Tetzaveh

Tetzaveh

You shall command

Exodus 27:20-30:10
Ezekiel 43:10-27

“Faithful Priests Minister to God”


by Mark Huey

This week, our Torah portion Tetzaveh, deals with the specific commands of the Lord regarding the attire and anointing of the high priest (ha’kohen ha’gadol), and the priesthood that was originally designated to serve the community of Ancient Israel. At this juncture in Israel’s desert sojourn, after details regarding the Tabernacle had been articulated and responded to by heartfelt offerings of the materials required for their construction, Moses now turned to deliver the Lord’s instructions regarding the Levitical priesthood. However, before the meticulous aspects of this priesthood were elaborated upon, there was a request that the Israelites bring purified olive oil, for a lamp that would burn continually before the Lord:

“You shall charge the sons of Israel, that they bring you clear oil of beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually. In the tent of meeting, outside the veil which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the LORD; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout their generations for the sons of Israel” (Exodus 27:20-21).

From the onset of our Torah reading, despite the concentration of instructions devoted to the specifics of the priesthood, it is useful for us to consider how just as a light was to burn continually before the Lord—so are His people throughout all generations to function as a light to a world darkened by sin. The image of contributing to, or being a light to the world, is required by Yeshua the Messiah by all of His followers:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16; cf. Isaiah 42:6-8).

Some of us, when encountering a Torah reading like Tetzaveh—and all of its details surrounding a Levitical priesthood that has been pretty much gone since the destruction of the Second Temple—have a little bit of difficulty understanding it. While most of us are not Levites, all of us who have confessed the God of Israel as the Creator are to represent Him and serve Him, representing Him as intermediaries to a world that has widely rejected Him and His ways. For, the true chosenness, of being of the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), is that we are all living forth the imperatives of the priestly calling (cf. Exodus 19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:9; Titus 2:14).

The High Priest

As the revelation came forth from the Most High to Moses, during Ancient Israel’s desert sojourn, while many of the elements of a Tabernacle, priesthood, and animal sacrifice might seem strange to us as modern Bible readers in the Twenty-First Century C.E.—they were not strange to people in the Thirteenth Century B.C.E. The basic elements, of Ancient Israel’s worship system, were not dissimilar from those of their pagan neighbors in the Ancient Near East. This, at least, can help establish for us that what is described in the Torah, especially in the later Books of Leviticus and Numbers, is something historically viable.

What Believers in Yeshua tend to do, in reading the Torah’s instruction about the high priesthood and Tabernacle—obviously looking back many centuries, and considering what took place in history via His arrival and sacrifice for sinners—is thinking on how it was beneficial for the Israelites to have a high priest like Aaron, whose responsibilities foreshadowed the arrival of the ultimate High Priest, Yeshua. The Tabernacle on Earth is regarded to be a copy of the Tabernacle in Heaven (Hebrews 9:23).

Of course, on a larger scale, God’s people themselves—those who are not Levites—still bear a priestly calling as His servants. Non-Levites can still learn important lessons about obeying God and representing Him, by examining the Levitical priesthood. The challenge throughout the millennia, and up until today, is whether we will adequately apply such lessons.

One critical facet, of God’s plan for the ages, has been to utilize specifically chosen representatives who were designated to perform intermediary roles between Himself and His chosen people. Moses was uniquely chosen to communicate His Law to the people. The high priest would perform sacred duties in worship, ritual, and sacrifice. Even the kings of Ancient Israel would function as representatives of God to the people. And, on a bigger level once again, the people of Israel were to serve as representatives of God to the nations at large.

In Tetzaveh, we find that the description of the Tabernacle is essentially complete, but in the course of making known the details, there is specific mention of altars (Exodus 27:1). Obviously, the Holy One of Israel desired to be worshipped by His people, and sacrificial offerings were an integral part of this, as seen as far back as Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:3-5), Noah (Genesis 8:20), and Abraham (Genesis 12:7-8). The positions of the high priest, and the associated priests, were specific—in that they would minister in the Tabernacle. The Hebrew noun most often rendered as “priest” is kohen; the related verb kahan basically means “minister in a priest’s office, act as priest” (TWOT):[1]

“Then bring near to yourself Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the sons of Israel, to minister as priest [kahan] to Me—Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons. You shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful persons whom I have endowed with the spirit of wisdom, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister as priest [kahan] to Me. These are the garments which they shall make: a breastpiece and an ephod and a robe and a tunic of checkered work, a turban and a sash, and they shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons, that he may minister [kahan] as priest to Me” (Exodus 28:1-4).

Throughout Tetzaveh, the concept of ministering unto the Lord indicates that each of the specific actions, to be taken by the priests, were a means of worshipping the Lord that generated His approval. Not only was the Lord detailing the role and responsibilities of the high priest as the sacrificial system was being formalized, but these actions were definitely ways for the priests to please the Lord. Whether it was the consecration of the priests or the sacrificial offerings, by ministering to the Lord, He promised to dwell among Israel and be their God:

“You shall put them on Aaron your brother and on his sons with him; and you shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve Me as priests [kahan]” (Exodus 28:41).

