There is something I believe to be completely necessary and revolutionary for one’s personal faith in God and view of the scripture. That is the fact that God is much more in pursuit of man than man is in pursuit of God. God is not solely a righteous judge waiting to render judgment on a sinful world. Rather, He is a loving Father Who desires to see us live, prosper, succeed, and have the most fulfilled and abundant life imaginable. He is on our side! Pause and let that sink in. Often we can view God as an intimidating teacher-like figure waiting to grade our “test” of life; looking forward to marking every mistake possible and rendering to us the grade due. However, I’ve found that God is actually more like the gracious, loving parent who is giving you quizzes and worksheets, staying up late helping you study, and tutoring you in every area needed. He goes out of His way to help you and I succeed in this “test” of life! The scriptures testify to this when they say,
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” -- 2 Peter 3:9
“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.” -- John 3:16-17
“Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Yeshua Messiah, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Messiah reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Messiah, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Messiah’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” -- 2 Corinthians 5:18-21
This theme is a key one that will shape how we view the scriptures as a whole. Especially as we journey through the book of Leviticus.
Over the last several Torah portions we have covered topics like leprosy, body fluids, sexual impurities, ritual impurity, dietary instructions, and a whole chapter of what might be the most random assortment of instructions in the entire Bible. This week, however, I believe we catch a glimpse of God’s heart behind the book of Leviticus as we come to chapter twenty-three. We read the following.
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: “The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts.”’” -- Leviticus 23:1-2
In this chapter, God gives us a list of special times in which He desires to meet with us at His tabernacle. Times in which we pause all other priorities of life and immerse ourselves in His word, worship, and presence. We learn that all of these commandments of holiness are not solely for the sake of being different and separated from the rest of the world, but that they allow us to be cleansed of anything that would keep us from being near to Him. He has so beautifully made a way through all of our evil, sins, and uncleanness to once again have fellowship and intimacy with Him. These commandments are not a form of legalistic, religious ritual, but the evidence of a God who so desperately desires to see us redeemed, whole, cleansed from sin, and one with Him.
Yeshua reveals this truth further in His most famous prayer, where He prays the following.
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” -- John 17:20-23
So let this be our motivation. God’s radical, transformative love. Let our obedience, our walk, our reading, our searching, our prayer, our midrash, our worship, and every single aspect of our faith be aimed at the heart of this week’s portion, the heart of Leviticus, the heart of God. That God’s mission is to have us as His own. That we would dwell in His perfect, holy presence in unending life. Let us love Him because He first loved us. I believe this is what gives us the most meaning in our continual transformation as believers; that we might be like Him.
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” -- 1 John 3:1-3