Emor – “Say”

The name of this week’s parasha is Emor, which means “say” and covers Leviticus chapters 21 through 24.  Adonai commanded Moses to instruct the priests on the need for holiness.  Priests must not become ceremonially unclean when dealing with the death of an Israeli unless it is a close relative.  They weren’t to shave their heads, trim the sides of their beards, or cut themselves.  Priests couldn’t marry women defiled by prostitution, or divorced women, because they were set apart for God’s service.  If a priest’s daughter engaged in prostitution, she disgraced him and must be put to death.

The High Priest was to ensure that his head wasn’t uncovered, his clothes weren’t torn, he avoided uncleanliness, he must not leave or desecrate the sanctuary, and he could only marry a virgin Israeli woman.  In Ezekiel 44, which is the haftarah portion of this parasha, we see several of these commandments being repeated when describing the responsibilities possessed by the priests, who were instructed to teach the Israelis the difference between the holy and the common, and to discern the unclean from the clean.  The chapter ends with Adonai’s commands to exclude anyone with a deformity from presenting offerings.

In chapter 22, God instructed Moses how to determine if a priest had become unclean, and how they could be made clean again.  The priests were to strictly obey these commandments, or they would die, because Adonai is holy.  Only those within the priest’s family, or a slave purchased by the priest, could eat the sacred offerings.  Whoever accidentally ate a sacred offering was to make restitution and add a fifth of the offering’s value.  The priests were warned to protect the sacred offerings from being eaten by common Israelis, which would bring judgement upon them, because God is holy.

Adonai then instructed Moses to tell the Israelis what sacrifices were acceptable and unacceptable.  An unblemished male from the cattle, sheep, or goats must be presented as a burnt offering to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering.  A deformed or stunted ox or sheep was acceptable as a freewill offering, but unacceptable to fulfill a vow.  After an ox, sheep or goat was born, it must stay with its mother for seven days but could be sacrificed from the 8th day on.  A thank offering must be eaten on the same day it was presented.

In chapter 23, God outlined Israel’s appointed holidays – the offerings required for these holidays are described in Numbers 28-29.  These holidays show us how to recognize that Yeshua is the Messiah, and they also show us how we can understand God’s plan of salvation for human beings through faith in Messiah Yeshua.  In beginning with the Sabbath, we need to leave our own efforts and come into the Sabbath rest that is only found in Messiah Yeshua.  Regarding Passover, we see in 1st Corinthians 5 that Yeshua is our Passover Lamb who was sacrificed – we must understand that He has paid the penalty for our sins that we could never pay by our own righteousness.  The Feast of Unleavened Bread directs us to Yeshua, who was sinless and was broken and pierced for our sins.  The holiday of First-fruits helps us to understand that Yeshua has been raised from the dead, the First-fruits of those who have fallen asleep, which we see in 1st Corinthians 15.  The holiday of Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks) pointed to how the Holy Spirit would live and work within Messiah’s community to spread the Gospel and bring Jews and Gentiles together as one community in Messiah Yeshua.

The Holiday of Trumpets shows us what will happen when Messiah Yeshua returns from Heaven – the trumpet of God will sound with the return of Messiah Yeshua, which we see in 1st Thessalonians 4.  Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) shows us that we need to humble ourselves before God, repent of our sins and turn from our rebellion against God through faith in Messiah Yeshua, who has provided the once-for-all-time sacrifice for our sins by offering His own life for our atonement, so that we will be reconciled to God, we will be His people and our names will be in the Book of Life.  We want to make sure our names are in the Book of Life, because Revelation 20 warns us that those who aren’t in the Book of Life will be thrown into the Lake of Fire.  Finally, Sukkot (the Holiday of Tabernacles) shows us that like the sukkahs, our time on Earth is limited and will fade away, but we who belong to Messiah Yeshua will have a greater tabernacle waiting for us – Revelation 21 tells us that the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among us!

In chapter 24, the Israelis were commanded to bring clear olive oil for the lamps that Aaron would keep burning continuously.  They were also instructed on baking the bread to be presented to God, which was eaten by Aaron and his sons.  The parasha ends with the Israelis obeying Adonai’s command to stone a blasphemer.

Parasha Emor teaches us that God’s expectations of us are extremely serious – if we seek to honor and obey Him, we must live in holiness, because He is holy. We do this by obeying Adonai’s Word, and by following Messiah Yeshua’s teachings.  Living in holiness isn’t easy in this lost and dying world, but Adonai will not abandon us in the struggle, and Yeshua has promised never to leave us or forsake us. That is comforting!

If you desire to obey Messiah Yeshua, then imitate His example and live in holiness in every part of your life.  And if you haven’t done so already, turn to Messiah Yeshua, our great High Priest, and loyally follow Him as Lord and Redeemer. One day soon the great trumpet will sound from Heaven. Will you be ready for it?