“Now this is what you shall do to them to consecrate them to minister as priests [kahan] to Me: take one young bull and two rams without blemish,” (Exodus 29:1).

“It shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the doorway of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be consecrated by My glory. I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also consecrate Aaron and his sons to minister [kahan] as priests to Me. I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God. They shall know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God” (Exodus 29:42-46).

Symbolism

With ministering to the Lord a major theme of Tetzaveh, the designation of the high priest to meditate between God and people, is described. As the Levitical priesthood was being established, God once again reminded His people about His extreme holiness, and how as a Perfect Creator He is widely unapproachable by sinful human beings. In this case, the Levites were chosen, with particular emphasis on the office of the high priest. Upon surveying the details of the high priest’s attire, it is particularly notable that weaved into the construction of the various garments, is his representation for all Twelve Tribes of Israel before the Holy One:

“You shall take two onyx stones and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel,  six of their names on the one stone and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, according to their birth. As a jeweler engraves a signet, you shall engrave the two stones according to the names of the sons of Israel; you shall set them in filigree settings of gold. You shall put the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of memorial for the sons of Israel, and Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders for a memorial. You shall make filigree settings of gold, and two chains of pure gold; you shall make them of twisted cordage work, and you shall put the corded chains on the filigree settings. You shall make a breastpiece of judgment, the work of a skillful workman; like the work of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen you shall make it. It shall be square and folded double, a span in length and a span in width. You shall mount on it four rows of stones; the first row shall be a row of ruby, topaz and emerald; and the second row a turquoise, a sapphire and a diamond; and the third row a jacinth, an agate and an amethyst; and the fourth row a beryl and an onyx and a jasper; they shall be set in gold filigree. The stones shall be according to the names of the sons of Israel: twelve, according to their names; they shall be like the engravings of a seal, each according to his name for the twelve tribes” (Exodus 28:9-21).

What would it have meant for the Israelites at large to hear this instruction regarding the high priest, as one who was to represent them all before the Holy One—especially in the sanctuary and through the various offerings made to atone for the sin of the people? The names of Israelites would be literally borne on the breastpiece, over the heart of the high priest. Does this mean that the high priest was to carry all of the hopes, concerns, and fears of the people in before the Lord when serving Him?

“Aaron shall carry the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment over his heart when he enters the holy place, for a memorial before the LORD continually. You shall put in the breastpiece of judgment the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be over Aaron’s heart when he goes in before the LORD; and Aaron shall carry the judgment of the sons of Israel over his heart before the LORD continually. You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue. There shall be an opening at its top in the middle of it; around its opening there shall be a binding of woven work, like the opening of a coat of mail, so that it will not be torn. You shall make on its hem pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet material, all around on its hem, and bells of gold between them all around: a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, all around on the hem of the robe. It shall be on Aaron when he ministers; and its tinkling shall be heard when he enters and leaves the holy place before the LORD, so that he will not die. You shall also make a plate of pure gold and shall engrave on it, like the engravings of a seal, ‘Holy to the LORD.’ You shall fasten it on a blue cord, and it shall be on the turban; it shall be at the front of the turban. It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall take away the iniquity of the holy things which the sons of Israel consecrate, with regard to all their holy gifts; and it shall always be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD” (Exodus 28:29-38).

Additionally, we read how the Lord required a golden plate, engraved with the notation qodesh l’ADONAI—which was yet another symbol that the high priest had been separated apart from others. The high priest was specially consecrated to deal with the iniquities of the people, and his mind was to be definitively focused on the holiness of God.

Consecration

After more details are given, about the garments of the rest of the priesthood (Exodus 28:40-43), the specifics of how the priesthood was to be consecrated are recorded (Exodus 29:1-9). The Levitical priests were be washed, anointed with fragrant oil, and their being separated out involved some specific sacrifices (Exodus 29:4-21). As important as these things were for the Levitical priesthood, we might be able to see some significant foreshadowing for Yeshua’s own consecration, as it involved His ministry in the Gospels. Yeshua began His ministry with water immersion (Matthew 3:16), He was anointed with a costly perfume (Matthew 26:7), but most significantly His being offered up as the sacrificial Lamb (John 1:29).

