Haftarah Emor

Emor

“Hungering and Thirsting”

Ezekiel 44:15-31


by Mark Huey

This week’s Torah reading, Emor (Leviticus 21:1-24:23), begins to focus on the priestly functions of the Levites. Previously in Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1-20:27) we saw a very high emphasis placed upon holiness, with the instructions to maintain a high degree of personal purity and separation from the other nations being a critical requirement of the emerging nation of Israel. This week’s Torah teaching deals specifically with how a Levitical priest is to handle the deceased,[1] as well as properly prepare and manage various offerings and sacrifices.[2] Additionally, the specifics of the moedim or appointed times of the Lord are articulated.[3] It becomes incumbent upon the priesthood to lead the people of Israel in proper praise and worship, not only around the sacrificial altar, but also during the weekly Sabbaths and festivals of the Lord.

Interestingly, when the Jewish Sages were searching for a complimentary Haftarah reading for Emor, they chose a passage from the historically-controversial Book of Ezekiel. What can make Ezekiel’s prophecies so contentious are supposed changes seen in the priesthood at a future Temple structure (Ezekiel chs. 40-48). Some of what Ezekiel prophesied is different from what had originally been communicated by Moses. Hence, the debate among the Rabbis was not resolved until the respected work of Hanina ben Hezekiah (b.Shabbat 13b). For people who believe in an ongoing, progressive plan of God’s salvation history—the fact that a future Temple will have a slightly different priesthood—should not be too disturbing. When we consider our Haftarah passage from Ezekiel 44, we can note that according to Ezekiel there will be some modifications among the ministering priesthood when this Temple is built. What we specifically see is a sifting from priests from the larger line or Aaron, to the more specific line of Zadok:

“‘But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the sons of Israel went astray from Me, shall come near to Me to minister to Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer Me the fat and the blood,’ declares the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 44:15).

Apparently, due to the allegiance of Zadok to King David—and specifically to his chosen son Solomon during the critical time when Absalom and Adonijah were attempting to usurp or capture the throne of Israel—unlike his contemporary priest Abiathar, he remained loyal. It was at this season of kingship transition (2 Samuel chs. 15-20) that Zadok never wavered in his absolute loyalty to David and Solomon as the chosen kings of Israel. The everlasting benefits of this loyalty manifested themselves with the Prophet Ezekiel foretelling that in the future Temple, the ministering priests will come from the line of the Zadok priesthood.

However, as you continue to read our passage from Ezekiel 44, please note that many of the responsibilities and obligations of the Zadokites are the same as those originally bestowed upon the broader Aaronic priesthood. As we have been studying about the requirement for holiness as a part of emulating God (Leviticus 20:26), to know the clean from the unclean (Leviticus 11), and to observe the appointed times of the Lord (Leviticus 23), note that these instructions will be followed by the Zadokites in the era of the future Temple that Ezekiel speaks about:

“Moreover, they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. In a dispute they shall take their stand to judge; they shall judge it according to My ordinances. They shall also keep My laws and My statutes in all My appointed feasts and sanctify My Sabbaths” (Ezekiel 44:23-24).

So as you ponder our Torah portion this week, comparing and contrasting it with the description of Ezekiel’s future Temple, where do you find yourself as a Messianic Believer today? Certainly with the revelation God has unleashed forth from Moses and the Prophets, and coupling it in particular with the good news of Messiah Yeshua and His atoning sacrifice, you might want to ask yourself a few questions.

Who are the Zadokites going to be? Could they be the sons of righteousness (since the name Zadok derives from tzaddiq) who are righteous because of their faith in the Messiah of Israel? Is there a connection between the faiths that made Abraham righteous (Genesis 15:6), and the righteousness that Habakkuk speaks about (Habakkuk 2:4)—the same faith you have in the Messiah Yeshua? Could you be like a son of Zadok in the Messiah Yeshua?

If you are a Zadokite or a “son of righteousness,” because of your faith in the Messiah Yeshua, are you fulfilling your role as one who teaches others about the difference between the holy and the profane? Are you helping others to discern the difference between the clean and the unclean? Are you knowledgeable about the ordinances of God, and able and willing to not only be an example, but are you letting yourself serve as a testimony to those who oppose the instructions of the Most High? Are you helping others in their celebration of the appointed times, and helping to sanctify the Sabbaths of the Lord?

Years ago I read a book by C.R. Oliver entitled, Sons of Zadok. While the author was not embracing a Messianic perspective in his walk, he did communicate the need for Believers to minister unto the Lord. I believe that as we study and read what Moses’ instructions were for the Ancient Israelites, Ezekiel’s prophecies about the future Temple, and Yeshua’s teachings in the Gospels—born again Believers have not only the opportunity and responsibility to lead and direct others in the ways of the Holy One, but the privilege.

I encourage you to review these words from our Lord Yeshua Himself. Perhaps you might pick up the reality that He is admonishing His followers to be righteous sons and daughters of God, active in their responsibility to teach others by making disciples:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3-19).

Loyalty to the King of Kings is far beyond Zadok’s loyalty to David and Solomon. Being a Zadokite is a great honor, but being a redeemed child of the Most High is even greater!

What convicted me the most as I was reviewing the above quotations from Yeshua’s Sermon on the Mount, was how Messiah followers are to be blessed and satisfied by hungering and thirsting for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). A question kept reverberating in my heart all week, asking me simply this: Do I hunger and thirst for righteousness?

Am I starved for righteousness? Am I dying of thirst to maintain holiness? As I thought about these physical conditions that often bring discomfort, I wondered about the uneasiness of observing unrighteousness. In this wicked and perverse generation, with the morals of our society being dismantled right before our eyes, I wondered how many of my fellow Believers are seeking righteousness with a hunger and thirst. This is a righteousness that translates into a zeal, which just might qualify them to be Zadokites—or at least people like them—in the Millennial Kingdom.

While our righteousness comes by faith in the atoning work of the Messiah, we also know that according to James the Just, faith without works is dead (James 2). If your personal hungering and thirsting for righteousness is not evidencing itself in disciplines that lead to further sanctification, you just might want to ask yourself if you are satisfied with your walk with the Messiah. Are you walking in the fruit of the Holy Spirit? Are you bearing fruit for His Kingdom? If not, you have a choice to make and improvements to implement.

The choice to seek righteousness is up to us, and only we can make those moment by moment decisions. The blessings and satisfaction of righteousness we receive, evidence themselves in obedience to the Holy One and His ways. May we not be found wanting!

NOTES

[1] Leviticus 21:11; 22:4.

[2] Leviticus 22:17-33.

[3] Leviticus 23:1-44.


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Haftarah Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

“Patience for Return”

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

Amos 9:7-15 (A); Ezekiel 20:2-20 (S)


by Mark Huey

This week’s Torah teaching will often combine the readings for Acharei Mot (Leviticus 16:1-18:30) and Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:1-20:27) into one large parashah for reflection and study. From instructions for the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur[1] to the penultimate admonition in the second to last verse—“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)—the theme of pursuing and attaining holiness persists. There is no doubt that if a people faithfully obeyed God as laid out, that they would be a distinct nation, set-apart from the other nations of the world.

Depending on whether one is following the Sephardic or Ashkenazic suggested Haftarah, or whether both readings are chosen, the traditional passages from Amos and Ezekiel remind Bible students that the challenge for Ancient Israel to maintain holiness is a recurring theme expressed by the Prophets down through the centuries. The Lord anointed Amos to prophesy primarily to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and later Ezekiel to the Southern Kingdom exiles in Babylonian captivity. While these are both different vantage points, their selected admonitions for this week have a similar tone, as the rebellious nature of God’s people required them to be punished. By not adhering to God’s commandments regarding holiness, the Lord was compelled to punish the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and later the Southern Kingdom of Judah—by banishing them to foreign nations. Yet by His grace, there is a promise of restoration given to them, as the punishment issued will only be temporary, and the people will be restored to the Promised Land:

“‘For on My holy mountain, on the high mountain of Israel,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘there the whole house of Israel, all of them, will serve Me in the land; there I will accept them and there I will seek your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your holy things’” (Ezekiel 20:40).

