Messiah and the Sacrifices

In today’s world, when there is no Temple, the laws of the sacrifices seem obsolete and irrelevant. Are they really?


Vayikra

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Vayikra (ויקרא | And he called)
  • Torah: Leviticus 1:1-5:26
  • Haftarah: Isaiah 43:21-44:23
  • Gospel: Matthew 5:23-30

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Leviticus 1:1 | The Burnt Offering
    • Leviticus 2:1 | Grain Offerings
    • Leviticus 3:1 | Offerings of Well-Being
    • Leviticus 4:1 | Sin Offerings
    • Leviticus 5:14 | Offerings with Restitution
  • Prophets
    • Isaiah 43:1 | Restoration and Protection Promised
    • Isaiah 44:1 | God's Blessing on Israel
    • Isaiah 44:9 | The Absurdity of Idol Worship
    • Isaiah 44:21 | Israel Is Not Forgotten

Portion Summary

The title "Leviticus" is derived from the Greek Septuagint (LXX) version of the Torah. The book of Leviticus is predominantly concerned with Levitical rituals. An older Hebrew name for the book was "The Laws of the Priesthood," but in Judaism today, it is referred to by the name Vayikra (ויקרא), which means "And He called." Vayikra is the first Hebrew word of the book, which begins by saying, "And the LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from inside the tent of meeting" (Leviticus 1:1).

Leviticus describes the sacrificial service and the duties of the priests. It also introduces ritual purity, the biblical diet, the calendar of appointed times, laws of holiness and laws relating to redemption, vows and tithes. In addition, Leviticus discourses on ethical instruction and holiness. The twenty-fourth reading from the Torah is eponymous with the Hebrew name of the book it introduces: Vayikra. This portion introduces the sacrificial service and describes five different types of sacrifices.


The book of Leviticus begins with several chapters describing the sacrificial services. God called to Moses from within the Tent of Meeting and delivered to him the laws of the sacrificial system.

In today’s world, when there is no Temple, the laws of the sacrifices seem obsolete and irrelevant. Nevertheless, devout Jews continue to diligently study the laws of the sacrifices.

New Testament readers understand that there are no sacrifices today and that the Messiah’s suffering provided the ultimate sacrifice for sin. Believers often erroneously assume a direct cause-and-effect relationship. We commonly hear that the sacrifices are no longer brought because the death of Jesus fulfilled the sacrifices and made them obsolete. In reality, the cessation of sacrifice and the atoning sacrifice of Messiah are unrelated. The Jewish people (including the apostles) continued to offer sacrifices in the Temple for forty years after the death and resurrection of the Messiah.

Yeshua’s sacrifice transcends the earthly sacrifices spoken of in Leviticus. In a sense, one might say that His death fulfilled the prophetic foreshadowing of the sacrificial services, but that does not explain the cessation of the sacrificial services. The Jewish people ceased offering sacrifices only because of the destruction of the Temple.

Even when the Temple still stood, it provided only a shadow of the heavenly reality of the Temple above. Therefore, the sacrifices on earth were shadows of a greater, higher, and holier spiritual worship in the heavenly Sanctuary.

In what respect does Messiah fulfill the sacrifices? We understand fairly well that His death functioned as a sacrifice for sin, but only one or two of the five types of sacrifices listed in Leviticus pertain to sin. Consider the burnt offering, the bread offering, and the peace offering—these sacrifices were not brought for sin. In what sense does Messiah fulfill them? As we proceed through this Torah portion, we will briefly consider each of the sacrifices and their messianic significance.

The Messiah’s sacrifice cannot make the Levitical sacrifices obsolete because the Messiah’s sacrifice was already at work before the LORD introduced the Levitical sacrifices. Long before the days of the Tabernacle, long before God called to Moses from within the Tent of Meeting, even before Adam’s first sin, the Messiah was “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8, NIV.)

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Shadows of the Messiah. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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