For the Levitical priests, identification with the sacrificial offerings was critical for their service unto the Lord. They had to know how animal blood was shed, in order to cover their limitations as humans (Leviticus 17:11). Additionally, by placing the blood of the ram on the right ear lobe, right thumb, and right big toe, the priests were to be totally dedicated to the service. Presumably, the right ear symbolized how they were to listen wisely before making decisions. The right thumb meant that the work of their hands was to be focused to the labor of the Lord. The right toe pointed to everywhere they walked. Being consecrated as Levitical priest was a service of total dedication to God’s work:

“Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the doorway of the tent of meeting and wash them with water. You shall take the garments, and put on Aaron the tunic and the robe of the ephod and the ephod and the breastpiece, and gird him with the skillfully woven band of the ephod; and you shall set the turban on his head and put the holy crown on the turban. Then you shall take the anointing oil and pour it on his head and anoint him. You shall bring his sons and put tunics on them. You shall gird them with sashes, Aaron and his sons, and bind caps on them, and they shall have the priesthood by a perpetual statute. So you shall ordain Aaron and his sons. Then you shall bring the bull before the tent of meeting, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the bull. You shall slaughter the bull before the LORD at the doorway of the tent of meeting. You shall take some of the blood of the bull and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger; and you shall pour out all the blood at the base of the altar. You shall take all the fat that covers the entrails and the lobe of the liver, and the two kidneys and the fat that is on them, and offer them up in smoke on the altar. But the flesh of the bull and its hide and its refuse, you shall burn with fire outside the camp; it is a sin offering. You shall also take the one ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram; and you shall slaughter the ram and shall take its blood and sprinkle it around on the altar. Then you shall cut the ram into its pieces, and wash its entrails and its legs, and put them with its pieces and its head. You shall offer up in smoke the whole ram on the altar; it is a burnt offering to the LORD: it is a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the LORD. Then you shall take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on the head of the ram. You shall slaughter the ram, and take some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear and on the lobes of his sons’ right ears and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet, and sprinkle the rest of the blood around on the altar. Then you shall take some of the blood that is on the altar and some of the anointing oil, and sprinkle it on Aaron and on his garments and on his sons and on his sons’ garments with him; so he and his garments shall be consecrated, as well as his sons and his sons’ garments with him” (Exodus 29:4-21).

The Work of the Ministry

After the seven-day process of consecrating the priesthood and purifying the altar, we see how the altar was to be most holy, and that whatever touched the altar would also be holy. A description of the evening and morning sacrificial offerings, and the need to continually offer them, indicated that the Lord desires His people to be perpetually at service to Him (cf. Romans 12:1). The benefit of so doing was to be communion with Him, and the constant reminder that He would speak to His people and dwell among them, in order that they would know that the Holy One is their God as they ministered unto Him:

“Thus you shall do to Aaron and to his sons, according to all that I have commanded you; you shall ordain them through seven days. Each day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement, and you shall purify the altar when you make atonement for it, and you shall anoint it to consecrate it. For seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and consecrate it; then the altar shall be most holy, and whatever touches the altar shall be holy. Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two one year old lambs each day, continuously. The one lamb you shall offer in the morning and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; and there shall be one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering with one lamb. The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it the same grain offering and the same drink offering as in the morning, for a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the LORD. It shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the doorway of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be consecrated by My glory. I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also consecrate Aaron and his sons to minister as priests to Me. I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God. They shall know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God” (Exodus 29:35-46).

Finally, some details about the altar of incense are delineated, as the God of Israel desired a pleasant aroma before Him. Included within this was a prohibition against burning “strange incense” (qetoret zarah):

“Moreover, you shall make an altar as a place for burning incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. Its length shall be a cubit, and its width a cubit, it shall be square, and its height shall be two cubits; its horns shall be of one piece with it. You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and its sides all around, and its horns; and you shall make a gold molding all around for it. You shall make two gold rings for it under its molding; you shall make them on its two side walls—on opposite sides—and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. You shall put this altar in front of the veil that is near the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is over the ark of the testimony, where I will meet with you. Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it; he shall burn it every morning when he trims the lamps. When Aaron trims the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense. There shall be perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations. You shall not offer any strange incense [unauthorized incense, ESV] on this altar, or burnt offering or meal offering; and you shall not pour out a drink offering on it. Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year; he shall make atonement on it with the blood of the sin offering of atonement once a year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD” (Exodus 30:1-10).

As the details of what the Levitical priesthood, and specifically the high priest, were specified, it was apparent for the need to separate out a specific group of people to perform these tasks. Aaron and his sons were chosen, and consequently the sons of Levi became the priests who worked in and around the Tabernacle, and eventually the First and Second Temples. The Levitical priesthood functioned as a form of “aristocracy” for Ancient Israel, as those who served within it, played a specific function, and were born into the task. Many of the Levitical priests served their purpose, and demonstrated godly patterns and principles which were greatly influential for the Ancient Israel, the Ancient Jewish people, and certainly Believers in Yeshua the Messiah for millennia—to strengthen their worship and pursuit of the Holy One. While the Levitical priesthood is to be regarded as a special group of people, there are undeniably key lessons to be appropriated from their service, as we all must represent the Lord to a world that has largely rejected Him.

Faithful Priests Minister to God

As the details found in Tetzaveh are enunciated, we as Believers in the ultimate High Priest, Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ), can draw many parallels between what was received by Moses—and what is currently taking place in Heaven, as the Son intercedes before the Father (Hebrews 7:25). When we review some of the temporal elements of the Levitical priesthood, and the grand service that it offered Israel in the past—we should have a greater appreciation for the permanent atonement offered by Yeshua, and the everlasting priesthood which He occupies. The author of Hebrews addresses this:

“Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of Him, ‘YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK’ [Psalm 110:4]. For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. And inasmuch as it was not without an oath (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, ‘THE LORD HAS SWORN AND WILL NOT CHANGE HIS MIND, YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER’ [Psalm 110:4],) so much the more also Yeshua has become the guarantee of a better covenant. The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Yeshua, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever” (Hebrews 7:11-28).

