The Jerusalem Prayer List
March 31, 2017
By Joseph Shulam
The reading this week is from Leviticus 1:1 – 5:26. The book of Leviticus is the Priestly Code – the first chapters are somewhat tedious dealing with all the details of the sacrifices, the kind of animals, and how to butcher them before the sacrifices. What parts of the animals are burned totally and what parts are eaten by the priests. I would like to share with you the broader picture of why there are sacrifices as a human phenomenon.
First, sacrifices are a part of just about all religions in the world, both ancient and modern. Second, sacrifices are offered for a variety of reasons. The most common types of sacrifices are offered because of fear from the anger of the forces (gods) that rule the world, nature, weather, disaster like a volcano, earthquake, and illness. Another reason why people offer sacrifices is to receive a blessing from the gods, harvest, fruit, prosperity, protection from evil forces and demons. Some people want to sacrifice to show the love and appreciation they have for their gods. Gratitude is another one of the motivations to sacrifice.
The God of Israel regulates this drive, urge, instinct, need to sacrifice and make it an institution. God regulates who can sacrifice, how the sacrifices should be treated, what can be sacrificed, when is the right moment to sacrifice, and where sacrifices can be offered. All the world knows how to sacrifice to their gods. Israel was not an exclusive nation that sacrificed to God. There were sacrifices in Egypt to their gods, and the same in Canaan, and Mesopotamia their sacrificed to their gods. What was special about Israel is that God gave very specific and clear and extensive rules and regulations for each sacrifice.
Contrary to the other nations the God of Israel did not order the sacrifices because He needed the meat or the gifts or the appeasement from His anger by sacrifices. The biblical sacrifices are not for God – they are for us human beings to satisfy our base human instincts. It is easier for us to sacrifice money. Sheep, goats, bulls, pigeons, and wheat meal are all measured as money. We see this from the relativity of the sacrifices. If a person is rich he must offer a bull, if he is poor it would be enough to offer a hand full of meal anointed with oil.
Maimonides explains that the wisdom and intelligent design of God is evident in the complexity of the universe. This same wisdom is manifest in God’s providential care for humanity. God considers human nature. God knows that human behaviors and attitudes cannot be suddenly, radically altered.
Maimonides offers a novel approach to explaining animal sacrifice. He explains that God’s objective in His relationship with Israel was to develop the people into a nation devoted to His service. God chose to allow sacrifice that is like the nations but also very different in substance. Sacrifice was an established form of worship in all the neighboring nations. If God had abandoned sacrifice as a form of worship it would have been a radical change of attitudes and behaviors. In other words, to achieve the goal of forming a nation devoted to God, a concession was made to human nature and sacrifices were commanded in a controlled environment and with limitations.
To reform sacrifice is highly controlled and structured. This intensive attention to detail assures that all elements of idolatry are removed and not permitted to reenter sacrificial service. When we read Isaiah, Chapter 1 or Jeremiah, Chapter 7, we see that the sacrificial system that God allowed or promoted in the Torah failed and God had to say some strong words to bring Israel back to focus.
Maimonides knows that animal sacrifice is not an ideal form of worship. He seems to accept that this form of worship is a remnant from more primitive times and cultures.
Maimonides explains that the sacrificial system could not alter human nature. Only the Torah with the understanding of the ultimate divine love and grace can motivate us to change and be transformed into the divine nature by following the ONE who became a human and sacrificed himself for the lost seed of humanity. The shadow of the divine sacrifice of Yeshua is the model that mirrors all the sacrifices that were not sufficient to change our nature.
Maimonides believed that the Torah created a system of sacrifices in response to two considerations. First, it would have been impossible to develop a new religion that completely abandoned traditional, deeply rooted forms of worship that were the norm the whole world over. Second, the Torah was compelled to regulate and structure sacrifices to “sanitize” them and strip them of idolatry. Looking at the prophets the structuring and regulating of sacrifices did not fully eliminate all elements of idolatry. The Torah’s concession to human nature in allowing sacrifices is a dangerous one. It allows an institution identified with idolatry to continue to exist. Maimonides was aware that there is danger that the sacrificial system might become corrupted and degenerate back into idolatry even with the careful regulation of the Torah. Which we know happened by the time of the Judean Kings and Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, Hosea, and in fact most of the prophets understood this. The book of Hebrew sums up this point with the following words: Heb. 9:11-14, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of lthe blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, nthus securing an eternal redemption. For if othe blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with pthe ashes of a heifer, sanctify6 for the purification of the flesh, how much more will qthe blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit roffered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
Maimonides is the anglicized name of Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon. He was the most influential Rabbi for Modern Judaism. Maimonides was born in Cordova, Spain on Passover Eve, 1135 or 1138, he worked as a rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Morocco and Egypt. He died in Egypt on December 12, 1204, whence his body was taken to the lower Galilee and buried in Tiberias.
