In our joy to come into close relationship with the Creator, we may forget to have respect of Who He is. One of the lessons of this week’s Torah reading, שמיני Shemini (“eighth”), covering Lev. 9:1–11:47, is remembering how to discern what God has set apart — cleaned up — from what isn’t. That’s behind the object lesson of clean and unclean foods, and put into sharp focus in Acts 10.
Normally when God spoke to Moses and gave him an instruction, God said “tell,” “speak” or “instruct.” This time, God told Moses to “command” Aaron.
The relationship that God wants with you is a relationship that responds and grows. If we respond and grow, we are like a tree that will produce good fruit. If we don’t grow and respond, we won’t produce good fruit. The High Priest is supposed to encourage the relationship between God and His people produce good fruit for eternity.
When God commands one to do something, deviation from the instruction isn’t tolerated. The Torah reading צו Tzav (“command,” Lev. 6:8–8:36) includes detailed instructions on how the priests are to handle other people’s offerings, symbolizing their approach to God. The LORD told Aaron that doing this right matters, not just to the people, but to God.
The extended Tabernacle parable of how the contrite enter the Creator’s presence continues with instructions for the priesthood, detailed in this week’s Torah reading, צו Tzav (“command”), covering Lev. 6:8–8:36.
None of these sacrifices or offerings of the Tabernacle or Temple of ancient Israel apply to us today, yet all of them apply to us today. That paradox comes to us because forgiveness for diverging from the Creator’s plan has always come to mankind the same way: the old way of life must die. Offerings of blood and food never accomplished that — and never were meant to.
So then, what’s the deal with all the detailed instructions in the Bible about killing animals, pouring and sprinkling blood, burning carcasses and bringing in offerings of produce? Yeshua the Mashiakh taught in parables, and the Word of God teaches through the parable of the Tabernacle.
The punchline of the parable: When we sin, something has to die. The offerings that involved death of the animal teach that the contrite person — humble and seeking change — is transformed on the approach toward God, ultimately coming face to face with the Creator by way of the blood of the perfectly pure and innocent presented at the Tabernacle doorway. This parable memorializes Heaven’s mercy in forgiving humanity’s oopsies, carelessness, wanton disregard and even rebellion against the LORD by the Offering that only needed to be offered “once for all” (Heb. 9:11–14; 10:8–10).
What on Earth is the point of all the detailed instructions in the third book of the Bible, Leviticus? What’s with all the butchering of animals and proportioning grains, oils and incense to burn, roast, wave, sprinkle, etc. around the tent home of the God of Israel? Many fall asleep as their through-the-Bible reading plans reach Leviticus, are turned off by the seemingly senseless gore or breathe a sigh of relief that “all that changed at the Cross.”
But the exclusionary design of the Tabernacle design and its rituals and the repugnance of so much spilled animal blood is key to seeing the big picture. For those who long to be in the Presence of the loving Creator and learn His lessons — what works long-term — this 50,000-foot view of the LORD at work reveals what’s “under the hood,” what’s the not-so-secret ingredients to the “recipe” of moving from an Earth off course to a new Earth where peace reigns.
The Torah reading ויקרא Vayikra (“and He called”), covering Lev. 1:1–6:7, starts the journey toward understanding the heart and thoughts of the Father and His Christ, Yeshua.
“‘See that you make them after the pattern for them, which was shown to you on the mountain.” (Exodus 25:40 NASB)
Everything in the Tabernacle is both functional and beautiful, just as the LORD made mankind at the beginning. God made humanity to appreciate beauty, because He appreciates beauty. But He doesn’t want us to worship beauty. Worship belongs to Him alone.
None of the components of the Tabernacle are identified by their looks but by their works — what they do. Humans also are primarily defined by their works, not their looks. We know who Yeshua is the Messiah, not by His looks but by His actions and how they align with the pattern shown Moshe on Mt. Sinai.
In the Torah reading ויקהל Vayakhel (“and he assembled,” Exodus 35:1–38:20), the people were united in their desire to build the Tabernacle for the LORD, assembling so many donations for it that Moses had to turn donations away. In the Torah reading פקודי Pekudei (“accounts,” Exodus 38:21–40:38), these donations are accounted for and used to create the Tabernacle. The section culminates in the LORD’s entering His new home.
Are we paying attention how we’re building a home for Yeshua and the Spirit in our lives? The care and attention to detail that went into the Tabernacle that the LORD instructed Israel to build and what that teaches about the Holy One and Heaven’s plan to transform us is central to the lessons in the Torah reading ויקהל/פקודי Vayakhel/Pekudei, covering Exodus 35:1–40:38.