TorahScope: B’har-B’chuqotai

B’har

On the mount

Leviticus 25:1-26:2
Jeremiah 32:6-27

B’chuqotai

By My Regulations

Leviticus 26:3-27:34
Jeremiah 16:19-17:24

“A Faithful Jubilee Reminder”


by Mark Huey

The Book of Leviticus, thematically devoted to admonishing the Israelites to be holy, comes to a close this week with a double Torah portion which not only specifies some additional instructions, but also reiterates some of the consequences of disobedience. From the opening verse of B’har to the closing verse of B’chuqotai, one finds how Moses admonished his ancient audience that he had received all of these instructions from the Lord on Mount Sinai:

“The LORD then spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, “When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the LORD”’” (Leviticus 25:1-2).

“These are the commandments which the LORD commanded Moses for the sons of Israel at Mount Sinai” (Leviticus 27:34).

Nevertheless, despite the lofty environs where these words were initially received by Moses from the Eternal One, the community of Israel not only historically—but throughout the ages—may be witnessed to have continuously struggled to comply with God’s commandments, even though there are multiple assurances that the Creator will bless those who adhere to His words throughout the Holy Scriptures. One way to surely minimize disobedience to His commandments is how the Lord included some interrelated physical activities, to remind His people about the blessings associated with obedience. We can, for example, consider the instructions regarding the sabbatical rest for the Promised Land and the year of jubilee, found in B’har-B’chuqotai. Even with these instructions not generally being followed because of modern circumstances, readers of the Torah still need to be reminded of their significance, as they not only teach us about our Heavenly Father’s character, but also about His purposes in the Earth.

With this in mind—especially during the current season of Counting the Omer as Shavuot approaches—it is difficult to overlook parallels of the weekly and yearly patterns, because of their similarity. Some profound spiritual enrichment can be derived during the annual reminder to Count the Omer for fifty days, and remember the benefits and blessings of the jubilee we are reading about this week. After all, for those who have faith in the atoning work of Yeshua the Messiah, one’s personal day of freedom from the ravages of sin, can and should be celebrated without reservation!

The Sabbath

The Divine institution of the Sabbath rest is first modeled in the account of the Creation, when the Lord rested after the six stages of His work:

“Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (Genesis 2:1-3).

In this ancient pronouncement, one finds that the Creator not only rested on the seventh day, but that He sanctified it or set it apart from all of the other days. Obviously, there was something very special about the seventh day of the week from the beginning of human history. Providentially down through the ages, the seven-day cycle for life’s many patterns, witnessed and detectable throughout the Holy Scriptures, has widely prevailed (despite various attempts to alter it by different civilizations). The inclusion of the command to remember the Sabbath rest is included in the Decalogue, intensifying its importance for followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob:

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11).

As we examined last week in Emor (Leviticus 21:1-24:23), the significance of the Sabbath rest was reaffirmed when the Lord gave Moses the appointed times, with the Sabbath notably listed first:

“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘The LORD’s appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations—My appointed times are these: “For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the LORD in all your dwellings. These are the appointed times of the LORD, holy convocations which you shall proclaim at the times appointed for them”’” (Leviticus 23:2-4).

Sabbath for the Land

The Lord considered the seventh day of the week, as a sanctified and weekly set time for a holy convocation with Him. As our Torah reading commences, we are introduced to some ancient socio-economic policies, which build upon the one-day-in-seven pattern. While it might be said that Shabbat is to be a time of rest for the human being and communion with the Creator, a mandated seventh year Sabbath rest for the Promised Land in which the Israelites will settle, is detailed:

“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you come into the land which I shall give you, then the land shall have a sabbath to the LORD. Six years you shall sow your field, and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its crop, but during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD; you shall not sow your field nor prune your vineyard. Your harvest’s aftergrowth you shall not reap, and your grapes of untrimmed vines you shall not gather; the land shall have a sabbatical year. All of you shall have the sabbath products of the land for food; yourself, and your male and female slaves, and your hired man and your foreign resident, those who live as aliens with you. Even your cattle and the animals that are in your land shall have all its crops to eat” (Leviticus 25:2-7).

While resting on the weekly Sabbath may have been a test of faith for many people, and it was something ostensibly adhered to during Ancient Israel’s desert sojourn with the provision of manna (Exodus 16) and a definite prohibition of work (Exodus 31:14-15)—what Moses introduced here went a bit beyond a once a week Sabbath rest for people. The Israelites were instructed to let the arable land they would possess, itself, have a “Sabbath rest,” making it lay fallow on every seventh year. No doubt, this direction was going to require a considerable amount of faith by the Israelites to rely upon the Lord to provide physical sustenance, with a year taken off from agricultural activity.

