Parsha Emor – “speak” Leviticus 21-24
The main idea of the portion EMOR, is holiness and purity, the purity and holiness of priests, days and offerings. The concept of holiness is revealed through repetition. For example: God is speaking to Moses and instructing Moses to speak to Aaron, who is then to tell the children of israel. It is through language, words and verbal communication, saying, telling and speaking that the children of Israel are to be instructed in the ways of holiness. Another recurrent phrase in Emor is I am the Lord your God and who makes you holy. There ought to be no confusion on this, we do not make ourselves HOly, but it is the Lord who accomplishes this through the keeping of his words. It is his desire to convey to the people an understanding of clean vs contaminated, what it means and when it happens and how to avoid it.. In this way God is instructing the priests in holiness. The portion is broken up into 4 parts:
- expectations for the levites,
- festivals of the Lord,
- the penalty for blaspheming the Name.
Expectations for the Levites
The Priests were to live by a higher set of standards and expectations. “For a crown- the oil of God’s anointing is upon him”. By God’s choice, they were set apart to serve God, the people and in the temple. The Priests were given no portion of land in Israel, their portion is the Lord. They were different from the other tribes. Why? At the time of the Exodus God exchanged all the firstborn, which belonged to him exclusively because these are the ones he “saved from the death plague”,, he exchanged the firstborn for the tribe of levites. Life for life. Numbers 1-3. Immediately God begins to define a unique set of responsibilities and standards of living and throughout the Torah a greater measure of holiness, which God makes clear that He is the one who makes them Holy, through the oil of GOd’s anointing, the crown they were HOLY TO THE LORD and through keeping the commandments of the Lord. Just as Pharaoh’s heart was both hardened by the Lord and by his own refusal to obey. God works to accomplish his good pleasure in us and we carry a certain amount of responsibilities. The priest like all men are made up not merely of flesh but of spirit as well. Our flesh has the opportunity to come under the submission of God’s higher authority when it surrenders and obeys that which is contrary to its desires. However, the flesh and spirit are in a battle. In the parsha emora we see God is giving instructions for the flesh of the priests, they were not permitted to be in contact with a dead person without becoming contaminated. THe priests were not permitted to marry a prostitute or a widow, only a virgin, or else they would be contaminated. THey were not permitted to serve the holy of holies or make offerings if they had a number of blemishes. They were to offer perfect and unblemished animals their speech was to be uncontaminated as we see in the blashmere, and their service as well to be perfect in the midst of the tabernacle which would in turn be as the outcome a light to the peoples. The message of purity for the levites was clear, they were physically closer to the Most High God and more was expected from them physically and sexually. The levites had a different set of standards before GOd because of this closeness to his presence.
A modern picture of this, would be the white house administration. Consider the president of the United states. THose who work in direct contact with him are expected to behave in a certain way, their caliber of attitude, grooming, and conduct skyrockets because his position demands it. Because of who he is , they need to walk straighter, speak with more intelligence and clarity and represent him well in how they conduct themselves. The country is looking at those who surround the president as representatives of his presidency and government. If he surrounds himself with rabble and crude immoral unkempt pigs He won’t be respected, or re-elected. So a good president will work hard to surround himself and his closest confidants with the cream of the crop in every way. The higher your position is in any company the more responsible you become in keeping yourself in good order.
Man is fragile, made evident in this portion. He is easily contaminated. God however, gives a remedy in order to avoid this physical contamination -practice his ways, walk in his ordinances instruction and wisdom. Consider another modern visual, when we wash our hands and practice good hygiene we avoid the likelihood of contracting a virus. The priest’s main priority was to teach and instruct the people, and yet he was so fragile.
Why would God make such vulnerable creatures? I believe that we became susceptible through sin and that God permitted this so man would continually look to him to keep ourselves pure and full of light like the menorah in the Temple. The priests were the ultimate model and example for this, so many ways for a priest to become defiled, and yet as he continually kept God’s instructions and humbled himself before the Lord the Lord God made him holy. He was to be the poster child for closeness with the King of the Universe and the Lord of Hosts. As he continually presented himself before GOd in the temple and looked to God to keep him pure so too he taught the people. The priests had another major duty, to keep and care for the menorah in the temple. It was a big menorah and a big job. Not only did they have to keep it clean, but they had to make the pure oil and keep the lamp lit at all times. The caring for the menorah was to be a visual reminder of the spiritual responsibility the priests had to keep themselves pure and to be a light of understanding before the people.