Our selection from the Book of Amos is directed to the Northern Kingdom Israelites, who will be attacked, taken into Assyrian exile, and consequently dispersed. The Prophet Amos spoke in a metaphor, as though the Lord will scatter them like grain shaken in a sieve. Yet even though scattered and consumed (cf. Hosea 9:8), He will know what happens to everyone:

“‘Are you not as the sons of Ethiopia to Me, O sons of Israel?’ declares the LORD. ‘Have I not brought up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir? Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth; nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob,’ declares the LORD. ‘For behold, I am commanding, and I will shake the house of Israel among all nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, but not a kernel will fall to the ground. All the sinners of My people will die by the sword, those who say, “The calamity will not overtake or confront us”’” (Amos 9:7-11).

Of those who will not be killed by the sword, God promised to scatter the rebellious House of Israel like seed. But all hope is not lost. Amos prophesied how there will be a future restoration of the Tabernacle of David, and the ultimate return of Israel to the Promised Land:

“‘In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by My name,’ declares the LORD who does this. ‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘When the plowman will overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; when the mountains will drip sweet wine and all the hills will be dissolved. Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, and they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; they will also plant vineyards and drink their wine, and make gardens and eat their fruit. I will also plant them on their land, and they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them,’ says the LORD your God” (Amos 9:7-15; cf. Acts 15:16-18).

The conclusion to Amos’ prophecy is actually one of the passages which many in today’s Jewish Diaspora have clung to for future fulfillment. With the formation of the State of Israel in 1948, many religious Jews have particularly cited these verses as “God’s promise” that once the return and rebuilding process is underway, there will never again be a future expulsion. However, there is a valid argument that appropriating the holiness commandments, seen in Kedoshim, might be part of the rebuilding. For surely if the Almighty punished Ancient Israel for lack of obedience during the times of Amos and Ezekiel, will His immutable nature now give modern-day Israelis a “pass”? I would ask you to consider this, as the pressure of the world today continues to grow, as a part of what is often known by the oxymoronic label: “the Mideast peace process.”

To expand your study this week—one that coincidentally includes the 61st anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence and formation (2009)—take a look at Ezekiel 20 and 22. Note the similarities about disobedience to the commandments of God, and parallels that you might be considering from the Torah in Acharei Mot and Kedoshim:

“But they rebelled against Me and were not willing to listen to Me; they did not cast away the detestable things of their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I resolved to pour out My wrath on them, to accomplish My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. But I acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made Myself known to them by bringing them out of the land of Egypt. So I took them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. I gave them My statutes and informed them of My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live. Also I gave them My sabbaths to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD who sanctifies them. But the house of Israel rebelled against Me in the wilderness. They did not walk in My statutes and they rejected My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live; and My sabbaths they greatly profaned. Then I resolved to pour out My wrath on them in the wilderness, to annihilate them. But I acted for the sake of My name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, before whose sight I had brought them out” (Ezekiel 20:8-14).

If you read a little further in the larger cotext (beyond the prescribed Haftarah verses), you will discover the expectation of not only Israel returning to obedience, but God bringing them back into the Promised Land:

“‘As for you, O house of Israel,’ thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Go, serve everyone his idols; but later you will surely listen to Me, and My holy name you will profane no longer with your gifts and with your idols. For on My holy mountain, on the high mountain of Israel,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘there the whole house of Israel, all of them, will serve Me in the land; there I will accept them and there I will seek your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your holy things. As a soothing aroma I will accept you when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered; and I will prove Myself holy among you in the sight of the nations. And you will know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the land which I swore to give to your forefathers’” (Ezekiel 20:39-42).

Additionally, Ezekiel 22 speaks of the scattering of Israel, and its future restoration, as our selected Haftarah passages come to a close:

“‘I will scatter you among the nations and I will disperse you through the lands, and I will consume your uncleanness from you. You will profane yourself in the sight of the nations, and you will know that I am the LORD.’ And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to Me; all of them are bronze and tin and iron and lead in the furnace; they are the dross of silver. Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, “Because all of you have become dross, therefore, behold, I am going to gather you into the midst of Jerusalem”’” (Ezekiel 22:15-19).

As you take the time to read our three critical selections from the Prophets, you will note a degree of overlap and consistency. Our Heavenly Father had a plan to scatter His disobedient people into the nations of the world for chastisement. However, at His appointed time, He promises to gather them back to the Land of Israel, with the ultimate aim of them being molded into a people who diligently obey Him and are blessed by Him.

While we may not be necessarily seeing all of these things today, we are likely on the way to seeing the fulfillment of these prophecies some time in the future. Today’s Messianic movement has been responsible for bringing many Jewish people to saving faith in Yeshua the Messiah, and exposing non-Jewish Believers to their Hebraic Roots. Being the people that God wants us to be is a challenge for much of the present generation. How we learn to be obedient to Him, and fulfill the mandate that He has given to us, are things that may take us some time to learn and refine. However, with all of the complimentary prophecies seen elsewhere in the Scriptures, we can have comfort that all of what has been promised will take place in the Father’s time!

The challenge for Believers in the Messiah Yeshua is waiting upon Him. In the interim as we wait—let us learn to be joyful, and be obedient to the Lord! Let us sit down and be encouraged by the message of these ancient prophecies, and what they mean for men and women of faith.

NOTES

[1] Leviticus 16:1-34.


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah Tazria-Metzora

Haftarah Tazria-Metzora

“A Trembling Word”

2 Kings 4:42-5:19

2 Kings 7:3-20


by Mark Huey

Traditionally, during non-leap years on the Hebrew calendar, the Tazria-Metzora Torah portions are combined into one reading that extends from Leviticus 12:1-15:33. The subject of ritual impurity is often the primary focus, as the teachings deal with issues of: childbirth, post-childbirth prohibitions, menstruation, seminal discharges, and skin afflictions. (There is debate as to whether or not the skin infections actually involve “leprosy.”) Rabbinical teaching on Tazria-Metzora have often concluded that the skin eruptions specified are actually to be associated with the spiritual affliction of lashon ha’ra, or the evil tongue (gossip, slander, etc.). The remedy for these physical outbreaks has been separation from the community for an established period of time for remorse, repentance, and reflection.

When the Tazria reading is considered by itself, the Haftarah selection comes from 2 Kings 4:42-5:19. This details the story of Naaman, the commander of the marauding army of the Arameans, who was afflicted with leprosy. When both Tazria and Metzora are considered together, the Haftarah selection turns to 2 Kings 7:3-20, which details the miraculous adventures of the four lepers who discovered much needed provisions in the abandoned camp of the fleeing Arameans.

Whenever the Shabbat reading coincides with a Rosh Chodesh, as it does this week (24 April, 2009), the emphasis shifts to the final chapter of Isaiah (Isaiah 66:1-24), primarily because this prophecy communicates awesome statements about not only the future restoration of Israel, but also some of the actions of all humanity which will take place in the future:

“‘I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites,’ says the LORD. ‘For just as the new heavens and the new earth which I make will endure before Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘So your offspring and your name will endure. And it shall be from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath, all mankind will come to bow down before Me,’ says the LORD” (Isaiah 66:21-23).

Just as the future New Heavens and New Earth that God promises to create will endure, so will selected priests and Levites during the Millennium be able to perform their responsibilities at New Moons and during Sabbath gatherings. The fact that “all flesh” (RSV) will come to God’s mountain in Jerusalem with their offerings is mentioned in the preceding verses:

“‘Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the LORD, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,’ says the LORD, ‘just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the LORD’” (Isaiah 66:20).

For modern-day Messianic Believers, who recognize the sacrificial atonement of the Lamb of God, we see more details of how people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation will be affected by His plan of redemption as it unfolds:

“When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth’” (Revelation 5:8-10).

This past week I read a book entitled Who Made the Moon? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008) by Sigmund Brouwer, and I was utterly amazed by the enormity and power of our Creator! Sometimes via another perspective—in this case from a scientific viewpoint—the grandiosity of God is communicated. All week long, I have been meditating upon His Creation, and how God brought it all into being. A genuine fear of the Lord, or what is included two times in Isaiah as “who trembles at My Word” (Isaiah 66:2, 5), kept coming into my spirit throughout the week. When finally I started to concentrate on this week’s Haftarah reading, I was delighted that His Word could communicate timely truths for those desiring answers!

