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Ceremonial Laws

1. Introduction

There are many commandments in the Holy Scriptures which YaHuWaH the Almighty Elohim of Israel gave mankind through His servant Moshe. They were intended to regulate all life on earth and they fall into several categories:

All these laws are recorded in the first five books of the Bible. As stated above they were initially given to Israel, but were intended for the benefit of all mankind. It is undoubtedly one of humanity's greatest blunders that YaHuWaH 's laws have been rejected by all nations in favor of countless impotent human regulations, most of which need updating every generation.

2. Facts about YaHuWaH 's Laws

Before we begin our study of the ceremonial laws in Scriptures, there are certain facts we need to recognize about divine law. The facts are as follows:

  • ALL the commandments of YaHuWaH are perfect
    Every one of the Almighty's commandments is faultless and is never in need of update no matter how many centuries roll by. Like their divine Author they change not, because they are already absolutely faultless.
    Psalm 19: 7: The law of YaHuWaH is perfect , converting the soul: the testimony of YaHuWaH is sure, making wise the simple.


  • ALL YaHuWaH 's commandments are eternal

    By this I mean that the essence, the kernel, the high level spiritual requirement and objective of every divine commandment is everlasting and will apply throughout eternity. In other words, at its heart every divine commandment, moral and ceremonial, contains a sacred truth which can never become obsolete! By way of definition we may say that ceremonial or symbolic commandments are those which employ ceremonies or symbols to point out their inner truths. The symbol or ceremony may in time become unnecessary, but the moral requirement of every divine law is everlasting and will apply for all time. More about this fact later.

    Psalm 111: 7: The works of His hands are verity and judgment; all His commandments are sure.
    8: They stand fast for ever and ever
    , and are done in truth and uprightness.

    Psalm 119: 44: So shall I keep Thy law continually for ever and ever

3. Ceremonial Symbolic Commands

When we study the commandments of the Most High we notice that in addition to the above categories they may also be classified as follows:

Divine Objectives

These are laws which simply define YaHuWaH 's objectives . They tell us what we should be, rather than what we should do or not do. They include directives such as:

  • Thou shalt be perfect with YaHuWaH thy Elohim. (Deuteronomy 18:13)
  • Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

    Moral Requirements

    These are moral commandments which explain how - with YaHuWaH 's help - those divine objectives may be reached. Moral commandments include the Ten Commandments and those listed below:

    • And now, Israel, what doth YaHuWaH thy Elohim require of thee, but to fear YaHuWaH thy Elohim, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve YaHuWaH Elohim with all thy heart and with all thy soul. (Deuteronomy 10:12)
    • And He (YAHUSHUA) answering said, Thou shalt love YaHuWaH thy Elohim with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. (Luke 10:27)

      Ceremonial or Symbolic Commandments

      A ceremonial command is one which employs a ceremony or symbolic token to demonstrate or call to mind some high-level moral lesson or objective. Unlike plain moral commands (e.g. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal etc.) which quite plainly spell out a moral requirement, ceremonial commandments also contain symbolic activities or tokens which dramatize the inner moral lesson being taught. This article has been produced to explain a few (not all) of these ceremonial commands. They include commands concerning:

      • Animal Sacrifices
      • Circumcision
      • (point 5)
      • The wearing of phylacteries
      • Mixing linen with wool
      • Wearing fringed garments
      • An unblemished Priesthood
      • Uncleanness

      • In these commandments you will notice that symbolic tokens or ceremonies are employed in order to demonstrate or explain the deep moral lessons contained in the command: lessons which would otherwise be missed.

      4. Animal Sacrifices

      Prior to the Messiah's death on Calvary, if a sinner wanted mercy he/she was obliged to sacrifice an animal and offer its blood to the Most High before forgiveness could be obtained. In short, no faith in the blood - no mercy. As the scripture says.
      YaHuWaHcalled for animal sacrifices in order to demonstrate to the repentant sinner the enormous price the innocent victim had to pay before pardon was possible. Every animal sacrifice was in fact a practical lesson pointing to Messiah's death on Calvary! Since the Savior's sacrifice we sinners no longer need to kill literal animals. Faith in YAHUSHUA the Messiah is all that we now need to obtain mercy. In effect the ceremonial aspect of this law, that is, the slaying of an innocent animal, is obsolete: it is no longer necessary to sacrifice bulls, lambs or kids.

