Lev. 21:1- 24:23; Rom. 7-8
This portion continues from last week with the instructions in holiness (or set apartness) to YHWH. There is a definite escalation that takes place as YHWH gives these commands to Moses. Last week in Kedoshim, the laws of holiness began with the people in general. The entire camp of Israel is to be holy to YHWH.
Lev. 19:2 “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.”
But as the text moves forward, the sphere and requirements for holiness becomes more exacting and severe. In Emor, we learn that the Levite line is expected to live a stricter lifestyle than the other tribes. But within this restricted circle, we find that the kohanim (priesthood) must lead and live by the most stringent manner of all Israel. In other words, there are levels to holiness. It’s not that one is better than the other; it’s that YHWH has different expectations for those that serve His people and His House. Those expectations (instructions, commandments) are more stern than those He gives for the average Joe (Israelite). This reminds me of James (Ya’akov’s) warning to those that teach the Word.
Jam. 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.
The accountability and expectations are higher for one that ministers to the body in matters of worship, teaching, and counsel. It seems as though those that are a “mouth” or mediator (priest) in the body are meant to live by a stricter standard. On the one hand, we are all called to be holy and servants of YHWH. On the other hand, those that have more influence on the masses, no matter the role, will be judged more stringently. This is because their actions directly affect multiple people (as did the Levites and the priests). People look up to, watch and mimic their leaders. This makes even me, a blog poster, shutter with awe and renewed vision to be diligent and cautious with my words.
Exactly what is it that makes us holy (kadosh)? Unlike the English word holy, being kadosh is simply the state of being set apart (from all the rest) for a special function. Thus, you can be set apart for something good or something wicked. This is why the same Hebrew word can be used for a harlot and holy ones. (qof, dalet, shin) You see, a harlot is set apart to fulfill their special function. What we are called to be is set apart unto YHWH. This requires us to walk as He instructs; not as we feel, not as we deem appropriate, and not as someone else suggests. And the requirements aren’t too difficult for us. They are near to us; and if we’ve been born from above, they are in our hearts and in our mouths.
Dt. 30:11-16 “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. (12) “It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ (13) “Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ (14) “But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. (15) “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; (16) in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it.
Since the last two week’s portions give us specific instructions in holiness, you may come away from reading them thinking, “Without the Levitical Priesthood and the Temple, how is it possible to follow these commandments?” While it is true that these sections often speak directly to the Temple and Priesthood, there are plenty of instructions that we can observe physically and others we can seek to uphold spiritually. Without a Temple or functioning Levitical Priesthood however, there are numerous commandments that we simply cannot keep. (This eliminates quite a chunk from the 613 if you’re keeping count.)
For example, reverencing your mother and father and keeping YHWH’s Sabbath’s (Lev. 19:3) do not require a Temple. But, offering an animal sacrifice in any way other than the manner described would be a sin itself. These types of physical sacrifices require a Priesthood and Temple.
However, we CAN look at the sacrifices of our lips and deeds. Are they being offered without blemish or defect? In this way, we can still hold to the “heart” of these instructions and see that they are in fact applicable to us in a different way. The point is not to “skim over” these issues because they appear to be foreign or outdated. I assure you that the Word of YHWH is never invalid or archaic! Our peon brains and lustful flesh may desire to sweep all these particulars under the rug, but be careful where you stand, lest you fall!
Our loving Elohim (God) is Good. His Word, Commandments, and Statutes are also Good. And they are, if anything, spiritual!
Rom. 7:14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.
The real scary truth about holiness is that you can be holy and just not be set apart unto YHWH. If you are ruled by your flesh, you will disregard the Creator’s Commandments. Flesh prefers the bondage of sin. And we ALL have flesh! So, in this state, we are set-apart (made holy) unto sin, death, and destruction. While it seems crazy to think that anyone would choose this type of holiness (which is harlotry), multitudes do it every day. I still have many areas that need improvement and if you are honest, you do too! This is why we need the Torah so badly! How can we change or improve if we won’t read and heed the instructions? How do we know the depth of our depravity unless we are shown with the Light of the Word? As Paul says in the same passage as above, “Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24)
Paul clearly illustrates the quandary common to all of mankind. The Law of YHWH is holy and good and teaches us how to bear proper fruit. (Rom. 7:4-5, 7:12-13) But it becomes evident that there is more than one law at work in our members. On the one hand there is the Law of God showing us what sin is. On the other hand, there is the Law of Sin that wages war against the good we know to do.
Rom. 7:21-23 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. (22) For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, (23) but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.
