Reflection for Tzav

“Sacrificial Matters Examined”

Mark 12:28-34
Romans 12:1-2
1 Corinthians 10:14-23


by Mark Huey

This week in Tzav (Leviticus 6:1[8]-8:36), we witness how various commandments regarding sacrifices are delivered via Moses to Ancient Israel. The concept of sacrifices being a steady feature of worship of the Holy One is seen via a selection of different descriptions:

“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘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…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…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 6:8-9, 12-13, 18).

Tzav concludes with the consecration of Aaron and his sons, and the dedication of the Holy Place and the altar. When the Jewish Sages chose a corresponding Haftarah reading, they turned to the Prophet Jeremiah (7:21-8:3; 9:22-23[23-24])—who soundly rebuked the citizens of Jerusalem with an ironic form of rebuke in how God did not command them to offer sacrifices, but instead really commanded Israel to walk with Him and obey Him:

“For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices [al-divrei olah v’zavach;].[1] But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward. Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, daily rising early and sending them. Yet they did not listen to Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck; they did more evil than their fathers” (Jeremiah 7:22-26).

Obviously from reading Leviticus, the various commandments to offer sacrifices were issued to Israel from the Lord—but by the time of Jeremiah’s generation, worship of the Lord may have only been perceived in the form of outward rituals, and not a heart orientation toward Him as King. Lamentably, the record in Jeremiah is that various residents of Jerusalem had actually been participating in child sacrifice, by offering up children as burnt sacrifices to the gods Molech and Baal:

“They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind. ‘Therefore, behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when it will no longer be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of the Slaughter; for they will bury in Topheth because there is no other place’” (Jeremiah 7:31-32).

“‘Because they have forsaken Me and have made this an alien place and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods, that neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of Judah had ever known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind; therefore, behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when this place will no longer be called Topheth or the valley of Ben-hinnom, but rather the valley of Slaughter’” (Jeremiah 19:4-6).

This sad testimony is a horrible rebuke to those who should have been obeying the Lord with all of their hearts. What might this mean to us, as we consider Passover soon upon us? Since a primary part of the traditional seder meal is to pass on to future generations—and especially to children the message of Israel’s oppression, deliverance by God, responsibilities before God, and salvation through faith in Israel’s Messiah (for Messianics)—perhaps you might want to pause and interject how various generations subsequent to the Exodus forgot about God’s mighty deeds. The Passover instructions in the Torah depict how children will ask their parents what the remembrance means to them:

“For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite you. And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. When you enter the land which the LORD will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.’ And the people bowed low and worshiped. Then the sons of Israel went and did so; just as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did” (Exodus 12:23-28).

One of the things you might also wish to consider, during the Passover commemoration coming up, is simply what the instruction of the Torah should cause us to do. Yeshua the Messiah was asked by the scribes about what the most important commandment in the Torah was. Yeshua did not resort to describing what the minutiae of the various sacrificial offerings were and what they meant, but instead quoted directly from the Shema and how people are directed to love God with their whole beings and love neighbors as themselves:

“One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’ Yeshua answered, ‘The foremost is, “HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH’ [Deuteronomy 6:4-5]. The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF’ [Leviticus 19:18]. There is no other commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to Him, ‘Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE’S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF [Deuteronomy 6:5], is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ When Yeshua saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions” (Mark 12:28-34).

The feedback from the scribe included a summary statement on how the commands to love God and neighbor are much more important than all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices prescribed in the Torah. Obviously, this scribe got it! He understood that all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices were not nearly as important as the love one should have for the Creator and his or her fellow human beings. Yeshua commends the respondent with recognition of his intelligent reply and understanding that the Kingdom of God was really not about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but rather about love.

The Apostle Paul instructed the Romans, in their difficult time of not getting along, that they needed to offer themselves up together as a living sacrifice, and in so doing they would be able to serve one another appropriately:

“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. For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:1-3).

Paul understood that if followers of the Messiah truly loved the Lord with all their hearts, minds, souls, and strength—that they would willingly offer their lives up to service unto the Lord. In so doing, this would allow the dedicated followers to not be conformed to this world, but rather be conformed to the image of the Messiah (Romans 8:29) by having the renewed mind transformed to embrace the will of God in their respective lives. This becomes the ultimate sacrifice of a person to the good, acceptable, and perfect will of the Almighty.

Finally, Paul also warned the Corinthian Believers about what it would mean for them as declared Messiah followers to be involved in the sacrifices of pagan temples. In this passage regarding the Lord’s Supper, and what is remembered as the seder meal that Yeshua participated in with His Disciples before His execution, Paul reminded the Corinthians—like Jeremiah did during his generation—that the sacrifices offered by the nations are offered to demons. Consequently, Believers should not partake in their idolatry:

“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; you judge what I say. Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Messiah? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Messiah? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar? What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?” (1 Corinthians 10:14-22).

When it comes to remembering the Passover and the various commemorations employed to recall the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt—one should not take this season very lightly. Rather, with sober remembrance for what the angel of death did to the Egyptian homes—and more importantly what the Messiah accomplished at Golgotha—we should eat of the seder meal with great caution and reverence. Additionally, as one partakes of the cup and the bread this Passover, remember these words of admonition:

“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Yeshua in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world. So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment. The remaining matters I will arrange when I come” (1 Corinthians 11:23-34).

This is an appropriate time of year to do some self-examination. As you approach the Passover seder, take some private time to examine yourself and determine what your true heartfelt motives are for partaking in this remembrance. Are you caught up in the ritual? Or are you doing this because you love God and your neighbor as yourself? Are you remembering the Passover because you are truly grateful that He has led you into deliverance?

Are you truly interested in passing this commemoration on to the next generation of Believers?

Be blessed and know that our sacrifices do matter. Consider offering yourself up as a living sacrifice as instructed by Paul, and how all Believers can function together as a sacrifice. This is a good time of the year to remove the leaven of your life![2]


NOTES

[1] “Concerning the matters of burnt-offering and sacrifice” (YLT).

[2] For further instruction on the Passover, consult the Messianic Spring Holiday Helper by Messianic Apologetics.


This teaching has been excerpted from TorahScope Apostolic Scriptures Reflections by William Mark Huey