Displaying Holiness, A Conversation on the Book of Leviticus

Chapter 4

The Whole Burnt Offering – the Olah – that was made year after year redeemed humans from the general state of corruption[1]. It was a pattern of [2]the blood that Yeshua presented to the holy of holies before Yahweh in “heavenly places.[3]

Next Yahweh told Moses to speak to Israel and say that if a soul sinned through ignorance against any of the commandments of Yahweh concerning things which ought not to be done, they should bring a sacrifice according to his instructions. Since Yeshua ha Mashiach came and brought eternal redemption through his perfect blood we have a right to go directly to his throne[4]  and get his forgiveness. Our evil inclination lives side-by-side with our good inclination so Yeshua tells us in the Lord’s prayer to ask forgiveness for our trespasses – our disobediences to Yahweh’s commands – not for forgiveness for our corrupted nature, which we got when we put our faith in the finished work of Yeshua ha Mashiach – but to cleanse our conscience of our disobedient deeds.

Yahweh had told his people, “You shall have no other gods before me.” The Israelites had spent hundreds of years in Egypt, exposed to their many gods. It would have been easy to go to one of these “gods” out of habit and then remember that it was a sin against the living god, Yahweh. He had told them, “You shall not make idols,” but that was also an old habit that was hard to break. The next commandment is complicated. “You shall not take the name of Yahweh, your God, in vain,” covers a lot more than just saying his name flippantly. It is so easy to dishonor his name by living a false testimony of who he is before the world. It is easy for his people to invoke the name of Yahweh without giving him proper reverence. Yahweh told his people to remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. There is more to keeping the day holy to Yahweh than just not working on that day. A person can go through the whole day and then, when it is too late to rectify the sin, realize that the day had been void of any thought of Yahweh and his great power. He said, “Honor your father and your mother,” That sounds easy but we all know it’s not. We all have minds of our own – free will – and although we don’t set out to disgrace our parents, our desire to make up our own minds and make our own decisions can inadvertently humiliate our parents. When Yahweh’s people realized that they had not only hurt their parents but sinned against their God, they needed expiation to remove the guilt. If the meaning of murder, when Yahweh said, “You shall not murder,” is killing that is intestinally evil, that is one commandment that the Israelites couldn’t do ignorantly. However, we know that Yahweh forgives murder because he forgave David after he sent Bathsheba’s husband to the front lines so he would die and David repented. And we know that he forgave Saul and renamed him Paul. Yahweh also said, “You shall not commit adultery.” and I would think that adultery would always have to be an intentional sin, but I have heard both men and women tell their spouses that it just happened. Human emotions are such that adultery, stealing, bearing false witness (especially in gossip), and wanting something that doesn’t belong to one are all sins that caused guilt and remorse.

Paul said, “What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.” It is obvious that Yahweh’s command is necessary. But we need something more than the law because knowing the law doesn’t mean we can keep it. The power of sin within us keeps sabotaging our best intentions, as it did the Israelites who were first given the law. They could will it, but they couldn’t do it. Like Paul, they decided to do well, but didn’t really do it. They could decide not to live inappropriately, but then they did what was wrong anyway. Something was wrong deep within them and got the better of them every time. It happened so regularly that it was predictable. The moment they decided to do right, sin was there to trip them up. Although they truly delighted in Yahweh’s commands, not all of them joined in that delight. Parts of them covertly rebelled, and just when they least expected it, those parts took charge.[5]

Yahweh was preparing humans, through his chosen people, for the time when he would acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where we want to serve Yahweh with all our hearts and minds, but are pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. He did it by sacrificing Yeshua on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. Yahweh decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Yeshua, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now. It is current history. Yahweh sets things right, and makes it possible for us to live in his rightness[6].

The picture came first Until the time when we were mature enough to respond freely in faith to the living God, we were carefully surrounded and protected by the Mosaic Law. The law was like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for.”[7]

First Yahweh gave directions for the anointed priest who sinned through ignorance. When the priest sinned, because he represented the people before Yahweh, the people were guilty of that sin by association. Therefore his sin had to be taken care of by the sacrifice of a young bullock. They had a greater accountability before Yahweh and; therefore, had to pay a greater price. Of course the calf had to be without blemish because it would bring honor to Yahweh only if it were the best; but it was also a picture of Yeshua ha Mashiach – the perfect Son of Yahweh. The priest had to bring the animal and lay his own hands on it and sacrifice it before Yahweh to demonstrate the fact that he was identifying with the innocent animal that was dying in his stead.

