Lev. 19.1 thru 2 and 15 thru 18 God Loves Us Through His Law
God Loves Us Through His Law
Focus: We are Holy in the law by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Function: That the hearers know that we can be Holy in the law, as our God is Holy, only through His sanctifying power.
1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 "Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: 'Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.
15 " 'Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.
16 " 'Do not go about spreading slander among your people. " 'Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor's life. I am the LORD.
17 " 'Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.
18 " 'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today I would like to revisit what we spoke of last week. Last week I spoke on the command “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” from the Gospel of Matthew this week I will talk on this command again, but in a different context. This week it is in Leviticus that we hear God tell His people, Israel, to love their neighbor. There is actually a lot of law in the Old Testament text for today along with this command. Besides loving our neighbor there are quite a few other things to do. You see this is being said to the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai along with a litany of other laws including: laws on burnt, grain, peace, sin, and guilt offerings. He gives them laws on physical care such as childbirth or leprosy. He delineates as to laws on human cleanliness such as bodily discharges, eating blood, unlawful sexual relations, and He even spells out laws on cleaning houses in the preceding chapters!
This was a time in which the Lord Yahweh was telling His people what they should do as His people. This was to separate themselves as a people that were chosen to be different from other peoples such as the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, stalagmites etc. He is reminding them as to who they are and whose they are. In this chapter after each section of commands He reminds His people that, “I am the Lord your God.” This is to remind them of whom He is in relation to them and who they are in relation to Him. This is the reason they are to do these things. These are things that are morally correct but they are not to do them just because they sound like “the right thing to do” but because they are God’s chosen people! God is saying that He is Holy and He has made His people to be Holy. He is not saying this in passing, but he says this in the emphatic first position! This is part of what is often called the “Holiness code” which encompasses chapters 17-26.
These commands follow in a sequence that is a familiar one; it is the same as the Decalogue, or 10 Commandments. In chapter 19 God begins with commands having to do with Himself and how His people should behave toward Him, then He stipulates as to how His people should treat each other. This pattern is also present in the 10 Commandments. He is spelling out the sequence the Israelites are to follow in their being able to keep the law. Only after having a right relationship with Yahweh could they possibly have what it takes to truly “love” each other. This is the crucial aspect of this passage.
You see this is true of our own lives even today. We are unable to fulfill the law that He lays out before us without His help. From the get go we are not able to be “Holy” in perfection as our Lord is Holy! He makes this clear in the way He uses the word Holy in verse 2. He uses Holy in a different way when he refers to Himself as in, “I the Lord your God am Holy” than when speaking of the people. When he speaks of His people he says, “You shall be Holy.” Still, we are called to be Holy! Not only that, we have many other laws to keep some of which are somewhat obscure. We are called to revere our mother and our father. We are called to keep the Sabbaths and not turn to idols. We are called to take care of the poor and the “sojourner” or traveler. We are commanded not to steal, deal falsely, lie, or swear by His name falsely. We are not to oppress or rob our neighbor, keep wages overnight, curse the deaf, or put a stumbling block before the blind.
These last laws are a little obscure but I think we can see examples today of things like keeping wages overnight. For instance, when I worked for Tyco our CEO was indicted for his abuse of the company’s money. He was using company funds to throw elaborate parties and buy expensive artwork for his homes while cutting back wages and withholding wages for the workers of Tyco. This has and is going on throughout the corporate world.
Sometimes when we read God’s laws we say to ourselves, “Well I’m Ok with these laws” or “Wow, what a wicked people He must have been speaking to that would do these kinds of things.” Well, as you know these words are for His people and we are included in this group. We are not to do these things either and, again, I know, you never do these kinds of hideous things. I mean who would put an obstacle in front of a blind person. How despicable can you get! But are we really able to keep all of these commands perfectly? I don’t think so. How many of you can say you revered your mother and father perfectly all the way through your teen years! Are we able to take care of the poor perfectly? We could get pretty depressed after really thinking about these things.
But there is good news in a big way here. Even for the Israelites! One aspect of this good news is that He gave them these laws. He loved them so much that He helped them to take care of themselves and their neighbors through some of the moral laws he established for His people. These were good laws! His people are called to render just judgment and not to slander. We, of course, adhere to these moral laws within our legal system today. How about not profiting by the blood of your neighbor? This benefits society today, wouldn’t you say? If we follow His commands don’t we benefit ourselves, and if others do the same don’t we benefit from them following His commands? What kind of chaos would our world be in today without laws?
My sister in law lives in Nigeria and there are no traffic lights in most of Nigeria. This can pose quite a challenge to the driver. You take your life in your hands when coming to any intersection in her home town of Jas. For the most part there are no laws, period, as to how to conduct oneself on the road there. So…frequently accidents occur. Unfortunately many have dire consequences. People are injured or killed on a regular basis as a result of the lack of laws in this country. This is a glimpse of a world without traffic laws as an example. We are a sinful people without God and the laws He has provided for us in His gracious love for us.
But this is not even the point. The real point is that these laws were to set God’s people apart from others and that is what we are to do through the obeying His spiritual laws. We don’t know for sure exactly why He gave us all of these laws but we do know that it made His people different from the culture of the time. And it makes us different from the culture today. It is not human nature at work when we don’t steal or take care of the poor. If we are not separating ourselves by following a wholly different God, not of this world, we are behaving just as the rest of the sinful world and no one is benefiting from this. You see, the role of these laws given in this way, was to teach that the people of God’s distinctive existence rests on Yahweh’s revelation of His Holy character through their actions. Subsequently through our actions people see the revelation of the person of God in this world today. These laws are not to separate us from the world in terms of separatism but separateness. We are not to be of the world but we must be in it. Israel was an example to the other nations when they obeyed the laws of God just as we are. God wishes others to know Him through these actions being carried out in the world. This is especially true when we take care of our neighbor and treat them right. We are proclaiming something about this Holy God when we fulfill the law in the world and also we are communicating that Holiness to others who might be watching. All this is to be done because “He is the Lord our God.”
Then we have the question of, “How are we to do this?” Again, He is the Lord our God! He, through His mighty power can do all things…through Christ Jesus. In Leviticus God lays out all of the laws that He requires His people to follow…but He is merciful. He also graciously provides atonement for sin through the shedding of blood in sacrifice to the Lord. He has also given us a way out. He has given us a savior that enables us to even attempt to carry out the fulfillment of such demanding laws and Christ acts as our atonement when we fail. We are wholly unable to even come close to standing up against such a torrent of laws. But through Christ and His work on the cross we are made right each day. We are not guaranteed perfection in our actions but we are given a clean slate each time we fail. Through our baptism we are enabled to begin a new life sinless and clean and begin to show His love to others through our actions in fulfilling the law He has given us in His love. He loved us so much that He gave His only Son to die for us! He loves us so much that He gave us His commandments to live by! He loves us so much that He has already awarded us the prize of eternal life with Him…even if we fail to fulfill all of His laws. Amen.