Rather than try to overwhelm you with personal interpretations on Scriptures that speak of the future, please take time to read through Isaiah 66. I believe you will be blessed by all of the prophecies, which you can already see have been fulfilled to some degree such as a nation born in a day (Isaiah 66:8), or future words which will be accomplished in the Millennial Kingdom (Isaiah 66:19-23). As Messianic Believers, you will also note some of the statements regarding punishing those who eat unclean meats (Isaiah 66:15-17) as last week our Torah reading dealt with the kosher dietary laws. Yet among the different prophecies issued—and with them a certain variance of interpretation—we should all be quite aware of how all are admonished,

“Hear the word of the LORD, you who tremble at His word: ‘Your brothers who hate you, who exclude you for My name’s sake, have said, “Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy.” But they will be put to shame’” (Isaiah 66:5).

We often encounter many religious people in today’s world, who while giving lip service to God, are not really “concerned about His word” (NJPS). To tremble at God’s Word is a privilege that unfortunately not all people demonstrate. As you make the effort to meditate upon what has been communicated to us by chosen vessels like Moses, Isaiah, and John—may we give thanks that our Creator loves us so much that He would not expect us to conduct our lives without some loving instructions! A loving Father so powerful as He, continually sustaining the cosmos, is beyond human ability to fully understand.

So with fear and trepidation, as we call upon Him, let us all praise Him for not only who He is—but that by His mercy, we have come to know Him who is life eternal!


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah Shemini

Haftarah Shemini

“Right Hand Intercession”

2 Samuel 6:1-7:17 (A); 6:1-19 (S)


by Mark Huey

Our Torah reading for this week, Shemini (Leviticus 9:1-11:47), commences with the final stages of the consecration of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. The eight days of sacrifices are being completed, and as they come to a close a fire attributed to the Lord fully consumes the available offerings. Upon witnessing this supernatural event, the Israelites first shout, and then they fall on their faces in the presence of great holiness:

“Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. Then fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” (Leviticus 9:23-24).

At the end of Shemini, after the dramatic description about the fiery deaths of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10), and viewing some of the specifics of the kosher dietary laws (Leviticus 11), God communicates that He desires and requires a holy people because He Himself is holy:

“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).

Pondering this Torah portion, the overwhelming sense of not only being in the presence of the Holy One, but also striving for personal holiness and cleanliness, should come to our minds.

When the Sages focused on this parashah, it was the apparent lack of holiness via offering strange fire that triggered the tragic deaths of Nadab and Abihu, which understandably piqued their attention. It was this supernatural event that became the link for the selected Haftarah meditation, which itself is centered around the unexpected death of Uzzah, as he merely reached out to stabilize the Ark of the Covenant as it was being transported from the house of Abinidab to Jerusalem. Note in the following two passages from our Torah and Haftarah selections, the parallel between a need for holiness missing in the actions of Nadab and Abihu, and what is termed a lack of reverence in the case of Uzzah:

“Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘It is what the LORD spoke, saying, “By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored.”’ So Aaron, therefore, kept silent. Moses called also to Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, and said to them, ‘Come forward, carry your relatives away from the front of the sanctuary to the outside of the camp.’ So they came forward and carried them still in their tunics to the outside of the camp, as Moses had said. Then Moses said to Aaron and to his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, ‘Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, so that you will not die and that He will not become wrathful against all the congregation. But your kinsmen, the whole house of Israel, shall bewail the burning which the LORD has brought about. You shall not even go out from the doorway of the tent of meeting, or you will die; for the LORD’s anointing oil is upon you.’ So they did according to the word of Moses. The LORD then spoke to Aaron, saying, ‘Do not drink wine or strong drink, neither you nor your sons with you, when you come into the tent of meeting, so that you will not die—it is a perpetual statute throughout your generations—and so as to make a distinction between the holy and the profane, and between the unclean and the clean, and so as to teach the sons of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them through Moses’” (Leviticus 10:1-11).

“They placed the ark of God on a new cart that they might bring it from the house of Abinadab which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were leading the new cart. So they brought it with the ark of God from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Ahio was walking ahead of the ark. Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the v with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals. But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God. David became angry because of the LORD’s outburst against Uzzah and that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day. So David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, ‘How can the ark of the LORD come to me?’” (2 Samuel 6:3-9).

Contemplating these two dramatic episodes in the history of Ancient Israel, some perplexing thoughts might just percolate in your mind. Obviously for some Divine purposes, the Holy One wanted both of these incidents to be recorded in the Bible. He knew that for generations people were going to have to review these accounts, and deal with the reality of what they communicate. In Leviticus 9:1-11:47, the culmination of the eight-day altar dedication, was observed somewhat frivolously by the sons of the high priest Aaron. For unknown reasons, Nadab and Abihu placed some kind of strange, unauthorized fire on the recently dedicated altar. Many theories abound as to what actually happened to warrant such a fiery judgment (including, as the passage records, a prohibition against consuming wine or strong drink prior to ministering to the Lord). The passage does not adequately describe what the motives of Nadab and Abihu were, or even elaborate on what the “strange fire” really was. So speculation is diverse. What we know for certain is that they did something quite unholy.

On the other hand, in the case of Uzzah, the comment that he was “irreverent” indicates that he was somehow disrespectful of the Ark of the Covenant, what it represented for Israel, or perhaps its contents. Even though the Ark of the Covenant had been at the home of his father Abinadab prior to this event, Uzzah apparently did not possess a proper level of reverence for the holiness of this vessel. Some might argue that Uzzah was merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that his attempt to stabilize the Ark of the Covenant was an instinctual reaction that should not have been punished with death. But there was obviously something much more condemning than just participating in the movement of the Ark of the Covenant.

After this tragic death, King David realized that the prescribed methods for transporting the Ark of the Covenant were specified in commandments detailed in the Torah, which had somehow been overlooked (Numbers 4:15; Deuteronomy 10:8). It was not until three months, after some review of God’s Law, when David discovered that the Ark of the Covenant was to be moved by the Levites, that the relocation of the ark to Jerusalem could be completed:

“Then David said, ‘No one is to carry the ark of God but the Levites; for the LORD chose them to carry the ark of God and to minister to Him forever.’ And David assembled all Israel at Jerusalem to bring up the ark of the LORD to its place which he had prepared for it” (1 Chronicles 15:2-3).

Our Haftarah reading describes the three-month hiatus, and the relocation of the Ark of the Covenant to its dwelling at the house of Obed-edom the Gittite:

“So David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, ‘How can the ark of the LORD come to me?’ And David was unwilling to move the ark of the LORD into the city of David with him; but David took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. Thus the ark of the LORD remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the LORD blessed Obed-edom and all his household. Now it was told King David, saying, ‘The LORD has blessed the house of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, on account of the ark of God.’ David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness. And so it was, that when the bearers of the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. And David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouting and the sound of the trumpet” (2 Samuel 6:9-15).

Notice the reverence which is given to God’s Ark, as displayed by King David and his entourage. A sacrifice of an ox and a fatling were being regularly offered—accompanied by exuberant celebration. The joy of adhering to the commandments for moving the Ark of the Covenant, and the opportunity to relocate it to God’s designated place on Mount Zion, could finally be accomplished. As a result of the relocation, the Lord, through the Prophet Nathan, communicated to King David some of the everlasting rewards he and his progeny would receive. These wonderful prophecies, compiling much of what is considered to be the Davidic Covenant, are recorded for future generations:

“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

For Believers in Great David’s Greater Son, the Messiah Yeshua, the fulfillment of these prophecies is complete as He currently sits at the right hand of God the Father in the Heavenly realm:

  • “[W]ho is the one who condemns? Messiah Yeshua is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34).
  • “[W]hich He brought about in Messiah, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places(Ephesians 1:20).
  • “Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah, who is at the right hand of God, having gone into heaven, after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him” (1 Peter 3:21-22).
  • “[B]ut 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” (Hebrews 10:12-13; cf. Psalm 110:1).

