Give an order

Leviticus 6:1[8]-8:36
Jeremiah 7:21-8:3; 9:22-23

“Sacrificial Aroma”

by Mark Huey

The previous week’s Torah reading, Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1-5:26[6:7]), encompassed the first five chapters of Leviticus, continuing God’s instructions to the Ancient Israelites on the various sacrificial offerings that were to be presented to Him. Now as we turn to Tzav, the emphasis is seen on specific commands to Aaron and his sons, who constituted the Levitical priesthood, and how it was to prepare, handle, and offer the different sacrifices. Details are given regarding not eating animal fat or blood, with Tzav concluding with a description of the actual consecration of Aaron and his sons. Providentially perhaps, this week’s study precedes the annual commemoration of the Passover. Allow this timing to seriously prepare your hearts to obey the instruction for God’s people to remember the Passover—and by extension, all of His appointed times. After all, Tzav ends with the admonition that Aaron and his sons complied with all of these ancient commands of the Lord:

“Thus Aaron and his sons did all the things which the LORD had commanded through Moses” (Leviticus 8:36).

From a relatively passive explanation about how individuals were supposed to offer up sacrifices in Vayikra (Leviticus 6:1-7), our Torah portion describes an imperative command that was to be adhered to by the Levitical priesthood (Leviticus 6:8-9). We then see meticulous details specified for the different offerings, which include: the burnt offering (Leviticus 6:10-13), the grain offering (Leviticus 6:14-23), the sin offering (Leviticus 6:24-30), the guilt offering (Leviticus 7:1-10), and the peace offering (Leviticus 7:11-16). While there might be some different classifications provided by readers for the different offerings or sacrifices to be made in Leviticus chs. 6-7, one overarching theme really struck me in reviewing them all. The Holy One desired His chosen people to be continually offering different sacrifices from evening to morning:

“Command Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the law for the burnt offering: the burnt offering itself shall remain on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning, and the fire on the altar is to be kept burning on it’” (Leviticus 6:9).

The Lord was very particular about how the Levitical priesthood was to maintain the sacrifice, and He reiterated the command to keep the fires burning without interruption:

“The priest is to put on his linen robe, and he shall put on undergarments next to his flesh; and he shall take up the ashes to which the fire reduces the burnt offering on the altar and place them beside the altar. Then he shall take off his garments and put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place. The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. It shall not go out, but the priest shall burn wood on it every morning; and he shall lay out the burnt offering on it, and offer up in smoke the fat portions of the peace offerings on it. Fire shall be kept burning continually on the altar; it is not to go out” (Leviticus 6:10-13).

From these instructions seen in Tzav, it is evident that the Lord desired a continual sacrificial offering, between Himself and His chosen people. We can see how a perpetual pattern of spiritual service was established for the future generations of followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to pursue.

Post-Resurrection Sacrifices

In ancient times, before the destruction of the Second Temple, the Levitical priesthood presented the various sacrificial offerings, as specified by Torah portions like Tzav. But since the ultimate sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and His resurrection from the dead—coupled with universal availability of the Holy Spirit—we definitely see a shift toward the responsibility of God’s people to offer “sacrifices” to Him in the form of the worship offered by born again Believers. The Apostle Paul communicated how,

“[D]o 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).

Most frequently, this has been interpreted from the perspective of individual Believers being filled with the Holy Spirit. While absolutely true, it can also be viewed from the perspective of “body” pertaining to the Body of Messiah or whole community of faith as well. Certainly, the actions performed, by a claiming individual Believer, are to be reflected within the whole Body of Messiah, as we all strive to build one another up—or in some cases, tear one another down. With this in mind, consider Paul’s preceding admonition:

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).