      But, and here is a fact many Christians miss, the main lesson of this ceremonial command (that is the spiritual requirement which calls for faith in the Savior's blood before forgiveness is possible) still stands! Even now, some 2000 years after the Messiah's death on Calvary, we still need to approach YaHuWaH 's Mercy Seat with blood: though now it is with faith in the blood of His Son, the Lamb of YaHuWaH. In other words though the dramatized, instructional, ceremonial element involving the shedding of a farm animal's blood has ceased, the spiritual requirement to approach the Most High with faith in the Lamb's blood still stands. That part of the commandment is eternal: it will never cease to apply. Yes, throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity the redeemed will approach YaHuWaH's throne through the merits of His Son's shed blood. Sure we will not be everlastingly in need of forgiveness, for we will then be sinless: but we will, nonetheless, always be in need of the Almighty's favor and blessing which were won for us by His Son's blood. That fact, the inner core of the command, will never become obsolete; because time and space can never cancel our dependence on the Savior's blood.

      We can now see how that the essence of the sacrificial commands, the great moral truths they prefigure, are eternal; even though in ages past they needed a ceremonial drama (the slaughter of innocent animals) to explain their high-level objectives and deep spiritual meanings. For more details, see our article on Animal Sacrifices.

      5. Circumcision

      Circumcision is another ceremonial commandment with deep spiritual meaning. It is a physical token, a symbolic sign in the flesh, of total commitment and obedience to YaHuWaH the Elohim of Israel. It signifies the absolute degree of holiness the Most High requires of His people. Elohim said to Abraham:

      Genesis 17: 11: And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt Me and you.

      6. The Wearing of Phylacteries

      Phylacteries are prayer bands containing short extracts from Elohim's law. They were worn on the forehead and forearm.

    • Deut.6: 4: Hear, O Israel: YaHuWaH our Elohim is one YaHuWaH:
      5: And thou shalt love YaHuWaH ;thy Elohim with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
      6: And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
      7: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
      8: And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
      9: And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

      This ceremonial law symbolizes the need to keep the Almighty's commandments in thought, word and deed. Phylacteries also informed an onlooker that the wearer was a believer in Israel's YaHuWaH.

      This law also prefigures the time when YaHuWaH will personally inscribe His law on our minds and actions.

      7. Mixing linen with Wool

      Linen is cloth made from flax, a blue flowered plant cultivated for its textile fiber and its seed called linseed. Garments made of linen were used primarily in the worship of YaHuWaH. Linen was not to be mixed with wool any more than the sacred is to be mingled with the secular, or truth mixed with error. This law symbolizes, among other things, the need to keep holy and secular things apart.

      Leviticus 19: 19: Ye shall keep My statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woolen come upon thee.

      The Scriptures tell us that linen was used in the following instances:

      • The Tabernacle curtains and court were made of linen. (Ex 26:1, Ex 27:9)
      • The Temple Veil was linen. (2 Chron.3:14)
      • The Priest's garments were linen. (Lev.16, 1 Sam.22:18, Eze 44:17-19)
      • The temple singers wore linen. (2 Chron 5:12)
      • The prophet Samuel and king David wore linen ephods on special occasions. (1 Sam.2:18, 2 Sam. 6:14)
      • The state dress of Joseph and Mordecai were made of linen. (Genesis 41:42, Esther 8:15)
      • Heavenly messengers wore linen. (Eze.9:2, Daniel 10:5)
      • The Savior's body was wrapped in linen before being placed in the tomb. (Matt.27:59)
      • The Lamb's Wife will be clothed in linen, which represents holiness and righteousness. (Rev.19:8)

      If you read these passages you will see that linen is a special material with rich symbolic meaning. Besides its pure white appearance it has the added advantage that it does not cause sweat as does wool, the material worn by the common working man.

    • Ezekiel 44: 18: They shall have linen bonnets upon their heads, and shall have linen breeches upon their loins; they shall not gird themselves with any thing that causeth sweat.

      8. Fringed Garments


      Another symbolic command Israel was given concerned the wearing of fringed borders of blue on their garments. Like the phylacteries on the forehead and forearm these fringed borders would also remind the wearer to keep the commandments of YaHuWaH : each tassel being a symbol of an individual command.

      Numbers 15: 38: Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:
      39: And it shall be unto you for a fringe,
      that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of YaHuWaH, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring.

      9. An Unblemished Priesthood


      In ancient Israel no physically blemished descendant of Aaron was allowed to officiate as a priest. Blindness, lameness, a flat nose, the itch, a broken foot, a hunch back, all these and other physical blemishes were enough to keep a person out of the officiating priesthood. YaHuWaH wanted His priests to be physically perfect: the lesson being that they should be spiritually perfect. That is, they shouldn't be spiritually blind, deaf, deformed, ugly or impotent.

    • Leviticus 21:

      16: And YaHuWaH spake unto Moshe, saying,

      17: Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his Elohim.
      18: For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous,
      19: Or a man that is broken footed, or broken handed,
      20: Or crook backed, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken;
      21: No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of YaHuWaH made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his Elohim.
      22: He shall eat the bread of his Elohim, both of the most holy, and of the holy.
      23: Only he shall not go in unto the veil, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not My sanctuaries: for I YaHuWaH do sanctify them.

