The common Torah reading for this week (נָשֹׂא Nasso, “take up” or “carry,” Num. 4:21–7:89) continues the census of the priesthood of Israel, caretakers of the earthly embassy of the Creator. Yes, there’s a Messiah-centered connection between determining who could enter the מִשְׁכָּן Mishkan (“Tabernacle”), testing the faithfulness of a wife, commissioning and decommissioning someone under a Nazirite vow and the 12 days of gifts from each of the tribes of Israel at the dedication of the Mishkan.
All of us will face trying times that will reveal who we really are, our character. The Torah reading בְּמִדְבַּר Bamidbar (“in the wilderness”) over Num. 1:1–4:20 takes us along with our ancient ancestors in faith on a journey toward true rest God provides. That’s a trek that’s as relevant now as it was then.
“during the seventh year the land shall have a sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord.” (Lev. 25:4 NASB)
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28 NASB)
“For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His.” (Heb. 4:10 NASB)
We’ve all had days when we are so physically or mentally exhausted that we long to go home and relax, or better yet, nap. The LORD gave our forefathers in faith memorials and reminders in time to nudge us to seek Him Who can truly bring us rest from guilt, fear, loneliness, etc. That’s the lesson in the combined Torah reading that wraps up the book of Leviticus.
The Creator of all that is reveals how different He is from the creation. YHWH’s servants, the priesthood, are called to be different from the world that lives as if the Creator isn’t in control, and the priests are to show the better way — the Way of YHWH.
That’s the message of Torah reading אמר Emor (“say”), covering Leviticus 21-24. It’s a Bible reading that includes teachings from YHWH about special anniversaries, annual reminders of what the Creator is doing, particularly through the Word of YHWH made human — Yeshua haMashiakh, or Jesus the Christ.
Should we feel shame for going against the Creator’s instructions? What do we do about that guilt?
Discussed at length in the New Testament letter to the Hebrews, Yom haKippurim (Day of Atonement) is one of the most important lessons in the parables connected to the Moedim (appointed times) of the LORD and the Tabernacle. It teaches the grace and mercy the Creator offers by covering all offenses, pointing to the work of the Mashiakh (Christ).
Also part of the dual readings of אחרי מות Acharei Mot (“after the deaths,” Leviticus 16–18) and קדושים Kedoshim (“holies/holy,” Leviticus 19–20) are instructions on eating blood, nakedness and sexual perversion, discernment of things that shouldn’t go together, the “golden rule” and banishment from the people of Israel.
Yom haKippurim is about freedom from the old life and getting closer to the Giver of Life.
A house with toxic mold can be a hidden chronic health hazard. And an unsightly discoloration of the skin could be the harbinger of a creeping killer, if not diagnosed properly and quickly. The physical necessities of dealing with such “leprosy” in body and stuff illustrate well the cancers of character that grow and consume, if left untreated.
The Torah reading, מְּצֹרָע Metzora (“leper,” Leviticus 14–15) reveals how entering the Presence of the Creator of Heaven and Earth requires cleanliness that’s more than skin-deep. That cleanup job is something that’s described in Yom haKippurim (Day of Atonement, Leviticus 16) and reaches its reality in the death and resurrection of Yeshua the Mashiakh (Jesus the Christ).
Why would God want newborns and their mothers to be purified shortly after birth? Why is God so concerned about leprosy amid instructions for living life differently from the rest of the world? If we stick with appearances, our understanding the heart of God will be only skin deep. That’s what’s between the lines of this week’s Torah reading, תזריע Tazria (“she will conceive”), covering Leviticus 12–13.
The lesson about childbirth goes back to the beginning of the world and stretches to our time. The teaching on leprosy is more about what’s going on inside a person.