Vayikra, "And He Called"

We call Leviticus Leviticus because that is the title used in the Septuagint; it means "pertaining to the Levites" (Greek levitikon). This title is a rough derivative of the ancient rabbinic phrase "instructions for the priests" (Hebrew torat kohanim). Ultimately, the Hebrews call the book Vayikra, which means "And He called", from the opening words in 1:1 (Young's Literal Translation): And Jehovah calleth...

The Caller

At the end of Exodus, Moses could not enter the tent, God's personal space (Ex 40:35). At the beginning of Leviticus, God called Moses into the tent (Lev 1:1). At the beginning of Numbers, God spoke to Moses while he was in the tent (Num 1:1).
    These three salients show us God is the initiator and lead communicator in our relationship with Him. He called us for the very first time at the born-again event and leading up to it (Jn 6:44,65, 1Co 1:9, 2Th 2:14), however, He continues to call us to come and meet with Him every day in a private intimate meeting where He will speak to us (Mk 1:35). Our prayer life is not a one-sided project of us trying to convince God to do this or that. A mature and productive prayer life is one in which, first, we pour out our souls in worship, thanksgiving, repentance, emotional release, and intercession, but then we transcend our own voice to tune into His voice and illuminations. The title and phrase "Vayikra" presents God as the caller, the initiator and lead communicator in His dynamic with humanity, the One who calls to us first and keeps calling to us, to come and tabernacle with Him in intimacy and dialogue. Think of all the men and women in Scripture the Lord called to and gave them a Vayikra moment.

The Called Out Ones

If the Lord is the caller, we who hear and respond are the called out ones. This is precisely the New Testament Greek word for the church, ekklesia, which literally means "a calling out". In the Greek vernacular ekklesia meant "a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into a public place for an assembly" (as in Acts 19:32,39,41). The inspired New Testament writers adopted and adapted ekklesia to refer to the born-again community, the church, as in "those called out from the world to tabernacle with God". It is the perfect Greek word for church. It captures the concept of vayikra or God calling, yet advances the storyline into those who responded to that call, the church.
    Israel consistently rejected that call across the Old Covenant era (Isa 26:18, Mt 23:32,37, Ac 7:51-53), forcing Jesus to say to them, "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit" (Mt 21:43 NIV). Peter tells us "the people" referred to here is the New Covenant ekklesia, the ones who responded to the call and therefore became the called out ones (1Pet 2:9). This does not mean God is finished forever with Israel. Not at all. Paul emphasizes this in Romans 11, telling us God has not rejected Israel forever (v1,2), but rather, she is in a state of spiritual hardness until the full number of Gentiles come in (v25). At the end, in conjunction with the Second Coming, God will pour out a spirit of grace and supplication on Israel and she will mourn for the one she pierced, Jesus (Zec 12:10). At that time Israel will finally respond to the Caller in a way she never did throughout the Old Covenant era.

Vayikra & Ekklesia

God's Word and plan is one beautifully unified symphony of spiritual truth. The concept of vayikra--God calling Moses and all humanity to tabernacle with Him--is fulfilled on one level in the ekklesia or church, those who respond to that call and therefore become the called out ones. While Old Covenant Israel largely rejected that call, a day is coming when she, too, will have an "ekklesia" experience. This does not mean Israel and the church are the exact same thing--they are not. It simply means Israel will have that ekklesia moment in which she responds in true conversion to the call of her God and a remnant is called out for eternity (Ro 11:5, Zec 13:8,9). This will fulfill God's original plan for Israel, to be a nation called out from the other nations for His purposes (Ex 19:5,6, Num 23:9, Deu 4:6-8, Ps 147:19,20). This will fulfill the concept of ekklesia on another level, Israel's level.

God the Communicator

Leviticus has 859 verses. In 727 of those verses God is the one speaking--85% of the book. This is the most of any book in the Bible. By comparison, around 13% is the narrator speaking (probably Joshua), around 2% of the verses is Moses speaking, and Aaron speaks once (10:19). This indicates to us that our God is an eager communicator. He wants to talk, and given the opportunity and place, He will talk. Sometimes, especially at certain moments, He will talk a lot. It is what He talks about that causes people to miss His voice.

What God Says & Why He Says It
    Those among God's people who do not often perceive His voice do not do so, usually, because He is speaking on a different wavelength. What I mean is, He is speaking to them, for sure, but He is speaking about a subject they are not that interested in. Most Christians want God's personal voice on four areas: relationships (or the hope of, or the fixing of), money/job (often the increase or improvement of), health issues (the healing of), or any immediate concern impacting them in a felt way. In other words, people tend to crave the Voice on whatever has the greatest emotional valence to them.
    The benevolent good news is that the Father will speak about what is exigent to us (Ps 20:4,5, Jn 15:7), however, He may not get to it immediately. He often requires that we respond first to what is most valent or pressing to Him (Mt 6:33, 1Jn 3:22). He is the Shepherd, we are the sheep. First priority is the Shepherd's voice, not the sheep's cry. To perceive that voice consistently and increasingly we must tune in to the wavelength He is speaking on. Sometimes that is the same as your immediate concern, sometimes not.
    There are times when the Lord is concerned about something greater, when certain ideals and objectives are more priority than our immediate reality. It is in these times when we are most likely to miss His voice, for He is speaking and revealing on those other wavelengths. Thus, a preliminary absolute to perceiving God's voice is to accept that He often speaks about what is most pressing to Him first, not necessarily what is most pressing to us. Make His burden your priority and you will suddenly find yourself where His revelatory rain is falling. If you consistently do this, seeking His priorities first, He will eventually make your burden His priority and grant your desires in astonishingly delightful ways.


For Example, Leviticus
    The communications of God that fill 85% of Leviticus are an example of the aforementioned. Think through it with a bit of Biblical imagination. The Israelites are finally out of Egypt and literal slavery. They are on their way to a promise land, a land flowing with milk and honey, a land that drinks rain from heaven, a land with nice houses they did not build and gardens they did not plant, a land where they can live in peace and prosperity, a land that God Himself keeps His eyes on all year, year after year. How exciting! How dreamy! How perfect!
    "But first," God said, "you have to listen to what is on my heart first and give me what I want first." Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy are filled with God telling Israel what He values and wants first. Because the exodus generation did not listen and cooperate, God killed them off in the desert and His values and wants jumped to the second generation. They listened, gave Him what He valued, and as a result, He in turn listened to their heart's desires, spoke to them on the wavelength of those desires, and ultimately gave them those desires.
    The 727 or 85% of verses in Leviticus in which God is talking tell us that He is not fundamentally silent, shy, or stingy with His words. He is willing to talk, but like the exodus generation, we are not always willing to hear the subject matter He is talking about. Sometimes hearing and cooperating with His voice today is like His hearing and cooperating with His voice in Leviticus: difficult, at great cost, a bit scary, morality-driven, meticulous, cryptic, even flat-out bizarre. Though we are no longer under the ceremonies of Leviticus in the New Covenant, sometimes God's personal voice resembles the book.
    Regardless of the challenges we might face with God's voice, to perceive that voice consistently and increasingly we must tune in to the wavelength He is speaking on at any given time. Sometimes that wavelength is the same as your immediate concern, sometimes it is far from it. Make His burden your priority and you will suddenly find yourself where revelatory rain is falling. If you consistently do this, seeking His values and wants first, He will eventually make your burden His priority and grant your desires in astonishingly delightful ways.

When His voice calls like Leviticus, hear and cooperate. Then you will hear a voice like Song of Songs and Joshua.