Thankfully, Yeshua is interceding for all of us before His Father, in ways that we cannot possibly or even probably understand as limited mortals on Earth. Contemplating this week’s Haftarah reading, I would ask you to consider these thoughts:

  • Have you ever in your ignorance or naiveté, presented an offering or gift to the Lord that might not be appropriate now that you are more mature in your walk studying the Torah and Haftarah? Could that offering have been construed as “strange fire” regarding the timing, place, or nature of it?
  • Have you ever contemplated that such an offering or gift of this manner could possibly be met with fiery judgment? Or at the very least, some kind of negative consequences?
  • What about the times when you might have said something presumptuously, or have instinctively replied to a statement, which provoked you in some kind of inappropriate provocative fashion?
  • Has your heart always been reverent to God and the things of God?

In His Sermon on the Mount, we see how Yeshua elevated human sin from not just a physical act, but to even the thought life of a person (Matthew 5:20-30). Have you ever had murderous, condemning, or lustful thoughts that according to God’s Torah could warrant a stoning? Have you ever wondered why you have not been judged by the hand of God, bringing instant death? Is it possible that the Lord Yeshua has indeed been interceding for you from His position in Heaven at the right hand of the Father? I sincerely hope He has been doing this for each and every one of us!

We should all know, from the classic case of Ananias and Sapphira recorded in Acts 5, that we have a great example of a couple involved with the company of Believers, who nonetheless had dramatic deaths as a result of their sins. In many ways, these two people dropping dead is not that dissimilar from what happened to Nadab, Abihu, and Uzzah:

“But a man named Ananias with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.’ And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him. Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, ‘Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?’ And she said, ‘Yes, that was the price.’ Then Peter said to her, ‘Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.’ And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came over the whole assembly, and over all who heard of these things” (Acts 5:1-11).

Have you ever wondered why something as dramatic as this, in the early days of our Messianic faith, does not occur more frequently today? Surely, we find those who make personal pledges and vows, and do not fulfill them. Is it possible that the intercession of our Messiah Yeshua in Heaven is preventing judgment on those who are irreverent or thinking ungodly thoughts—or much worse, actually mocking God and His judgment?

Someday, if the Father so wills, we may know the answer to some of these questions. In the interim, may each of these examples remind us of our need to seek Him and His righteousness. Give thanks for the intercession which has kept each of us alive to this day! Even more so, intercede for those being kept alive who have yet to partake of salvation!


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah Tzav

Haftarah Tzav

“Declaring Praise”

Isaiah 43:21-44:23


by Mark Huey

Our Torah portion for this week, Tzav (Leviticus 6:1[8]-8:36), continues by giving further instructions and explanations about various sacrificial offerings that the Lord required of Ancient Israel. More elaborate details about the burnt, grain, guilt, and peace offerings are given to the immediate sons of Aaron, who were designated to function as priestly mediators before the Most High. With all of this additional instruction, there are two important aspects of sacrificial offerings that can be reflected upon. First, there is the requirement to keep the sacrificial fires burning continually:

“Fire shall be kept burning continually on the altar; it is not to go out” (Leviticus 6:13).

Secondly, we see the Lord actually enjoying what is referred to in these passages, and others, as a “soothing aroma.” This was to emanate from the smoke of the sacrifice being burned:

“He then put all these on the hands of Aaron and on the hands of his sons and presented them as a wave offering before the LORD. Then Moses took them from their hands and offered them up in smoke on the altar with the burnt offering. They were an ordination offering for a soothing aroma; it was an offering by fire to the LORD. Moses also took the breast and presented it for a wave offering before the LORD; it was Moses’ portion of the ram of ordination, just as the Lord had commanded Moses” (Leviticus 8:27-29).

Long before the establishment of the Levitical priesthood, Noah offered various sacrifices to God, delivered unto Him as a burnt offering. After the waters of the great flood had subsided, the Lord was pleased with the soothing aromatic smell of the offering presented to Him, and He declared that He would never again send such devastation:

“Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, ‘I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease’” (Genesis 8:20-22).

Was it the soothing aroma which caused God to say that He would never send a judgment like the Flood again? If so, is it conceivable to conclude that since the Flood, some percentage of people are in some way offering up something to God that functions as a “soothing aroma”? Could this not be praise and worship offered to the Holy One as people not only recognize Him as a gracious Heavenly Father, but proclaim of His mercy, compassion, and grace to the rest of humanity?

Certainly, as one reads the instruction to the Levitical priests to physically worship the Lord through the various sacrificial offerings, it is understood that these physical acts would create a soothing aroma as their smoke ascended to God. Witnesses would be able to watch the smoke arise, and perhaps even smell a pleasing scent of roasting meat, and in their mind’s eye could imagine the Holy One of Israel appreciating the effort. Since part of the atonement procedure was to place one’s hands on the sacrificial animal, thereby imparting whatever sin upon the substitution, these acts of obedience certainly pleased the Lord. But, when you take a look at the Haftarah passages from Jeremiah we are considering this week, there is a somewhat challenging statement made in Jeremiah 7:21-24. Here, speaking for God, it almost sounds like the Prophet Jeremiah contradicted the commandments of Leviticus regarding the different burnt offerings:

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat flesh. 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. 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” (Jeremiah 7:21-24).

The Prophet Jeremiah was not denying what Tzav says in Leviticus, but instead asserted that it is God’s preference for His people to obey His voice and walk in the way that is commanded. God’s principal intent for instructing His people was not to just tell them how to sacrifice, even though that is what it seemed to have become. As we know from our reading of the history of Israel as seen throughout the Tanakh, the people largely did not obey or incline their ears to obey God in good hearts, but rather walked in stubbornness found in evil hearts. It resulted in the great need to offer up sacrifices so that through such experience, the people would learn the lesson to listen and obey the Word of the Lord.

As you read the balance of our Haftarah reading from Jeremiah, you realize that the Ancient Israelites did not often take the instructions from the Lord seriously. Instead, they often followed after the abominations of surrounding pagan nations that influenced them. Jeremiah is commanded to point out these deviations in some dramatic ways:

“You shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you; and you shall call to them, but they will not answer you. You shall say to them, ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the LORD their God or accept correction; truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth. Cut off your hair and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on the bare heights; for the LORD has rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath’” (Jeremiah 7:27-29).

Not only was Jeremiah to declare these statements and expect nothing in return, but he was to cut off his hair and go to mountain tops to make these proclamations. There was to be no excuse for the people, as they were to be chastised by the Lord for their disobedience. The ultimate degradation would come when those judged by the Lord would have their remains strewn out of their graves and placed before the very sun, moon, and stars that have been worshipped by them—powerless elements of the cosmos that could not help them in life, let alone death:

“‘At that time,’ declares the LORD, ‘they will bring out the bones of the kings of Judah and the bones of its princes, and the bones of the priests and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem from their graves. They will spread them out to the sun, the moon and to all the host of heaven, which they have loved and which they have served, and which they have gone after and which they have sought, and which they have worshiped. They will not be gathered or buried; they will be as dung on the face of the ground. And death will be chosen rather than life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family, that remains in all the places to which I have driven them,’ declares the LORD of hosts” (Jeremiah 8:1-3).

Further insolence toward the Creator was seen when Jeremiah summarized how the remnant of these Israelites, eventually exiled, would largely choose death over life—not learning from the lessons.

The Sages did not want to end this Haftarah reading on a negative note, and so they fast forward us to Jeremiah 9:23-24, where the emphasis is placed on understanding and knowing the Lord. God wants a people who love Him, obey Him, and walk in His ways so that there will be a perpetual soothing aroma emanating from them. This is the ultimate goal, even if down through history the steps of physical sacrifices are required to achieve it. In Jeremiah’s day, he was called to remind the people of their tendency to even wander away from the sacrificial offerings, to the abomination of pursuing other gods. These two verses summarize what the Lord requires:

“Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).

God wants His people to know and understand Him. This means that they will appreciate His lovingkindness, His justice, and His righteousness on Earth. They will be a living testimony, declaring to the world about God and His ways. They will be a soothing aroma, constantly offering up praises and worship to the Most High.