Praise Yah for the blood of Messiah Yeshua! He has made the way for us to be set free from the Law of Sin. (Rom. 8:1-4) Are you free from sin? Or is there still a war waging in your members? I freely admit that the war wages on in my life. I must battle my flesh (nephesh) every single day. However, I’ve actually met “believers” that claim that they no longer sin. Not surprisingly, it was obvious just in conversation that the war wages on in their lives as well —- though they deny it.
Denying the battle would certainly strip you of your armor and weaken your faith. You would have to be wondering what the hell was going on in your life all the time. Because it would indeed be “hell”, and you’d be losing! You might even accuse Yeshua of not holding up His end of the deal (Yah Forbid!) This was the evidence I saw in the couple that claimed to be “free from sin”. A devastating circumstance had happened in their lives. The woman was so overcome with grief that she sat in the kitchen of a stranger (me) and cried —- searching for an answer. She was vulnerable and under great condemnation. Which ironically, is spoken about in the verse preceding their “pet” proof text.
Rom. 8:1-2 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Are you living in condemnation? If you are in Messiah and feel overwhelmed, overcome, defeated, or condemned, your flesh (nephesh) is at the helm of your ship! Choose Life! You have every tool you need to fight this battle. Quit letting your mind, feelings, and flesh dictate your emotional state and daily life. We are NOT called to be ruled by the beast (our flesh), but by the Spirit of the Living Elohim (God)! This is what being holy is all about. CHOOSE, on purpose, to get back on the path whether you lost your way, took a wrong turn, or someone kicked you to the curb. Persevere!
Slaying the Beast
Slaying the beast (the flesh) is easier said than done —– especially if it has had uncontested reign for a long time. Sadly, most believers are not ruled by the Spirit. This is why we have so many problems such as strife, envy, backbiting, jealousy, lust, divisions, slander, and gossip within the body and in our assemblies. This is also why there is a lack of love, mercy, kindness, humility, patience, gratitude, order, honor, and responsibility. We are like the beasts of the field doing what comes natural to our flesh and demanding that everyone around us accept that this is just the way we are. Or equally as repulsive, we may expect those around us to cater to our poor, pitiful, and pathetic life —- yet we wouldn’t dare to lift a finger to change our mindset, emotions, or estate. Flesh likes attention any way it can get it. CHOOSE differently!
I apologize if my words are harsh, but this message is “a burning in my bones!” We ARE supposed to be overcomers! We are to walk in the Light and not in the darkness. We need to learn how to truly walk in the Spirit. We need to learn how to think like the Spirit. We need to act like the Spirit! Believe it or not, the choice is ours to make every single day.
One sure fire way to determine whether the beast (your flesh) or the Spirit is sitting on the throne is to evaluate your thought and conversational life.
Rom. 8:5-8 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. (6) For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, (7) because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, (8) and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Where is your mind? What things do you think on? What sort of things do you talk about or “dwell” on? Are you victorious or are you defeated? The flesh is HOSTILE to the Law of God. The flesh is focused on SELF. Me, myself, and I. (My, my, my.) What is one of the first words of child? “MINE!”
Dear one, the biggest battle you will ever fight is with YOURSELF. (And it’s a daily war!) Outside circumstances and people are just that. They are “outside”. You have no control over them. And you never have. And you never will. There is only ONE thing you are supposed to take control of —– YOUR NEPHESH (flesh).
Can you imagine how different our homes, families, and assemblies would be if we stopped trying to control other people and our circumstances? What if instead of complaining about so-in-so or our lot in life we CHOSE to do something about our own outlook, disposition, and actions. What if we chose to actually REJOICE in all things? If we did this, do you think we would have all the hurt, strife, and division that we currently see?
Burning Flesh on the Altar
Have you ever noticed that most of the sacrifices were flesh and blood beasts (clean animals)? I’m sure you have. Mankind and beasts were both created on day 6 of creation. Therefore, the number of man and the number of the beast are both 6. Have you ever considered that we share a lot of commonalties with these beasts of the field? After all, within the sacrificial system they are dying in the place of us! What can we learn from this? We have some flesh that NEEDS to be placed on the altar. And this process needs to take place on a DAILY basis.
But the flesh doesn’t want to die. It rebels. It rebukes. It makes excuses. It justifies. It throws tantrums. It runs. It hides. Your flesh will do just about anything to keep itself on the throne. One of its preferred tactics is to blame anyone, but itself. It’s all somebody else’s fault that I’m this way or that I did this or that. “If only” is also a favored phrase. “If only I had this or if s/he would do that ——- then…then I’ll be happy. Then, I’ll be satisfied.” Beloved, the flesh is NEVER satisfied. It cannot be satiated. There is always another dangling carrot for it to aimlessly chase.