The Year of Jubilee

Moses further stated that after seven weeks of years, forty-nine years, when the fiftieth year arrived, there was to be a jubilee (Heb. yovel) or release and return of land to the original owners, as well as a release of indentured servants from their contractual commitments. Not only was the economy restored, but the land was to remain fallow an additional year, resulting in two consecutive years without any agricultural work. Hence for the year of jubilee, after receiving the Lord’s blessing to provide for them during the previous six years of normal agricultural activity, the Israelites had to expand their faith to believe that the Lord would provide for two uninterrupted years without any normal agricultural activity:

“You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. ‘You shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land. You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field. On this year of jubilee each of you shall return to his own property’…If a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to you that he sells himself to you, you shall not subject him to a slave’s service. He shall be with you as a hired man, as if he were a sojourner; he shall serve with you until the year of jubilee. He shall then go out from you, he and his sons with him, and shall go back to his family, that he may return to the property of his forefathers. For they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt; they are not to be sold in a slave sale” (Leviticus 25:2-13, 39-42).

The Lord chose to have the year of jubilee, which occurred just once every fifty years, to be commemorated on the tenth day of the seventh month—on what was already designated as the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur:

“On exactly the tenth day of this seventh month is the day of atonement; it shall be a holy convocation for you, and you shall humble your souls and present an offering by fire to the LORD. You shall not do any work on this same day, for it is a day of atonement, to make atonement on your behalf before the LORD your God” (Leviticus 23:27-28).

The contrast between the day the year of jubilee is announced—on what is supposed to be the most solemn convocation of the year—is something to contemplate. The year of jubilee is to be announced by the blowing of the shofar, which is also commanded to be blown annually on the Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24). For forty-nine consecutive years the Israelites would, seemingly, humbly commemorate the Day of Atonement, with the high priest presenting the various offerings to atone for the sins of the people. But then on every fiftieth year, the blowing of the shofar announcing the year of jubilee, would likely have set in motion an entirely different set of emotions, as ancestral lands were returned to the original owners, indentured servants were released, and the socio-economic order was restored. Yet, nowhere does the Torah state that the perpetual observance of Yom Kippur was terminated—not even on the year of jubilee.

A Future Jubilee

Over the centuries, one can see how followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob associated the year of jubilee with the coming reign of the Messiah of Israel. This connection is perhaps best illustrated by the Prophet Isaiah, who spoke of the Servant of the Lord coming to bring release to the captives, freedom to prisoners, and the inauguration of a new age of justice and favor for the righteous:

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified. Then they will rebuild the ancient ruins, they will raise up the former devastations; And they will repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations.  Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks, and foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers. But you will be called the priests of the LORD; you will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, and instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land, everlasting joy will be theirs” (Isaiah 61:1-7).

For centuries following the prophecies declared by Isaiah, different Jewish traditions emerged, incorporating the blowing of the shofar into the Yom Kippur convocation, perhaps as a reminder of the dual purpose of the shofar blowing during the year of jubilee. After all, the joy associated with hearing the shofar blast on the day of jubilee with the arrival of the anticipated Messiah, contrasted with the solemnity of the shofar sounds on the Feast of Trumpets announcing the coming of the Day of Atonement, had to be disconcerting.

In a similar vein, perhaps this contrast explains some of the mixed emotions found in Nazareth, when Yeshua the Messiah read from the Isaiah prophecy on a Sabbath, and alluded to Himself being the fulfillment of the prophecy:

“And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written, ‘THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD’ [Isaiah 61:1-2; 58:6]. And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ And all were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’ And He said to them, ‘No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me, “Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we heard was done at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.”’ And He said, ‘Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown. But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.’ And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, He went His way” (Luke 4:16-30).

Shofars Blowing

Needless to say, the highly anticipated coming of the Messiah of Israel evokes a tremendous amount of emotion, whether it is linked to the themes of the year of jubilee and its shofar blast, and the shofar blast announcing His arrival, or simply His First Coming in the First Century and its attendant miracles. It can be generally recognized from both the Prophets and the Apostolic Scriptures, that there is definitely a trumpet to be sounded when the Messiah returns:

“It will come about also in that day that a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were perishing in the land of Assyria and who were scattered in the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD in the holy mountain at Jerusalem” (Isaiah 27:13).