The Lord is far more interested in His people understanding and knowing Him, than going through various rituals of offering burnt sacrifices. When Messiah Yeshua was asked about the greatest commandment, He gave a rather significant response:

“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 4:35; 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 scribe who questioned the Lord understood that the commandments regarding love of God and neighbor were far more important than the sacrificial system. In fact, Yeshua commended him by saying that because this was his response, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

By understanding and knowing this, and especially walking in it during one’s life on Earth, it actually gets us closer to the Kingdom of God and its power. As we seek to know Him (Philippians 3:10), we will understand more about and receive His lovingkindness, His justice, and His righteousness. Ultimately, we can each be like the Apostle Paul, giving significant thanks to God because of our relationship to Him through the shed blood of Messiah Yeshua—a thanks rooted in an experience of faith and not just a thought of faith. In so doing, we can be a soothing aroma unto the Father:

“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).

We can be a fragrant aroma to those we come in contact with in the world. But this requires us to live properly. The fact that we know Yeshua and the power of His resurrection, what He endured for us (Philippians 3:10-11), should empower us to point people to the salvation that is available in Him. It is a blessing to know that our lives can be a soothing aroma, just as burnt sacrifices were once to be! It is our praise and intercession before Him which presently enable His mercy to be manifest toward today’s sinful world. If we can try to emit a fragrant aroma via our testimonies of faith, then others can be prompted to inquire more of God’s goodness that we are demonstrating to them. And then they can know why we are able to emit such a soothing aroma…


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah Vayikra

Haftarah Vayikra

“Declaring Praise”

Isaiah 43:21-44:23


by Mark Huey

The third book of the Torah, known by the Hebrew designation Vayikra which means “and He called” (cf. Leviticus 1:1), was designated Leuitikon or “Leviticus” by the Septuagint translators. This is obvious, as a significant feature of the text establishes the Levitical priesthood. The priests of Israel were called by God to serve Him in a very special mediatorial way, with the commandments pertaining to the priesthood and its sacrificial system actually making up about half of the Torah’s instruction. As we ponder the different offerings, we can be reminded that following God’s Torah was more than just a mental ascent to a moral or ethical code. In past times, animal sacrifice indeed had to play a role within the economy of Ancient Israel, and reveal the sin nature of human beings who needed some kind of covering for their transgressions.

When the Sages considered the opening chapters of Leviticus, when looking for an appropriate Haftarah selection, they selected a section from the Book of Isaiah which opens with the admonition for God’s people to declare His praise (Isaiah 43:21). When guilt offerings were to be sacrificed before Him, the Lord required a witness to testify. If one did not testify of a matter that was known, he or she would bear the guilt of not declaring the truth:

“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).

In the case of Ancient Israel, they should have known about the One True God via His acts of goodness toward them. There would have been no excuses for not knowing about Him, or somehow pretending that He did not exist. All of the corporate religious activity, personally worshipping Him through daily obedience, or having seen an operating Tabernacle—were things that were to make every Israelite totally aware of His existence. No one was to be excused from declaring His praises. Later, the Prophet Isaiah pointed out that despite the requirement of Israel to declare His praise through obedience to the ancient sacrificial system, there was something that was often lacking:

“The people whom I formed for Myself will declare My praise. Yet you have not called on Me, O Jacob; but you have become weary of Me, O Israel. You have not brought to Me the sheep of your burnt offerings, nor have you honored Me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, nor wearied you with incense. You have bought Me not sweet cane with money, nor have you filled Me with the fat of your sacrifices; rather you have burdened Me with your sins, You have wearied Me with your iniquities. I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Put Me in remembrance, let us argue our case together; State your cause, that you may be proved right. Your first forefather sinned, and your spokesmen have transgressed against Me. So I will pollute the princes of the sanctuary, and I will consign Jacob to the ban and Israel to revilement” (Isaiah 43:21-28).

Isaiah admonished his contemporaries for not following the instructions seen in the opening chapters of Leviticus, among other things. The people who were chosen by God to be a witness and testimony to the nations at large have wearied Him, not having brought the right offerings and sacrifices as required. Rather than doing what they should have done, the Lord noted how His people have brought Him their sins, iniquities, and transgressions—and have burdened Him as a result. Even though He rebuked them for this, He does remind them that eventually it is He who wipes from memory any of these transgressions.

Still, as you read further in our selection from Isaiah, you are reminded how God is not only the King of Israel—but He is also Israel’s Redeemer! Despite transgressions piling up, which seems to be an ongoing problem for His people, their descendants will eventually be witnesses to His greatness, no matter how flawed a witness their forbearers were:

“But now listen, O Jacob, My servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you, ‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant; and you Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants’…Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me. Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; Yes, let him recount it to Me in order, from the time that I established the ancient nation. And let them declare to them the things that are coming and the events that are going to take place. Do not tremble and do not be afraid; have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, or is there any other Rock? I know of none” (Isaiah 44:1-3, 6-8).

As our Isaiah section continues, the comparison is made between those who fashion idols to worship out of wood, versus those who worship the Creator. Obviously the comparison—considering the variety of possible uses for wood—is not much of a comparison at all. The same wood that composed an idol can be used to cook food (Isaiah 44:15-20)! How, after all, can an object created by human hands, formed no differently than the way someone would use wood for common purposes—be compared to an Eternal Creator? A futile exercise, indeed.

Concluding our Haftarah reading, we are reminded of two things. (1) The Almighty God who formed Israel to be His servant will not be a forgotten people. (2) And, this is because such a redeemed and forgiven servant nation was created to be a witness and a testimony to the rest of the world that He exists:

“Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant, O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me. I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. Shout for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth; break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it; for the LORD has redeemed Jacob and in Israel He shows forth His glory” (Isaiah 44:21-23).

Not only will this redeemed Israel declare God’s praises, and thus be a witness to the world at large of His goodness—but ultimately, God will display His omnipotence to the Heavens, the Earth, and all of Creation.

What does this teach us as redeemed individuals today, people who live the life of the age to come in the present evil age (cf. Galatians 1:4)? Are we not required to be witnesses for God, testifying of His works? His most significant gift to us was that of His Son! We can be reconciled to the Father via Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice. Do not at all think that simply because Israel has yet to be fully restored that the missional imperatives seen in this week Haftarah reading are only for the future. These words of Isaiah should have much more meaning, in fact, since the payment for our sins, iniquities, and transgressions has been made by the blood of the Lamb. Declaring through praise and worship not only our thanks—but also testifying to all who will hear of the joy of our salvation—should be something we do each day.

While we may not sacrifice animals today to atone for our sin, we do rejoice in the sacrifice that has washed away our sin. We have each returned to the One who has redeemed us! In time, knowledge of this will gain momentum and increase the numbers of those who too can experience the salvation of Messiah Yeshua! But in order for this to be accomplished, we are each required to be faithful witnesses who declare praises to the Lord—and the availability of His salvation to one and all. As the Leviticus 5:1 commandment states, if we do not declare what we know, then we could bear the guilt of not being a witness to the truth as we know it.

Thank you, O Lord, for the reminder of what You require of us by reviewing these words from Leviticus and Isaiah. May we redouble our efforts to praise You through our declarations to a lost generation looking desperately for answers.


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah V’yakheil-Pequdei

Haftarah V’yakheil

1 Kings 7:40-50 (A); 7:13-26 (S)

Haftarah Pequdei

“Glorious Details and More”

1 Kings 7:51-8:21 (A); 7:40-50 (S)


by Mark Huey

One of the principal blessings of reviewing the Torah and Haftarah teachings each year is the annual reminder that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is personally concerned about the details of life, and how He wants to be intimately involved with His chosen people. This week the last six chapters of Exodus are considered (Exodus 35:1-38:20; 38:21-40:38). We see that not only are the construction details of the Tabernacle outlined, but the work was completed by those gifted with the ability to fabricate all that the Lord requires. After the willing hearts of the Israelites brought forth a freewill offering of materials, the Lord then provided skilled craftsmen, like Bezalel of Judah and Oholiab of Dan, to follow His precise instructions:

“The Israelites, all the men and women, whose heart moved them to bring material for all the work, which the LORD had commanded through Moses to be done, brought a freewill offering to the LORD. Then Moses said to the sons of Israel, ‘See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding and in knowledge and in all craftsmanship; to make designs for working in gold and in silver and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings and in the carving of wood, so as to perform in every inventive work. He also has put in his heart to teach, both he and Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to perform every work of an engraver and of a designer and of an embroiderer, in blue and in purple and in scarlet material, and in fine linen, and of a weaver, as performers of every work and makers of designs” (Exodus 35:29-35).

