SHABBAT READINGS & COMMENTARY

Friday, May 12, 2006 | 
Emor (Speak): Leviticus 21:1 – 24:23; Ezekiel 44:15-31

In chapters 21 and 22, the Lord tells Moses to speak to the high priest Aaron and his sons. In chapters 23 and 24, He tells Moses to command the people of Israel.

Priests must abide by special laws. A priest, for example, should not marry a divorcee, prostitute, or widow (21:14; Ezekiel 44:22) because they should “be holy.” A priest is not supposed to touch a dead body in order not to “desecrate” himself. That’s why there are special buildings for Cohens (priests) at Jewish cemeteries located away from the graves. Jewish names like Cohen, Kohen, Katz (acronym for Kohen Tzedek) or Azulai refer to descendants of the ancient priesthood.

According to chapter 22, the priest, the spiritual head of the people, has to be even physically faultless (22:19). In other words, priesthood is about absolute purity, because “Neither shall you profane My holy name; but I will be hallowed among the Israelites…” (22:32). Ezekiel 44:28 says: “This shall be to them as an inheritance, for I am their inheritance.”

The priest is a representative of the holy name of the Lord. His whole lifestyle is exposed before the people and is supposed to encourage them to follow his example. There is a big responsibility on his shoulders! Do we nowadays, being priests according to the New Testament, take on this responsibility? Do we take it seriously or are we using “freedom in Christ” to excuse unrighteous behavior?

In chapter 23 we find the biblical feast cycle for the year. We shouldn’t dismiss these as Jewish feasts – they are “feasts of the Lord” (23:4). They should be important to every Christian as well.

Every biblical feast combines an agricultural, historical and messianic aspect. It starts with Passover, the spring feast at the beginning of the barley harvest. It is the feast of the exodus from Egypt. It has a messianic aspect in that Yeshua is the Passover lamb who was slaughtered for our salvation.

Leviticus 23:11 contains an interesting messianic interpretation: “And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, that you may be accepted; on the next day AFTER the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.” This speaks of the resurrection of the first sheaf (Yeshua). When did this happen? One day after the Shabbat, Sunday the Resurrection Day. The Hebrew word for wave also means to swing, sway or “wave something towards the sky.” The handling of the plant is a prediction of the resurrection from the death.

The feasts are in this order: The 15th day in the first month Nissan is Passover, 50 days later it’s Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks; then comes the Feast of Trumpets at the first day of the 7th month (today it is called Rosh HaShana, the feast of the new year which doesn’t have a biblical reference). Then the 10th day in the 7th month Tishri is the great Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. The last biblical feast is Succoth, the Feast of Tabernacles beginning on the 15th day of the 7th month, in memory of the 40 years of wandering the desert.

Man walks with God until his arrival to the Promised Land. In Bible days it was Eretz Yisrael. Today, for believers, it is the heavenly kingdom of God.

The first as well as the last feast are seven-days-celebrations. At exactly a gap of a half year, they begin in the middle of the respective month, which means at full moon.

Jewish feasts such as Purim and Hanukah are “post-exile feasts” that means feasts after the Babylonian captivity.

So, let us celebrate the Feasts of the Lord as an inheritance from the Lord!

– Michael Schneider –

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