In God’s infinite wisdom, He established a Levitical priesthood that was responsible for revealing His laws, ordinances, statutes, and regulations to Ancient Israel. This was a critical institution. As multiple examples have indicated, unredeemed people need a mediator between themselves and their Creator, in order to avoid His righteous judgment. The arrival of Yeshua the Messiah on the scene of human history, and His exaltation into Heaven, have certainly changed the dynamics a bit. The power of His priesthood transcends the limited abilities of the Levitical priesthood.

As we consider the grand service of the Son of God for each of us (cf. Philippians 2:5-11), should we not be able to offer ourselves up to His service, and faithfully minister to the Lord in His tasks? He has, after all, bought each of us with a price:

For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

The overarching and underlying themes of Tetzaveh should illuminate each of us, so that we might be motivated to serve and minister to the Holy One. But, whether one is extracting the purest of oil for the lamps of the sanctuary—or sharing the light of His salvation from the rooftops—the key is faithfully offering your worshipful service to Him. May we all be counted among those “priests,” who are called to continually and faithfully minister unto Him!


NOTES

[1] J. Barton Payne, “kahan,” in TWOT, 2:431.

Terumah

Terumah

Contribution

Exodus 25:1-27:19
1 Kings 5:26-6:13

“Faithful and Worshipful Contributions”


by Mark Huey

In this week’s Torah portion, appropriately entitled Terumah or “Contribution,” there are some very explicit instructions about how and where God desired to tabernacle or dwell with the Ancient Israelites, during their sojourn to the Promised Land. There are specific details issued regarding the ark of the covenant,[1] the table of showbread,[2] the golden lampstand or menorah,[3] the different veils and curtains to be used for the Tabernacle,[4] the bronze altar,[5] and the general dimensions of the Tabernacle.[6] While the instructions on how all of these items were to be fashioned is intriguing to consider, what is most beneficial, for us as both Torah readers and followers of Yeshua to understand, is that wholeheartedly giving to what God has ordained is a significant means of worshipping Him. It is through actions, and not necessarily words, that God’s people, in whatever age, are given the opportunity to express their faithfulness by contributing to His work.

A Calling to Holiness

As you examine Terumah, be conscious of the fact that the Lord had uniquely called out His people Israel, for a specific Divine purpose, among the nations of the Earth. After they had witnessed the awesomeness of God’s power in delivering them from Egypt, the Israelites had agreed to do all that the Lord had spoken:

“‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel. So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do!’ And Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD” (Exodus 19:5-8).

With a committed responsibility to follow what the Lord had spoken, there was the implicit requisite that the people of Israel were to specifically worship Him with burnt and peace offerings upon altars built for sacrificial purposes:

“You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it. And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, so that your nakedness will not be exposed on it” (Exodus 20:24-26).

The early references seen here, to altars of stone, do point us in the eventual direction of Solomon’s Temple, which would be built centuries later. However, at this early stage in the development of Ancient Israel, it was not yet time for such a permanent structure to be constructed. The Israelites still had to be trained in what the Lord expected of them, as they were steadily molded into a holy nation able to achieve His purposes. However, the Lord did inform His people about the dimensions of the Promised Land, with the additional word that He would cause its inhabitants to be driven out:

“I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land. I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you” (Exodus 23:29-31).

The Israelites still had much to do, to be readied to enter into their inheritance.

Providential Preparation

With the promises of God spoken to them, and His great power having been displayed to them, the people of Israel were absolutely primed for His request to contribute whatever was needed for the construction of the Tabernacle. Just a few months earlier, before Israel’s departure from Egypt, the ten plagues had wreaked such havoc upon the Egyptians, that they literally gave the escaping slaves many of the materials that would become integral components of the items to be fashioned:

“The Egyptians urged the people, to send them out of the land in haste, for they said, ‘We will all be dead.’ So the people took their dough before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls bound up in the clothes on their shoulders. Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. Now the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children. A mixed multitude also went up with them, along with flocks and herds, a very large number of livestock” (Exodus 12:33-38).

In the Lord’s foreknowledge of what was going to be required for the construction of the Tabernacle, He had the Egyptians give valuable materials to the Israelites. The description of the Israelites plundering the Egyptians indicates that God had blessed them, likely for having complied with His instruction on keeping the Passover. Additionally, one should note that a mixed multitude of non-Israelites, who had probably witnessed God’s judgment upon Egypt and recognized Him as Creator, departed with them. Israel was already becoming a holy nation, and having a positive impact on the world around it.

