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Vayikra/Leviticus 6:19(26) The priest that makes it a sin offering shall eat it
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The second aliyah in this parasha gives more detail about the ritual for the sin offering and the guilt offering. We moderns often shrink from the detailed procedures where the Torah talks of "splashing the blood against all sides of the altar" (Vayikra 7:1, CJB) or the requirement for the cohen to remove "the two kidneys and the fat that is on them at the loins; and the protuberance on the liver" (v. 4, NJPS) and offer them and all the internal fat to "turn them into smoke on the altar as an offering by fire to the L-RD" (v. 5, NJPS). The vegans and vegetarians among us shudder: please!
Our exploration of this week's text pivots around the first verb in this clause: . Davidson announces that this is the Piel participle of the root , one of the verbs most frequently used for the action of sinning. The prefix and the dagesh in the second letter of the root () are the tell-tale signs; the at the front being a definite article that gives the idea of "the one performing the action". The four words of the clause then look like this: the-priest / the-one-doing-something-to / her / he-shall-eat-her, where 'her' is the sin-offering introduced in the previous verse, with the Hebrew word , a noun derived from the same verb root. The question is, however, what does the verb mean? Davidson suggests that the Qal meanings include "to miss one's step, to stumble or fall" or "to sin". This is congruent with the meaning of the noun "sin-offering". He lists the Pi'el meanings as "to offer as a sin-offering, hence to expiate, cleanse from sin".
Rashi translates the verb as "who makes it into a sin-offering"; that is to say, the priest is the one who performs its services, so that it becomes a sin-offering through his agency. This takes the verb as a participle derived from the noun . The prefix then signifies the action of making or causing the noun. He is supported by Richard Elliott Friedman's translation (that agrees with ours above): "The priest who makes it a sin offering shall eat it." Ibn Ezra, too, follows this direction; the one doing this is "the priest who dashes the blood against the altar, It is he who 'de-sins' the person, that is, removes sin from the sinner. Most of the commentators agree that this is the sense of the Hebrew verb used here, as if it said 'to cleanse' or 'to purify." To support his argument, he quotes from the Psalmist: "Purge me with hyssop until I am pure; wash me until I am whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:9, NJPS). The verb reverses its meaning from Qal, the plain or simple meaning - to sin - to Pi'el, the intense meaning: to cleanse from sin. The verb does the same: in Qal, to learn, in Pi'el, to teach.
What has the priest actually done? By the ritual steps of daubing the blood of the sacrificed animal on the horns of the altar, pouring the rest of the blood at the base of the altar and then making the fat parts, the kidneys and liver go up in smoke on the altar, he has made the sacrifice a sin-offering and by doing so, has de-sinned the person who brought the offering. It was only an animal before; now it is a sin-offering. The priest has changed the status of the flesh and blood from simply an animal - which could have been designated one of several ways: a sin-offering, a guilt-offering, a peace-offering or a vow-offering - and although ritually clean, not holy, into something that is now so holy that only the priests can eat it in a holy place: within the courtyard of the Tabernacle. That transformation has purified, de-sinned and cleansed the person who brought the animal forward to be a sin-offering.
We can observe similar activity taking place in Isaiah's fourth vision of the Suffering Servant. First we see the transference of 'our' sin to the servant: "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" (Isaiah 53:5, ESV). The next step is the acceptance of that transference by HaShem: "the L-RD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (v. 6, bible(ESV)). Then follows the 'making': "his soul makes an offering for guilt" (v. 10, ESV). How does this happen? Isaiah tells us: "because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors" (v. 12, ESV). Yeshua became our sin offering because He willingly gave Himself up to this end. He volunteered. As the priest pours out the blood of the sin-offering at the base of the altar, Yeshua poured out His life (and some of his blood, as His side was pierced) at the cross. This meant that he "bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors" (ibid.) as the writer to the Hebrews tells us: "He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25, ESV).
Rav Sha'ul uses that same 'make' verb when talking about Yeshua's self-sacrifice: "though He was in the form of G-d, did not count equality with G-d a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:6-7, ESV). He uses the word 'became' to show how Yeshua changed His state for us: though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9, ESV). The same word comes again to describe another change of state that was part of the process: "Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13, ESV). Both words come together in Sha'ul's description of what Derek Prince called "The Great Exchange": "For our sake He [G-d] made Him [Yeshua} to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him [Yeshua] we might become the righteousness of G-d" (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV).
If G-d has chosen and called us, as believers in Yeshua, to be "conformed to the image of his Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Romans 8:29, ESV), what does that mean for us. How do we follow Yeshua and become His disciples in this making and becoming? How do we play out part not only in making disciples but in becoming disciples ourselves, "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20, ESV)? Firstly, of course, we have to recognise that His sacrifice is unique; He is the only person who could have become the sin-offering for the world so that "whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16, ESV). Secondly, although believers have allowed themselves to have their lives poured out across the centuries - including Rav Sha'ul himself, "I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come" (2 Timothy 4:6, ESV) - this not the norm and should not be sought in any way.
