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Vayikra/Leviticus 8:22 And [Moshe] brought near the second ram, the ram of ordination
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The word attracts some attention as it is not the word that might be expected at this point.Targum Onkelos, indeed, replaces it with - literally, sacrifice - a word taken from Sifra; Onkelos is perhaps trying "to capture the essence of a symbolic ceremonial act that initiates or confers office or status" (Drazin & Wagner). Rashi, pointing to the literal meaning of the word says, "The ram of ordination: the ram of the peace offering for - literally 'fillings' - expresses - 'peace offerings' or 'completenesses' - for they fill and complete the Cohanim in their priesthood." The root - to be fill, filled; to be fulfilled, completed; to fill, make full - is being compared to the overlapping meanings of the root - to be completed, finished; to at be peace. The ritual, described below in verses 27-29 completes the official transfer of role and authority to the incoming priests: in this case Aharon and his sons, in the future, successive generations of both high and ordinary priests. The Ramban, citing the instructions for this ceremony given in Shemot 29:1, explains that "the second ram is specifically called the ram of ordination, because it was the last of the offerings, and it was after it that their consecration was complete and they ministered before Him, blessed be He, for all these offerings were indispensable in the matter."
Levine points out that "the biblical formula - to fill the hand - is limited to the appointment of priests and cultic officials." The formula - usually translated 'consecrate' - is found elsewhere in the narrative texts; a young Levite from Bethlehem agrees to be the family priest of a landowner in the hills of Ephraim for a stipend and "after Mikhah consecrated the Levi, the young man became his cohen and stayed there in Mikhah's house" (Judges 17:12, CJB). Similarly, when King Jereboam was establishing the kingdom of Israel and felt that he needed to break the link between the worship of G-d and the temple in Jerusalem, he "appointed priests for the high places from all sorts of people. Anyone who wanted to become a priest he consecrated for the high places" (1 Kings 13:33, NIV). When Ezekiel was describing his vision of the temple and the instructions G-d gave him for its construction and consecration, he wrote "'For seven days they shall make atonement for the altar and purify it; so shall they consecrate it. And when they have completed the days, it shall be that on the eighth day and onward, the priests shall offer your burnt offerings on the altar, and your peace offerings; and I will accept you,' declares the L-rd G-d" (Ezekiel 43:26-27, NASB).
The story of Yeshua's ministry begins with such an event. While not a formal sacrifice offered in the temple, Yeshua comes to the Jordan to be baptised by John the Immerser. After a brief argument about protocol: "Yochanan tried to stop him. 'You are coming to me? I ought to be immersed by you!' However, Yeshua answered him, 'Let it be this way now, because we should do everything righteousness requires.'" (Matthew 3:14-15, CJB), the text tells us that "While all the people were being immersed, Yeshua too was immersed. As he was praying, heaven was opened; the Ruach HaKodesh came down on him in physical form like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, whom I love; I am well pleased with you'" (Luke 3:21-22, CJB); Yeshua was being "filled" for His ministry, His time of service to G-d. In this case, it was not simply Yeshua's hands that were being filled but His whole life and body being "completed" to empower and enable Him to perform the healing and other attesting miracles that authenticated His ministry, to equip Him to preach and teach the word and way of G-d and, ultimately, to endure arrest, trial, beating and execution on the stake. It was that life and power that brought the victory: "G-d raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him" (Acts 2:24, NIV).
The writer to the Hebrews takes the theme further: "In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that G-d, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering" (Hebrews 2:10, NIV). Should we assume from this that Yeshua was less than perfect before the cross? No, the same principle is at work in this text: the experience of suffering at Calvary "filled the hands" of Yeshua and marked Him as consecrated for the unique ministry He has as our Mediator, our High Priest and our Atonement. Rav Sha'ul is even more explicit concerning his own ministry: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions" (Colossians 1:24, NASB). Can Sha'ul possibly be saying that Yeshua's afflictions - carried out to bring about our reconciliation with Father G-d - are incomplete or insufficient for the task? No, he carefully chooses the words "filling up" to show that he too is using the same word picture of ordination or consecration; by the sufferings and hardships that he is undertaking in travelling and spreading the gospel through the Mediterranean world - the Jewish communities and Gentiles whom he meets along the way - Sha'ul is pointing to the consecration of Yeshua as the Saviour of both Jew and Gentile in a way that Yeshua's own ministry did not do, geographically confined as it was to Israel. By his exertions within the body of Messiah, Sha'ul is reaching people and places that Yeshua Himself could not do on a natural level, although of course He is speaking and working through Sha'ul in both words and miracles.
Are we also to be involved in this process? Absolutely! Peter tells us, "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation" (1 Peter 4:12-13, NASB). As believers we should expect to play our part in consecrating - setting apart, declaring holy - Yeshua and sharing the accompanying suffering: misunderstanding, rejection, being laughed at, in some cases persecution. How are we to survive this testing and still serve G-d? The answer is still the same: be filled. Rav Sha'ul again: "Don't get drunk with wine, because it makes you lose control. Instead, keep on being filled with the Spirit - sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to each other; sing to the L-rd and make music in your heart to Him; always give thanks for everything to G-d the Father in the name of our L-rd Yeshua the Messiah" (Ephesians 5:18-20, CJB). It is as we are filled by the Spirit of G-d, the Holy Spirit, that we are enabled to witness for G-d; not only do we consecrate Yeshua as the Messiah but we are ourselves consecrated in the process, becoming like Him.
It is as we hunger for Him and come to Him on a daily basis that He meets with us and fills our hands; He sets us apart that we may set Him apart by our words, our actions and our lives. That is what He promised for each of us: "How blessed are you who are hungry! for you will be filled" (Luke 6:21, CJB).
Further Study: Psalm 63:3-5; Isaiah 55:1-3; Luke 11:33
Application: Are you empty and dry? Do you long to see G-d moving in power? Today is the time to bring forward the ram of ordination - yourself - so that Yeshua may fill you with His Spirit and consecrate you for the service of the kingdom. Experience fullness and completion as you fill His hands so that He may fill yours.
© Jonathan Allen, 2009
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