Weekly Torah Commentary – Emor April 27, 2018

Torah reading (in Israel): Leviticus 21 -24    (Overseas schedule one week behind)

Haftorah reading: Ezekiel 44: 15-31

worship

In its essence, Leviticus is a book about worship. In it, the requirements for acceptable worship are carefully detailed.. You will remember that the book opens with the tabernacle having been constructed and the glory cloud of the Lord having descended—but Moses was still on the outside of the tabernacle. After the anointing of the priesthood in chapter 8, the priests, as instructed in chapter 9, then offered their prescribed sacrifices and the tabernacle was opened for corporate worship.

Unfortunately, soon thereafter (chapter 10) two of Aaron’s sons offered an unauthorized sacrifice before the Lord and died in His presence—on the spot. Their dead bodies were transported by their tunics and they were cast outside the tabernacle.  There was still much for the Israelites to learn about holiness

God decreed that their eating habits were to be holy (chapter 11); their childbirth was to be regulated by God’s holy law (chapter 12); their personal and domestic hygiene was to be holy, as symbolized by the laws regarding leprosy (chapters 13—14) and those with reference to bodily discharges (chapter 15).

In chapter 16, the regulations for the yearly observance of the Day of Atonement were closely followed by instruction concerning the central place of the blood in acceptable worship (chapter 17). After all of this, in chapters 18-20, the Torah dealt other issues of practical, day-to-day holiness.

Clearly the central theme was God’s passion for His holiness and therefore His prescription that His people be holy. This is summed up in 19:2 with the words, “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.’”

The same mandate applies to every generation

This week’s reading In chapters 21—22 continues the theme by addressing the priesthood.

In chapter 21, we learn that the priests had to meet certain prescribed qualifications if they would be deemed holy enough to serve in the tabernacle. No exceptions were to be made. It was serious business to serve God’s sanctuary.

In chapter 22, further regulations are given concerning the quality of the sacrifices that the priests were to offer. The priests in other words were responsible for the kind of worship offered by those whom they represented.

The overall theme is that those ordained to lead God’s people were to display unquestioning loyalty to the Lord God alone. They were to be holy.

Leviticus calls for holiness on the part of the congregation, on the part of the priesthood, and on the part of the high priest. And with each call to holiness, the demands become stricter.

This should not surprise us since the closer one gets to the Lord the holier one must be. This is pictured for us in the tabernacle itself.

The courtyard was where the people in general would gather and they certainly had a code of holiness for which they were responsible. The priesthood then had greater demands for holiness placed upon them, for they were allowed access to the Holy Place. But the high priest had an even higher standard of holiness placed upon him, for he alone was allowed access, one day a year, beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies.

The children of Israel were to be different, and the priests of the children of Israel were to be especially different. Those with greater privilege had greater responsibility.

In Tune with Torah this week =  Let it not be said that these ancient words have no relevance to us for the scripture itself tells us that everything was written for our instruction.

First, leaders of God’s people today have the same responsibility to live in holiness.

Second, congregational members also have the responsibility to seek holiness for the admonition in last week’s Torah reading is clear: ‘You shall be holy as I am holy.’  That was spoken to the entire nation of Israel, not just the priests.

Third, the instructions to the priests provide a model of self-discipline which all of us need to apply to our lives.

Without discipline there is no holiness.  Without holiness, there is no godly congregation. Therefore the call to be holy as He is holy is at once personal and congregational.  As each of us grows in holiness, the entire community benefits.

Shabbat Shalom

 

 

 

Weekly Torah Commentary- April 20, 2018 Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Torah reading:  Leviticus 16-20

Haftorah reading: Amos 9:7-15

God has given us an explicit command regarding how He expects us to live.  It is a commandment found in this week’s Torah portion. Leviticus 11:44 and Leviticus 20:26 say: “You must be holy because I am holy.”

holiness2

You must be holy because God is holy…But what does it mean to be holy? What is holiness?

Let’s make it simple, shall we? Holiness is the fruit of a life wholly devoted to God and His purposes.

For some people, “holiness” is viewed as too difficult to achieve.

Depending on our upbringing and religious background, we can have legalistic notions of holiness or we can have moralistic notions of holiness. We can behave as if holiness is either outdated or something that only needs to effect a small part of our lives. Yet, God has commanded us “You must be holy because I am holy.”

When you think about being holy what comes into your mind? Thoughts of outmoded ways of dressing or the shunning of fashion and makeup? Or do you rather think in terms of morality, purity, integrity and commitment to a personal relationship with God?

What does really God expect of us?

The biblical idea of holiness, while it includes private morality, also means much, much more.  Holiness is about living the life God has planned and purposed for us. It is about living according to God’s standards and precepts, not by the world’s standards, not by our own standards, living by God’s standards. Holiness is not just for the advanced spiritually-elite.  The call to holiness is to everyone, regardless of status.

We are daily inundated with attitudes, principles and values that are diametrically opposed to the principles and values of the sacred Scriptures.  In order to successfully steer the direction and decisions of our life according to godly principles, we must know the Word of God and choose continually to live in accord with its teaching, which is the path to holiness.

Psalm 119 offers us tremendous wisdom in this regard.

You are only truly happy when you walk in total integrity, walking in the light of God’s Word. What joy overwhelms everyone who keeps the ways of God, those who seek Him as their heart’s passion.  (vs. 1-2)

God has prescribed the right way to live; obying His commandments with all our hearts. (vs. 4)

How can a young man stay pure? Only by living in the word of God and walking in its truth.  (vs. 9)

Give me revelation about the meaning of Your ways so I can enjoy the reward of following them fully. Give me an understanding heart so that I can passionately know and obey Your truth.  (vs. 33-34)

Truth’s shining light guides me in my choices and decisions; the revelation of Your Word makes my pathway clear. To live my life by Your righteous commands has been my holy and lifelong commitment.  (vs. 105-106)  All quotations from the Passion Translation.

Holiness is neither a scary calling, nor is it impossible.  Holiness is not an event but a journey which encompasses our entire life. It is a way of life marked by progress, not perfection.  It is a calling that picks us up after we’ve failed and draws us forward after we’ve been stagnant.

Holiness is simply this: living each day with the intent of pleasing our heavenly Father in our thoughts, words and deeds.

Andrew Murray of South Africa said it this way over a century ago: the greatest test of whether the holiness we profess to seek or to attain is truth and life will be whether it produces an increasing humility in us. In man, humility is the one thing needed to allow God’s holiness to dwell in him and shine through him. The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is lack of humility. The holiest will be the humblest.

Elizabeth Elliott: God is God. Because he is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to.

In Tune with Torah this week:  do you want to grow in holiness?  Well, then, consider this.
Let your thoughts, words and deeds by persistently God-like, determinedly holy, immovably honest, and passionately kind.

Shabbat Shalom
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For a few weeks at present, the Torah readings overseas are a week behind the Torah readings in Israel.  This post is following the Israeli schedule of Torah readings.