The priest was to sprinkle some of the blood seven times – the number of completion and perfection – before the Lord, in front of the veil in the tabernacle of meeting, to the altar of incense, and to the altar of sacrifice outside the tabernacle. Because sin is an offense against the holiness of Yahweh the veil guarding the chest of his presence and the atonement cover had to be sprinkled with the sacrificial blood. The altar of incense that represented the prayers of Yahweh’s people and the altar of the Burnt Offering which was the place of atonement both were also sprinkled with the blood of the sacrifice to purify them. “Almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.[8]” The priest had to dip his own finger in the blood and sprinkle it himself. His correlation with the blood of the sacrifice and its representation was a necessary psychological step for him to see his sin being washed away by the blood of the sacrifice. When Paul told the Galatians that he had been crucified with Christ and it was no longer he who lived, but Christ who lived in him and the life he lived in the flesh he live by faith in the Son of Yahweh, who loved him and gave himself for him[9], he was applying the principle introduced by Yahweh with the donor’s intimate association with the blood of his sacrifice.

After the blood covered the sin, the best – the fat – was given in the fire to Yahweh. Nothing but the best is worthy of his love and mercy. He is worthy of the best that we have to give.

Every other part of the priest’s sacrifice was to be burned outside of the camp – totally consumed by fire to emphasize the fact that there is no benefit to sin.

Next the rules for the whole congregation of Israel sinning were made clear. They were to bring a young bullock and the elders were to lay their hands – representing the congregation – on its head while it was butchered “before Yahweh.”

The anointed priest was to take the blood to the tabernacle of the congregation and repeat the ceremony of sprinkling seven times before the vail that separated the holy place from the holy of holies where the chest with the law covered with the “mercy seat” represented the presence of Yahweh. He sprinkled the blood with his finger representing the whole congregation identifying with their sin substitute sanctifying the veil, the altar of incense, and the altar of Burnt Offering respectively. After that the priest was to burn the fat. This made atonement for the people and their sin was forgiven.

The priest was to carry the remainder of the animal outside the camp and burn it. Even a ruler could discover that something he/she had done was a sin against Yahweh so his God made provision for him to be forgiven. He was to bring a kid of the goats, a male without blemish. The whole nation of Israel supplied the bullocks for the priest’s and the congregation’s sacrifices. The leader would have to supply his own so it would have to be within his means.

Sheep and goats were tamed very early in the Near East. The flock could be composed of either sheep or goats or of both together. In Hebrew life the flocks of sheep and goats had many uses. Both animals were a source of milk, meat, and fabrics. The sheep provided wool for garments to keep out chilly nights and windy days. The goat provided bottles in which to store liquids. These and other commodities taken from the flock were so important to early Hebrew pastoral economy that to have a large flock of sheep and goats was a sign of wealth[10].

He identified himself with the sacrifice by laying his hands on it as it was being butchered – an innocent substituted giving his life for the sinner.

The priest was to take some of the blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar, and then he was to pour the rest at the bottom of the altar and burn the fat on the altar making atonement for the leader’s sin.

The next instructions were for the common people who sinned inadvertently. The person whose sin had been made apparent to him/her was to bring a female goat or lamb to sacrifice as his or her sin substitute.

The sinner would lay hands on the head of the goat or lamb as it was being butchered in order to identify with the one who was paying the price for his or her imperfection.

The priest was to take the blood with his finger – identifying himself with the sinner – and put some of it on the horns of the altar of Burnt Offering, and pour the rest of it at the bottom of the altar.

The fat was to be burned on the altar as a sweet smelling aroma to Yahweh. In that way, guilt was removed, atonement was made, and the sinner was forgiven.

So that the reader would meditate on the information, the narrator repeated the instructions for the common person. He gave detailed instructions once for a goat and again for a lamb. Both were to be females without blemish.

Summary of chapter 4

Human nature has an ingrained need to get rid of guilt from the emotions associated with the realization that our actions don’t reach the height of perfection. David asked Yahweh to wash him thoroughly from his iniquity, and cleanse him from his sin[11]. He also said, “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.[12] Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.[13]

It is important to our God, Yahweh, that the human race he created “in his own image” reflect his glory in his world. He said, “I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned against Me and by which they have transgressed against Me[14]. They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be my people, and I will be their God[15].

