Gifts that Call
The text we are reading from the book of Leviticus comes from a portion of the Hebrew Bible that Jewish people named “And He called.”1 God calls us to be the Eternal's friends and to worship our Creator. We see the theme that God calls in other passages of the Bible too.
Ezekiel 45:18-19 (Moffatt Bible) Here are the orders of the Lord the Eternal: On the first day of the first month you must take an unblemished bullock to purify the sanctuary: the priest is to take some of the blood from the sin offering and smear the door-posts of the temple, the four corners of the ledge of the altar, and the posts at the gateways of the inner court.
This part of Ezekiel is a consolation for Israel.2 The text is found in a section of Ezekiel that gives Israel hope and courage. It is part of the consolation of Israel.3 Ezekiel Chapters 45 and 46 discuss part of the renewed vision of worship.4
All of this sacrifice stuff may turn you off. In fact, you might think it would keep all people from responding to the call of God. But wait. Hold off making a judgment call. In things spiritual, we can take plenty of time and use a lot of cautious discernment before making a decision.
Leviticus 1:1-4 (Moffatt Bible) Then the Eternal called Moses, and from the Trysting tent gave him these orders for the Israelites. 2”When any man of you brings an offering to the Eternal, you must make your offering from your live-stock, from your herds and flocks. 3If the man’s offering from his herd be a burnt-offering, it must be an unblemished male, and he must offer it of his own freewill at the entrance to the Trysting tent before the Eternal. 4He must lay his hand upon the head of the victim, and it shall be accepted as expiation for him.
Verse 2. The Hebrew word that is translated offering means “brought near.”5 Rabbi Packouz says it “ ... is best translated as a means of bringing oneself into a closer relationship with the Almighty.”6 The offering was only for our benefit, to bring us close to the Lord.7 I want to repeat Rabbi Packouz's last point here. The benefit of the offering is to bring us closer to God. This is a rabbi talking about offerings. Note there is no legalism here in his concept of offerings. We see grace here.
An offering and a sacrifice are different. An offering implies a gift that satisfies the one who gets the gift. But God does not need our gifts. He has no needs or desires we can satisfy.8
Our gifts do nothing for God. They are intended to bring us closer to our Eternal Companion. That was the purpose of the sacrificial offerings. They were to bring people closer to the Lord, not to appease a god who hated humanity.
There are times when we feel pressured to give an offering is too expensive for us. We just cannot afford to give that much. Whenever that happens, stop and think. This could be legalism, not a true offering.
Gay, lesbian, and bisexual people have been asked to sacrifice their sexuality, to give up their sexuality as an offering to God. Can you imagine the reaction if straight men were told to give up their desire to have a wife to be Christian? Trans-identified people have been asked to give up their gender identity for God. That is like asking a straight man to stop thinking and acting like a man! This is legalism, not grace. An offering brings us closer to God. Trying to stop being who you are to make God happy is not an offering. That is legalism, intense, evil, dehumanizing, godless legalism. Such intense legalism drives people away from God, instead of making them feel closer to God.
Verse 4, hands were laid on the hands of the victim, the offering. This was a way of indicating the animal was the offering.9 By laying hands on the animal, the person identified with the animal and with the atonement for sins.10 Through identification with the Atonement, Jesus Christ, we are saved.
The New Testament reading comes from Hebrews Chapter 10. The first half of the chapter has a couple of major themes. First, the system of sacrifices and offerings, the old covenant, prefigures the new covenant.11 Second, the Christ’s sacrifice is once and for all.12
The verse we will focus in on from this chapter is the verse that is the key message of salvation through Jesus’ sacrifice. Verse 17 (Moffatt Bible). And their sins and breaches of the Law I will remember no more.
In the Old Testament, our gifts were intended to bring us close to the Lord. In the New Testament, God’s gift, salvation through Jesus Christ, is intended to bring us close to the Lord.
God is angry with sin, not with people. The portion in Hebrews helps us understand that while God’s anger with sin is intense, His anger was spent at Calvary. A heavy - weight German theologian, von Balthasar, talks about the momentum of God’s wrath over the broken covenant being spent in the far greater momentum of God’s love.13
Von Balthasar does not use these words, but here is how I picture this. The anger of God at sin is a speeding freight train. And it runs straight into Jesus at Calvary. When we see the incredible impact, we believe all is hopeless. Jesus dies, because of the impact. But then we see the empty tomb. Jesus has risen. And we realize that on Calvary, the Son, God in flesh, absorbed the full impact of God’s anger with sin. In effect, God took upon Himself His anger with sin. That is how much God loves you.
Perhaps, now you can understand how the call of the sacrificial offering is so strong. People have problems resisting the overwhelming love of Jesus, the offering.
1Harvey J. Fields. A Torah Commentary for Our Times. Vol. 2 (New York: UAHC Press, 1991), 99.
2Kenneth Barker, et. al., eds. The NIV Study Bible: New International Version. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Pub., 1985), 1230.
3Barker, et. al., 1230.
4Barker, et. al., 1230.
5Bernard J. Bamberger. “Leviticus.” The Torah: A Modern Commentary. (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981), 750.
Packouz. “Torah Portion of the Week: Vayikra.” Aish.com
(Miami Beach, FL: Aish Friends of Shabbat Shalom, 2000)
10Barker, et. al., 147.
11Heading for the first 18 verses in the Christian Community Bible: Catholic Pastoral Edition. (St. Pauls: Claretian Pub., 1999), N.T. 443.
12Heading for the first 18 verses in Kenneth Barker, et. a., eds. The NIV Study Bible: New International Version. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Pub., 1985), 1869.
13Hans Urs Von Balthasar. The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 205.