the angel passed over.

Hag Ha Matzot The next seven days are called Hag ha Matzot, the Festival of Unleavened Bread. First Fruits is also celebrated the first day after the first Shabbat after Passover starts.

Shavuot Festival of Weeks, which includes the counting of the Omer and is celebrated by Christians as the Pentecost (50 days). For Jews it celebrates also the giving of the Torah, although that is civil, not biblical.

Rosh HaShanah The bible declares this day as Yom T’Ruah, the memorial celebration with sounding of trumpets. The civil holiday it has become is a new year celebration. According to God, the new year begins 14 days before the Passover, with the month of Aviv (now called Nissan)

Yom Kippur The Day of Atonement is when we ask God to move from the Seat of Judgment to the Seat of Mercy and forgive us for our sinfulness and the sins we have committed. Of course, we are to ask forgiveness every day, but this was a special time, and the only time that the Cohen HaGadol, the High Priest, was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies.

Sukkot The Festival of Tabernacles is when we build small tabernacles, or open roofed shelters and live in them for a week, to recall the way we lived in the desert for 40 years. Today (not from Torah but a Rabbinical add-on) we also celebrate Sh’mini Atzeret, the Eighth Day, also called Simchat Torah (Joy of Torah). On that day we read the final lines of the Torah, then while the congregation sings (and dances in some synagogues) the Torah is turned back to the beginning, and the cycle of reading starts all over again.

The one thing I want to discuss today is at the very end of this parashah. Leviticus 24:22, where God says:

Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for the home-born; for I am the Lord, your God

This command is one of the most important of all commandments in the Torah, as far as I am concerned, because it signifies clearly that God makes no distinction between your geographic origin, your parent’s beliefs, or whether you are white, black, or multi-colored: as far as God is concerned, His laws are for everyone and it doesn’t matter where you are from or how you were raised. There is only one God, Adonai; there are only His rules and laws; like them or not, you are subject to them if you say you worship Him.

If you profess to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob then these laws are for you. Period.

Most, if not all, Christian religions teach differently, and any religion that says these Holy Days do not need to be observed or that any part of the Torah is not necessary, by definition that religion cannot be worshiping the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

If you are being told the Torah, the holy days in Leviticus 23, or that the Old Covenant is all just “Jewish” stuff, then you need to find out who you are worshiping, because it ain’t the God Moses worshiped!

 

Religion and Roofing

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “OK. Where is he going with this one?”

I was a Combat Engineer in the Marine Corps, and one of the many things we did was construction. I have also worked in the home remodeling field. When you are building a roof, you carefully measure the length and angle of the rafters, which are the supporting beams for the sheathing the shingles go over. Every single rafter has to be cut at the exact same angle and the exact same length of the roof section it is being used for. The way you do that is to cut and test a rafter, then you use that as the standard model for the other rafters. Every other rafter is measured against that one “master” for accuracy.

If you cut the master, then cut a second rafter from that one, then cut the third from the second, cut the fourth from the third, the fifth from the fourth, and so on, by the time you get to the other end of the roof your rafter will be off by inches. Once you stop using the one “known-good” rafter, your correctness will constantly degrade until what you have isn’t even close to the original.

Are you starting to see where I am going, now? God gave us the Torah- that is the “Master” for how He wants us to worship Him and treat each other. He says it is all we need: it is not too hard to do (Deuteronomy 30:11) , and we shouldn’t add to it or take anything away from it (Deuteronomy 4:2.)

Religion has been born from people trying to do exactly that- add to or detract from the Word of God. God gave us the Master measurement for building His house on earth; the second rafter was cut when Yeshua taught us that it isn’t just the words we need to live by, but the spirit of the Law. Yeshua never changed anything, He simply explained it in more detail. He cut a second rafter that was exactly the same as the first. Then, within Judaism, over the years we cut rafters from the first, ignoring the one Yeshua cut, and the second was different, the third was different, and today we have Hasidim, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Messianic Jews.

Christianity also failed to cut their rafters from the Master. And what has developed, as it is today, is not from the teachings of Yeshua (Jesus) but by the rules instituted by Constantine. He cut the “gentile” master in the Third Century (give or take) at the First Council of Nicaea. Then that rafter was cut up into Eastern, Western, Catholic, Protestant, Episcopalian, Baptist, AME, Amish, Lutherans, and so on and so on.

If we tried to build a House of God today using these “religious rafters” there wouldn’t be any two that matched.  They are all supposed to be cut from the Word of God, but they have been cut from each other, and that is why religion has prevented the worship of God as He said He should be worshiped.

Shaul (Paul) tells us in Galatians 3:28:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

He is telling us that through the Messiah we are all one, we are all the same in God’s eyes and we are all equal heirs of the Kingdom. We should all be rafters that are exactly the same. Even if you are Jewish and don’t believe Yeshua to be the Messiah, the meaning of this statement is still true- just substitute ‘Mashiach’ for ‘Jesus Christ’ and the message is in perfect alignment with Torah and the Prophets.

