Motivated by Gratitude & Love

Parashat Vayikra (And He Called)
Vayikra (Leviticus) 1:1–5:26
Haftarah: Isaiah 43:21–44:23

This week, we begin reading from the Book of Leviticus.

In our Parashah this week, we find the instructions that God gave to Moses, which were intended for the children of Israel. These instructions are in relation to different types of sacrifices that the children of Israel were to make in order to approach God and receive temporary forgiveness of sin. The sacrifices are divided into the more voluntary types such as burnt (Leviticus 1), grain (Leviticus 2), and peace offerings (Leviticus 3), and the required types such as sin and guilt offerings (Leviticus 4 & 5).  As we will continue to read the entire book of Leviticus, we will find even more fine details of God’s requirements, which makes me wonder, "How can anyone meet these requirments in the way God desires them to be met?"

In the Haftarah portion we read:

Yet you have not called on Me, Jacob; but you have become weary of Me, Israel. You have not brought to Me the sheep of your burnt offerings, nor have you honored Me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings, nor wearied you with incense. You have not bought Me sweet cane with money, nor have you satisfied Me with the fat of your sacrifices; rather, you have burdened Me with your sins, you have wearied Me with your wrongdoings.
Isaiah 43:22–24

In the above passage from Isaiah, we learn that Israel failed to honor God with their sacrifices. Not only that, but we also read of a very sad reality regarding the fact that Israel has “burdened” God with their sins. I believe these are strong words which show not only God’s deep love for us, but also how burdensome our sins are to Him.

While these verses do not speak to why Israel failed to make the sacrifices, I believe the people of Israel simply refused to honor God out of selfishness, rather than honor Him with a pure heart.

As I continued to read, I found a tension between God’s requirement from Israel and His ultimate work:

I, I alone, am the one who wipes out your evil doings (crimes) for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.
Isaiah 43:25

It seems that there is a tension between God’s requirement for us to live in obedience and the fact that we simply cannot live our entire lives in accordance to His commands. This does not mean that God contradicts Himself. In effect, it shows us (and reminds us) that because we cannot do everything He called us to, we are in need of His work of redemption. Yet, we should be careful to not take this as license to sin. It is actually the opposite! Since He is the only one who can redeem us and wipe away our sins, we ought to have a greater desire to honor Him in all that we do, motivated by deep gratitude and love.

I would like to close with a beautiful passage from Isaiah 44:1-3:

But now listen, Jacob, My servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen: This is what the LORD says, He who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you: ‘Do not fear, Jacob My servant, and Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants...

The term “Jeshurun” is yet another reference for Israel, which contains the root in Hebrew "ישר" which means to go straight.  This could be read as a call for Israel to walk straight in the ways of the LORD and, as we read, God promises to pour out His Holy Spirit on Israel’s offspring. When we connect everything together, it is only after one accepts the sacrifice that God has provided that one can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives, who will guide him or her to walk straight in the ways of the LORD.

I don’t about you, dear reader, but I sure am grateful that He gives me the grace I need to walk straight in His ways!

Shabbat Shalom,

Check out previous blogs on this parashah!

Did you know? — Lone Soldier

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