“Then the LORD will appear over them, and His arrow will go forth like lightning; And the Lord God will blow the trumpet, and will march in the storm winds of the south” (Zechariah 9:14).

“And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other” (Matthew 24:30-31; cf. Isaiah 13:10; Ezekiel 32:7; Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15).

“Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:50-53).

Suffice it to say, since following the jubilee instructions largely ended centuries ago, primarily due to Ancient Israel’s disregard for even following the seven-year Sabbath rest for the land (Jeremiah 9:9-16; 25:4-18), there is a lack of consensus on when and how the jubilee should or should not be recognized not only in Judaism, but in Christianity.

However, for those observing the annual feasts of the Lord, there is a distinct parallel between what should have been done over every fifty-year period, and what is done on an annual basis during the Counting of the Omer for the seven weeks between Passover and the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot. The similarities are difficult to ignore, because the “fifty day” pattern is so similar to the “fifty year” pattern. Perhaps the Lord wants people to make the connection each and every year. Faithful followers of the Holy One can be reminded of the benefits of the jubilee, whether it is a restoration of the economic order, or the setting free of the captives to sin, or the coming reign of the Messiah, when they come together to remember the Feast of Weeks on the fiftieth day of the Omer Count. While this day is recognized as a time of multiple offerings and proclamations, note some of the parallels in these verses from Leviticus 23. Not only is there a similar count, emphasizing fifty, but there is also a focus on taking care of the needy and the sojourner when restoration is made:

“You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh sabbath; then you shall present a new grain offering to the LORD. You shall bring in from your dwelling places two loaves of bread for a wave offering, made of two-tenths of an ephah; they shall be of a fine flour, baked with leaven as first fruits to the LORD. Along with the bread you shall present seven one year old male lambs without defect, and a bull of the herd and two rams; they are to be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD. You shall also offer one male goat for a sin offering and two male lambs one year old for a sacrifice of peace offerings. The priest shall then wave them with the bread of the first fruits for a wave offering with two lambs before the LORD; they are to be holy to the LORD for the priest. On this same day you shall make a proclamation as well; you are to have a holy convocation. You shall do no laborious work. It is to be a perpetual statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations. When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 23:16-22).

This week, may we reflect on the blessings of the jubilee year in our own personal lives—as there was a decisive moment in the past when through faith in Yeshua the Messiah, we were each set free from the bondage of sin (Romans 7). Whether one rehearses it on Shavuot, or every morning in prayer, or when reading a Psalm, we are reminded that the Earth and each individual soul is the Lord’s creation:

“A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it. For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers” (Psalm 24:1-2).

Perhaps in this season with Shavuot rapidly approaching, our appreciation for the reminder will be heightened. I hope that we will each remember all that He has done for us, and proclaim our thanks for His salvation!

Emor

Emor

Speak

Leviticus 21:1-24:23
Ezekiel 44:15-31

“Priests, Feasts, Equally Speaking”


by Mark Huey

This week’s Torah reading in Leviticus continues the major theme of the book, in how the community of Israel is to seek holiness and sanctification, just as the Lord Himself is holy. Holiness, as a message to be heeded, is noted multiple times throughout the Book of Leviticus:

“For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45).

“Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy’” (Leviticus 19:2).

Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine” (Leviticus 20:26).

After some of the previous Torah portions have dealt with a variety of commandments for the general population of Israel to observe, in order to maintain holiness before the Lord and be the Kingdom of priests and holy nation He desired (Exodus 19:6)—the emphasis on personal and individual holiness among the people shifts toward the Levites, because of their specific duties for the Tabernacle. Leviticus chs. 21-22 detail a wide number of restrictions and prohibitions placed upon the Levitical priesthood, which are particularly instituted to maintain the priests’ physical and spiritual purity before the Lord. In reading the various requirements for those responsible for offering sacrifices at the Tabernacle, limitations on how to handle the deceased, marriage parameters, physical requirements, dietary restrictions, and sacrificial specifications, are noted.

Even with the series of specific commandments given to regulate the Levitical priesthood—undoubtedly because of how consecrated the priests needed to be—readers see a constant reminder of how for those within the community of Israel, the overall instructions remain relatively the same. Whether someone is native-born of Israel, or is a sojourner who enters into the community, the instructions regarding the presentation of offerings before the Lord are uniform (cf. Leviticus 22:17-18).

In Emor, we do see that the Lord makes an important distinction between those who were to serve as Levitical priests, and the general population of Israel composed of both native-born and sojourners. The Levitical priesthood of Ancient Israel is best likened to a kind of aristocracy, or even royal family: you have to be born into it. Yet, even with some specific expectations designed to be fulfilled by the Levitical priesthood, the average Israelite was to still take some instruction regarding the principles of holiness and sanctification unto the Lord, from being informed about what He required of His priests.

