Chosen for What?

Parashat Emor (Say)
Vayikra (Leviticus) 21:1-24:3
Haftarah: Ezekiel 44:15-31

The Jewish people are often called God’s “chosen people”. This begs the question, “For what have we been chosen?” The answer: To reveal the God of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob to the nations through the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua. We are called to be a light to the nations and the only way we can truly do that is through Him.

In Leviticus 20:26, God instructs Israel to be set apart for Him, “So you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have singled you out from the peoples to be Mine.” To be called God’s people is a great privilege that comes with a great responsibility. We are called to represent Him on this earth. Yeshua told us in Matthew 5:16: “Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” And Rav Shaul (the Apostle Paul) also wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:20a: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Messiah…”

After God’s call to Israel as a people, we find a specific call to the sons of Aaron, who became the Levitical priests: “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them…” (Leviticus 21:1a). It then continues to describe the specific commands which God gave to the priests, which we may find to be much more strict than those which were given to the entire congregation of Israel. Indeed, they were more strict because of a few reasons:

  • They were called to a higher level of holiness because they were closer to God’s holiness.
  • The priests represent the people before God on one side, and God before the people on the other.
  • They were to set an example of leadership, as people looked up to them and, therefore, were called to higher standards.
  • They were to be a reflection of the highest Priest, Yeshua, who was to come.

At the end of these instructions, we find three key verses that show why the priests' job was so important, not just for God, but also because of the people they served: 

"And you shall keep My commandments and do them; I am the LORD. And you shall not desecrate My holy name, but I will be sanctified among the sons of Israel; I am the LORD who sanctifies you, who brought you out from the land of Egypt, to be your God; I am the LORD.”
Leviticus 22:31–33

In the Haftarah portion from Ezekiel 44:15–31, we find some amazing parallels to the instructions from Leviticus 21 and 22. As we read Ezekiel 44:15–31, we find that the priests were to keep and guard God’s holiness even when the people went astray:

"But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept the charge for My sanctuary when the sons of Israel went astray from Me, shall come near to Me to serve Me; and they shall stand before Me to offer Me the fat and the blood,” declares the Lord GOD. “They shall enter My sanctuary; they shall come near to My table to serve Me and guard the charge I give them.”
Ezekiel 44:15–16

We can see from both the Parashah and Haftarah that God holds those who lead His people to a higher standard. He requires leaders to set an example for the people by the way they live their lives. It is hard to encourage others to live a certain lifestyle when you, yourself, do not. 

In addition to living by a higher standard, God also requires the priests to instruct the people in defining the difference between that which is holy/pure and that which is common/impure:

Moreover, they shall instruct My people the difference between the holy and the common and teach them to distinguish between the impure and the pure.”
Ezekiel 44:23

As you read this commentary, you may wonder, “What does this have to do with me? Those instructions were given specifically to Israel and more specifically to the priests.” Yet, I believe the principle of responsibility applies to us all. We are not disciples of Messiah for ourselves; we have been given a great task to be His ambassadors to the world. At times, I feel like many of us focus more on the privilege of belonging to Him than on the responsibility. Peter exhorts us to keep sight of the responsibility that we have as disciples of Messiah:

“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, and like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by people, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Messiah Yeshua. For this is contained in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a choice stone, a precious cornerstone, And the one who believes in Him will not be put to shame.” This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for unbelievers, “A stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief cornerstone,” and, “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this they were also appointed. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…”
2 Peter 2:1-9

Just as the priests were called to a higher calling, so are we His followers, especially “if we tasted the kindness of the Lord.” 

I would like to leave you with four reasons that I wrote above regarding the jobs of the priests, only that they are personal for each one of us:

  • We were called to a higher level of holiness because we are closer to God’s holiness and have tasted His grace.
  • We are called to intercede on behalf of the people before God on one side and be God’s ambassadors before the people on the other.
  • As people look to us His followers to be an example, we are called the highest standards of integrity, love, compassion, and honesty.
  • We are to reflect the highest Priest, Yeshua, who is to come.

Shabbat Shalom,

Check out previous blogs on this parashah!

Did you know? — Lone Soldier

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