      10. Uncleanness of Men and Women


      The ceremonial laws concerning uncleanness are further examples of commandments which contain deep spiritual truths. When we study these laws we soon realize that symbolic uncleanness is all around. A very brief reference to them is given below.
    • Leviticus 15: 16: And if any man's seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even.
      17: And every garment, and every skin, whereon is the seed of copulation, shall be washed with water, and be unclean until the even.
      18: The woman also with whom man shall lie with seed of copulation, they shall both bathe themselves in water, and be unclean until the even.
      19: And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even.
      20: And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean.
      21: And whosoever toucheth her bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
      22: And whosoever toucheth any thing that she sat upon shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.
      23: And if it be on her bed, or on any thing whereon she sitteth,
      when he toucheth it, he shall be unclean until the even.

      Numbers 19: 16: And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.

      What do these laws mean for believers in the 20th/21st century? What deep spiritual lessons do they contain which are relevant in this day? The answer is: they teach us that all mankind is spiritually impure and unclean! Never a month goes by but that most of us will come in contact with someone with a skin disease, a menstruating woman, a corpse, or furniture used by such folk.

      In ancient days all such physical contacts resulted in a person becoming ceremonially unclean. But what of today? Do the ceremonial aspects of these laws still apply? To be sure physical uncleanness should be washed away with soap and water as soon as possible; (or some disinfectant used if a contagious disease is involved) but what of the spiritual uncleanness those physical conditions symbolized in those commandments? How can the human race be purified from spiritual uncleanness? We echo the words of the prophet Isaiah who, after a brief glimpse at YaHuWaH 's holiness, cried out:

      Isaiah 6: 5: Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, YaHuWaH Tsa'va'ot.

      Is there escape from the frightening variety of sin and its resulting spiritual uncleanness? I am happy to report that there is: and it is found in the Savior. Sure, we could and should wash with soap and water and be physically clean: but how can we wash away the filth of unbelief and sin? The answer is: we need the blood of YAHUSHUA the Messiah to cleanse us from all sin. Nothing else will cleanse us.
      1 John 1: 7: But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of YAHUSHUA Messiah His Son cleanseth us from all sin.
      James 4: 8: Draw nigh to YaHuWaH, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

      Yes, cleansing from sin is only possible by faith in the Lamb of Elohim who taketh away the sin of the world.

      11. The Big Question Is

      Do modern believers in YaHuWaH the Almighty Elohim of Israel need to keep the ceremonial (instructional) requirements of the above named commandments?

      In other words: do we need to offer 'animal sacrifices,' 'circumcise our baby sons,' 'wear phylacteries' and 'fringed garments?' Is it a sin to mix fibers: i.e. 'wool with nylon,' 'polyester with cotton,' 'linen with wool?' Is it wrong for a physically blind or blemished person to minister in the church? Are undertakers, doctors and nurses to be classified as 'unclean' seeing that they daily come in contact with symbolically unclean bodies? How do we relate to the ceremonial aspects of these commands?

    • We are ever conscious of the moral lessons the ceremonial commands contain: and since most of them aim at forgiveness, holiness, obedience and purity we are happy to study them in depth and live up to their moral requirements.

      12. Summary

      We have seen that YaHuWaH 's commandments fall into several categories and that each law contains at its heart an eternal truth. As the Scriptures teach:

      Psalm 111: 7: ...All His commandments are sure.
      8: They stand fast for ever and ever

      We have also seen that the ceremonial aspect of certain commands is no longer called for, though the moral core of every command abides forever. This translates as follows:
      • Animal Sacrifices
        Before we can approach YaHuWaH 's throne for mercy or blessing we must come with faith in the blood of YAHUSHUA the Messiah, the Lamb of YaHuWaH.
      • Circumcision
        All true believers must put away the sins of the flesh and aim for holiness and total commitment to YaHuWaH the Elohim of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
      • Phylacteries
        We must constantly keep the laws of YaHuWaH in mind (symbolized by the forehead) and put them into practice (symbolized by the forearm or hand).
      • Linen / Wool / Fringed Garments
        We must never mix or dilute the sacred with the secular. Nor should we forget or be ashamed of the eternal laws of the Most High.
      • Unblemished Priesthood
        Those who officiate in spiritual matters should be people of the very highest moral standards: because spiritual defects disqualify from service.
      • Spiritual Impurity
        We live in a sinful world and daily come in contact with sin's effects. Only the blood of YAHUSHUA the Messiah can cleanse us from sin. See our Everlasting Gospel Library for details about spiritual cleansing, salvation and life eternal.

    • These are moral commandments which explain - with YaHuWaH 's help - those divine objectives may be reached.