Parashat Tzav (Command)
Leviticus 6:1-8:36 (English 6:8-8:36)
Haftarah: Jeremiah 7:21-8:30 & 9:22-23
In reading and writing this week’s Scripture commentary, I noticed a conflict that made me ask “Are we missing the point?”
In the parashah, we read of God’s instructions to Aaron and his sons regarding the burnt offering:
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Command Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the Torah (instructions) for the burnt offering: the burnt offering itself shall remain on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning, and the fire on the altar is to be kept burning on it. The priest is to put on his linen robe, and he shall put on linen undergarments next to his body; and he shall take up the fatty ashes to which the fire reduces the burnt offering on the altar and place them beside the altar. Then he shall take off his garments and put on other garments, and carry the fatty ashes outside the camp to a clean place. The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. It shall not go out, but the priest shall burn wood on it every morning; and he shall lay out the burnt offering on it, and offer up in smoke the fat portions of the peace offerings on it. Fire shall be kept burning continually on the altar; it is not to go out.”
Leviticus 6:1–6 (6:8–13 in the English Bible)
As we continue to read the entire parashah, we find more specific instructions regarding the offerings and sacrifices that God required.
Yet, in our Haftarah portion, we find some verses that may seem to contradict what was written in the Torah:
This is what the LORD of armies, the God of Israel says: “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat flesh. For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them on the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you shall walk entirely in the way which I command you, so that it may go well for you.’ Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked by their own advice and in the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and they went backward and not forward. Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all My servants the prophets, sending them daily, again and again. Yet they did not listen to Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck; they did more evil than their fathers.”
I personally do not believe that God would contradict Himself. So, how can we read these verses from Jeremiah and Leviticus? Why is that, in the parashah, we read that God requires offerings and sacrifices and in the Haftarah, we read that God says “For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them on the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices.” How could this be? Is it possible that we are missing the point of why God indented those sacrifices to be done?
I personally believe that the purpose behind the entire sacrificial system is, first and foremost, to point to the ultimate sacrifice of Yeshua our Messiah. The reason we even needed a sacrificial system in the first place is because God desires relationship with us, and sin keeps us from relationship; this is made clear in the first few chapters of the Bible. Sadly, offerings and sacrifices became a sort of idol in which the sacrificial act was more important than even God. The importance shifted from the heart to the doing, and as a result, sacrifices were offered without true submission to the LORD in their hearts.
God’s desire is for us to walk in His ways and be in relationship with Him; in my opinion, this ought to be our heart’s motivation if we truly understand what He has done for us. The reality is that we all do things in our lives that, while the intentions may be good, have become a replacement for true relationship with God. We are all guilty of this – even the most dedicated believers! I am reminded of what the Psalmist wrote:
You have not desired sacrifice and meal offering; You have opened my ears; You have not required burnt offering and sin offering. Then I said, “Behold, I have come; It is written of me in the scroll of the book. I delight to do Your will, my God; Your Torah (Instruction) is within my heart.”
Psalm 40:6–8 (emphasis mine)
I would like to encourage us to check our hearts and see that we are careful to do everything motivated by a desire to honor God and grow in our relationship with Him. Let us also be careful that our actions are not just empty religious rituals that are void of our hearts. Otherwise, we risk those things becoming idols — cheap replacements of real relationship with the LORD.
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