After completing the instructions for building the moveable Tabernacle, the presence of the Lord was revealed as He filled the Tabernacle with His glory. This description of God’s glory filling the Tabernacle—to the point of preventing Moses from entering—provides a vivid reminder that human beings cannot often stand, or in this case occupy, the same space as His glorious presence:

“He erected the court all around the tabernacle and the altar, and hung up the veil for the gateway of the court. Thus Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would set out; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day when it was taken up. For throughout all their journeys, the cloud of the LORD was on the tabernacle by day, and there was fire in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel” (Exodus 40:33-38).

Unsurprisingly, when the Sages searched for a complimentary passage, the construction of the First Temple was the obvious parallel. 1 Kings chs. 7-8, where the building of Solomon’s edifice on the Temple Mount is recorded, was selected. The record here lists many of the specific details about the construction project. Yet in contrast, rather than using the materials supplied by the generous hearts of the people, King Solomon turned to the neighboring Kingdom of Tyre for not only materials—but also skilled labor. God uniquely gifted a craftsman named Hiram, who had been the son of a man from Tyre and a Naphtalite woman:

“Now King Solomon sent and brought Hiram from Tyre. He was a widow’s son from the tribe of Naphtali, and his father was a man of Tyre, a worker in bronze; and he was filled with wisdom and understanding and skill for doing any work in bronze. So he came to King Solomon and performed all his work” (1 Kings 7:13-14).

Hiram’s mixed heritage was not at all an issue; he possessed God-given abilities and skills to work with bronze—exactly what was needed for the Temple project (1 Kings 7:15-45). The Temple that was built, after all, would not only be for Israel, but “the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel” (1 Kings 8:41-43). Just like the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the Temple was to be in a location that—once completed, anointed, and with the Ark of the Covenant in place—would be filled with the glory of the Lord:

“There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the sons of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. It happened that when the priests came from the holy place, the cloud filled the house of the LORD, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled the house of the LORD” (1 Kings 8:9-11).

What strikes you as being the most important theme seen in this week’s Torah and Haftarah readings?

The Creator God desires to dwell with the human beings He has created. While Israel was designated to be His chosen people, Israel’s chosenness had a significant purpose to it. The purpose of constructing the Temple was so “all the peoples of the earth will know Your name and revere You” (1 Kings 8:43, NJPS). The Temple was built to be a place for God’s glory to be manifest, and for the fame of the Creator to reach beyond the people of Israel! The Temple constructed in Jerusalem was to be a reminder that God does not want a far-off relationship with His people, but rather He wants a proximate relationship with His people.

Even though God desires intimacy with His people, this does not by any means demean the fact that He is holy and pure. Moses was unable to easily enter into the Tent of Meeting. Similarly, the priests who served God in the Temple were powerless to stand in His presence. These physical realities are stark reminders that He is so holy—that coming into the absolute presence of His glory as unredeemed sinners—is impeded, if not impossible!

So what is needed to enter into His presence? Is something else required? If we want to participate in the communion that our Father so desires, what do we need to do?

We do see in our readings this week that God provides the materials for His dwelling places (either the wilderness Tabernacle or Solomon’s Temple) from the physical world, while also supernaturally empowering the individuals with the skills to follow to His precise instructions. Yet, despite the combination of both God’s desire to dwell with His people, and the provision of materials and the skilled workers to accomplish His goals—something still prevents the full communion that He seeks with humanity. At least, this is what appears to be the case.

Was there something in ancient times obstructing the intimacy? Obviously, there was something, but what was it? After all, Moses’ relationship with the Holy One was unique (cf. Deuteronomy 34:10), and the priests in Solomon’s era appear to be following His instructions rather well. We do know that at some point in past history, after Moses requested to see God’s glory, he was only permitted to see it in passing:

“Then Moses said, ‘I pray You, show me Your glory!’ And He said, ‘I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.’ But He said, ‘You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!’ Then the LORD said, ‘Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen’” (Exodus 33:18-23).

Why is it so difficult to see the full presence of God? It is only because human beings are mortal and corporeal creatures? Or is it because of the limitations imposed by the presence of sin?

For some Messianics today this can be a mystery—often because they find their Bible studies focused almost exclusively on the Torah (and sometimes, parts of the Tanakh). Yet the very fact that we are “Messianic” requires us to consider the further perspective of the Apostolic Writings, widening and deepening our understanding of God’s plan of salvation. The promise of the New Covenant—where the Lord will write His Instruction unto the hearts of His people—is inaugurated in their lives via the atoning work of Yeshua the Messiah. This work not only allows Believers to be filled with the Holy Spirit, but also gives them an assurance and confidence to approach God’s presence, to a much higher level than those who preceded the time of the Messiah. The author of Hebrews attests to this:

“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 31:33-34]. 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 10:14-23).

Since God will forget human sin, because of the sacrifice of His Son (Romans 11:27), born again Believers have a grand privilege of being able to enter into the intimacy of the Holy Place and entreat Him with their requests. The original requirement to Moses to stay outside the tent, or the prostrate positioning of the priests unable to stand, has certainly been modified. The ancient examples do show, though, that even if we have a much greater access to the Lord’s presence now that Yeshua has come, we still have to approach Him with great reverence and awe.

The need for us to approach God properly is emphasized by the Apostle Paul in his writings to the Corinthians. The people of God are not to be bound to unbelievers, and nor are they to fellowship with lawlessness and darkness. If born again Believers make up the corporate Temple of God today, then they are not to have any fellowship with idols and sinful activities:

“Now in a like exchange—I speak as to children—open wide to us also. Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Messiah with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE’ [Leviticus 26:12; Jeremiah 32:38; Ezekiel 37:27; Isaiah 52:11; Ezekiel 20:34, 41]. Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,’ says the Lord. ‘AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN’ [2 Samuel 7:8, 14; Isaiah 43:6; Jeremiah 31:9]; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,’ says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:13-18).

God’s desire is not that we just be His people, but that we be His sons and daughters! The word proclaimed to Moses that God would dwell in His people and walk among them (Exodus 29:45; Leviticus 26:12) is something that Paul said the Corinthians could experience in their lives. The Holy One of Israel would be One with whom redeemed souls could experience great intimacy, like that of a father to his children. This is far more than just a far off Almighty God in the distant cosmos being worshipped, revered, and awed. This is a relationship that goes beyond His glory residing in a temporary wilderness Tabernacle, or even a permanent Temple. It is a relationship that is to be experienced every day, regardless of where one resides, as “Messiah is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:11).

These are the things that should motivate us to seek the Lord and His righteousness more and more—knowing that through our desire to commune with Him, our intimacy with Him will be enhanced. While it is awesome to know about the physical details of the Tabernacle and Temple, and what they consisted of—it is far more wonderful to consider the reality that we compose God’s Temple today, and that His presence can reside inside of us. At some point in past time, it is my prayer that you have answered His call, and have allowed His Holy Spirit to take up residence inside of your heart! What the ancient Tabernacle and Temple depict for us has now become a reality inside of you as a redeemed person!

Perhaps this week’s review, of the appearance of the glory of God at the Tabernacle and the Temple, will prompt you to ask for a greater peek of His glory as it resides in your heart? Brothers and sisters, I implore you to ask our Heavenly Father to reveal more of Himself to you. For as you experience more of Him, so should others see Him in you and want more of Him too!


