But this is what He does, not us, Him; chiseling away at the cozy place we’ve constructed to keep us contentedly apathetic, or tenaciously dogmatic and narrow-minded. I’m speaking about myself because I have personal experience with being immature and stiff-necked, running roughshod over people “for the sake of The Gospel”, or refusing to engage with people “for the sake of The Gospel.” We all want to understand, but I think if not through the prevailing winds of today’s Christian culture, then through the puffed up pride I see in myself, especially when I’m acutely aware of my own brokenness is much like our prophet Jeremiah’s cry to Yehudah,
“You may as well eat the meat of your burnt offerings along with that of your sacrifices. For I didn’t speak to your ancestors or give them orders concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices when I brought them out of the land of Egypt. Rather, what I did order them was this: ‘Pay attention to what I say. Then I will be your God, and you will be my people. In everything, live according to the way that I order you, so that things will go well for you.’ But they neither listened nor paid attention, but lived according to their own plans, in the stubbornness of their evil hearts, thus going backward and not forward. For the people of Yehudah have done what is evil from my perspective,” says Adonai; “they have set up their detestable things in the house which bears my name to defile it” (Jer. 7:21-24, 30).
“Here is what Adonai says: “The wise man should not boast of his wisdom, the powerful should not boast of his power, the wealthy should not boast of his wealth; instead, let the boaster boast in this: that he understands and knows me—that I am Adonai, practicing grace, justice and righteousness in the land; for in these things I take pleasure,” says Adonai. (Jer. 9:22-23)
So in this week’s parsha we’re studying sacrifices which is beautiful because they explain so much of God’s grace, His provision by way of substitution of a sacrifice in our place which is always a type and shadow of Messiah Yeshua. But also, to echo what Jeremiah declared to Yehudah in chapter nine referenced earlier, these sacrifices are the way we draw near to God and can come to understand and to know YHVH. For this particular exploration I want to discuss the guilt offering, which transliterated from the Hebrew phonetically in English looks like the “Asham” offering.
The concern we’re laying out here is exactly what happened with brother Judah and Ephraim, which is revealed in Jeremiah chapter 7. And that is to say they had fallen back into the sin of idolatry. They set up detestable things in their homes and attached YHVH’s name to it. Speaking of the home, I find it very, very interesting that several of the offerings were required to have the blood of the sacrifice splashed against the walls of the altar; and isn’t it interesting that YHVH commanded Israel to put the blood of the sacrificial lamb on the doorposts and lintel of the doors of their homes. See any connection? The altar is where the fire of YHVH is to be maintained and kept burning at all times; it’s also where the sacrifices and offerings are to be laid down and their lives are to go up as a fragrant offering to YHVH. Can we say with honesty that our homes are a place where we each lay our lives down for one another and honor God through humbling ourselves one to another? It is definitely something to meditate upon.
This guilt offering however contains great significance in the life of each believer. First of all, the mere fact that there is such a thing as a guilt offering suggests that God doesn’t want us carrying around guilt all the time! Life was not meant for us to inflict hurtful words and thoughts to ourselves all day long, and by the way if this resonates with you then it’s time for you to claim authority over those condemning voices wrestling inside you. The adversary knows only too well that there is a fine line between humility and condemnation; but we are not living a condemned life beloved are we? Because Paul said therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Ro. 8:1). So if you are struggling with this then you really need to confront this issue and ask Abba to help you pull down those strongholds.
Asham in Hebrew is spelled with an Alef, a Shin and a Mem Sofeed. Within this word is a two-letter root pronounced Shem. In the Paleo Hebrew (S#817) we learn that Asham means “guilt: one with a character of wrongdoing” (Jeff Benner, Ancient Hebrew Lexicon, AHL# 1473 C, p.278). Shem means name. Under God’s covenant we are given a new name, which we explored in the previous book Sh’mot, giving us greater depth of understanding that a name constitutes a heritage, a reputation and fame. Let us also not forget that there is only one name under heaven by which we can be saved, Yeshua Messiah.