I want to slay this beast and lay it on the altar. Though I know it will hurt and it won’t “feel” good, I want the fat to burn up in smoke as a sweet smelling aroma before my Adonai and King. I know that you do too! Let’s do it together!
So in light of all this, what do you think the tests, trials, and tribulations in life are all about? What about all those hard-to-deal-with people? They each are an opportunity for YOU to offer your beast (your flesh) upon the Holy Altar. By choosing to slay the beast, you are gaining LIFE!
Rom. 8:10-11 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. (11) But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
Too many of us only really look inward occasionally. Maybe at one of the appointed times. Maybe after a test has knocked us off our high horse. But, the flesh was offered on the altar EVERYDAY. I think the biggest stumbling block we have is that we look “outside” of ourselves all the time. Yes, our eyes are like marbles rolling here and there. We look at people and circumstances. We may even look at our “outward” obedience and check it often. But, we fail where it matters most. We fail to discern the difference between the man and the beast, which is the Spirit of the Living God.
Back to Emor
This was supposed to be a Torah commentary on Emor. Holiness in the Priesthood. The Holy Moedim (Feast Days). The Holy Menorah. But none of this matters if we have no self-control. Holiness requires reverence. A selfish (flesh ruled) person only reverences himself.
2Cor. 7:1 Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
We can either have it our way or His Way. To fear YHWH is the beginning of wisdom. If we want to be a holy vessel, we must empty ourselves and be filled with the Spirit of God. Both the outside AND the inside must be clean. And our “flesh” (inside) can NEVER please Him. I think the reason I’ve been “stuck” in Romans 7-8 while trying to study and write on Emor is no accident.
Emor shows us what holiness looks like on the outside. If we look closely, we will also see that it shows us the inside as well. The calendar you keep will inevitably govern your day to day life. Leviticus 23 clearly outlines the appointed times and Sabbaths of the Creator. Most people would prefer the world’s calendar —- it “appears” easier because everyone is doing it. Others go to the other extreme and set out to “find” the perfected calendar of YHWH. (Can you just hear their pompous flesh demanding to be elevated for such a lofty discovery? Can you also hear their flesh condemning everyone else who isn’t as right as they are? You will know them by their fruit.) Thus, even Torah keepers can become “good” at keeping the outside of the cup clean while the inside is full of filth and abominations.
We are to be salt and light. The holy menorah should be burning within us! If so, the trials and tribulations of life will press and crush us like an olive and give way to pure oil that will keep the heavenly lamp aish tamid (burning eternally). And like the daily sacrifice, it must be tended to every morning and every evening. If we neglect this duty, the holy lamp will burn low and the fiery heat of our (unslain) nephesh will grow stronger instead.
Perhaps this is why Emor ends on a rather tragic note. An Israelite’s son blasphemed the Name of YHWH. At first glance, it seems as though this story is misplaced. But alas, it is a prime example of what happens when we fail to reverence YHWH. When we fail to offer our flesh on the altar. When we fail to be governed by the Creator’s calendar. When we fail to tend the holy menorah.
Lev. 24:22-23 ‘There shall be one standard for you; it shall be for the stranger as well as the native, for I am the LORD your God.‘” (23) Then Moses spoke to the sons of Israel, and they brought the one who had cursed outside the camp and stoned him with stones. Thus the sons of Israel did, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
There is one standard, one mishpat. In Hebrew, this word is “judgment”. There is one judgment for blasphemers. One verdict. Only someone acting out in the flesh could commit such a crime. In fact, verses 15-21 give us some examples of what type of behavior is being dealt with in this passage. Most of these deal with mistreating your fellowman and his property. So even here, we can see the underlining heart of the matter: to love YHWH and love our neighbor. The Torah teaches us how to do both. The flesh desires to do neither; instead it wants only to pleasure itself.
So, how does one become holy? It’s more than “Jesus makes me holy”. Yeshua certainly sets us apart when we accept Him as Lord and Savior. But if we CHOOSE to remain in the flesh, well then that’s our choice. Freewill doesn’t disappear when you make a confession of faith. Real holiness is separating your flesh from the throne and laying it on the altar of our holy Elohim! It is a choice.
“You shall be holy, for I, YHWH your God, am holy.”
 Lev. 19:1- 20:27
 Jer. 20:9 But if I say, “I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,” Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it.
 Philippians 4:4
 For a detailed look at the flesh, nephesh, and the beast, please see Dr. Hollisa Alewine’s complete works in the Creation Gospel series of workbooks. Much of my insight into these analogies have been gleaned by her anointed work and ministry to YHWH’s people.
 Rom. 8:8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.