Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #25: Tzav (Give and order) Vayikra (Leviticus) 6:1(8)-8:36
Haftarah: Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah) 7:21-8:3; 9:22-23
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Corinthians 10:14-23; Mark 12:28-34; Romans 12:1-2
This week we are going to concentrate on the relationship between the parashah and the B’rit Chadashah a little more than usual to emphasize the applicability of the sacrifices beyond the Tanakh and into the time of Yahshua, the present, and beyond.
YHVH elaborates on the sacrifices in the previous parashah but adds a new one; the Thanksgiving Offering, which is a type of peace Offering. It is a voluntary offering with two special features. Forty loaves are brought with it and it must be eaten the same day. This is unusual as the time allotted for eating all the other Peace Offerings is two days. Only compulsory sacrifices are eaten in one day. So, the logical question is whether this offering is really voluntary or compulsory?
We must consult King David’s Psalm of Thanksgiving (Psalm 116) to understand the nature of the Thanksgiving Offering. David is praising YHVH for saving him. The final stage is a Thanksgiving Offering performed publicly as the Psalm reads” I will pay YHVH my vows in front of the whole nation.”
In this public feast, an individual thanks YHVH and tells all those present of the miracle that happened to him. Perhaps we can now understand why this voluntary offering has a hint of the compulsory offering added. The whole purpose of this offering is to proclaim YHVH’s greatness and providence. This is why this offering has 40 loaves; to force the individual to find at least 40 people to share it with him, consuming all of it in one day. At the feast he gets to opportunity to tell his story, which encourages people in their belief. The entire community is united in praise of YHVH. In this way, the offering serves a double purpose; to let everyone know that YHVH watches over us and to unite the community in belief and praise of YHVH Elohim, glorifying Him as is our purpose in this life. The problem with encouraging testimonies for YHVH today is that many people choose to recite a dissertation with a self-aggrandizing agenda rather than a simple explanation of what YHVH did for them, glorifying Him.
Haftarah: Yirmeyahu 7:21-8:3; 9:22(23)-23(24)
Our parashah continues with the subject of sacrifices the Children of Israel must bring to YHVH. In this haftarah, Jeremiah lists all of Israel’s sons during the Temple period, just as we are currently studying in Micah. One of the sins mentioned is that instead of sacrificing animals in the Temple, B’nai Israel built altars to sacrifice their own children to the heathen gods. The Prophet tells them that YHVH wants them to do kind and just deeds (see the grace=kind and just=law) instead of sinning and bringing sacrifices. A sacrifice loses its efficacy when an individual heart is not repentant and obedient toward YHVH.
B’rit Chadashah: Romans 12:1-2
“I exhort you, therefore, brothers, in view of G-d’s mercies, to offer yourselves as a sacrifice, living and set apart for G-d. This will please him; it is the logical ‘Temple worship’ for you. In other words, do not let yourselves be conformed to the standards of the olam hazeh (this world). Instead, keep letting yourselves be transformed by the renewing of your minds; so that you will know what G-d wants and will agree that what He wants is good, satisfying, and able to succeed.”
Sha’ul is exhorting all believers to respond positively and fully to G-d because of everything he has done and is doing; in chapters 1-11, I exhort you to do everything; in chapters 12-15, all of which is emphasized in the instruction to offer yourselves as a sacrifice.
G-d’s mercies were spoken of throughout chapters 1-11, especially in 9-11, and explicitly in 11:30-32. G-d’s mercies form the pivotal book of Romans, on which Sha’ul turns from doctrine to the practical advice introduced by the Greek word “parakalo” (“I exhort” or ‘I advise, counsel, encourage, request, comfort”).
Offer yourselves (literally, “your bodies”) as a sacrifice- a striking metaphor when animal sacrifices were still being made twice a day in the Jerusalem Temple worship. In 6:1-14 and 8:13, Sha’ul explained what kind of death is required: the believer is not to live by his old nature but by the Spirit: then he will be living with the Messiah’s life (8:10-11) and thereby be set apart for G-d.
It is logical “Temple worship” for you- The KJV reads “… which is you reasonable service.” Greek latreia corresponds to the Hebrew avodah, which can mean “work, service,” in the everyday sense (the cognate eved means “slave”); and this is what contemporary readers mistakenly picks up from the archaic expression in the KJV. But “avodah” is also the technical term for the religious “service” performed in the Temple, and the context dictates this translation.
