Lev. 19.1 thru 2 and 15 thru 18 We are Holy in Christ
We are Holy in Christ
Focus: We are Holy through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Function: That the hearers know that we can be Holy, as our God is Holy, only through His sanctifying power.
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 disgusting human behaviors 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 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 requires 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. These commands follow in the same sequence 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 fulfill 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 by “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 nominal sense when he refers to Himself as in, “I the Lord your God am Holy.” While when speaking of the people he speaks in a verbal expression, “You shall be wholly.” Still, we are called to be Holy! Not only that…we are called to revere our mother and our father. We are called to keep the Sabbaths and not turn to idols. Then He turns to our dealings with each other. 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. Now I know many of you are saying, “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! The point is that He gave them these laws. He loved them so much that He helped them to take care of themselves and their neighbors, which in the end pointed back to each person of God being taken care of. These were good laws! They were laws that our medical field still tells us to do now. These are things that helped the Israelites stay alive as a people. These laws enabled the people of God to prosper in a harsh land full of disease and dangers. These are laws that help us stay alive even today! 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 of the road there so, of course, there are accidents that occur on a regular basis. 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 laws. 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 of these same laws. This 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 as a people rests on our 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. But these laws are not to separate us from the world in terms of separatism but separateness. 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 are back to 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 carry out the fulfillment of such demanding laws and that counts 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 a gold star for effort, therefore giving us the prize of eternal life with Him…even if we fail to fulfill all of His laws. Amen.