That’s why I wrote my book (see side panel to order it) and that’s what this blog is about- it is a ministry of simplicity and solidarity. We are all one in Messiah, and whether you agree and accept that that Messiah is Yeshua (Jesus) or not, it is still in total accordance with Tanakh that the Messiah will bring us back to God, that the Messiah will overcome our sin and that without the Messiah we have no chance of reconciliation.

It is also true that Jew or Gentile, we are commanded by God to worship Him as He says we should, and those rules and regulations are found in the Torah.

The prayers said before and after we read from the Torah thank God for giving us the Torah, setting truth and life in our midst and choosing us to receive it. The Torah, however, wasn’t meant only for the Jews: it was given to the Jews for them to bring to the world (“…you are to be a nation of priests”: Exodus 19:6. Remember?)  Priests bring the word of God to the people and lead the people in the worship of God.

The saddest oxymoron of today is that religions say they worship the one and only God but no two religions worship Him the same way. They have different rules for conduct, different liturgy, and even though we all use the same book, Jews ignore everything after Micah (Chronicles, if you want to be accurate) and many Christian religions ignore much of everything before Matthew. It’s one book, it’s one set of rules directly from God, and it’s one God. It’s also one Messiah, the only one through whom we all can find salvation.

My message to the world is simple: God has no religion, so do what God says, not what people say.

 

 

Parashah Tzav (Command) Leviticus 6 – 8:36

The prior chapters are addressed to the entire congregation, whereas these next chapters are more specifically to the Priests, describing the way the different sacrifices should be offered, and which portion of the sacrifice is for the Priests, who may eat it, and it ends with the anointing of Aaron and his sons into the Priesthood.

The Sacrificial System was a major part of the lives of the Jewish people. Of the 613 Commandments in Torah, nearly 1/3 deal with the sacrificial system. There are different offerings: a sin offering, a guilt offering, a burnt offering, a peace offering and a thanksgiving offering. The peace offering is considered to be classified in three ways: (1) thanksgiving for deliverance from sickness or danger; (2) fulfillment of a vow made in times of distress; and (3) a free-will offering made when the heart is moved at the remembrance of God’s tender mercies (Pentateuch and Haftorahs, Soncino Edition.)

With the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the sacrificial system came to a halt; more like running into a brick wall! All of a sudden, that was it! One day we can be cleansed from our sin, the next day there is no way for the Jewish people to atone for their sins. Because God decreed that these sacrifices had to be made at the place where He placed His name, when the Temple was destroyed we couldn’t sacrifice as we should, and the Jewish people had an even stronger need for their Messiah. It’s too bad that “Mainstream” Judaism still hasn’t accepted the truth about Yeshua, who is the Messiah and through whom our sins have been forgiven. That is why the Temple was destroyed: the sacrificial system was no longer needed, but since God’s word is like He is- the same today, yesterday and forever- and He declared these sacrifices had to be made at the Temple, by destroying (or more correctly, allowing the destruction of) the Temple He put an end to a system that He said should be forever, without going against His word or changing His mind.

Does this mean that we don’t have to sacrifice anymore? Even though I can’t bring an animal to the Temple and offer it up to the Lord, does that mean I don’t need to perform any kind of sacrifice? When David went to buy the threshing floor in 2 Samuel 24 to stop the plague he caused, when it was all offered free to David, we read, “But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.”

Don’t we still have ways to offer to God thanksgiving sacrifices? Can’t we still be moved to wanting to thank him? Don’t we still sin? Yes, Yeshua’s blood covers our sin, but can’t we still live up to the spirit of the law by giving up something that is valuable and desired by us to demonstrate our willingness to obey God’s commandments?

We all sin, and we all will continue to sin. As I have said before, we will never be sinless but we can always sin less, and even though we have our sins forgiven when we ask in the name of Yeshua, is that all we should do? Just say, “Thanks, Yeshua, for dying for me, so that when I ask forgiveness in Your name I am cleansed.”

Nice deal- He suffered, and we get off. Is that really good enough for you?

It’s not good enough for me. I don’t want to just accept all He did for me and do nothing to show my gratitude. And I don’t want to sacrifice something that costs me nothing. Yeshua’s death cost me nothing, but it cost Him everything, and when I sin I feel that I need to do more than just call upon His name. But what can I sacrifice? Where can I go? I don’t even own a goat or a lamb; I have two cats, but they are not acceptable sacrifices (lucky for them, too.)

So, nu? What do I do to show God I want to sacrifice a guilt or a sin offering, and especially a thanksgiving offering (because every day He does so many wonderful things for me?) Wait- didn’t David say he wouldn’t sacrifice anything to the Lord that didn’t cost him anything? Maybe what we can do, if you feel like I do, is sacrifice something that is valuable to us. I am not talking about a special monetary gift towards something that honors God, although that would be something, but let’s give something that is as valuable to us today as a lamb or a goat would have been to the people of Jerusalem in Yeshua’s day and before: let’s give up our time.