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah Ki Tisa

Haftarah Ki Tisa

“Confronting Idolatry”

1 Kings 18:1-39 (A); 18:20-39 (S)


by Mark Huey

The dramatic incident of the golden calf in the wilderness dominates this week’s Torah teaching (Exodus 30:11-34:35). Contemplating the great contrast between Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, personally inscribed upon two stone tablets by the finger of God, with the worship of an idol made with human hands, is a vivid reminder of man’s tendency to wander away from the path of righteousness. Aaron’s lack of patience provoked him to fashion an idol from the gold worn by the teeming mob, as they pressured him with a demand for something visible to worship.[1] Rereading the incident in light of current events, one might wonder where the silent majority against this was to be found. Since the severe judgment enacted for the Israelites’ sin only resulted in the death of three thousand,[2] we should surely wonder what was happening with all of the other people in the camp.

Did they simply cower to the boisterous few? Did they become nominal participants, or simply observers of the revelry, somewhat like an obsequious horde relegated to stadium bleachers? Naturally, when the Sages pondered these events, the heroic episode of the Prophet Elijah confronting the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel was chosen for further reflection. After all, what set of circumstances in the history of Israel could better describe the repetitious pattern of a rebellious people, chronically succumbing to the desires of the flesh, in lieu of following the (obvious) commanded ways of the Holy One?

There is little doubt that the recalcitrant behavior of the Israelites around Mount Sinai, as Moses was receiving God’s commandments, was clearly known by those who lived during the time of Elijah when King Ahab and Queen Jezebel ruled the Northern Kingdom. Clearly by this time in the history of Ancient Israel—no longer a united and prosperous kingdom ruled by Kings David or Solomon—some judgment from God for Israel’s rebellion and idolatry was obvious. Beyond the predominance of the masses who followed after the religious activities of the prophets of Baal and Asherah—in this scene the followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were reduced to a remnant minority of about 7,000 (1 Kings 19:18). Idolatry had overwhelmed the society to the point that Queen Jezebel was actively hunting down the prophets of the Lord as a judgment of famine was ravaging the land:

“Now it happened after many days that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, ‘Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.’ So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria. Ahab called Obadiah who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly; for when Jezebel destroyed the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave, and provided them with bread and water)” (1 Kings 18:1-4).

Whether the famine in Samaria was directly connected to the preponderance of deviant behavior is up to conjecture, but the fact remains, that through this physical challenge, the Almighty was orchestrating circumstances which would teach a profound lesson down through the ages. King Ahab considered the Prophet Elijah to be a serious threat to his administration. When they finally crossed each other’s paths, a showdown between the false gods and the God of Israel was seen:

“When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, ‘Is this you, you troubler of Israel?’ He said, ‘I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals. Now then send and gather to me all Israel at Mount Carmel, together with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.’ So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel. Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people did not answer him a word” (1 Kings 18:17-21).

As the challenge for the dramatic encounter was initiated, the people in Ahab’s party who witnessed the interchange were silent. They did not know what to say. When the details of the challenge were proclaimed and the gathering on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal and Asherah was convened, the crowd was gathered for a duel. The spectators appeared to be very curious about what the outcome would be. Those who were the prophets of Baal and Asherah were totally committed to their cause. They were not bystanders, but fully dedicated to their beliefs to the point of participating in all kinds of abominable rituals.

The details of the challenge were remembered by most, because of the impressive display of God’s affirmation that He is truly Lord of Lords and King of Kings. After innumerable attempts starting in the morning, running through the middle of the day until the evening—calling upon the false gods to bring down fire to burn the sacrifices—to the point of even drawing their own blood, the false prophets flailed among themselves (1 Kings 18:25-29). It was not until the end of the day after a thorough drenching of the sacrifices and wood with water, that the Prophet Elijah finally called upon the One True God to ignite his sacrifice:

“At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, ‘O LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.’ Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God’ (1 Kings 18:36-39).

After a fire falls from Heaven consuming the sacrifices, wood, stones, dust, and even the water in the trenches—the witnesses present were fully convinced that the God of the Prophet Elijah is the One True God and Lord of all. The reaction to the fire falling from Heaven was the people falling on their faces in awe shouting that the Lord is God! This echoes the time in Ancient Israel’s desert journey when Moses and Aaron offered up sacrifices before the people, and they witnessed a consuming fire lick up the offerings:

“Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he stepped down after making the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. Then fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” (Leviticus 9:22-24).

From the similar reaction of the people at the Tent of Meeting, it seems reasonable to conclude that the glory of the Lord was also present when the fire consumed Elijah’s sacrifices on Mount Carmel. The witnesses to both supernatural events ended up on their faces—perhaps thankful that the fire did not consume them! In the case of the false prophets challenging the Prophet Elijah, an unseen death from something like lightning may have been preferable to the bloody, hacking death of an enraged and righteously indignant prophet of God:

“Then Elijah said to them, ‘Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.’ So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there…Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword” (1 Kings 18:40; 19:1).

In contemplating the similarities between the riotous scene at the foot of Mount Sinai, and the subsequent challenge to the Levites to slay all who participated wholeheartedly in the idolatrous revelry—with the events on Mount Carmel and by the brook Kishon—you just might want to ask yourself a few questions.

If you were alive at either of these memorable events, how would you have reacted? Excluding Moses and Elijah, who would you identify with in each of these situations? Would you be like the Levites who disdained the idol worship, or would you have been found dancing around the golden calf? Could you possibly be one of the priests of Baal or Asherah, or simply a person in the entourage of Ahab witnessing the contest? Would the temptation of paying homage to a golden idol intrigue you? Would you have been patiently waiting for the return of Moses, or perhaps have been tired of waiting, easily lured into another form of worship? Would you be rooting for the prophets of Baal as the blood from their self-induced gashes turned their garments red?

If you have watched some of the video clips of various Muslim mourners or worshippers in Mecca, or for that matter some revelers at Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans or other alcohol-induced celebrations—you might get a small picture of what it was like in the two scenes we are considering this week. Flesh-driven acts can lean extensively toward debauchery, depravity, licentiousness, and all sorts of ungodly behavior. Worshipping anything other than the Holy One of Israel, whether by omission or commission, is a vile affront to Him.

Lamentably, many fall into these sorts of practices because they do not have a fervent desire to know the Lord by seeking Him with all their hearts, minds, souls, and strength. Instead, the tendency can lean toward complacency, especially if one does not see God actively involved in the mundane affairs of life. Without a persistent pursuit of God and His righteousness, scales of callousness can begin to form on the human heart. Access into His presence is not denied, but it is less frequently sought.

We may be reminded of the rebuke Yeshua issued to the assembly of Laodicea, which largely became apathetic in its devotion to Him:

“To the angel of the [assembly] in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent’” (Revelation 3:14-19).

God has a problem with those who are what He calls lukewarm. Both cold and warm water can be used, one for refreshment and another for bathing—and both can be used for healing. But lukewarm water has no real usefulness. The assembly at Laodicea was lukewarm because of its relative comfort, and the people thinking they were doing just “all right” in the eyes of the Lord. They did not consider how He was able to look right through their costly garments or praising lips into their very hearts.

God truly desires that His people repent of any lukewarm attitudes and that they be zealous before Him like Moses and Elijah. While we certainly recognize the glory of God present in dramatic events, do we really have to see dramatic events to know that He is there? Do you see God present in the every day affairs of your life? Can you see His hand upon the smaller, somewhat inane actions of ordinary living? Are you sensitive to His presence residing in your heart on a moment-by-moment basis? Are you in communion with Him throughout the days of the working week, and not just when you are witnessing His actions during corporate activities on Shabbat?

What about confronting idols? Do you recognize an idol when it gains some attraction in your own heart? Are you willing to realize that it is even in there, confronting it with honesty? Or does confronting idols in your life only occur when you find yourself dancing around “golden calves,” fervently calling upon false gods (of your own imagination) to get your way? The admonition to avoid or flee from idols is replete in Scripture. In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote the Corinthians that these examples recorded in the Tanakh actually serve as a “warning” (RSV) for Believers in Messiah Yeshua:

“Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY’ [Exodus 32:6]. Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall. No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:6-14).