NOt only were the priests to keep the oil pure and the lamps lit, but to keep themselves pure and well lit. This is why immediately following God’s instructions for the priest’s on how to keep from defilement he shifts to the menorah’s enduring light, as an object lesson. In the same way Jesus taught the disciples, he would teach them something, then he would point to a visual, do not worry, consider the lilies of the field, or let the first be last, there was a wedding feast, he was always telling parables and painting words pictures, this was not only to emphasize the lesson, but to make it stick. The menorah and its care in this instance was to be a representation and symbol of the priest himself, as a light which could only shine if he had pure oil.
The priests were to be lights for the people of Israel. What does a light do? Exposes truth. The teaching of truth is to be on his lips. Ezekiel 44, and Malachi 2:6-7 teaching them what it meant to be holy, who made them holy, teaching them the difference between clean and unclean, holy and profane, preserving righteousness, knowledge, and walking with the Lord in peace. He was a messenger of the Lord. A messenger with teaching, (law, Torah) in his mouth. The bible says that the law is light and the commandments a lamp. This was what the presists were to teach the people, God’s commandments. AS the priest taught the commandments he was being light to Israel. Ezekiel 44. Had they lost their purity they would likewise lose their witness and influence EI light before the people of ISrael.
The only way to be a light was to remain pure, like the oil. COnsider JOhn 15 Jesus tells the disciples about abiding in him in order to bear fruit. He says you are already clean (pruned) because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me and i in you, if you abide in me and my words abide in you ask whatever you wish and it shall be done for you. HOW? Verse 10 if you keep my commandments you will abide in my love as I abide in my father’s commandments and abide in his love.
This purity and cleanliness is given a form on earth because we live on earth. We live in a realm of flesh and blood, that form is in teaching, commandments, as we walk in them and abide in them we become one with the Lord and his holiness becomes ours. It is this time we spend with him as the priests in his presence that sets us apart and requires more of us. As an outcome, you are the lights of the world…i am the light he said, and you are the lights. This expectation of purity and holiness has never been removed.
Peter says 2 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
9 You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
This charge by Peter reminds us that holiness is God’s work within men’s submission. God is not going to make a rebellious child holy, since it is contrary to the nature of holiness. First he instructs the child and the one who receives that instruction is both cleansed and made holy, because as the scripture says he is Holy, his adherence to the word spoken is evidence of holiness. it is the Lord who makes us holy through his commandments. They are the channel that sets his people apart.
You are already clean because of the word which I spoke. Another word for clean there is pruned. What is a better understanding of what the word of God does to men who submit to it, then prunes. This is exactly what was going on in Leviticus, the priests were being pruned of the things that were defiled men.
We too as those who are close to the presence of GOd through the blood of Christ, we have been brought near (ephesians 2). Priests a holy nation. We ought to be pure physically, spiritually and sexually, like royal priesthood. We ought to pay careful attention to that which we eat, touch, do, and speak. Don’t forget who you are, Peter reminds believers – don’t forget you are a chosen nation, a royal priest and you ought to keep yourself pure and undefiled, like oil so that you can be a light to the nations, the gentiles. As Jesus said, you are the lights of the world, keep your lamp lit. Matthew 5:16-20 Let your light shine before men…do not think i came to abolish the law or the prophets…not one jot will pass away from the law until all is accomplished…whoever annuals even the least of these commandments is least in the kingdom of heaven. Here we see Jesus himself making a connection a direct link between light and law.