It is notably ironic to me, that there is every indication that upon departing from Egypt, Israel was in possession of a large number of livestock. One might wonder about the cries for food expressed in Exodus 16, that resulted in quail and manna being provided. Apparently, despite having flocks and herds, there must have been a tendency to hoard these means of sustenance from others in the community. Human nature being what it is, the natural inclination is self-survival. A significant part of the Torah’s instruction—which we even struggle with today as God’s people—relates to caring for others who are with need.

A Blood Covenant

After the Israelites had heard the voice of God at the base of Mount Sinai, and had at least received the Ten Commandments, recall that the unanimous response was to do all that the Lord had spoken. This was then followed by a blood covenant, with the sprinkling of blood not only on the altar, but on the people themselves:

“Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!’ Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. He sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the LORD. Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!’ So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Exodus 24:3-8).

At this point, it appears that the Lord was very pleased with the response of the Ancient Israelites. God allowed Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel to approach Him, and even dine with Him without retribution (Exodus 24:9-11). But in order to communicate a description of the Tabernacle and its different components, the Lord returned to speaking to Moses exclusively:

“Now the LORD said to Moses, ‘Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commandment which I have written for their instruction’ So Moses arose with Joshua his servant, and Moses went up to the mountain of God. But to the elders he said, ‘Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a legal matter, let him approach them.’ Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:12-18).

Contribution Requested

In Terumah, the Israelites continued to witness an awesome sight, as they gazed upon Mount Sinai from a distance. After noting what appeared to the onlookers to be a consuming fire in the clouds at the mountain top, Moses would spend forty days and forty nights communing with the Lord (Exodus 24:18). It was from this fiery and elevated perch, that Moses descended and made his request of the people for the materials needed to build the Tabernacle. Needless to say, after visibly observing the supernatural evidence of the Living God interacting with Moses, the Israelites were ready to follow what he asked of them.

At the beginning of Terumah, the request to raise a contribution from the people of Israel can be separated into two distinct sections. First, we see that this is stated to “all whose hearts prompt them to give” (Exodus 25:2, NRSV). Secondly, a list of some of the main materials needed is detailed:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise My contribution. This is the contribution which you are to raise from them: gold, silver and bronze, blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goat hair, rams’ skins dyed red, porpoise skins, acacia wood, oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastpiece. Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it” (Exodus 25:1-9).

In further reading, we will find that the response to Moses’ request was so overwhelming, to the point of Moses having to command the people to stop giving:

“They received from Moses all the contributions which the sons of Israel had brought to perform the work in the construction of the sanctuary. And they still continued bringing to him freewill offerings every morning. And all the skillful men who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work which he was performing, and they said to Moses, ‘The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the LORD commanded us to perform.’ So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, ‘Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary.’ Thus the people were restrained from bringing any more. For the material they had was sufficient and more than enough for all the work, to perform it” (Exodus 36:3-7).

So what was it about the request from Moses, for the Israelites to give to the Tabernacle construction, that resulted in such an overwhelming response? Here are some useful questions to consider:

  • Was it Israel’s thankfulness for their recent deliverance from slavery in Egypt?
  • Was it the readily available supply of material taken from Egypt, that made it easy for Israel to give?
  • Was it Israel’s repeated pledge to do all that the Lord had spoken?
  • Was it the sprinkling of the blood on the altar and the blood covenant that had been made with Israel?
  • Was it Israel’s fear of the Lord, recognizing His awesome power as displayed at Mount Sinai?

While the questions posed above likely contain elements that impacted many of the contributors, the key statement to understand the overwhelming response is how Moses received contributions from “a contribution from anyone who wholeheartedly want[ed] to give” (Exodus 25:2, CJB). The Lord desired materials for the construction of the Tabernacle from those purely moved by their hearts—as opposed to those who would contribute primarily out of some sort of an obligation or mandate to give.

Giving from the Heart

Of the various materials Moses requested for the construction project, there is no doubt that there was intrinsic value in each of the items sought. But whether an Israelite gave valuable gold, silver, or precious and semi-precious stones—or gave more available acacia wood, animal skins, or colorful threads—the most critical aspect from the Lord’s perspective was that the contributors gave because their hearts had been moved. This is what the Lord was intently watching, as He prompted people to respond. For, we later discover that when the various items were constructed or fashioned, it was the “stirring of the heart” by the Lord, that enabled the artisans to create their respective parts of what the Lord had communicated to Moses (Exodus 35:21-36:2).

While we can be significantly amazed on how the Lord moved on His people, for them to provide what was needed for the Tabernacle—this is not what is generally seen throughout religious history. Much of the time, when things are needed for the Kingdom of God—His people do not respond in the manner that they should. Without really going into the issue of tithing or giving of one’s labor, how little do each of us simply do when it comes to giving of ourselves as a means to worship the Lord? Would not your heart be moved if you knew unequivocally that your personal contribution of your life, no matter how significant or insignificant, would be used by the Lord in His work on Earth? Consider the difficulties of considering how Yeshua asks His followers that they are to lose their own lives, in order to gain eternal life:

“And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels’” (Luke 9:23-26).