When our character is out of joint and not lining up with YHVH’s character we are guilty. For the believer with a heart sensitive to the things of God we understand what this feels like. Shem also means breath, because in the Paleo Hebrew the breath of a man describes his character. What motion does he make? What current does he move in? What are his words? What direction do his feet move in? See? Character, revealed by how we move and what we say, reveals our constant problem located at our center, the heart.
The heart is where we hold our understanding of God. Oftentimes Abba has to adjust or tear down things we’ve attached to His character in our heart that are contrary to who He really is. Allowing false ideas that are not true of Him into our heart results in idolatry. The Hebrew word for idol is Pasal. It means to hew or cut, as in the chiseling of stone to form an image… a graven image. The irony is that God tells us “Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the LORD: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged” (Isaiah 51:1). God is doing a work in our lives, refining, chiseling, transforming all the time reminding us who we belong to, Yeshua. But in the subtlety of our surroundings, our habits, our conditioning, our struggles we attempt to chisel God more into an image that justifies a life of pride, of fear, of justifying an obsession, an addiction, which is a life of slavery.
God says His word sets us free (Jn.8:32), His commandments are not burdensome (1Jn.5:3); but his yoke is easy and light (Mt 11:30). When we look at Yeshua we’re seeing the Name, or character of The Father (Jn.14:9), and YHVH said that He Himself practices grace, justice and righteousness... (Jer. 9:22-23). Grace as it is revealed in the Hebrew here is Chesed, and it means goodness, kindness, and faithfulness; to show kindness to oneself and to one’s neighbor. The main thing I want to point out here is that being a disciple of Yeshua, in covenant with Him, where we read in Colossians that our life is hid with Christ, if our heart is out of joint with God’s character, then God expects us to be accountable for that. "You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also" (Mt.23:26). "Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality , impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— (Col.3:5-10).
He has given us power to address these strongholds, these defects of character, these idols that we’ve allowed to come in between us and Him. If Yeshua has all authority and power (1Cor.1:24), and our life is hid with Him then He has given us the power of choice and His Ruach Ha'Kodesh to overcome those things we've either given a blind eye to or willingly allowed to come in between us and our relationship with YHVH. In this sense guilt is a good thing because God’s Chesed or, kindness leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4), and repentance helps us to return to YHVH, where we are restored to a right understanding of Him.
Where Love Comes In
In the Brit Chadasha reading that many couple with this week’s Torah parsha is found in the 12th chapter of the Gospel of Mark. In verse 29 a Torah teacher asked Yeshua what the greatest Mitzvah is. Mitzvah’s root word comes from tsavah, who’s root word is tsav, or command. Here Yeshua sums up Torah with two primary commandments and both of them share the same key word. Love; to Love The LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Now so often we equate love with some fickle romantic flighty feeling we see feigned in Hollywood movies but love is much different than what the world has sold it as.
The rabbi in Mark chapter 12 said that these two commandments are greater than all the offerings and sacrifices. How can that be? In the Greek the word for love is Agapeo; translated to the Hebrew it becomes Ahav. Spelled with an Alef a Heh and a Vet, the two-letter Heh-Vet combination means to love, but pictographically it literally means to “provide for the family.” Alef means “The Strong Shepherd, leader, power, and God.” So love in it’s ultimate expression is pictographically translated to mean God provides for the family. How did God provide for His family? He gave us His son! He offered His son as a sacrifice to redeem us and to restore covering to us. Love therefore is a sacrificing of oneself, or one’s life in order to make sure the family is taken care of. In truth, to show love in its purest form is to become like Yeshua and sacrifice oneself. It is the definition of losing one’s life to find it. And if we can finally learn to walk this out Yeshua then says “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” This is what we long for! Yeshua said “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven!” (Mt.6:10). May it be so, Ahmain and ahmain!