After going into significant detail on what the Levitical priests were required to do, Leviticus ch. 23 turns to the details about the appointed times of the Lord. The overall instructions about how God’s people are to commemorate these moedim—which range from the weekly Sabbath, to the Spring season of Passover and Unleavened Bread, to the Feast of Weeks, to the Fall season of the Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles—are delineated. It is these appointed times which basically frame the Hebrew calendar, from week to week and season to season. Since these commemorations are integral parts of what the Holy One requires of His followers, anyone who serves the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob should realize that remembrance of them is not only to be expected, but that these should be times of the year highly anticipated, for communion with one’s Creator and deriving special blessings from participating in them!

Emor further relates an incident witnessed in the camp of Ancient Israel, when a half-Egyptian, half-Israelite committed blasphemy against the Lord (Leviticus 24:10-12). What was to be done with this person? We read that when the matter was taken before Moses, anyone within the camp of Israel—be they native or sojourner—was to be given the same level of punishment for blasphemy. This scene helps to build how, perhaps unlike some other Ancient Near Eastern societies, the culture of Ancient Israel did not hold its natives to one standard of capital judgment, and everyone else in the community to another standard:

“They put him in custody so that the command of the LORD might be made clear to them. Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Bring the one who has cursed outside the camp, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head; then let all the congregation stone him. You shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, “If anyone curses his God, then he will bear his sin. Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death. If a man takes the life of any human being, he shall surely be put to death. The one who takes the life of an animal shall make it good, life for life. If a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him. Thus the one who kills an animal shall make it good, but the one who kills a man shall be put to death. There shall be one standard for you; it shall be for the stranger as well as the native, for I am the LORD your God.”’ Then Moses spoke to the sons of Israel, and they brought the one who had cursed outside the camp and stoned him with stones. Thus the sons of Israel did, just as the LORD had commanded Moses” (Leviticus 24:12-23).

Elsewhere in the Torah, there are additional instructions given, helping to support the premise that the same Law affects all within the community of Israel—be one native-born or a sojourner (Numbers 9:14; 15:13-16, 29-31). Obviously, readers need to be careful to understand what these instructions meant to their audiences in Ancient Israel first, and not haphazardly use little quotations about “one law” or “one Torah,” without understanding some of the original context.[1] Yet, the overarching conclusion, which one sees in the Pentateuch, is how all people within the ancient community of Israel were expected to heed Moses’ Teaching, in some form or another:

Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and the alien who is in your town, so that they may hear and learn and fear the LORD your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 31:12).

What various instructions detailing “one law” or “one statute,” often mean to people in today’s Messianic community, has been heightened by the significant number of non-Jewish Believers entering into a lifestyle of Torah obedience. It is absolutely true that not only does the New Covenant relate to the supernatural transcription of God’s Torah onto the hearts of the redeemed (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27; cf. Hebrews 8:8-12; 10:16-17), but that the nations are to come to Zion to be taught the Law (Micah 4:1-3; Isaiah 2:2-4). Such people are regarded as citizens of the Commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:11-13; 3:6) or the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), grafted-in by faith (Romans 11:17-18).

When today’s non-Jewish Messianic Believers read chapters like Leviticus 23, there tends to be a bit of a dilemma, because Christianity has historically not observed the appointed times of the Torah, and has interpreted various Pauline passages as speaking against them. These Pauline passages themselves, though, have some ancient contexts to be considered, per the original issues and circumstances facing their original audiences. Foremost to be considered would be how the appointed times were caught up in false, esoteric teachings and human traditions, present in fringe branches of First Century Judaism (Galatians 4:9-11; Colossians 2:16-17), as well as how disputable opinions that were disrupting communal fellowship had to be addressed (Romans 14:5-6).[2]

A reasonable conclusion to draw, from surveying the Gospels and the Apostolic Writings, does allow people to see that Yeshua the Messiah and His Disciples did observe the weekly Sabbath and appointed times. This is most especially seen in His Last Supper, a Passover seder meal, an intimate time that the Lord held with the Disciples (cf. John chs. 13-17) before being arrested and executed. For the season in which we currently find ourselves (2012), Counting the Omer between Passover and the Feast of Weeks, we can be surely reminded of how the early followers of Yeshua observed Shavuot (Acts 2:1; 20:16). Part of all modern-day Messiah followers needing to observe the appointed times is a definite component of His fulfillment of the Torah (Matthew 5:16-19), and in all of us—be we Jewish or non-Jewish—understanding the Father’s plan of salvation history. While there have no doubt been some changes to the spiritual economy naturally enacted by Yeshua’s sacrifice for human sin, to argue for a widespread dismissal of the Torah, as is too commonly seen in today’s Christianity, is unjustified.[3]

