Parashat Tetzaveh (You Shall Command)
Shemot (Exodus) 27:20-30:10
Haftarah: Ezekiel 43:10-27
Our Parasha this week is a direct continuation of last week's Parashat Terumah, which spoke of the building and dedication of God’s dwelling place. This week, we read of the detailed dedication of the priests in their service to God. Chapter 28 describes in detail the priests' holy clothing, which is a fascinating study in itself, and chapter 29 describes the actual process of the priests' dedication.
In chapter 29, we find a very bloody description of the process of the priests' dedication. I believe this is important for us to understand because it says something about God's character, and how central sacrifice — especially, the shedding of blood — is for the atonement of sin. We also see how important it is for the priests to be dedicated to do their service in a way that is holy and pleasing to God:
So you shall do for Aaron and for his sons, according to all that I have commanded you; you shall ordain them for seven days. Each day you shall offer a bull as a sin offering for atonement, and you shall purify the altar when you make atonement for it, and you shall anoint it to consecrate it. For seven days you shall make atonement for the altar and consecrate it; then the altar shall be most holy, and whatever touches the altar shall be holy.
Perhaps you've heard the saying, "God is in the details." I believe we see this clearly in this passage of Scripture! Everything God commanded was to be done exactly as He commanded, because if not, the priests could not do their all-important service. Even the exact detail of the number of days (7) in which the sacrifices were to be made is significant; seven represents holiness and rest, and emphasizes the importance of our relationship with God, where we take time to be with Him and rest in Him on the Sabbath day.
In our Haftarah portion, we read of the description of God’s house, its laws and the laws of the altar, which is interestingly given to the prophet Ezekiel in a vision:
And He said to me, “Son of man, this is what the Lord GOD says: ‘These are the statutes for the altar on the day it is built, to offer burnt offerings on it and to sprinkle blood on it. You shall give to the Levitical priests who are from the descendants of Zadok, who come near to Me to serve Me,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘a bull as a sin offering. And you shall take some of its blood and put it on its four horns and on the four corners of the ledge, and on the border all around; so you shall cleanse it and make atonement for it. You shall also take the bull as the sin offering, and it shall be burned in the appointed place of the house, outside the sanctuary.
‘And on the second day you shall offer a male goat without blemish as a sin offering, and they shall cleanse the altar from sin as they cleansed it with the bull. When you have finished cleansing it, you shall offer a bull without blemish and a ram without blemish from the flock. You shall offer them before the LORD, and the priests shall throw salt on them, and they shall offer them up as a burnt offering to the LORD. For seven days you shall prepare a goat as a sin offering daily; also a bull and a ram from the flock, both without blemish, shall be prepared.For seven days they shall make atonement for the altar and purify it; so shall they consecrate it. When they have completed the days, it shall be that on the eighth day and onward, the priests shall offer your burnt offerings on the altar, and your peace offerings; and I will accept you,’ declares the Lord GOD."
The words "…I will accept you" are key. It is important for us to understand that all of the above points are there in order for us to be accepted by God. You may agree or disagree, but the fact was, is, and will always be, that in order for one to be accepted by God, one must do so in accordance with His standards. In other words, we come to God on His terms — He does not come to us on ours.
As I write this, I reflect on the incredible parallel between the dedication of the priests, the required sacrifice, and Messiah Yeshua's atonement for our sins. How important is it for us to truly understand the sacrifice, the blood, and other elements which were fulfilled in Messiah? It is very important. Once we understand them, we can serve God in a way that is holy and pleasing to Him because it is in accordance to His precepts.
The reference to the sacrificial system in both Exodus and Ezekiel, and in particular, the "sprinkling of the blood" reminds us that without the shedding of blood there is no atonement for sin (Leviticus 17:11). The writer to the Hebrews makes a direct connection between Yeshua's sacrifice and forgiveness of sin in accordance to God's exact requirements when he writes:
And in the same way he sprinkled both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry with the blood. And almost all things are cleansed with blood, according to the Torah, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
In addition, the remains of the bull whose blood was used for a sin sacrifice were burnt outside the camp directly connects to the work of our Messiah, who was executed outside the city walls of Jerusalem (John 19:20):
For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the Holy Place by the high priest as an offering for sin are burned outside the camp.”
These are just two examples of the way Yeshua's atonement for our sin followed God's strict requirements set out in the Hebrew Scriptures (the Tanach). There are more, and I encourage you to read the entire book of Hebrews, as it shows the amazing connections even more clearly!
In closing, my dear brothers and sisters, just like in the days of old, so it is today — God does not change and neither do His statutes. The good news is that we do not have to do it alone! He has given us everything we need in order to abide by His instructions to live holy lives pleasing to Him. By His Spirit and in His grace, we can do all things.
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