Developing the Theme of Family through the Torah Portions. Number Twenty-Five.

Dr Clifford Denton.

Tsav: Leviticus 6:8-8:36.

30th March 2024/20 Adar2.

Also, Moses took the anointing oil, and anointed the tabernacle

and all that was in it, and consecrated them (Leviticus 8:10)

Picture by Helen McNeill

Many Christians have been brought up to consider the Old Testament and the New Testament as two separate books. This is not spoken about, so much as imbibed by the traditional way we use our Bibles in Church and at home. There are a number of ways we can test if this is so.

For example, how do we respond to the Gospels, where Jesus brought in the New Covenant through His sacrifice on the Cross? Do we largely consider this as disconnected from the sacrifices of the Old Covenant? We may cross-reference from Leviticus to the Gospels to some extent, but how deeply do we study the continuity? We might consider what we read in Leviticus as rather hard going and choose other preferred passages of the Old Testament to read – if we read the Old Testament much at all.

Also, why on many of our evangelical outreaches, do Church fellowships give only the New Testament to new believers, or even just one of the Gospel accounts, or a tract with just brief extracts from the Scriptures?

Furthermore, if we do take the writings of the Old Testament as important, are we likely to make naïve assumptions from what we read? For example, there have been those who have focussed healing ministries on Leviticus 8:23, anointing a person with oil on their ear, thumb, and toe, as if it was a God-given formula for healing, rather than a matter to be studied and understood in context.

So how do we ensure that we read Scripture, such as in our portion this week, so that we ourselves become mature in understanding, and so also become qualified to teach the next generation?

We must read the passages carefully and in a prayerful manner. We must also first read in relation to the context that they were given. Israel built the Tabernacle. They set it up as the place to make sacrifice. The Priests alone were able to enter into the presence of God on behalf of the people. What they did is unrepeatable but does not lose its significance for Israel or for the Christian Church. Whilst it is not possible, nor necessary, for us to replicate this, which makes it harder for us to interpret the various requirements into our own life, we must not pass it by or take it lightly.

For Israel, it was in the doing that these things were made meaningful. This is God’s way of teaching: through involvement – this is what it is to be Hebraic. By bringing the various offerings, obeying the rituals of slaughter and sacrifice, burning the appointed parts of the animal and the Priests taking their share, understanding would be imparted. Imagine, for example, a person who realised that he had committed sin, who knew that he had to take an animal, one of the best of the flock to the Priest. The very act of doing this would show him the cost of sin, the love of God in that He could be forgiven, but that he escaped the penalty of death only because an innocent animal became his substitute. Imagine also, the Priest who ate a portion of the offering, gaining his own sustenance for life from imbibing the food from the animal whose death was the consequence of sin. The responsibility for interceding for the sinner would be a part of his inner being.

Careful, meditative, and prayerful study of these passages from Scripture will help us to form the basis of our own understanding of our need. Moses anointed every part of the Tabernacle, setting it aside for its God-ordained special purpose. The entire relationship between man and God was shown to be most holy and privileged. It is so holy as to make those who read about it tremble. Until this is so, one should not move on from these Scriptures. It is an error to take them lightly as applicable to a past generation but not ours. These were the requirements of the Highest God, maker of Heaven and earth. There is no other way than His way.

The ordinances of the Tabernacle later became the ordinances of the Temple built by Solomon, rebuilt by Zerubbabel, adorned by Herod and later destroyed in 70 AD. If the Temple stood today, the Jews would continue the same ordinances. But the Temple is not standing today!

What does this mean to observant Jews before they know Yeshua as Messiah? They mourn the loss of the Temple because they cannot bring their offerings as at the time of Moses. They have replaced sacrifice by prayer. See for example:

How Does Prayer Replicate Sacrifices? –

From which we quote:

The Talmud says that “prayers were instituted based on the daily offerings sacrificed in the Holy Temple.” Since there is no Temple or altar or sacrifices today, the sages established daily prayer instead. But what is the connection between animals being burned on the altar and saying words of prayer? Obviously, the content and inner meaning of the sacrifices are parallel to the content and inner meaning of prayer.

The article goes on to draw parallels between sacrifice and prayer. Should this be the position of Christians? Rabbinical Jews continue to take seriously the inner meaning of the sacrifice of animals and seek to internalise the meaning so that prayer is the result. But what about us?

We can at least take more seriously the purpose of prayer in approaching God for any of the reasons that resulted in the sacrifice of animals. Yet, this is not sufficient. The Temple was not removed from Jerusalem to be replaced by prayer alone. We learn from other aspects of Bible study that animal sacrifices were not sufficient to account for the sinful nature of mankind.

Once we have studied, taken seriously and understood the foundations of our faith on which the sacrificial system is to be built, we can then go to the New Testament to understand more deeply the continuity of God’s purposes and the magnitude of Yeshua’s sacrifice for us. He became the new and living way to the Father. His sacrifice contained all the elements of the sacrificial system at the time of Moses, which we discover by careful study. There is now no other way. Ritual prayer is not sufficient, only faith in our Saviour and His substitution for us on the altar, which was the Cross at Calvary.

Our portion from Leviticus cross references us to the Gospels and, for clear exposition of what Yeshua has done, to the Epistle to the Hebrews.

These are matters to study over and over throughout our lifetime. They are best studied in our own homes as our daily bread: then we must find a way to pass what we learn more deeply on to our children and our children’s children.

It is Easter for most Christians this weekend and it will be Passover towards the end of April. This is the season where we would do well to go deeper into these most fundamentally precious and holy matters, studying them in our homes and discussing them together as a family, even as families have done since the first Passover.

(Note on Helen’s illustration. This illustration combines the two images – the anointing in Vayikra and the foreshadowing of this moment generations later according to the oath God swore to David that there would always be a King from the House of David on the Throne of Israel – Yeshua is now anointed for his position as King and High Priest forever in the line of Melchizedek.)