I remember back in the late 80s or early 90s hearing Barry McGuire talk about being a shock-absorber for the kingdom of G-d. He used the analogy of the damage done to fixed structures, buildings and vehicles if they have no or inadequate capacity to absorb shock. He saw this function as being part of his role as a believer: to absorb shock in fraught and stressful situations so that events and relationships didn't escalate out of control into damaging behaviour. Of course, he made it clear that he couldn't do this by himself, but depended on the Holy Spirit to absorb the shock and to provide release through the cross rather than allowing the stress to bounce off him or be amplified by his reaction to the shock.
We, then, can absorb shock, the destructive energy of other people's words and actions. We can choose not to react, to moderate our own response by understanding why others are speaking and acting as they are. When accused, we can choose not to defend ourselves, or at least not to defend ourselves in a way that will escalate the situation. The Proverbs writer/editor reminds us that "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1, NASB). Count to ten (or perhaps even twenty) before responding to give yourself a chance to think and the other a moment to pause and draw back. Even be silent if that is appropriate - remembering that Isaiah predicted of the servant, "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth" (Isaiah 53:7, ESV) and when Yeshua was before Pilate, He "said nothing, much to Pilate's surprise" (Mark 15:5, NLT). Peter brings an eye-witness report that, "when He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:23, ESV). We should admit any wrong-doing quickly and honestly, without blaming anyone else for how we got there. We must apologise first and reason afterwards. Even when we are not the target of attack, we can absorb shock from a situation where others are in conflict or dispute; we can use moderate and simple language, speaking in a calm and gentle voice. Once people start raising their voices, using abusive language or making threats, their ability to hear and reason is already impaired. We can refuse to be drawn into the argument, but must defend anyone who is being bullied or victimised.
All this, of course, takes practice and the power of the Spirit. We need to learn not only to absorb shock, but how to release it harmlessly to G-d, who is our sink for emotional trauma and invective. As we call upon Him, Yeshua once again becomes our sin-offering, both for our own sin and for that of others that we have absorbed. This is truly making peace among men and extending the kingdom of G-d.
Further Study: Jeremiah 11:18-20; 1 Corinthians 9:20-23
Application: How can you develop habits of absorbing rather than reflecting or rebuffing shock in tense situations? Consider how you can make Yeshua available in these sorts of contexts by making yourself available. How can you release or diffuse that shock so that you are not damaged by it?
Comment - 03:04 17Mar19 PS: Yeshua once again becomes our sin-offering, both for our own sin and for that of others that we have absorbed. This is truly making peace among men and extending the kingdom of G-d.
Comment - 08:23 17Mar19 Ann Pangbourne: What you have written here chimes with what we were considering at Caf&eascute; Church at St Michael's two weeks ago.
The subject was Challenges if our Time: Famine. We considered the stories of Joseph storing up grain against the years of famine, but how under God that blessed not just the nation of Egypt but other surrounding nations. We also contrasted it with the parable of the man who stored up grain solely for himself.
This led on to thinking about the church in India where every person, no matter how poor, put aside a "handful of rice" from each meal to offer to God for the work of their church. The church grew and was not only able to support itself but to send out missionaries to other villages around.
So we are now running our own "handful of rice" campaign, asking people to put 10% of money they spend on food into a tin and bring it as an offering once a month. (This in addition to their normal giving). The aim is to buy farm animals and equipment for people in need through World Vision. It seems to me that God still blesses the "grain offering".
"Seasoned with salt" in the NT speaks of our conversation, but here it seems to me that it is adding a precious commodity that brings a notion of preservative and flavour to our offering, making it more special, more set apart, more holy for God. Bread without salt is quite flavourless!
Comment - 15:43 19Mar19 Di Standfield: Thank you for this teaching. It gives me a way of not being dragged down by the sadness of world events or the human condition of people who cannot help themselves. Just taking it to Yeshua.Usercomment(09:43 24Mar19, Brian and Anne Nelson, In our current crisis in our beloved land of South Africa immersed in a seemingly never ending rulership of continuous corruption, now in power outages, I am chastened in how I absorb this shocking state of affairs; utter choas in a vacuum of diabolic evil, but G-d! L-rd, please help me to turn every second of every day over to you, not just first thing in the morning. Help me to know that You, who is Love, Mercy and Grace will turn South Africa from a goat nation; we have just downgraded our embassy in Israel; into a sheep nation. Thank you, dear L-rd! Jeremiah 11:20)
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© Jonathan Allen, 2019
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