As we each read through and reflect upon Emor this week, how are modern-day, Messianic students of the Torah to take some fair-minded direction from a reading that deals with priests handling the sacrifices, the feasts of the Lord, and even a few verses in the Torah that speak to equal adherence and treatment of the native-born and the sojourner? How do we approach these things in a manner that causes us to be more holy and sanctified, as the Lord is holy?

Each of us, as redeemed men and women, has been called and consecrated unto the Lord for His service. And so from this, a modern-day follower of the Messiah Yeshua can surely take some pointers from the Levitical priesthood seen in the Torah, without some of the specificity that definitively relates to the priests themselves. Born again Believers are to recognize that they are to be intermediaries between the Creator God and the unredeemed world at large, fulfilling on a macro level, what the priests themselves were to do in their intermediary capacity for those who would be served by the Tabernacle.

What about participating in the feasts of the Lord? There have surely been religious authorities, both Christian and Jewish, over the centuries, who have denied the applicability of the appointed times to many followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Yet it can be clearly observed today how remembering the appointed times has seen many evangelical Christians not only exposed to their Hebraic Roots, but has been what has specifically drawn them to become Torah observant Messianic Believers. While there are those Christians who think that the Biblical feasts should only be understood from the perspective of “enrichment,” and not as a major part of all Believers’ lifestyle—there is definitely a more positive approach witnessed in much of contemporary Christianity toward the appointed times, than what was witnessed in the past. This is a start…

While it is not possible in this week’s teaching to get into all of the nuances of why opinions regarding the Torah’s instruction vary—I urge you, that regardless of how you feel about the application of the Torah’s instruction to God’s people, to consider some of the words of the Apostle Peter, one of Yeshua’s closest disciples. He emphasized how the requirement to be holy extended far beyond external cleanliness or rigorous devotion to detail, but how holy behavior was definitively required for those who recognized Yeshua:

“As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Messiah within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Messiah and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look. Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Yeshua the Messiah. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY’ [Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7]. If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Messiah. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. For, ‘ALL FLESH IS LIKE GRASS, AND ALL ITS GLORY LIKE THE FLOWER OF GRASS. THE GRASS WITHERS, AND THE FLOWER FALLS OFF, BUT THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURES FOREVER’ [Isaiah 40:6-8]. And this is the word which was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:10-25).

Peter reminded his readers about the most critical need to understand the message of the gospel above all. This is because once the good news of Yeshua has been understood and embraced, personal holiness must be sought by the Believer. The combination of truly knowing the Lord’s salvation, with a desire for personal holiness, should then result in a sincere love of the brethren and a fervent love for others from the heart. There are people in the Messianic movement today whom our family has encountered who do not know how to do this. And so, we must each heed the good instructions of Emor!

Knowing what is required of Levitical priests, or participating in the Biblical feasts, or even knowing that God’s commandments are anticipated to be heeded by all of His people—means very little if it is not accompanied with a sincere, unadulterated and unfettered love for all people, especially one’s brothers and sisters in the Messiah. The Apostle John puts it this way:

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit” (1 John 4:7-13).

When you meditate upon this week’s Torah portion, remember that the Holy One of Israel desires all to truly know Him (cf. John 3:16). There may be those who strictly observe the commandments seen in Emor, but because they lacked a holy demeanor and sanctified way of approaching Him—with little care or concern for others—are likely to be excluded from His Kingdom. Make sure that your observance of the Torah is definitively coupled with a concern that all come to a saving knowledge of Yeshua as Lord!


NOTES

[1] Consult the article “Approaching One Law Controversies: Sorting Through the Legalism” by J.K. McKee.

[2] Consult the article “Does the New Testament Annul the Biblical Appointments?” by J.K. McKee.

[3] For a further discussion, consult the book The New Testament Validates Torah by J.K. McKee.

Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Acharei Mot

After the death

Leviticus 16:1-18:30
Ezekiel 22:1-19 (A); 22:1-16 (S)

Kedoshim

Holy Ones

Leviticus 19:1-20:27
Amos 9:7-15 (A); Ezekiel 20:2-20 (S)

“Holiness Matters”


by Mark Huey

For the second week in a row due to calendar considerations (2012), our Torah study is a double portion. After the tragic and unexpected deaths of Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-2), explicit instructions are given by the Lord to Moses on how Aaron and future high priests were to formally offer sacrifices at a specified time in order to restore Israel’s relationship with Him. As we see the description of Yom Kippur or the Day of Atonement at this point in the annual cycle (Leviticus 16:29), Torah students can be reminded that they have about six months or so, before this time is to be observed. The balance of Acharei Mot-Kedoshim deals specifically with God’s desire for Israel to be holy and sanctified. There are a series of both negative and positive commandments, dealing with a variety of issues, that will set the people apart from their pagan neighbors. As we read and contemplate Acharei Mot-Kedoshim this week, it should be an excellent time for personal examination regarding what the Lord requires of His sons and daughters—because from His perspective, personal holiness matters.

The Lord strongly desires a people who not only know and fear His holiness, but recognize that their individual and corporate holiness is necessary to maintain an intimate relationship with Him. With the spectacular fiery deaths of Aaron’s sons fresh in their minds, God specified that access to the Holy of Holies was restricted to the high priest on a designated day, after complying with absolute instructions on how to atone not only for his personal sin, but the corporate sins of Israel:

“Now the LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they had approached the presence of the LORD and died. The LORD said to Moses: ‘Tell your brother Aaron that he shall not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, or he will die; for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. Aaron shall enter the holy place with this: with a bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering…This shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work, whether the native, or the alien who sojourns among you; for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute. So the priest who is anointed and ordained to serve as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement: he shall thus put on the linen garments, the holy garments, and make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar. He shall also make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. Now you shall have this as a permanent statute, to make atonement for the sons of Israel for all their sins once every year.’ And just as the LORD had commanded Moses, so he did” (Leviticus 16:1-3, 29-34).

Of course, for Believers in Yeshua the Messiah and His atoning sacrifice, there is confidence that the ultimate sacrifice for human sin has been completed. Yeshua’s own sacrifice allows the redeemed in Him access to the holiest place in Heaven:

“For the Law, since it has…a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, ‘SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME; IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE. THEN I SAID, “BEHOLD I HAVE COME (IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME) TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD”’ [Psalm 40:6-8]. After saying above, ‘SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them’ [Psalm 40:6] (which are offered according to the Law), then He said, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL’ [Psalm 40:7]. He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Yeshua the Messiah once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET [Psalm 110:1]. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, ‘THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,’ He then says, ‘AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE’ [Jeremiah 31:33]. Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Yeshua, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:1-23).

However, even with these assurances from the Apostolic Scriptures that the ultimate sacrifice for sin has been made—it remains incumbent for Messiah followers to be fully informed about what the Lord states regarding blood, moral physical relationships, and proper ethical treatment of neighbors in the community. One cannot appreciate Yeshua’s work, unless one appreciates the Torah that foretold of His work (Hebrews 10:1). By being reminded of these commands on a regular basis by studying the Torah—especially in view of the permanence of Yom Kippur—modern-day Believers in the Messiah have a definite responsibility to not be ignorant when it comes to how they should conduct their lives. After all, while there is forgiveness for sins of commission and omission, the universal principle that a person reaps what is sown will always apply (cf. Galatians 6:7-8). If God’s people desire to be holy, as He is holy, then it is critical to review what He has stated in His Word—so that we might be obedient to His commandments. This is why I am most elated, that the Lord has led many people, both Jewish and non-Jewish Believers together, to the practice of studying through the Torah on an annual basis.

Blood Issues

As the reading turns from the Day of Atonement, it becomes apparent that the Lord wanted His people to have a comprehensive understanding about blood, as it was a vital part of animal life. Since blood is used in the sacrificial offerings, the Lord wanted the community of Israel to be aware of the fact that the life of animal flesh is found in its blood, and should be treated with great respect:

“And any man from the house of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, who eats any blood, I will set My face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, ‘No person among you may eat blood, nor may any alien who sojourns among you eat blood.’ So when any man from the sons of Israel, or from the aliens who sojourn among them, in hunting catches a beast or a bird which may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. For as for the life of all flesh, its blood is identified with its life. Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, ‘You are not to eat the blood of any flesh, for the life of all flesh is its blood; whoever eats it shall be cut off.’ When any person eats an animal which dies or is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or an alien, he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening; then he will become clean. ‘But if he does not wash them or bathe his body, then he shall bear his guilt’” (Leviticus 17:10-16).