The body of Believers—whether it be individuals redeemed from sin, or corporate bodies of Messiah followers—is to be consecrated to God because of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Paul, being the teacher of Israel’s Scriptures that he was, would have understood the significance that according to instructions like those seen in Tzav, not only were the sacrificial offerings considered holy, but even those who touched the offerings were consecrated in their duties:

“Now this is the law of the grain offering: the sons of Aaron shall present it before the LORD in front of the altar. Then one of them shall lift up from it a handful of the fine flour of the grain offering, with its oil and all the incense that is on the grain offering, and he shall offer it up in smoke on the altar, a soothing aroma, as its memorial offering to the LORD. What is left of it Aaron and his sons are to eat. It shall be eaten as unleavened cakes in a holy place; they are to eat it in the court of the tent of meeting. It shall not be baked with leaven. I have given it as their share from My offerings by fire; it is most holy, like the sin offering and the guilt offering. Every male among the sons of Aaron may eat it; it is a permanent ordinance throughout your generations, from the offerings by fire to the Lord. Whoever touches them will become consecrated” (Leviticus 6:14-18).

Living Sacrifices

What duties do you faithfully perform as a Believer in the Messiah Yeshua? In your quest to obey the Lord, are you continually sanctified more and more, as you serve Him in the world? One of the most classic passages, as it concerns Messiah followers’ sacrifice before the Father, is Romans 12:1-2:

“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).

Romans 12:1-2 speaks about the people of God and the worship they are to offer before Him. What happens when we enter into worship, either individually or corporately? Hopefully the many differences we think are important to us—those human achievements or status identifiers that we think make us “special”—become far less important in view of Him and His supreme holiness. What Yeshua the Messiah has done for us, as the sinless Lamb of God, has opened full access to the Father:

“By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Messiah Yeshua 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” (Hebrews 10:10-14).

Think about the power of these statements the next time you enter into worship. Think about how much we might take Yeshua’s sacrifice, and the permanent atonement and forgiveness it offers, (utterly) for granted. In view of what the Messiah has done for us, perhaps we can better understand what Paul says in Philippians 3:8:

“I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Messiah Yeshua my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Messiah.”

Believers in the accomplished work of the Messiah can discover great joy, fulfillment, and purpose for their lives—if they can place what He has done at the center of their being. This requires a steadfast willingness to surrender to the will of God, being an imitator of God, and walking in the love of God:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Messiah also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Just like the fragrant aromas of the sacrificial offerings found in Tzav (Leviticus 6:15, 21; 8:21, 28), we find that the Messiah’s sacrifice was also a fragrant aroma offered unto the Father. Yet, when we offer ourselves up to the Lord in service, are we a fragrant aroma to Him—or something else? As you consider the various sacrificial offerings found in this week’s Torah portion, perhaps it would be spiritually beneficial to focus on your personal choice, to offer yourself to Him. None of us want to be a smell of burning, stinking garbage before the Lord!

Do you want to be a pleasing aroma to the Lord in all that you do? What about the privilege of being a witness for the gospel, as the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Yeshua permeates everywhere you go?

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Messiah, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Messiah to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Messiah in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 2:14-17).

While one can spend much time this week focusing on the details of the different offerings described in Tzav, perhaps it might be more necessary for you to consider just how you are personally offering yourself as a living holy sacrifice to the Lord’s service. Will this at all affect you in your approach to the Passover, which is soon coming? What about all of the things that you have to do, as a man or woman of faith?



He called

Leviticus 1:1-5:26[6:7]
Isaiah 43:21-44:23

“Faithful Confessions”

by Mark Huey

In the Book of Leviticus, Torah students get an opportunity to mainly study the sacrificial system, which was formally instituted, to cover the transgressions of human sin. The Ancient Israelites in the desert have just completed the construction of the Tabernacle, and have witnessed God’s glory descend upon the structure. The weight of His presence was so intense, that Moses was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting in order to communicate directly with the Almighty (Exodus 40:34-35).

At the end of the Book of Exodus, Moses’ credibility with the people of Israel was at its pinnacle. The instructions on how to build the Tabernacle, its furniture, and the elements needed for the priesthood, were followed to precision. The result had to be an awesome sight, to these former Egyptian slaves, who were privileged to participate in the construction projects. From a distance, they were all eyewitnesses to the pillar of fire and cloud that was guiding them by night and day.