After you may have to confront some idols in your heart, repenting before the Lord that you will not return to them, there is another gentle warning in 1 John you may consider. After describing in great detail what it means to be a true Believer in the Messiah Yeshua, John simply concluded by saying, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). He understood how insidious idols can become for many people. They do not necessarily need to be overt and obvious, but most insidiously they can be buried deep inside someone’s heart. They can be a spiritual deterrent that keeps someone mediocre in faith, rather than useful for the Lord. But most important, children fall prey to idols—mature adults in faith do not!

May we each forcefully confront the idols that tempt us, while we humbly seek to be in the presence of the glory of God!


NOTES

[1] Exodus 32:1-10.

[2] Exodus 32:11-35.


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.

Haftarah Tetzaveh

Haftarah Tetzaveh

“God’s Glory”

Ezekiel 43:10-27


by Mark Huey

Contemplating the glory of the Lord from the pages of the Holy Scripture does not necessarily do justice to what the presence of His glory actually entails. Reading details about the candelabra, olive oil, sacred garments and accouterments for priests, or even the elaborate instructions about anointing the priests and consecrating the altar—still can leave a person somewhat empty without something more tangible to draw upon. No doubt, when we ponder the work to bring clear beaten olive oil into the sanctuary of God for a continually burning lamp of testimony, the visual image and symbolic illustration is stunning:

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

In this same section of Exodus, after considering the various aspects of the priesthood, the description of the continual morning and evening sacrifices is given. It is punctuated by the statement that God will not only consecrate the place of meeting, but most importantly, consecrate the priests who will be ministering unto Him. The admonition is to continually maintain the burning lamp and provide a burnt offering. It is to ascend to the Lord in Heaven as He dwells among them:

“The one lamb you shall offer in the morning and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; and there shall be one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering with one lamb. The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it the same grain offering and the same drink offering as in the morning, for a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the LORD. It shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the doorway of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there. I will meet there with the sons of Israel, and it shall be consecrated by My glory. I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar; I will also consecrate Aaron and his sons to minister as priests to Me. I will dwell among the sons of Israel and will be their God. They shall know that I am the LORD their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt, that I might dwell among them; I am the LORD their God” (Exodus 29:39-46).

When the Sages looked to the Tanakh for a complimentary passage to this week’s parashah (Exodus 27:20-30:10), invoking similar thoughts and images of God’s glory in the midst His people, the Prophet Ezekiel’s visions of a future Temple indwelt by the Holy One of Israel were chosen. In Ezekiel 43:10-27, he described the anticipated Temple that will extend the holiness of the glory of God (Ezekiel 43:12) to the entire mountaintop. Chosen Zadokites will minister unto Him (Ezekiel 43:19).[1] While the details of the future Temple expand upon the original instructions given to Moses regarding the Holy Place, and are not exactly the same, it is hard to avoid the connections present between the two passages. Both include a consecration requiring seven days of sacrifices to the Lord:

“Thus you shall do to Aaron and to his sons, according to all that I have commanded you; you shall ordain them through seven days. Each day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement, and you shall purify the altar when you make atonement for it, and you shall anoint it to consecrate it. For seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and consecrate it; then the altar shall be most holy, and whatever touches the altar shall be holy. Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two one year old lambs each day, continuously. The one lamb you shall offer in the morning and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; and there shall be one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and one-fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering with one lamb. The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it the same grain offering and the same drink offering as in the morning, for a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the LORD. It shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the doorway of the tent of meeting before the LORD, where I will meet with you, to speak to you there” (Exodus 29:35-42).

“‘You shall give to the Levitical priests who are from the offspring of Zadok, who draw near to Me to minister to Me,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘a young bull for a sin offering. You shall take some of its blood and put it on its four horns and on the four corners of the ledge and on the border round about; thus you shall cleanse it and make atonement for it. You shall also take the bull for the sin offering, and it shall be burned in the appointed place of the house, outside the sanctuary. On the second day you shall offer a male goat without blemish for a sin offering, and they shall cleanse the altar as they cleansed it with the bull. When you have finished cleansing it, you shall present a young bull without blemish and a ram without blemish from the flock. You shall present them before the LORD, and the priests shall throw salt on them, and they shall offer them up as a burnt offering to the LORD. For seven days you shall prepare daily a goat for a sin offering; also a young bull and a ram from the flock, without blemish, shall be prepared. For seven days they shall make atonement for the altar and purify it; so shall they consecrate it. When they have completed the days, it shall be that on the eighth day and onward, the priests shall offer your burnt offerings on the altar, and your peace offerings; and I will accept you,’ declares the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 43:19-27).

In the Ezekiel passage, in addition to the sacrifice of cattle and sheep, there is also the sacrifice of goats. Perceiving this as an “alteration” of commandments originally given to Moses, there was some consternation among the Sages to the point of almost disregarding the Book of Ezekiel from the Tanakh.[2] However after much debate, the Sages eventually concluded that Ezekiel’s Temple was actually going to be a third Temple built after the restoration of all Israel in the Messianic Age.

As we contemplate Tetzaveh this week, in conjunction with Ezekiel 43:10-27, the elements of consecrating the altar at the Holy Place where God’s glory resides, with a continually burning light and sacrifice being offered, is a motivating image. Imagining the procedures conducted in the courtyard of the Tabernacle during the wilderness sojourn, on the Temple Mount in either the First or Second Temples, or in the future Temple prophesied by Ezekiel, allows us to fathom God’s eternal holiness. Meditating upon these actions also reveals what He requires for His followers to properly appreciate their relationship with Him. God requires us to consider blood sacrifices which remind us that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). The continual sacrifices of animals over and over again shows us that it is only the single sacrifice of Yeshua to which we can turn for a permanent covering of our sins:

“For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Hebrews 7:26-27).

How thankful are those of us who live today must be—recognizing the blood sacrifice of the Messiah Yeshua which accomplished atonement for our sin once and for all (Galatians 3:13)! Once again, we can picture this sacrifice—yet beyond this merciful act, we can also imagine the blessed resurrection that followed (Acts 1:22). We can even envision the Messiah seated at the right hand of the Father (Romans 8:34), interceding for us in Heaven.

While Yeshua the Messiah has accomplished a permanent atonement for human sin, during His Millennial reign as seen in Ezekiel, there will be some kind of animal sacrifices. In all likelihood, these animal sacrifices will serve as a memorial of His final sacrifice for us, being a reminder to those who will be born during this time of relative peace of what the Messiah endured for us. If you are confused, do note how He will be there to explain these sacrifices. Of course, when the New Heavens and New Earth finally do manifest (Revelation 21:1), there will be no future need for any kind of sacrifices. A new form of existence will be present.

What can the offering of animal sacrifices teach us? The Apostle Paul said some things about what someone can do, beyond simply imagining or picturing various sacrifices. He exhorted the Romans to present themselves to God as a living sacrifice. Individuals of high quality—just like animals offered before God—were to compose a “sacrifice” of service to God. Here, the concept of continually being a light to the world and offering one’s body as an acceptable sacrifice was encouraged:

“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).

In order to be a good sacrifice, we need to guard ourselves against the evil world system, and instead be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This can take place through prayer, worship, and a diligent and consistent study of the Scriptures—which will allow the good and acceptable will of our Father to be accomplished. If you are able to do this, then the glory of God will be evident in your life. Your sensitivity to His will for your life will be sought and followed. When you get to the point of sifting your thoughts through His Word and His thoughts, then you will be far more apt to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit as opposed to your flesh. This is a wonderful place in which to find yourself, because your actions will allow the Holy One to accomplish all the things He has created to be done through you!

God’s glory will be evident, and in the end your life will be a pleasing sacrificial aroma to Him. What a wonderful result to contemplate for choices made and actions taken!

NOTES

[1] The priests from the line of Zadok are noted because they are the priests that aligned themselves with King David and his chosen heir King Solomon, rather than Absalom or Adonijah when the succession struggles occurred (2 Samuel 15:24-29, 35, 17:15, 19:12, 1 Kings 1:8, 32).

[2] Cf. Sarna, “Haftarah for T’tzavveh,” in Etz Hayim, 522.


This teaching has been excerpted from Torahscope Haftarah Exhortations by William Mark Huey.