The Torah reading this Shabbat is called in Hebrew “Tetzaveh”, which in English would be translated “Command”. We read from Exodus 27:20 – 30:10, and from the prophets (Haftarah) from Ezekiel 43:10-27. From the New Testament we read Titus 1:5-2:15.
Every one of these readings has some very important and fascinating ideas and principles that we ought to glean from and apply to our own lives and relationship with the Almighty God and Father. I am fascinated with the first verse of our Torah reading this Shabbat!
“And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually.” – Exodus 27:20 [NKJV]
Here is my fascination:
When I go to the supermarket near my home and go into the aisle that has the olive oil, I need to concentrate and choose from at least 20 different brands of olive oil. And beside the olive oils there are other types of oils – canola, sunflower seed, grapeseed, and you name it. They have it all in our little suburban supermarket.
The olive oil is probably the most expensive oil that there is in Israel. Here comes my 21st Century Israeli attitude. (Not only Israelis do this, also other nationalities act the same.) What difference does it make if I buy olive oil, cold-pressed virgin oil, for burning in my menorah (candelabra)?
Why should I pay at least double to buy olive oil for burning and not buy sunflower oil that is about a quarter of the price? We are not in the Tabernacle in the wilderness, nor are we in Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.
Sunflower seed oil is just as good for both eating and for burning in a candle. So, why do we have to follow exactly what God commanded us?
The rationale that I have heard, both from more modern Jews and from Christians, is that we are living in the 21st Century, driving cars and not riding donkeys. We are using ink pens and not carving messages on rocks, or drawing on papyrus. We are sending men to the moon these days.
The most shocking argument that I have heard from some good intellectual pastors who have graduated from some of the best universities in the USA is this: “God can understand us, and He knows the the world that we are living in, and therefore these old commands are not so important and relevant to our modern lifestyle and to the globalization of everything around us!”
They say: “Things change and our religion has to change with the cultural changes of our day.” I have no doubt that many of you who are reading this will concur and support this modern attitude and agree.
You would say something like this: “We don’t need to spend more money on olive oil for burning in the menorah when we can use sunflower oil and give the difference to the poor…”
The above way of thinking is very modern and very popular both among Jews and among Christians. The reason that we think in these very utilitarian patterns is because we have lost some of the fear of the Lord and we look at our faith as a casual cultural accommodation for our families and for the community, and because going to church is good for our children…
Our western civilization and modern, even post-Hollywood, culture has distanced us from from what is truly holy and divine. Yes, we see ourselves as believers, even as disciples of Yeshua, and we would like to think that we are faithful disciples of Yeshua, although sinners, but His grace is sufficient for us!
Can you imagine the work that went into these priestly uniforms, and how heavy these uniforms must have been? Can you imagine the attitude of the sons of Aaron wearing these uniforms in the Sinai Desert heat, that could go up to 45 degrees Centigrade, and 114 Fahrenheit?
Can you in your imagination imagine those young priests, the sons of Aaron, saying to themselves, “Why go so far to bring fire for the altar from the other side of the holy precinct? We have a much closer source of fire. Fire is fire is fire… We are late and Aaron our father is waiting for us, let us just get this fire that is much closer to the altar…”
Boom! They did, and fire from Heaven devoured Nadav and Avihu.
I say to myself first, to my family second, and to our congregation in Jerusalem third, that we are good people, and we are “faithful” disciples of Yeshua. And we sincerely want to be fruitful servants of the King of Kings, Yeshua our Savior!
However, we have to sharpen the fear of the Lord in our lives, not fear in the pathological meaning of the word, but I would translate the word “fear” with the following: honor, respect, appreciation, desire to please, and deep love for someone who is giving us life and breath, the promise of eternity and acquittal in judgment, and fellowship with the saints forever and ever in a place where there is no death and no illness.
If we believe truly that there is life after death and judgment of all flesh and the resurrection from the dead, and that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that all can be saved from Hell and enjoy Heaven… We must be wise enough to know that when God commands us to do something so simple like get olive oil for the lampstand in the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and for the Temple in Jerusalem – just get the right oil, and keep enjoying life!
There are dozens of verses in the Torah that state like this one:
“Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the Lord had commanded Moses.” – Exodus 38:22 [NKJV]
The words that I would like to emphasize in this verse are: “Made all that the Lord had commanded Moses!”
It is true that our forefathers didn’t always do all that the Lord commanded Moses! What we do see that it is not impossible to be obedient and do the will of the Lord.
Saints throughout all the generations have did it, and built the platform for us to stand on and at least have enough respect for the Lord and for His Word, and for Yeshua our Savior to confess and repent when we don’t do what God commanded us. Yeshua said: My yoke is easy and my burden is light!
In conclusion of this teaching here are some verses that speak about the fear of the Lord from the Bible:
“Thus Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared theLord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses.” – Exodus 4:31
“…that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.” – Deuteronomy 6:2
“…that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” – Joshua 4:24
“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord!” – Joshua 24:14
“You who fear the Lord, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, And fear Him, all you offspring of Israel!” – Psalm 22:23
“The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord, And knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” – Proverbs 9:10
“Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent.” – Acts 13:26
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” – Romans 3:18
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” – 2 Corinthians 7:1
“…submitting to one another in the fear of God.” – Ephesians 5:21
“Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.” – Colossians 3:22
I bless myself, my family, our congregation in Jerusalem, our fellowships in Brazil, Finland, Bulgaria, and our brothers and sisters in Asia, Europe, and North America to work on restoring and rebuilding our fear of the Lord, to the degree that we will also take His commands and His instructions and His teaching with the level of respect and seriousness that will be a product of our sincere and true fear of the Lord.
I confess that this lesson is first and foremost for myself and not in condemnation of any one person or group of denomination or non-denominational denomination. We all need to be reminded and admonished to take the word of God seriously and understand that the words and the instruction of our Lord Yeshua are expected and prescribed so that we can and must keep them and obey.
Yes, this does not in any way change the fact that we are all saved by grace. But grace is not a license for disobedience and disrespect for the word and instruction of the Master of this Universe!
Here is a very short list of some things that as a body of the Messiah in Israel we need to work on and put the fear of the Lord in us all!
- How we deal and resolve issues between brothers:
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” – Matthew 18:17
- How to give charity and contribute money to the Lord’s community:
“But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…” – Matthew 6:3
These are just two short examples of things that the Lord commanded us to do, and we ought to do them just right because of our fear of the Lord!
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.