Light from the Sidra


Leviticus 1:1 - 5:26

How wonderfully the LORD God provides for his sinful children so that they may approach him! In the early chapters of Leviticus God ordained all that was necessary for them to approach him in worship. Without such provision the sinner could only approach God fearfully thinking, “What if this is not God’s way? Will God be angry with me?” The punishment of Nadab and Abihu, who approached God with “alien fire” (Tanakh; New JPS Translation) shows that such fears would have been fully justified.

Did you notice that the sin-offering (chattaht) was not the first in the list of offerings? Did that strike you as strange? Would you not expect that sin must first be atoned for and only then would it be possible to offer the other sacrifices such as the peace-offering? There is something to learn here. Israel was God’s covenant community whose sins were covered by the Passover lamb and by the offerings presented every year at Yom Kippur. The Passover lamb and the Scapegoat which was offered on the Day of Atonement were not freewill offerings like the ones in the Sidrot Vayikra; they were obligatory and Israel was accepted because of them. The freewill offerings were a way for the grateful and believing Israelites to express their trust in God.

When you think of approaching God, are you conscious of being accepted or are you trying to be accepted? That is the difference between a son and a slave. The offerings of Vayikra were for sons, those who knew they were accepted by the Almighty.

The first two sacrifices, the burnt-offering (olah) and the meal-offering (minchah) were ways of expressing devotion to God. The olah was an animal offered to the LORD and nothing of it was to remain for man or priest (except the skin); it is described as “a sweet smell to God”. The meal-offering consisted of that which man had laboured to produce and had given to the LORD. The first offering was an expression of the devotion of one’s self; the second the consecration of one’s labour. Both are pleasing to the LORD! Are your life and labours devoted to God in such a way?

The Peace-offering (sh’lamim) was really a meal with God. It was the expression of a relationship between the LORD and His worshipper. Special meals should be joyful occasions, just like the Passover Seder. Through the peace-offering the LORD was saying, “Come and enjoy fellowship with me”. The worshipper, in response, said, “Yes, O LORD, you are my delight”. Who does not want such fellowship? Do you enjoy it yet?

But God’s people sin; and so fellowship and devotion are marred. The LORD is well aware of this, and so he provides a way for the one who has sinned to come in repentance with an offering to atone. The sin-offering (chattaht) and the guilt-offering (asham) are provided for just that purpose. As the worshipper came in repentance with one of these offerings, the LORD promised forgiveness and restoration to a right relationship with him.

God left no stone unturned in providing the means for his people to come to him. Strange then that so many Jewish people feel he is so far away. So few seem to speak as if he is a person they know, most seem to talk of him as a remote being, unknowable, almost a force. How can we bring him near? Some hope the familiar prayers and rituals will provide an awareness, but how soon their feelings fade. More and more Jewish people are trying mystical techniques. But do these methods bring the Most High any nearer to them? The religious efforts of many people remind me of a story of a little boy who wanted to go to the moon. He was sure that one day he would be big enough to jump up to it. His parents looked at him and smiled. They knew how impossible such a childish idea was. Equally impossible is the idea that we may be able to “jump up” to God. If we are to know him he must come down to us. That is the whole emphasis of the Torah, especially the revelation given at Sinai.

But there are those of Israel for whom God has “come down”, and they know him. They are the believers in Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus the Messiah. He is their Passover lamb, and now they devote themselves to the LORD, know his daily forgiveness, and experience his peace. God calls you to join them.

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