The Feasts of the Lord
Emor is a message of holiness, which is why in this very passage we are also given a list of annual festivals (holy days) unto HIm. These Holy days are part of a cycle of sanctification, i n keeping them we are made holy, we are set apart. In keeping them the people are sanctified, cleansed and set apart from the world, from the secular. IN fact all over the world one aspect of discovering who is a lost tribe is do they have a version of the sabbath. As they keep the festivals of the Lord as described here in leviticus it is a mark, evidence of their participation in the covenant, Isn’t that amazing, the mark of God’s people is in fact the keeping of covenant, and the feasts of the Lord. It became evidence that those people came down from Egypt as those who honored the one true living God who had given the Torah to a saved nation. As we walk out the Lord’s appointed times we understand his plan of redemption. We can see it clearly :
- Rest: Sabbath weekly observance of rest and communion with our creator. It was not a man or beast , but a day which first was given the honor and status of Holy. Genesis 2:3 then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, made it holy.
- Deliverance: passover speaks of deliverance, God spared the firstborn and the slain lamb would remind the people of their freedom.
- New Life : unleavened bread speaks of new life and resurrection, JEsus rose from the grave during this feast without sin. Leaven represents sin.
- Covenant: shavuot the giving of God’s word is a firstfruits of heaven. The torah as well the holy spirit were both given during this period of time.
- Kingdom: head of the year, blowing of the trumpets typically associated with the coming of a king. If a King comes a kingdom follows.
- Atonement day of atonement which is the time when Israel’s sins were wiped away and repentance was made, not only for individual sins but the sins of the nation. This is fitting to be done before the feast of booths, which is the dwelling of God’s presence. Since he cannot dwell in the midst of sin.
- God’s presence dwelling: feast of booths dwelling. When the Lord dwells with his people. AS we walk in these we are continuously week by week month by month and year by year reminded who God is and what he is doing to save, deliver and redeem his people so that he can dwell with them.
We cannot possibly say that we truly understand which came first, therefore they are repeated each year in cylcial function. Since the word existed before hte beginning of time and moses did everything according to a pattern which he saw, then this cycle of sancitifcation was in effect well before the passover. But we can also understand it had its manifested in the exodus, as they all have their fullness in christ, however fullness doesn’t mean end, it means total complete whole ultimate meaning. They all point to christ because they are all for christ and manifest whether future past or presnet his work, and his work speaks too of these festivals which set us apart. Just as his work sets us apart and makes us holy. There is much mystery within the word of God. a beautfully woven tapestry all interconnected.
Each feast holy day speaks of a part of God’s plan when observed within relationship with God and Christ there is a cycle of sanctification that we get to walk in on an annual basis.
THe portion ends with the blasphemer who was stoned at God’s command for cursing God. Which reveals the power of impurity upon our souls, and where it originates. Jesus said in the heart. Out of our mouth flows that which is in the heart. Meaning what? It is the heart that is the most important thing is to keep clean and pure, which is why the new covenant is the law and teaching of God pressed directly onto our heart!!! If it’s not, our mouths will be the first evidence of rebellion against GOd.
HOw is one to be holy to his GOd? Is it by meeting a certain set of expectations? somewhere beyond their control? Consider for example those with deformities, broken limbs, long eyebrows, no bridge in their nose…they were not permitted to make offerings in the holy place. Certainly one born with a short arm or had his testicles crushed by being trampled couldn’t be blamed or control his weaknesses no matter how much he obeyed. Certain ones were ousted from the offerings of the priesthood simply because of someone else’s sins? This proves purity was beyond merely what a man did or didn’t do. It’s a matter of God.
My husband works at a medical device manufacturing plant. They make sensitive instruments such as surgical needles. It is of utmost important these remain perfectly sterile because they are used on people’s vulnerable bodies. One time a machinist used a medical device machine that processed sterile instruments to grit blasted his car wheel. So serious what he did that he was fired on the spot. The company couldn’t justify having such an employee as it would taint their reputation. The entire shipment had to be recalled, each piece checked over, scrubbed and some had to be remade and reshipped. How much more exacting and precise is God with His instruments.
We are his instruments, those who serve him and represent his HOLY name must too be pure and undefiled. Each one Holy before his God, this is accomplished not only by what we do, but how we live, who we worship and when we worship.