A Sacrificial System

The main theme of the Book of Leviticus, easily seen from a survey of the text, is that it details the intricacies of the priesthood and sacrificial system, which are to regulate Israel’s national life. Without any significant interruption, it appears that the Holy One, from His new location in the midst of the community, began to address the need for individual atonement for the sins of the people:

“Then the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, “When any man of you brings an offering to the LORD, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock. If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it, a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the LORD. He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.” He shall slay the young bull before the LORD; and Aaron’s sons the priests shall offer up the blood and sprinkle the blood around on the altar that is at the doorway of the tent of meeting’” (Leviticus 1:1-4).

In these opening verses of Vayikra, we discover that the sacrifices for transgressions are a very personal thing. The one who was guilty of a sin offense was to place his hands on the head of the animal, to transfer his personal guilt to the offering. The animal was then to be personally slayed by the sinner, and Aaron and his sons were to take the blood and disperse it in the appropriate places.

Can you imagine the impact this ceremony would have on you, if you were required to participate in this ritual? If you have ever slaughtered an animal—which the great majority of modern-day people have never done—you might have some understanding of the significance of what was mandatory. But can you visualize actually placing your hands on an innocent animal’s head, with the knowledge that your transgression has required a blood atonement, that (temporarily) returns you to a right relationship with your Creator?

Many of these thoughts are difficult to fathom, but as you read through the the Book of Leviticus, the variety of offerings and their significance for the array of sins of commission and sins of omission, can be overwhelming. It is understandable that many, especially in the past two millennia since the destruction of the Second Temple, have had a tendency to not really comprehend what is being communicated in the Torah about sacrifices. In the post-resurrection era, after all, final atonement for sins has been accomplished in the sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah (Hebrews 9:28; 10:10). The propensity for Believers to focus on His atoning work can help us understand why there has not been a great deal of Christian examination of Leviticus. The ability to personalize the gravity of sin and what was required to restore a right relationship with God has been mitigated. Many just claim the “blood of Yeshua” when they transgress God’s Instruction, if they are aware of such commandments.

If we are mature Bible readers, then Torah students should be able to properly value the sacrificial instructions of Moses’ Teaching—even with salvation history having moved forward, with a permanent sacrifice for human sins available.

Personal Confession

Having a greater, conscious awareness of what God defines as sin—is one of the primary reasons why the Lord is inspiring many people to return to a foundational understanding of their faith, through a consistent study of the Torah of Moses. For by actually reading through something like Vayikra this week, and meditating upon the sins that require atonement, a man or woman should certainly be able to analyze areas of his or her life where some “fine tuning” would be appropriate. For who among us is not personally guilty of various sins of commission or omission at times? Consider the following words of the Apostle John:

“If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).

Some have been known to describe 1 John 1:8-10 as a kind of “Christian confessional bar of soap.” If people can acknowledge themselves as fallen sinners, then they can know that they need redemption—something that God is surely faithful to provide! A little further on in the Epistle of 1 John, the Apostle goes on to describe some of the benefits of a true salvation experience for those who have become the children of God:

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:1-10).

We are found to be in Him and abiding in Him—with everything about who we are as people focused on and around the Lord—then we will not sin. The problem is that in our spiritual journey, the sanctification process is not often something instantaneous. We must each learn to abide more and more in Him, and pressing into the Lord must be exercised by our free will and desire to mature.

Where do you stand in the Lord today? Take this one example from Vayikra as a starter in your personal, confessional appraisal:

“Now if a person sins after he hears a public adjuration to testify when he is a witness, whether he has seen or otherwise known, if he does not tell it, then he will bear his guilt” (Leviticus 5:1).