While the Lord has already given instructions about clean and unclean animals fit for human consumption (Leviticus 11), these specific details about blood have been used to develop a proper way to handle the blood of animals that are to be eaten. Blood is to not only be respected—but not eaten or consumed—because the blood is the literal “life” of the animal. So important was this for the First Century Jewish community, that the Apostolic decree decisively prohibited the non-Jewish Believers coming to faith, to consume blood (Acts 15:20, 29), as a definite part of eating kosher. Yet, what does it mean if followers of the Messiah are not aware of these laws—and are more conditioned by various cultural mores? Thankfully by reviewing and adhering to these instructions, we can allow the Holy Spirit to direct us back to an appropriate path, and receive forgiveness from the Lord from whatever immediate or long term consequences—whether spiritual and/or physical—have been incurred as a result of ingesting blood.

Proper Relations

After these explicit instructions about how to handle blood, the Torah turns to a lengthy description about proper sexual contact. Apparently, not only in Egypt, but also in Canaan, these pagan cultures were involved in all kinds of sexual relationships that were improper and considered abominable by the Lord. Thankfully, what the Lord considers moral and proper relationships between people has been historically instituted in much of Western civilization because of the influence of Judeo-Christian values. But with the decline of societal standards in modern times, many of these abominable practices are becoming acceptable to an increasing number of the ill-advised population:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, “I am the LORD your God. You shall not do what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes. You are to perform My judgments and keep My statutes, to live in accord with them; I am the LORD your God. So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD”’” (Leviticus 18:1-5).

While reading through Leviticus ch. 18, one will discover the varieties of incest considered improper, bestiality forbidden, and homosexuality considered an abomination. Hopefully, despite a Twentieth and Twenty-First Century cultural decline, by reviewing God’s standards for proper sexual activity, followers of the Messiah will be given the resolve to stand up for what the Creator has stated is appropriate. But whether one recalls the vile sexual sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, or rereads the description of Paul in Romans ch. 1 regarding the nations’ rejection of God—one should recognize that these deviant human choices will seemingly always be something with which societies will have to contend:

“Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:24-32).

By just reviewing the sordid list of the consequences of being given over to degrading passions, one can better understand why so much sin runs rampant throughout a society unable to stifle these vile practices. Hence, the reinforcement of annually rereading these prohibitions should not only prevent one from ever considering them, but also be able to carefully direct others to the truth—that they might receive the mercy of a Loving God and be stirred to repentance. Those called into God’s community of faithful Believers should recognize how final judgment of those in sexual sin reside with the offender—but they should be able to intelligibly and reasonably explain why God considers sexual actions between people, outside of the bonds of a heterosexual, monogamous marriage relationship, to be totally unacceptable.

Be Holy

Upon turning to Leviticus chs. 19-20, readers encounter ordinances and statutes given by the Lord, to surely enable Israel to be the kingdom of priests and holy nation (Exodus 19:6) that He desires. In many respects, these two chapters are an amplification of the Decalogue, by intensifying the substance of the Ten Commandments. This section begins and ends with the explicit direction for Israel to be holy, as God is holy:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father, and you shall keep My sabbaths; I am the LORD your God. Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am the LORD your God”’” (Leviticus 19:1-4).

“Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine” (Leviticus 20:26).

Walking in a holy, sanctified manner, does not just happen because someone is either born into Israel, and/or calls oneself a follower of Yeshua. What are some of the ways that God’s people can maintain a degree of holiness? The Torah goes into detail, enumerating instructions that include, but are surely not limited to: reverence for parents, keeping the Sabbath, avoiding idol worship, not stealing, not lying, and not profaning the Lord’s name. One of the most important instructions to be followed pertains to respect and love for neighbors:

“You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning. You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the LORD. You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:13-18).

Yeshua expounded upon Leviticus 19:18, in some rather profound teaching, about how to walk in a manner that exudes holiness. In His well-known teaching on the good Samaritan, when a lawyer asked what was required to inherit eternal life, Yeshua shared the story of someone robbed on the way from Jerusalem to Jericho. After comparing what a priest and a Levite did, with how the Samaritan dealt with his neighbor, Yeshua queried the lawyer with a question that has an obvious answer:

“And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ And He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?’ And he answered, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF’ [Deuteronomy 6:5]. And He said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE’ [Leviticus 18:5]. But wishing to justify himself, he said to Yeshua, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Yeshua replied and said, ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.” Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?’ And he said, ‘The one who showed mercy toward him.’ Then Yeshua said to him, ‘Go and do the same’” (Luke 10:25-37).

