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Shemot/Exodus 29:19 And you shall take the second ram ...
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This phrase starts a section of text that deals with the ram of ordination, that runs through until verse 34. Unlike the first ram, verses 15-18, which is a whole burnt offering, this animal is only partly burned upon the altar, the rest belonging to the priests. The daubing of the blood on the right ears, right thumbs and right foot big toes (v. 20) is paralleled only in the instructions for the cleansing of one who hastzara'at: "The priest shall then take some of the blood of the guilt offering and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot" (Vayikra 14:14, NASB). According to Sarna (page 189) this suggests that the purification function for tzara'at may well be at work here, purifying the priest for his service to G-d. He goes on, "The singling out of the ear, hand and foot may well symbolise the idea that the priest is to attune himself to the divine word and be responsive to it in deed and direction in life."
Hirsch draws attention to the way the ritual symbolises and confirms the cohen in his role of sanctification and holiness before G-d. In the same way as the first ram was completely given up for G-d, symbolising the total dedication of the priest's life - his very being - in surrender to G-d, His Torah and His will, so the blood of the second ram symbolises the surrender of the priest's living faculties to G-d's service. The blood is touched to "the ear through which they hear and understand, the hand by which they achieve, the foot by which they go where they will" and is then thrown upon the altar in a graphic illustration of the priest himself - remembering that the priests and Levites serve G-d as the redemption offering for all the firstborn of Israel - thrown upon the altar. As the blood is given up as profane and by being splashed against the altar becomes holy, so the priests although profane must give up their lives at the altar and find them anew in the service of G-d. Hirsch then makes the following remarkable statement: "The ram offering must not remain merely an external ritual, the identification must become concrete and real in the actual rebirth of the actual ear, the actual hand and the actual foot. The soul (represented by the blood), the personality, of the priest-to-be must actually begin its devotion and surrender by this giving-itself-up to the altar ... it is only in the giving-up of his own self that the priest, and also the garments of the priest, receives its holiness."
The stake is the central focus point of Yeshua's earthly ministry. Although it came almost at the end of His time on earth, it is clearly pointed to during the approach; for example we find John telling us that, "the Spirit was not yet given, because Yeshua was not yet glorified," (John 7:39, NASB). As Yeshua and the disciples are coming down the mountain from the Transfiguration, He tells them, "Tell the vision to no-one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead" (Matthew 17:9, NASB); when "some Greek-speaking Jews" (John 12:20, CJB) wanted to see Yeshua after He had formally entered Jerusalem, He answered them, "The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified" (John 12:23, CJB). At the stake, as Yeshua gave Himself as a ransom for all of us that have, do and will believe in Him, He fulfilled the image of the first ram at the ordination of the High Priest in total surrender to G-d: "I am the Good Shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep ... and I lay down My life on behalf of the sheep" (John 10:11,15, CJB). In this way, Yeshua became our High Priest, the Cohen Gadol; He received His office and ordination: "When Messiah appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle ... through His own blood He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:11-12, NASB).
But what about the second ram? Rav Sha'ul writes, "Even if my life blood is poured out as a drink offering over the sacrifice and service of your faith, I will still be glad and rejoice with you" (Philippians 2:17, CJB). He appears to have the idea in view that we too - as believers in Messiah - are to be a part of this ordination process. He compares our lives to that of Yeshua when he says, "Live a life of love, just as also the Messiah loved us, indeed, on our behalf gave Himself up as an offering, as a slaughtered sacrifice to G-d with a pleasing fragrance" (Ephesians 5:2, CJB). Sha'ul seems to be suggesting that our lives also ought to be some kind of sacrifice, following the model of Yeshua. Finally he explains when he writes, "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" (Romans 12:1, CJB).
Yeshua, who adopted the role of the first ram, wholly and completely surrendered to G-d on the stake - yet resurrected and exalted to the right hand of G-d (cf. Philippians 2:8-11) - invites each of us to be the priests identified with the second ram, whose blood was poured on the altar yet reborn to holiness in Him; we are to exchange our lives at the altar for a calling and ordination as priests and ministers of the Most High G-d, dedicated to serving Him. As Yeshua said: "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:24-25, NASB).
Further Study: Luke 9:23-27; Romans 8:12-17
Application: Have you heard G-d's call to "take the second ram", to draw near to the altar and surrender your all to Him? Whether you are already a believer or whether you are still wondering whether to take that step, now is the time to draw closer to G-d in Messiah Yeshua and surrender more of yourself to Him.
© Jonathan Allen, 2008
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