Have you ever been in a predicament where you were a primary eyewitness to some sinful circumstances that were being investigated or adjudicated by some authority? This could be a civil or criminal offense, from a minor misdemeanor to felony. Perhaps you did not want to be involved in the investigation or prosecution, because of your relationship to the offender. Or perhaps you were concerned about your potential loss of time. Nevertheless, for a variety of reasons, you might have justified your decision to disobey this command. On the other hand, by thinking and meditating on many of the different implications from this Torah commandment, you could hopefully become a better corporate citizen to the community where you live—especially when you realize that if you do not come forward as a credible eyewitness, then you will bear the guilt of the offender! Think about this.

But what if you are an employee at a company, and you witness some people stealing some of the company pens and paper for their own personal use? What if the owner of the company asks all the employees to report any known offenders? Are you going to come to the employer and report what you have witnessed? Or are you going to remain silent and bear the guilt of the offender?

On a spiritual level when we witness fellow Believers in sin, there is an admonition that allows us to deal with our brethren in love. In his closing word in his epistle, James gives us a strong encouragement to go to a brother or sister, turning them back to the truth:

“My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).

This strongly parallels some teaching of Yeshua, in terms of approaching someone about a sin committed:

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED [Deuteronomy 19:15]. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly; and if he refuses to listen even to the assembly, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17).

The problem we face, on all of these levels throughout the world, is that most people do not know the ramifications of just this one Torah commandment (Leviticus 5:1). If we understood that the guilt of our lack of performance to testify for the society or company or spiritual groups when we have personal first hand knowledge of offenses falls upon us, then perhaps we would follow the instructions. In so doing, our culture would improve as offenders are duly prosecuted. Companies would avoid the loss of assets from internal theft. Congregations and assemblies would function more righteously, as the “sin in the camp” is properly addressed. Most importantly, those who refuse to confront flagrant sin, that they have personal knowledge about, would not be burdened with the guilt that should rest upon the offender, rather than the one who keeps silent.

If you take the time to reflect on all of the different offerings in our Torah portion, I am confident that you will be able to identify with some of the different sins of commission or omission. Let the indwelling Spirit convict you of where you need to confess, repent, and be restored by His grace. The Holy One of Israel is still building a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6), to bring light to all the nations of the Earth (Isaiah 42:6). If you are one of the called out ones, chosen to represent Him in this generation, then it is your responsibility to be holy, because the Lord God is holy (Leviticus 19:2). Do not take this responsibility lightly!



On the mount

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

By My Regulations

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

“Double-Edged Sevens”

by Mark Huey

This week’s Torah study combines the last two portions of Leviticus, B’har (Leviticus 25:1-26:2) and B’chuqotai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34). Leviticus 26:18 summarizes the basic principle of retribution, or reaping what one sows, which the Lord is often attempting to communicate to each man and woman—especially those committed to faithfully following Him:

“If also after these things you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.”

The simple if/then proposition that we see, is something that must be readily grasped by each of us, without necessarily having to understand all of the profound mysteries of God’s universe. If you obey God’s instructions, then you will be blessed—but if you disobey, then you will be cursed (or, at least penalized to some degree). One does not need a great amount of formal training in the Scriptures to comprehend the basic formula of choosing life over death, or pleasantness over adversity!

In reading through our dual Torah portion, I believe that a slightly deeper level of understanding is introduced and amplified for students, when a pattern of sevens is repeated several times in the text. Such a “seven pattern” can be applied in a series of curses upon those who disobey Him:

  • “If also after these things you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins” (Leviticus 26:18).
  • “If then, you act with hostility against Me and are unwilling to obey Me, I will increase the plague on you seven times according to your sins” (Leviticus 26:21).
  • “Then I will act with hostility against you; and I, even I, will strike you seven times for your sins” (Leviticus 26:24).
  • “Then I will act with wrathful hostility against you, and I, even I, will punish you seven times for your sins” (Leviticus 26:28).