These materials, that would need to be collected to build the Tabernacle, would be used to provide for a structure where the presence of God would dwell, eventually until the Temple would be constructed in Jerusalem. On a more personal plane, the images of the Tabernacle and Temple are used to describe us as God’s people—as we are to be filled with His Spirit. How might this change how we look at the contributions that are to be made for His Kingdom?

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

King David’s Insight

One might marvel at the heartfelt contributions and the skill of the human efforts inspired by the Holy One to build the Tabernacle. But, the Tabernacle and its furnishings cannot compare to the magnificence of the human body—which has been wonderfully designed and made by an omniscient Creator. David the Psalmist reminds each of us how God fashioned each person and knows them intimately:

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You” (Psalm 139:13-18).

In his era, King David understood that even more than all of the material given to house the Spirit of God, the Holy One was most concerned that His people give themselves wholeheartedly to His work. Even though David accumulated abundant amounts of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, precious stones, and alabaster—for the construction of the Temple that his son Solomon would ultimately oversee—David’s concluding exclamation to his subjects questioned their willingness to consecrate themselves fully to the work of the Lord:

“Now with all my ability I have provided for the house of my God the gold for the things of gold, and the silver for the things of silver, and the bronze for the things of bronze, the iron for the things of iron, and wood for the things of wood, onyx stones and inlaid stones, stones of antimony and stones of various colors, and all kinds of precious stones and alabaster in abundance. Moreover, in my delight in the house of my God, the treasure I have of gold and silver, I give to the house of my God, over and above all that I have already provided for the holy temple, namely, 3,000 talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and 7,000 talents of refined silver, to overlay the walls of the buildings; of gold for the things of gold and of silver for the things of silver, that is, for all the work done by the craftsmen. Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the Lord?” (1 Chronicles 29:2-5).

At this late stage in his life, David undoubtedly knew that totally surrendering oneself to the service of the Lord was the highest form of worship. After all, can all of the gold in the world buy or create a human person? From his many Psalms and confessions of faith, David knew that intimacy, acceptance, and especially forgiveness by a loving, compassionate, and merciful God—is far beyond all the sacrifices of giving, even if one gives all the gold in the world! Most critically David, cried out for salvation after understanding the consequences of his sin:

“‘Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.’ By Your favor do good to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem. Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, in burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then young bulls will be offered on Your altar” (Psalm 51:10-19).

In the case of King David, his pleas for salvation were heard and accepted by the Holy One, as David completed his life attempting to teach transgressors the ways of the Lord, so that they might follow Him. But note that in this psalm when the Lord observed the personal sacrificial offering of a broken human spirit and a contrite heart, how He delighted in such a person. When God recognizes that a person has placed Him first in his or her life, there is the incumbent responsibility of a man or woman to offer up righteous sacrifices that will be acceptable.

Service of Worship

This week, as you ponder Terumah—and perhaps are led to analyze different aspects of the Tabernacle—perhaps some of my thoughts will instead prompt you to consider what it truly means to have your heart moved to contribute to the Lord’s work. While the details of the Tabernacle are obviously important, what is critical for all of us to consider is the relationship we have with the Lord, by serving and worshiping Him with all our hearts. Our Heavenly Father is most concerned about the heart’s intent of individuals and how they interact with Him. God is delighted with humble and contrite hearts turned to Him, when people are more concerned about who He is as their life, than their own mortal existence. This concept might require spiritual eyes to understand, but it is obviously a principle that is of paramount importance to us as followers of Yeshua. The Apostle Paul urged ancient Believers to serve one another, employing a description of God’s people as a living and holy sacrifice:

“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).

Paul was a scholar who undoubtedly knew what was communicated in Torah readings like Terumah, and was able to apply it on a definite spiritual, applicational plane—to those who needed to be admonished in their service to God. But beyond all of the temporal gifts that a person can render unto the Lord, he understood and proclaimed that the most important thing a person can give is themselves. This contribution has inestimable value because it is irreplaceable!

Let your heart be moved to faithfully contribute your life as your spiritual service of worship! You will not be disappointed. The rewards are incalculable, but you may not see or receive them all until His Kingdom comes. So, exhibit the necessary faith in God’s promises to believe your service unto Him has eternal effects.

May all our hearts be so moved!


NOTES

[1] Exodus 25:10-22.

[2] Exodus 25:23-30.

[3] Exodus 25:31-40.

[4] Exodus 26:1-37.

[5] Exodus 27:1-8.

[6] Exodus 27:9-19.

Mishpatim

Mishpatim

Rulings

Exodus 21:1-24:18
Jeremiah 34:8-22; 33:25-26

“Faithfully Do”


by Mark Huey

Last week, our Torah reading Yitro (Exodus 18:1-20:23[26]) centered on the dramatic events surrounding the appearance of the Almighty Creator God at Mount Sinai, as He conveyed the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel through His servant Moses. The original recipients of these foundational building blocks of faith were primed for embracing them, after they witnessed and participated in their deliverance from bondage in Egypt. So magnificent were the miracles and display of God’s power, that even before Moses went up on the mountain, the Ancient Israelites unanimously proclaimed a desire to faithfully do whatever He would proclaim:

“And all the people answered together and said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do!’ And Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD. And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Behold, I shall come to you in a thick cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe in you forever.’ Then Moses told the words of the people to the LORD” (Exodus 19:8-9).