Please keep praying for Israel. There are some internal issues in Israel connected with broadcasting and freedom of the press. There are issues that are regional, big problems in the Middle East that need God’s gracious involvement and guidance for our leadership. Please pray for Israel! Pray for divine wisdom and care for the captains of our nation.
Please pray for Netivyah. We all must pray and do more than pray. Netivyah is in the process of ushering the young generation of leaders into the leadership. They are all some of the finest men and women that can take Netivyah to the next stage of growth and success. These young people deserve your prayer and support. They are doing the HaMotzi program of feeding the poor, they are doing the Kol HaYeshua radio broadcasting, they are the ones leading the youth and raising already the third generation of young people who are walking with the Lord.
We do have the scholarship program for Disciples of Yeshua in Israel to be able to attend the Universities and colleges. The scholarship program now has 19 students that are full time students in the institutions of higher learning in Israel. We provide a scholarship for these students to make an investment into the future of the community of Yeshua believing citizens of Israel. We want to expand this program that has been blessing over the years to more than 100 students who have graduated and now are incorporated into the society with a positive witness and influence into Israeli society. Please pray for this program to be successful.
We have received some very good responses for the gifts that we have provided for the believers who are serving in the Israeli defence forces. These gifts have been given to the believing soldiers for several years with the cooperation of the DFW NewBeginnings community. The soldiers appreciate the useful gifts and above the gifts themselves they appreciate that Netivyah and N.B. is praying for them and thinking of ways to bless them during their years of service for this country. We want to do more for these wonderful young people who are the most powerful force of positive witness in Israel.
Pray for the following people who are ill and need God’s merciful touch for healing.
Yehuda H., Yael E., Keijo and Salme, Leah K., David S., Sarit, Miriam, Hannah, Ruby, Greg, Benjamin Sol, Daniel P., Ahuva, Ilana, Joe M., Emmet M., Gloria D., Bobby M., Ruby, John M., Gary, Aharon H., Yuri M., Tim Tucker, Anna-Majia, Erki and Sirpa, Liz J., Horace and June S., Marcelo’s father and mother, Paulo, Naomi, Clara, Pra. Curita, Toru San, Yumi’s husband, Sadako San, Shoko San, Takeo Sensei and Tomoko San, Barry S., Danah and Noaam S.B
I have other brothers and sisters that I pray for but don’t list in this list. I am sure that you too have people who need prayer for healing and success. I want to encourage you to make a prayer list and pray for these people seriously. There is a blessing from God for those who pray for others and mention the needs of brothers and sisters in their prayers.
Barry our son is gratetful for your prayers. He visited the doctor last week and he has received a good report and can resume his life fully and not be limited by illness and surgery. Thank you all for your prayers. We do believe that your prayers are powerful and potent and with the grace of God – The merciful one hears your prayers and responds according to HIS desire and grace.
I ask you to pray for some friends who have a need for God’s blessing on their work: Chung and Sister Lee. I have special concern for our dear brother Bro. Goh and his family, and for Sister Christy, Sister Laurel, and for Brother Michael Kenzevic, and Daniel L., and his company and his family. Pray for our dear brother David H., and his family in Finland. These are brothers who have needs in their work and God is gracious to bless and help those who have concern to bless others.
God bless you all who pray for Israel and for the Peace of Jerusalem. May the good Lord keep all HIS blessings flowing to you and from you for the body of the Messiah worldwide.
Blessings to all of you,
P.S. – God hears prayers! Make your prayers and your desires known to the only ONE who can make your prayers a reality. Communicate with the Creator of the World and don’t be shy to ask HIM to fulfill your needs and bless your life and use you to be a blessing to others.