The fourfold repetition of the statement “seven times for your sins,” as the penalties for disobedience intensify, has profound significance for those of us who eagerly want to obey the Lord and be recipients of His blessings. If you have been paying careful attention to the Torah portions from Genesis to here in Leviticus, the call upon God’s people is to be a holy nation and kingdom of priests, who have been commissioned to bring His light to the world. In Leviticus ch. 26 we discover that the pattern of seven is like a sword with a double-edge, seeking to pierce the heart in order to separate the holy from the profane, or the clean from the unclean. As Hebrews 4:12 tells us,

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

If you take a look at the wider context of what the author of Hebrews writes, you find that he is describing the profound privilege that children of God have to enter into His rest. Interestingly, it is from Psalm 95 that he largely draws his inspiration from, to exhort his audience to obey the Lord and not give up on Messiah Yeshua:

“Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest, just as He has said, ‘AS I SWORE IN MY WRATH, THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST’ [Psalm 95:11], although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: ‘AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS’ [Genesis 2:2]; and again in this passage, ‘THEY SHALL NOT ENTER MY REST [Psalm 95:11]. Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, He again fixes a certain day, ‘Today,’ saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before, ‘TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS’ [Psalm 95:7-8]. For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Yeshua the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:1-16).

The righteousness of God requires Him to follow His own Instruction for the created order with fidelity. Unfortunately, we find that many of the warnings issued by Moses, to Ancient Israel in Leviticus 26, were administered down through the ages. Within the Tanakh, we see many scenes of how Ancient Israel rebelled against the Lord, committed idolatry, aligned themselves with foreign nations opposed to Him, suffered military defeats, and even experienced exile to strange lands.

Even though the Father patiently loves each and every one of His people, showering them with His lovingkindness and mercy, He is often compelled to execute His judgment in order to drive us back into His loving arms. He intensifies the punishment phases in an attempt to turn His people back to Him. As you read the accelerating chastisements seen in this Torah portion, you will see that once the disobedient Israelites are scattered to the nations, that the Holy Land will finally enjoy its Sabbath rest:

“You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste. Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it” (Leviticus 26:33-35).

As you can read, God is very concerned about the Promised Land. Because He created Planet Earth, He knows that the very elements He designed require a level of rest in order to function efficiently. Here, we see how the Creator must fulfill His promises, but also His intimate concern for the Land promised to the Patriarchs. Now if you can imagine how much the Holy One cherishes His commitment to that “dirt” located in the Middle East, can you fathom how much He loves us, who are formed from “dirt” (cf. Genesis 2:7)? The challenge individuals face, is that unlike dirt which forms dry land, when God took those same elements and fashioned human beings, He made them in His image and likeness:

“Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26-27).

Ironically, this is where the problem emanates, because human beings have been given a free will to choose what they want to do. Unlike the dust of the ground—or even the animals at large—we have been endowed with a mind, emotions, and reasoning abilities. We do not just act “on instinct.” The Creator has gifted men and women with the capacity to do and accomplish much. Just consider the mandate that came forth as the Lord uttered His first command to Adam:

“God blessed them; and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food’; and it was so” (Genesis 1:28-30).

From the very beginning of Creation, humanity was given the command to bear seed through reproduction, in order to fill the Earth and take dominion over it. Rule was given to the human race over all the other creatures. Humanity’s challenge was dealing with these awesome responsibilities first in the Garden of Eden, but then through the sin of Adam, outside of such a paradise in a rather hostile and unprotected environment. As a result of disobedience to later instructions, the presence of obstacles outside the Garden now were able to enact various afflictions upon the man and woman, and their offspring, turning people back toward Him:

“Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat from it”; cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return’” (Genesis 3:17-19).

We all know the story too well, and can attest to the introduction of challenges and problems that ensue from the various “thorns and thistles” of life. However, the principles are absolute. By the time Moses receives further instructions, the Holy One attempts to give His people an advantage over those who are simply trying to understand the Creation and their relationship to it through empirical observation.

As witnessed in Holy Scripture, God’s people have a great advantage, but it comes with an equally great responsibility—because once you read and comprehend what is being stated—you then become accountable to God’s Word. Whether it was Moses declaring it in the desert, or Jeremiah reiterating it many generations later regarding the seventy years of exile that would allow the Land to have its rest (Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10; cf. 2 Chronicles 36:21), or even Yeshua amplifying these principles in His teachings—the fact of the matter is that the pattern of sevens, quite often, can either be a blessing or a curse.