After given the opportunity to hear the voice of the Lord proclaim His Instruction to the multitude stationed at the base of Mount Sinai, we find that the Israelites were terrified about their physical survival. So, they implored Moses to maintain his role as an intermediary between the Lord and them:

“And all the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, lest we die.’ And Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin” (Exodus 20:18-20).

Moses calmed the fears of the Israelites, by telling them that God’s display of His power was designed to test them, and so that they would fear Him and avoid any sin that would displease Him. However, the Lord did not give His people just the Ten Commandments, without some specific details about how one could make these directions an integral part of their walk and relationship with Him. So without leaving the recipients in the dark, Moses added some more actions, which should be avoided and/or taken, in order to please the Lord:

“So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was. Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “You yourselves have seen that I have spoken to you from heaven. You shall not make other gods besides Me; gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves. You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you. If you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it. And you shall not go up by steps to My altar, so that your nakedness will not be exposed on it”’” (Exodus 20:21-26).

Making idols of gold and silver was strictly forbidden, but the requirement to build an altar of uncut stones in order to present sacrifices is also witnessed here. From the giving of the Decalogue, God was very concerned about the Ancient Israelites falling into the pattern of many other people groups, who had a tendency to make physical tokens of gods out of gold and silver. Perhaps this was a forewarning about the infamous “golden calf incident” that was forthcoming (Exodus 32), so that there would be no excuses for deviant behavior. On the other hand, by describing the details of the construction of altars, the Lord was definitely reminding His chosen people from the very onset of their desert sojourn, that He desired to be worshipped at places and in ways that are not profaned.

With these reminders, Mishpatim or “Rulings,” largely deals with a selection of ordinances, which in many respects, adds details to how God wanted the Ancient Israelites to behave appropriately to His calling them into holiness (Exodus 19:6). Our Torah reading details about how people should interact with one another, given the challenges that ensue from the imperfections of our world. Surprisingly, perhaps, Mishpatim ends with a desire by the Ancient Israelites to be faithful to perform all the words that the Lord had spoken:

“Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the Lord and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do!’” (Exodus 24:3).

With what appears to be another unanimous declaration that the people of Israel will do all of which the Lord had spoken, let us take a look at some of those very words.

A Covetous Overlay

The Ten Commandments undeniably have formed much of the basis for judicial and legal systems throughout the Judeo-Christian world. It can be argued that following the Sinai theophany of God delivering the Ten Words to Ancient Israel, that many of the instructions and regulations that are witnessed in the Torah thereafter, are somehow based upon the Ten Commandments. After delineating the Ten Words, adding a warning about making idols and describing proper altar worship, we should see how Mishpatim goes into great detail, further defining the rights and responsibilities of individuals when issues of life erupt. Much of this could be said to amplify what was communicated by the Tenth Commandment, the prohibition against coveting:

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17).

The sin of covetousness in one’s heart is perhaps one of the most insidious offenses detailed in the Holy Scriptures—because it can be one of the most difficult to detect, and can be the seed of deceit that instigates other sins. Surely, sinful acts committed against fellow humans—such as murder, adultery, stealing, and bearing false witness, as forbidden in the Decalogue—are conceived when a person covets something that another has (James 1:13-15), be it life, a spouse, property, or position in the community. Additionally, it might be said that when one covets his or her own self or personhood, by becoming a god unto oneself or by idolizing oneself, one is exposed to be a violator of the immutable Law of the only One God. By acknowledging that there is a Supreme Being who desires worship, this should impose some limits and restraints on people who would be otherwise inclined by their own willful actions. Alas, though, when confronted with God’s Torah, many people know instinctively that they must obey—but they choose to instead reject it. When speaking of the person who struggles with the power of sin, Paul referenced the Tenth Commandment prohibition against covetousness:

“What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COVET’ [Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21]. But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead” (Romans 7:7-8).

As we turn to Mishpatim this week, its ordinances break down to a discussion of civil and criminal matters in Exodus 21:2-22:6, humanitarian considerations in Exodus 22:17-23:19, and warnings against assimilation into paganism in Exodus 23:20-33. I would ask you to try filtering these instructions through a fuller appreciation of what coveting entails. Even if someone were able to follow each of these ordinances to the presumed letter, there will likely be the nagging problem that people will still inevitably stumble over some covetous thoughts, which will convict us of our need for a Savior and His redeeming work. James the Just, half-brother of Yeshua the Messiah, starkly reminds us,

“For whoever keeps the whole Torah but stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all” (James 2:10, TLV).

