Leviticus. Temple Service. Priesthood.
These are some of the topics we begin to dive into as we enter the book of Leviticus. For much of the book of Leviticus, we can very easily feel disconnected from what we read. This is very understandable due to the fact that we haven’t had an active temple service for nearly two thousand years! Let’s put that into perspective. We are talking about a practice that nobody has seen since before Genghis Khan, Muhammad, the Ottoman Empire, the formation of Great Britain, the building of the Colosseum, the end of the Mayans and Aztecs, the Bubonic Plague, etc. That is pretty hard to wrap our minds around. Since then, there have still been billions people around the world following the God of Israel, reading the Bible, and pursuing a life of righteousness to God. So, why do we even look at Leviticus and the temple service?
The book of Leviticus and this week’s portion open up like this, “Now the Lord called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: “When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of the livestock—of the herd and of the flock…”’” - Leviticus 1:1-2
The portion then continues with describing all the various types of offerings one could bring and reasons they would come to offer at the tabernacle. If we take a close look at what is happening, we will see that these chapters are about far more than the rituals of the temple service. They actually teach us quite a lot about God’s heart and our relationship to him. I want to look at one specific point that stands out to me.
There are a couple important Hebrew words used in this portion that reveal to us what I believe is the deeper meaning, “Vayikra” and “Korban.” Vayikra is the first word of the portion and is literally translated as “He called.” However, this word for “called” actually has the connotation of calling together for a meeting or an assembly. It suggests calling to someone with the expectation that they will come near. Which perfectly fits with the next word “Korban.” Korban is the Hebrew word translated as “sacrifice” or “offering.” Interestingly enough, this word also has the connotation of coming close or drawing near. It comes from the word “Karov” which literally means close or near.
So why is this relevant and what on earth does this have to do with Yeshua? It is more relevant than you’d think. This teaches us about how God desires us to approach the subject of sin and guilt. You see, this portion teaches us that our response to sin, guilt, and shame should be to come near to Him, to His house. He tells us that we should draw near to Him, through the service of the priesthood, to find our forgiveness, our solution, our cleanness, our joy, our comfort, and much more! Sadly, the enemy teaches us the exact opposite. Often times he’ll even deceive through religion saying, “You can’t approach God like THAT! He knows what you’ve done. You should be ashamed.” The enemy will convince us that our response to sin and guilt should be to hide or run from God rather than to run to Him. We see this very reaction with Adam and Eve in the garden. When they sinned, they hid. God, however, says, “No. Come close to Me. I will will cover your nakedness.”
If you were sick and in need of serious medical attention, you wouldn’t hide from doctors. If you were starving and in desperate need of food, you wouldn’t turn away from restaurants and kitchens. It’s the same with God. When we are sick with our sins and covered in shame, we should run to our one and only solution and not away from Him. We do this the same way that they did it in the tabernacle. We come to the functioning priest. Praise God that we have Yeshua, the great High Priest seated at the right hand of God who can bring us healing, forgiveness, and joy!
There is a beautiful verse in the gospel of John that I believe is very fitting for the theme of this portion. It shows us that God’s true desire is our healing, our forgivenss, and our restoration, not that we should be too ashamed and afraid to come to the one and only solution to our ever growing problem. John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
So remember, just as the portion is named “Vayikra,” that He is still calling you today to come to His Anointed One, Yeshua, to receive cleansing and reconciliation.