For the week of May 7, 2011 / 3 Iyar 5771
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23
Haftarah: Ezekiel 44:15-31
You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you. (Vayikra / Leviticus 22:20; ESV)
The God of Israel was very particular with regard to the physical condition of the cohanim (English: priests) and the sacrifices. He gave Moses lists of physical deformities which would have disqualified people and animals from his service.
These high standards were not legislated because of God's personal preferences, but rather to cause the people to reckon with the seriousness of human imperfection. Human beings were originally designed to be God's representatives on Earth. The rebellion of our first parents in the Garden of Eden drastically altered our nature, rendering us unfit to serve God. The sacrificial system of the Torah drives home the separation that exists between humans and God. On one hand the people of Israel were privileged to engage in the service of God through the sacrificial system and were instructed in God's ways and holiness. On the other hand they were continually reminded of their inability to enter true intimacy with God.
That anyone would be disqualified on the basis of blemishes goes against much popular thought that tries to convince us that there is nothing wrong with us at all. We are continually told that biblical concepts of sin and guilt are concoctions of power-driven religionists. By freeing our minds of such things and recognizing our innate goodness, we can reach our full potential and live successful lives.
Yet there has probably never been a day when we have been so obsessed with blemishes. Vast amounts of time and money are spent on tweaking our appearance. While neglecting the moral and spiritual aspects of our lives, we strive for some semblance of physical perfection that we find acceptable.
The drive for physical perfection is a lost cause, however, due to the mortality of our bodies. No matter how hard we try to remove or hide our blemishes, they will return or others will show and then eventually we will die anyway.
But it's not our physical blemishes that should cause us concern. Our moral and spiritual blemishes are not imaginary, but real. The Torah, as the mirror of our soul, reflects the gross imperfections which are part of us all. God's Word clearly reveals to us that we don't match up to God's standards, thus rendering us unable to come to God as we so desperately need to.
Thankfully God does not leave us in this condition. Having pointed out our spiritual blemishes, the Scriptures give us hope of being restored to right relationship with God. Over 600 years before the coming of Yeshua Isaiah prophesied:
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned - every one - to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5, 6; ESV)
Isaiah foretold how the Messiah through his suffering and death would effectively deal with the transgressions and iniquities that have caused us to be alienated from God. As Yeshua took on himself our blemishes, he makes us fit to truly enter God's presence and to serve God in this world as he intended.
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