Today we work so hard, we commute so many hours a week, and when we get home (at least I know I do) all we want to do is rest. And the weekends are play time. Well, God already tells us to rest on the Shabbat, but that is a commandment we obey anyway (hopefully) so we need to do more than that if we want to make a sacrifice.

Give of your time to something that is “God-honoring.” Maybe volunteer to help with something at your place of worship, or go to a soup kitchen and serve others, or volunteer at an animal hospital (God did tell us that we are to care for His creation, did he not?) or at a human hospital. Do something that takes away from your personal time, or give money if that is more important to you than your time, but offer something up to the Lord as a sacrifice to show Him how much you appreciate what He has done for you, and to honor the sacrifice Yeshua made for you.

Yeshua gave up His divinity, His supremacy, He took off His robes of holiness and put on a mantle of stinking, dirty flesh, then wore it for 30-something years. And finally, He allowed Himself to be humiliated, beaten and tortured to death, all so that you and I can be saved because of our failure to be able to obey the Lord. Don’t you think that if Yeshua was willing to do all that for you that you should do something for Him to show your gratitude?

I volunteer at the Brevard Zoo (with Donna, my wife) and I help out at the place I worship during, before and after services, and I am available to help people there if they need computer work or training. These things take time, and I gladly sacrifice my time because it is an offering to the Lord. I don’t say this to brag or get accolations, but to show you one way in which you can do the same.

God gave up His only son, and that son gave up everything, even to the point of death, just so you can have a chance to enter God’s presence for eternity.

Don’t you think that deserves some thanks? If so, find something that will cost you something and offer it up to the Lord.

Is It Me or Him?

I was going to write about Baptism for babies because I find it ridiculous that anyone thinks God will send an infant to hell because they didn’t have a baptism, and because the idea that someone else can make statements of faith for another person, baby or not, is also not something I believe will fly with the Lord.

To get my facts straight I looked up baptism and saw a site that is about clarifying Christian thought. I figured I’d find a lot of good fodder there, but when I read it the statements were all in keeping with what I think.

Needless to say, I was surprised and disappointed, all at the same time. Here I was, ready to stand and defend God’s word and His love, show how baptism was a Jewish thing from the start (it’s called a Tevilah or a Mikvah) and rail against the anti-Semitic Church!

Now, here I am, stuck with nothing but my own preconceived (or, more correctly, ill-conceived) ideas that I can’t use because they are wrong.

That’s when it hit me- who am I really defending?  Am I doing what is right in God’s eyes or just spouting my own personal thoughts, in the name of the Lord?

OUCH! That’s a tough thing to figure: am I talking on behalf of God or on behalf of Steve? Am I feeling a righteous anger at the misuse of God’s word or am I really just exercising my influence to expound on my personal “peeves” and, as such, misusing God’s word myself?

I pray each day when I ‘blog’ that I am saying only what is right in His eyes, making points that lead people to salvation and understanding as God wants, and doing His work. Yet today I am finding myself wondering if that is what I was doing when I decided to bash baptism of babies.

BTW…for the record, baptism is important and it is a Jewish thing. The Tevilah is an outward expression of an inner change. It is a symbol of cleansing oneself, and is an important activity/ritual to go through when accepting Yeshua as your Messiah. It should be done when one has reached the age of understanding and can make one’s own decisions; as such, it cannot be done by proxy.

Back to my confession of pridefulness, which is exactly the right word to use if I am saying things I believe in order to teach people about God that may or may not be what God wants taught. Yeshua tells us that those who teach are held doubly responsible for what they do, and how influential we are and how important it is to do what is right. I don’t want to be one of the blind leading the blind, or one of those who sin and teach others to sin. Yeshua says that person will be least in the Kingdom of God. Teaching is an important responsibility. The Prophets were teachers, in a way, reminding the people of what God said they should do. And how often did God warn the prophets that if they did not tell the people what they need to do then the blood of the people would be on the Prophets own head?

I believe, and it has been confirmed often to me, that God has given me a gift of teaching, but that doesn’t mean I can’t screw things up by my pridefulness and ego. And, trust me on this, I have plenty of both. The only way I control it is by understanding that I have it and owning up to it, so I don’t forget to always be looking for it to rear it’s ugly head. It is sin crouching at my door.

So what lesson is there today from all this soul-searching? The lesson is to remember that old Greek aphorism: “Know Thyself.” When we do things in God’s name, make sure it is for His glory and in accordance with His word and what He stands for. When positive it is from God, preach it; when in doubt, don’t.  You may be doubting something that is from God, but better to not take the chance you are misusing His word or His gift. If God has a word He wants you to preach, He will make sure you get it out. Maybe the word is good but the expression is not, so just wait: if it is from God, I guarantee it will gnaw at you until you finally figure out how it should be taught.

I ask anyone reading these ministry blogs of mine, or my book, to reply and let me know if you think I am off topic, ever. I appreciate your input and ask for guidance. I always pray to God for guidance, and often He answers through the interaction of another person. So, nu… don’t be shy.

Thank you, Abba, for your gifts and your Word which You have provided, and please lead me with your Ruach to do and say only that which pleases You and gives You all the glory. Halleluyah.