Consider, for example, the simple teaching that Yeshua gave to His Disciples regarding the spiritual warfare that has enveloped the fallen world:

“Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation’” (Matthew 12:43-45).

When you read the wider context of where these statements are made, you will discover that Yeshua is explaining the finer points regarding the Sabbath to some of His critics (Matthew 12:1-13). In fact, Yeshua makes the provoking statement that He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8), while describing why it is permissible to do good on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:12). In Matthew 12, Yeshua makes some poignant quotations from the Prophet Isaiah (Matthew 12:17-21), which point to His redemptive work:

“‘Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.’ Thus says God the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and its offspring, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it, ‘I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison. I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images. Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you’” (Isaiah 42:1-9).

As you can read, Israel has been chosen to be a light to the nations (Heb. l’or goyim). All of those who compose the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) have the responsibility of pointing people to the One True God, by demonstrating an earnest obedience to Him and thus being blessed by Him. But this can only happen by us being one with Him who is the epitome of Israel—the Messiah Yeshua—the quintessential Israelite.

In Matthew 12, a demon-possessed man confronts Yeshua, and some condemning Pharisees (possibly of the stricter School of Shammai) say that He is operating via the power of Beelzebul or Satan (Matthew 12:22-37). After Yeshua explains the difference between casting out demons by Beelzebul versus the Spirit of the God, He then explains what is often referred to as the unpardonable sin. This is when a person denies or blasphemes the Ruach HaKodesh or Holy Spirit, which must be indwelling His followers if they are to truly have salvation. Those who claimed that the Messiah operated via the power of Satan were blaspheming the work of God, and so Yeshua makes a profound statement about our accountability for the very words we utter:

“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).

It is not just a matter of doing something against the Torah that will merit condemnation; Yeshua the Messiah raises the threshold for disobedience. One will be held accountable for making careless statements without understanding the foolishness of speaking from fleshly inclinations. This is why James, the half-brother of Yeshua, admonishes us to listen before we speak:

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:19-21).

More important for us to not overlook from the scene of Matthew ch. 12, though, is how Yeshua directs us to how those delivered from demons—can have seven more demons come back—if sinful behavior is not rectified and corrected:

“Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation’” (Matthew 12:43-45).

What is it that the Lord is specifically trying to say to us? If we are set free from a demonic influence or stronghold, we must ask our Heavenly Father to fill up the void left empty with His presence! Our nature in Adam is fallen, and as humans our propensity is to think and speak things that will probably judge us. Perhaps if we decrease, He might increase. Yeshua the Messiah is looking to spend eternity with us, and He wants us to receive all of the rewards that we can in His Kingdom! Notice how in Matthew ch. 12 He is asked about His mother and brothers, and He says that those who obey His Father may be considered part of His family:

“Someone said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You. But Yeshua answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers? And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother”’” (Matthew 12:47-50).

Do you want to spend eternity with Yeshua? Perform and accomplish the will of our Father in Heaven. Follow the instruction manual He has given us. Do the best that you can do, to follow the directions that He has given us in order to receive His blessings. Pray for the Lord to send you His Holy Spirit, and be empowered to accomplish good works. Make sure that you are born again!

We are each created in the image and likeness of God. Think about how you are as a parent and how you interact with your children. Have you ever asked a son to do the weekly task of taking out the garbage, or a daughter to empty out the dishwasher for her mother? Can you relate to the joy you receive when your son or daughter has actually performed these tasks on their own initiative? Our Heavenly Father is the same way. When He looks down from Heaven and sees us obeying Him, He smiles down upon us and is able to bless us.

I believe that as we search the Scriptures and understand more about His Word, we will find that everything we know for a joyful and fulfilled life is embodied in it. We should be renewed every day to do the good works that He requires of us, which in turn will testify of who He is to the sinful world in which we live. If we do not obey the Lord, then the double-edged sword of His Word will have its way—whether we like it or not!