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Parashah 24: Vayikra
("He Called")

by Michael Bugg

Torah:  Vayikra (Leviticus) 1:1-5:26 (6:7 in Christian Bibles)

Haftarah:  Yesha'yahu (Isaiah) 43:21-44:23

Bírit Chadasha:  Rom 11:25-12:8

The Theme

In English Bibles, the third book is called Leviticus because a great part of it is dedicated to describing the service of the Levitical priesthood and the laws concerning the various sacrifices that they offered.  For this reason, it is a neglected book in most Christian circles: After all, didn't Jesus fulfill and do away with all that stuff?  But in Hebrew, its name is Vayikra, "He Called."  While this call was given first to Moshe in the opening line of the book, ultimately this book is about God's call to all peoples to live holy lives dedicated to Him.

As Paul tells us, the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29) and Israel's repeated disobedience to the Torah could never cause God to forget His covenant with Abraham and the seed of his loins (Gal. 3:17; cf. Gen. 15:4-5, 18).  In this, he echoes Isaiah, who begins with a denouncement of ritual sacrifice without outward obedience, but concludes with the promise that the Eternal One would bring Israel back from idolatry and into a walk with Him.

Paul goes on from this promise to say, "Therefore I urge you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service" (Rom. 12:1).  Yeshua has provided the ultimate atoning sin-offering, but there yet remain sacrifices for us to offer.  For example, when we offer ourselves wholly to God, holding nothing back, we offer the burnt offering, the 'olah (עלה) or "ascending" offering, just as Yeshua held nothing back but gave up everything He had for our sake.  For another, when we praise Him and celebrate together what He has done for us, we offer the shalom offering. 

It is true that God does not truly desire sacrifices and offerings--that is, the sin sacrifices and guilt offerings, for these are an admission of failure to keep His commands.  Thus He tells us, "For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings" (Hos. 6:6).  However, because we do fail, He gave us out of His mercy a means to atone for such sin after we repent--and that means is the blood of His Son, the ultimate sacrifice to which all other sacrifices point.  Let us then turn away from our sins, accepting His forgiveness, and offer everything we are to Him so that we might ascend to His throne.

Shalom!

 

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