In verse 2, presenting your body to G-d for right action commences with your mind. Turn from the standards of this world (olam hazeh), that are rooted in secular humanism/ Hellenism, that are totally contrary to G-d’s Torah. We must learn what G-d wants from us. After careful consideration, we must agree that what He wants is morally good, psychologically satisfying, and in practice within our ability to accomplish; reaching our goal. In the Greek, teleion, sometimes rendered “perfect” but in this passage strongly connotes the goal-orientation and accomplishment inherent in the related word “telos,” as explained in 10:4.
Let’s look at these verses in more detail. Later in the book, Sha’ul speaks of the evidence that non-Messianic Jews “have not submitted themselves to G-d’s way of making people righteous” (10:3), which shows that their “seal for G-d” is “not based on correct understanding.” (v.2). This lies in the belief that the Messiah has not brought the law to an end, nor is he the termination of the Law as a way to righteousness. The Torah continues; it is eternal. G-d’s Torah, properly understood as the very teaching which Yahshua upholds (1 Cor. 9:21, Gal. 6:2), remains the one and only way to righteousness- although it is Yahshua the Messiah through whom the Torah’s righteousness comes. For the Good News that righteousness is grounded in trust is proclaimed already in the Torah; this is the central point of 9:30-10:21. In seed form, this was already stated in 1:16-17; Sha’ul declares it directly in Gal. 3:6. To such a Torah there is no cessation, neither in this or the next world.
This truth is not peripheral, but central to the Gospel, and it cannot be compromised, even if the whole of Christianity were to oppose it, which they do! While there is a recent and valuable strand of modern Christianity scholarship that acknowledges Sha’ul was neither anti-Jewish nor anti- Torah, this truth is not widely taught in popular Christianity. To embrace this truth would mandate Christians reexamine their belief system and the pagan traditions they hold dear to this day. To Jews who have even a modest amount of Jewish training, the Torah is correctly understood as a central and eternal element of G-d’s dealing with mankind in general, and with Jews specifically. Therefore, the idea that “the law has come to an end with Christ” or was “nailed to the cross” is for them both shocking and unacceptable. Fortunately, these statements are also untrue!
According to Arndt and Gingrich’s A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, the Greek word “telos” used 42 times in the “New “ Testament, has to mean “finish, cessation, termination” in four or five places (Mark 3;26; Luke 1:33; 2 Cor. 3:13; 1 Peter 4:7). In the majority of cases, its meaning is either (1) “aim, purpose, goal” toward which a movement is being directed (1 Ti.1:5; 1 Peter 1:9), or (2) “outcome, result, consummation, last part” of a process not obviously being directed and which may or may not terminate (6:21-22 above; Mat. 26:58). These meanings are reflected in the English word “teleology,” the branch of philosophy dealing with goals and purposes. So, we must ask why is “telos” generally regarded as meaning “termination” in this case? The answer is that theology gets in the way of exegesis, wrong theology that falsely understands the Mosaic Law as not offering G-d’s righteousness through trust; wrong theology that denigrates G-d’s Torah and thereby both the G-d who gave it and the believers to whom he gave it and who observe it out of love and obedience.
Even the paraphrases of the Living Bible persist with misinterpretations such as “Christ gives to those who trust in him everything they are trying to get by keeping his laws. He ends all of that” and Phillips “Christ means the end of struggle for righteousness-by-the-Law for everyone who believes in him.” Sadly, these statements completely miss the point. The verse is not about our struggle; it is about G-d’s Torah. It is true that whoever comes to trust in Yahshua relies on Him for reconciliation and forgiveness of PAST SINS (Rom. 3:25; 2 Pet. 1:9), thus ending self-effort. But this verse does NOT speak of ending ANYTHING. It says the great sweep of G-d’s purpose in giving the Torah as a means to righteousness achieves its goal and consummation in the coming of the Messiah. Sha’ul (Paul) says that it therefore follows, that a person who has the trust in G-d which the Torah requires will- precisely because he has this trust (an action verb in Hebrew that means to worship, follow) which forms the basic foundation for obedience to the Torah (1:5)- understands and responds to the Gospel of the Kingdom and NOT profession, by also trusting in G-d’s Messiah Yahshua who are one and the same. Only in this way will a person be deemed righteous in the sight of the G-d he wants to serve and whose Torah he wants to obey. Only by an active belief in Yahshua will one be able to obey the Torah by the gift of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) which empowers the believer. Disbelief in Yahshua is necessarily disbelief in G-d’s Torah, for Yahshua is the manifested Living Word of G-d; HaTorah. This is because the goal at which the Torah aims is the Messiah, who offers the Torah’s righteousness, which is G-d’s righteousness (His Torah), to everyone who trusts and obeys His mitzvot.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart