Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Levitical Nap Interruption

"Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: When a man among you brings an offering to Hashem: from animals-from the cattle or from the flock you shall bring your offerings." 
Lev. 1:2 Tanach

My leisurely journey through the Tanach brings me to Leviticus...groan. A tough book to slug through, I hope by the end, if I make it, to discover more than a sure fire recipe for a nap. This time I read the introductory remarks and discovered a reason not to snooze.

The initial chapters deal with animal sacrifices - boring. The difference this time was the explanation of korban, a Hebrew word for sacrifice or offering. The English language doesn't properly convey the meaning of korban or korbanos. Sacrifice implies deprivation, something of value given under duress. God finds no joy in this. Offering sounds less negative but still fails to define korban.

The prophet Isaiah wrote, "I (God) have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats...stop bringing meaningless offerings." Isaiah 1:11-13. How did God benefit from sacrifices? Man's largesse doesn't enrich God one iota.

The answer is korban. The word's root meaning is to come and draw near. While offering korban the person was invited to come and draw near to God. Korban was an avenue to obtain greater intimacy with God and to achieve a higher level of spirituality. When the Torah references korban offerings they are linked to the four letter name of God Who is merciful. Person's performing korban did so in an atmosphere of safety, acceptance and an open door to God.

This explanation of korban transformed my concept of sacrifices and offerings. I see these words of Jesus now in a different light.

"But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.'" 
Matt. 9:13.

It always was and will be about mercy and love.

Rather than hope that people would show up at His house, Jesus hit the streets. He tracked down those without offerings and extended mercy, grace and relationship. It's not only about giving to God, but also about from receiving from Him.

How about you? What types of feelings have you wrestled with when it comes to giving? How does the definition of korban dispel any notions that giving is a means to buy God's good graces? Does the image of a merciful and not an angry God invite you to draw near when you feel the least worthy? How does korban re-define sacrifices and offerings for you?

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