As you read this familiar passage, and recall from our Torah portion the ways one should treat his or her neighbor—we find that Yeshua took loving one’s neighbor to a higher level. While there is no explicit instruction in Leviticus ch. 19 to give a person help if he or she was found on the side of the road, Yeshua required that one extend mercy and help in time of need. Early in His ministry, Yeshua expounded His teaching on judging others, with how treating others as you would choose to be treated, is a key part of a walk of faith exemplifying holiness:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:1-12).

Note how in Yeshua’s conclusion, that treating others as you would want to be treated, is derived from the Torah and the Prophets. If people are not studying the Torah and Prophets, and being reminded of what the Lord has declared, then how are they ever going to know what He expects of them? While some Believers via the Spirit might understand a few things, specificity of good works required of God’s people may be significantly missed. This is why studying Torah is so essential, so that Messiah followers cannot only know what it says—but so that they can allow its principles to be truly ingrained in the heart and mind. What can be lost, in the good works required of God’s people, if you, for example, fail to study the instruction about withholding wages or leaving the corners of a field unharvested? What might this tell us about the poor and destitute in society, who need help?

Child Sacrifice Forbidden

Perhaps one of the vilest sins described, in this section of Scripture, was the Ancient Near Eastern practice of offering up children to appease the god Molech. For modern-day Believers, this passage can be commonly associated with the abomination of abortion on demand, where if a child is conceived, a woman can simply choose to dispose of it. Yet, offering an infant child to Molech was much different, as the metal idol would be heated, and then the helpless child would be burned alive—its screams perhaps being regarded as some kind of worship. Those who would offer children to Molech, a sin that persisted in much of the history of the Tanakh, are those who would surely incur the anger of the Lord for far more than just idolatry:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘You shall also say to the sons of Israel: “Any man from the sons of Israel or from the aliens sojourning in Israel who gives any of his offspring to Molech, shall surely be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones. I will also set My face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given some of his offspring to Molech, so as to defile My sanctuary and to profane My holy name. If the people of the land, however, should ever disregard that man when he gives any of his offspring to Molech, so as not to put him to death, then I Myself will set My face against that man and against his family, and I will cut off from among their people both him and all those who play the harlot after him, by playing the harlot after Molech. As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set My face against that person and will cut him off from among his people. You shall consecrate yourselves therefore and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. You shall keep My statutes and practice them; I am the LORD who sanctifies you. If there is anyone who curses his father or his mother, he shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother, his bloodguiltiness is upon him. If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death”’” (Leviticus 20:1-10).

To practice any of the detestable practices listed above, would merit one severe consequences. If the Holy One was so concerned about these pagan practices to include them in the Torah—perhaps being reminded of them will instill in modern-day Messiah followers a desire to pray for those caught up in these sorts of abhorrent acts, even with a few modern twists and differences. Perhaps given the opportunity to confront, hopefully in love, those participating in these practices, we can turn to these Scripture passages to reveal what God has declared. In so doing, we can hope that His Spirit will convict and turn people from their wicked ways, with an ample opportunity for them to be transformed by the good news of salvation in Yeshua!

Holiness Matters

As Acharei Mot-Kedoshim winds down, the overwhelming number of ordinances that are encountered, both positive and negative, need some time for reflection. If while reading and contemplating them, you were convicted of a time when you might have indulged yourself in one or part of one of these actions—perhaps you should go back and confess your sin to the Lord, asking for forgiveness. Forgiveness for sin is available to all, but does require confession and repentance. Yet, being informed from God’s Word regarding what He considers sin to be is necessary, if there is to be a true compulsion to ask for forgiveness, and a commitment made to the process of ongoing sanctification.

Personally speaking, I can remember a time years ago, when first going through the Torah, that I was confronted by the following verse:

“Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:31).

Upon reading this verse, the Holy Spirit brought to mind not only my previous readings of horoscopes, but also times when I played on an Ouija Board, before I became a Believer. While for years I had not consulted a horoscope or played the game, for some reason I was convicted that I had once placed some credence on these means of predicting the future or my good fortune. So, I took the time to confess my sin of ignorance and ask God for forgiveness. Since then, whenever I see a horoscope listing in the paper or magazine, I do not even bother to read it, but am simply reminded of my repentance and how easy it is for people to get distracted by things that God forbids. While this is a simple example, perhaps going back through these Torah portions and asking God to bring to mind some things that were done in ignorance, may just initiate a time of confession and repentance.

After all, God is forever asking His people to be holy—because from His perspective, holiness matters:

“Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine” (Leviticus 20:26).