Parashat Emor (Say)
Vayikra (Leviticus) 21:1–24:3
The Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) have a great deal to say about cleanliness. Nothing unclean could come before God, because He is holy. As I was reading this week’s Parasha (Scripture portion), two specific instances caught my attention because they connect to Messiah’s ministry of cleansing while He was on the earth:
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron, saying, ‘No man of your offspring throughout their generations who has a defect shall approach to offer the bread of his God. ‘For no one who has a defect shall approach: a blind man, or a lame man, or he who has a disfigured face, or any deformed limb, or a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf, or one who has a defect in his eye or eczema or scabs or crushed testicles. ‘No man among the descendants of Aaron the priest, who has a defect, is to come near to offer the LORD’s offerings by fire; since he has a defect, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. ‘He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy, only he shall not go in to the veil or come near the altar because he has a defect, that he may not profane My sanctuaries. For I am the LORD who sanctifies them.’” So Moses spoke to Aaron and to his sons and to all the sons of Israel.
In light of these above verses, it’s quite astonishing that Yeshua reached out and healed those who, on the outside, had some type of a “defect”; He healed the blind, the leper, the lame, etc. While the restriction was specifically against the Priests, there is an important spiritual principal at work here. Yeshua healed people so that they could be clean and made whole before God the Father. He makes us all worthy of coming before a holy God to offer our lives as a sacrifice.
It is also interesting that an animal with any defect could not be offered to God as a sacrifice:
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and to his sons and to all the sons of Israel, and say to them, ‘Any man of the house of Israel or of the aliens in Israel who presents his offering, whether it is any of their votive or any of their freewill offerings, which they present to the LORD for a burnt offering —for you to be accepted — it must be a male without defect from the cattle, the sheep, or the goats. Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it will not be accepted for you. And when a man offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD to fulfill a special vow, or for a freewill offering, of the herd or of the flock, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it. Those that are blind or fractured or maimed or having a running sore or eczema or scabs, you shall not offer to the LORD, nor make of them an offering by fire on the altar to the LORD. In respect to an ox or a lamb which has an overgrown or stunted member, you may present it for a freewill offering, but for a vow it shall not be accepted. Also anything with its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut, you shall not offer to the LORD, or sacrifice in your land, nor shall you accept any such from the hand of a foreigner for offering as the food of your God; for their corruption is in them, they have a defect, they shall not be accepted for you.’”
When reading the above scriptures, I am reminded of a well-known story from the book of John, chapter 5:
After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Yeshua went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, [waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.] And a certain man was there, who had been thirty-eight years in his sickness. When Yeshua saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” Yeshua said to him, “Arise, take up your pallet, and walk.” And immediately the man became well, and took up his pallet and began to walk.
Yeshua went up to Jerusalem since this was one of the appointed times to offer sacrifices before the LORD. The account tells us of the pool of Bethesda, which in Hebrew means “the house of grace”, and was located near the Sheep Gate. The location of the pool is significant because sheep and goats were offered as sacrifices, so there is a connection between the cleansing pool and the sacrifice. And, as we read before, if the animals had any defect, they could not be offered as a sacrifice.
Yeshua came to this specific place to perform an amazing miracle of healing a man who was lame for 38 years. This man could not physically go and offer sacrifices, and was anyway forbidden from entering the sanctuary. The fact that Yeshua had compassion on him and chose to heal him shows His heart for making a person worthy before God Almighty.
Yeshua’s blood cleanses and heals us so that we may be worthy to come before the Almighty! As our High Priest, He is constantly interceding on our behalf, and presenting our lives as a sacrifice to the Father. I am so grateful for His sacrifice and His work on my behalf. I hope you are too!