Slavery Defined

Mishpatim, perhaps ironically to some Bible readers, actually begins with God giving instructions to Ancient Israel on how to handle slavery. What makes this a bit odd—other than slaves being some of the lowliest of human beings on the social ladder—is that these directions were given to a group of people who had just been delivered from slavery themselves. Is this at all a bit strange to you? If you have thought that a group of former slaves being told that this is how they were to regulate their own slaves, appears a bit out of place in a Holy Bible ultimately authored by the God of Freedom—then you are not alone. The best answer, that conservative Jewish and Christian scholars can often provide, is that Hebrew slavery in the Tanakh largely pertained to economic status, and was significantly subversive to other Ancient Near Eastern forms of slavery, where masters or slaveowners were literally able to do whatever they wanted with the people whom they owned. Here, in the opening of Mishpatim, we clearly read that this was not the case in Ancient Israel. Limitations were placed upon the status of an eved:

“Now these are the ordinances which you are to set before them: If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment. If he comes alone, he shall go out alone; if he is the husband of a wife, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master gives him a wife, and she bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall belong to her master, and he shall go out alone. But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,’ then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently” (Exodus 21:1-6).

As you read this small piece of instruction on slavery in Ancient Israel, note how the Lord was especially concerned about the relationship of the slaveowner and the slave. The slave was someone entirely reliant upon the owner—implying that he was someone destitute, who really had no other place to go for sustenance and basic needs. One of the expectations of the owner was to actually provide the slave with a wife with whom he could have children. While to many moderns, the concept of slavery is something that is rightfully repugnant—what we have to consider is the difference between slavery in Israel versus slavery among Israel’s neighbors. Israelite slavery may be regarded as being decisively “liberal.” The Torah’s instruction regarding slavery was greatly different when compared to many of the other law codes of the era, and it decisively laid the foundation back to the human equality that was lost in Eden, but which has been restored in Messiah Yeshua (cf. Galatians 3:28; Colossians 2:11).

A Civil Society

The balance of Mishpatim summarizes a variety of mundane circumstances that occur in practically every society. God foresaw a wide degree of challenges, which would plague a civilization, where people lived and interacted in relative proximity to one another. The Lord detailed a list of instructions that specified actions to be taken when various incidents arose. These included, but were not limited to, how to handle capital offenses ranging from murder to kidnapping, striking or cursing parents, physical abuse, controlling livestock, stealing, maintaining proper boundaries, borrowing implements and lending money practices, proper restitution claims, protecting innocent young women, prohibitions about bearing false witness, avoidance of bribes, and not oppressing strangers (Exodus 21:12-36). By assigning punishments that discourage harmful behavior or establishing guidelines that check greedy inclinations, these Torah commands were designed to mold Israel into God’s desired kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6).

Parents Considered

While volumes of commentaries and legal briefs have been written to deal with the different ordinances encounters in Mishpatim, the instruction to apply capital punishment to a person who strikes or curses parents, is something particularly difficult to encounter. Although we later find a repetition of this in Deuteronomy 21:19-21, there is no recorded evidence that it was ever actually practiced in the Holy Scriptures. However, to reflect back on the Decalogue, note how the Fifth Commandment is one of the instructions that offers its adherents a blessing if properly followed:

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you” (Exodus 20:12).

The Fifth Commandment was reiterated by the Apostle Paul in his instruction to Believers in Asia Minor, urging children to honor their parents:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH [Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16]” (Ephesians 6:1-3).

Obviously, the family unit is a key unit of any ordered society. If families are found to be disintegrating, due to children not respecting their parents, further disrespect for civil and communal authority can devolve into blatant civil disobedience—resulting in societal deterioration.

Faithfully Do

When encountering Mishpatim, it can take a student of the Torah down many paths—as the variety of subjects to study or meditate upon range from Hebrew slavery to not boiling a kid in its mother’s milk (Exodus 23:19). As you can imagine, there are many things one can consider during this week of examination. However, it is beneficial to once again recognize that even after these ordinances were given to the Ancient Israelites in the Thirteenth Century B.C.E., there was a universal acceptance by the people to strive to perform all that the Lord had spoken. Accordingly, Moses wrote down those words, and then at the foot of Mount Sinai after the offering of many sacrifices, he took blood, and sprinkled it on the altar, and then on the people who agreed to obey the words of the Lord:

“Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!’ Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. He sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the LORD. Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!’ So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Exodus 24:3-8; cf. Hebrews 9:19-22).

How should we approach Mishpatim? Our Torah reading undeniably demands that God’s people live in a different manner than those of the world at large, offering care and concern for other people. That those who are privileged should offer relief and mercy for the destitute is absolutely imperative to consider. Our Torah reading also forces Messianic readers today to exhibit considerable trust and reliance in our Eternal Creator, as we strive to understand His mind in interacting with ancient people with widely different values than our own—and as Twenty-First Century Messianics seek to adequately evaluate the trajectory of Holy Scripture. The faith to be exhibited in understanding the instructions given in Mishpatim, as I must personally confess (and I am sure I speak for many other Messianics), is significant.[1]


NOTES

[1] For a further discussion, consult the article “Addressing the Frequently Avoided Issues Messianics Encounter in the Torah” by J.K. McKee.