Vayikra and Zakhor
For the week of March 15, 2003 / 11 Adar II 5763
Torah : Vayikra / Leviticus 1:1 - 5:26
and Devarim / Deuteronomy 25:17-19
Haftarah: Isaiah 43:21 - 44:23
Replaced by 1 Samuel 15:2-34

Learning from the Sacrifices

The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting. He said, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When any of you brings an offering to the LORD , bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock.'" (Vayikra / Leviticus 1:1,2).

The Torah assumes that the people of Israel would offer animal sacrifices. Through Moses God provides regulations governing this foundational aspect of worship. One of these regulations states that the animals to be offered could only be taken from the herd or flock. Only domesticated animals like sheep and goats were permitted.

Wild animals on the other hand were forbidden. Though animals like gazelles were permitted for food, they were not acceptable as offerings.

Having to sacrifice domesticated animals as opposed to wild animals may have had to do with several things.

First, sheep and goats put up little to no resistance should their owner decide to take them to be slaughtered. There was no real sense of challenge or accomplishment involved as there would be in the capture of a wild animal.

Sheep and goats are defenseless creatures. They don't relate to humans with the sense of fear and caution as wild animals do. Therefore they are completely vulnerable.

The person giving the offering didn't have to travel to some far off place in order to find animals for sacrifice. A person's sheep or goats were at their immediate disposal. All one had to do was go and get one.

These domestic animals were a regular part of the people's lives. To capture a wild animal for sacrifice could easily create a sense of sport and adventure. To sacrifice one's own animal was to suffer personal loss.

These contrasts illustrate some of what God has provided for us in the Messiah.

God's salvation is not experienced through any accomplishments of our own. Instead we derive eternal benefits through what the Messiah has done for us. All we need to do is participate in what he has done through faith.

The Messiah did not come as an aggressive warrior to conquer our enemies. Rather he was defenseless, allowing himself to be abused and slaughtered.

Finding God does not require searching the world for enlightenment. Instead he came and lived among us, making himself easily accessible. He still is as accessible today.

Finally, discovering the reality of the Messiah is not some impersonal religious activity, separate from daily living. Coming to know God through the Messiah is a most personal and precious experience.

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