So Yahweh told Moses to tell Israel how they could get rid of their guilt by the death of a substitute. It not only showed the people how serious sin is, but it was a symbol of what would come later when Yahweh sent his Son and “he … gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.[16] He is the radiance of [Yahweh’s] glory and the exact representation of [Yahweh’s] nature, and upholds all things by the word of his power. When he had made purification of sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.[17] … “How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?[18]” “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.[19]

The priest and the congregation were each instructed to bring a bull without defect as an Absolution Offering. They were told to lay their hands on the bull’s head in the presence of Yahweh and slaughter it before Yahweh.The priest was told to take some of the bull’s blood and take it into the Tent of Meeting. He was instructed to dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle some of it seven times before Yahweh – before the curtain of to the holy of holies. And then he was to smear some of the blood on the horns of the altar of incense, and pour the rest of the bull’s blood out at the base of the altar of whole-burnt-offering at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Next he was instructed to remove all the fat from the bull of the Absolution Offering, the fat which covers and is connected to the entrails, the two kidneys and the fat that is around them at the loins, and the lobe of the liver which he takes out along with the kidneys—the same procedure as when the fat is removed from the bull of the peace-offering. He was to burn all this on the altar of Burnt Offering. Everything else—the bull’s hide, meat, head, legs, organs, and guts Yahweh told him to take outside the camp to a clean place where the ashes were dumped and burn it on a wood fire.

The instructions for the ruler and an ordinary member of the congregation differ in that the blood was to be smeared on the horns of the altar only and then poured at the base of the altar. The leader was to bring a male goat with no defects and the ordinary member of the congregation was to bring either a female sheep or a female goat without defect. Otherwise the instructions were the same for the priest, the congregation, the ruler, and the ordinary member of the congregation. This was the way the priest made atonement for the sinner and he/she was forgiven.

Prayer: Generous in love – Yahweh, give grace! Huge in mercy – wipe out my bad record. Scrub away my guilt; soak out my sins. I know how bad I’ve been; my sins are staring me down. You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen it all, seen the full extent of my evil. What you’re after is truth from the inside out. Yahweh, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile; put a fresh wind in my sails! Commute my death sentence, Yahweh, my salvation God, and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways. Unbutton my lips, dear God; I’ll let loose with your praise. Going through the motions doesn’t please you; a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned Yahweh-worship when my pride was shattered. Lord, if I sin without knowing what I’m doing, you take that into account. But if I sin knowing full well what I’m doing, that’s a different story entirely. Merely hearing your law is a waste of time if I don’t do what you command. Doing, not hearing, is what makes the difference with you. When outsiders who have never heard of your law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that your law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within all of us that echoes your words of right and wrong. Their response to your words will become public knowledge on the day you make your final decision about every man and woman. By entering through faith into what you have always wanted to do for us—set us right with you and, make us fit for you—we have it all together with you because of our Master Yeshua. And what’s more, when we throw open our doors to you and discover at the same moment that you have already thrown open your door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of your grace and glory, standing tall and shouting your praise[20].

 

Things to think about

  1. What do you think blood has to do with the forgiveness of sins?
  2. Why do you think Yahweh used animal sacrifice to teach his people that sin is serious?
  3. Why do you think I interchange the word “sin” with the word “corruption” in my writing?
  4. Why do you think humans have a desire to have their sins forgiven?
  5. Why do you think it is so important to our Creator, Yahweh, to forgive our sins?
  6. What were all the sacrifices a picture of?
  7. Why couldn’t Yahweh just send his Son to die at the beginning instead of using all those sacrifices first?
  8. Can you relate to Paul’s desires and failures?
  9. Why do you think so many churches have a time each “Lord’s Day” for the congregation to say “The Lord’s Prayer” and say “forgive us our trespassed as we forgive those who trespass against us” when the blood of Yeshua ha Mashiach cleanses us from all sin?
  10. Why do you think the narrator repeated the details of each offering so many times?
  11. When you meditate on these sacrifices, what does the Holy Spirit of Yahweh say to you about himself?
  12. What does the Spirit of Yahweh say to you about his instruction to always give the fat to him by burning it in the fire and always drain all the blood out of the animal? When a victim of an accident or homicide “bleeds out” do the first responders ever try resuscitation? Why?
  13. Why do you think the animals for the sacrifices that Yahweh required of the priest and the congregation and the methods were different from the requirements for the rulers and the individuals?
  14. Why do you think the animals for individuals were females?
  15. What two reasons for the requirement for the animals to be ideal specimens do your meditations reveal?

 

 

[1] Romans 3:23

[2] Hebrews 9:23-26

[3] Ephesians 2:6

[4] Hebrews 4:16

[5] Romans 7: 15-25

[6] From Romans 3:25, 26

[7] Galatians 3:23, 24

[8] Hebrews 9:22; Leviticus 17″11

[9] Galatians 2:20

[10] From http://www.andreascenter.org/Articles/Sheep%20and%20Goats.htm

[11] Psalm 51:2

[12] Psalm 51:7

[13] Psalm 51:10

[14] Psalm 51:10

[15] Ezekiel 37:23

[16] Titus 2:14

[17] Hebrews 1:3

[18] Hebrews 9:14

[19] 1 John 1:9

[20] Taken from Isaiah 51 and Romans 3-5

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