What I Learned About Holiness From Leviticus

holy_10965cLet’s be honest … Leviticus is the great stumbling block to the ‘reading through the Bible in a year‘ crowd.  Genesis and Exodus start off the year with a bang, but then Leviticus leaves us scratching our heads.  But I challenge you to open your eyes to the heart of God exposed in the instructions to the post-golden-calf Children of Israel.

HOLY. What do you think about when you think of that term? Holy men who are revered by religious people? Holy buildings … sanctuaries where worshipers lift ardent voices to the Father? Maybe you think about a holy moment when you sensed the presence of God in an almost tangible way.

I won’t argue about those, but I do think Leviticus points at the holiness of God and then reveals something about life to us.  More than any other book of your Bible, Leviticus talks about the holiness of God. At least seventy-seven times. For instance, Leviticus 19.

Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. ~ Leviticus 19:2

What a standard of Holiness is presented to us in the character of God. Could I ever be holy like God is holy? Peter, flawed as he was, kept encouraging his readers to be holy (1 Peter 1:15, 2:9; 2 Peter 3:11). While I do know that my own holiness is far beneath that of the Father, I do recognize a pathway towards greater holiness in my own life that is not only possible but expected. It’s a kind of everyday holiness … not specialized nor exclusive from the ordinary person.

Everyday Holiness Recognizes God’s Authority. Over and over in Leviticus 19 God reminds them, “I am the Lord your God.” He reminds us because tend to forget who’s in charge. We tend to forget the consequences of sin. We tend to forget why we are living a certain way.

A spiritual awakening is no more than God’s people seeing God in His holiness, turning from their wicked ways, and being transformed into His likeness. ~ Lewis Drummond

Everyday Holiness Adopts God’s Compassion. Reading through this chapter we are taught to be compassionate as God cares for the hurting and those who have been ripped off in life.

He cares for the hungry (vs. 9, 10). In a startling instruction he tells the Israelites not to gather all the fruit from their vineyards, but to leave some for the immigrants and impoverished. Our lives are so full. Do we have anything left behind for those who cannot help themselves?

He cares for those who need justice (11-13, 15-18a). Those who have been robbed by dishonest bosses who promise so much, but deliver so little. For those who have been victims of favoritism in the courts, those who have been slandered, and those who are hated. Does it matter to God when people get taken advantage of in this life? This chapter declares that it does matter to Him and it does matter to those who are holy as He is holy.

He cares for the disabled (14). In a stunning story in 2 Samuel 9 King David inquires about any remnants of the household of Saul to which he could show kindness. His best friend, Jonathan, was gone … but his son survived. He was lame, and in that day and time he might as well have been dead. David sent for Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth and the crippled man was intimidated in the King’s presence.

What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me? ~ Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9.

The whole world had told him he was no better than a dead dog and he had come to believe it about himself. No matter to David. Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the King’s sons. And so do we … with all of our faults we sit at the King’s table. That blessing is not just for us, it is to teach us to reach out to the disabled and crippled among us. They are so needy, so lonely … do you think the world has told them they are no better than dead dogs? Holy people of God will reflect God’s holiness in loving them.

If you feed those who are hungry and take care of the needs of those who are troubled, then your light will shine in the darkness, and you will be bright like sunshine at noon. ~ Isaiah 58:10 (NCV)

Everyday Holiness Loves With God’s Love (18b). Jesus called this the second greatest commandment. It shows up in all of our relationships. Do we treat others with dignity? Do we feel free to belittle and destroy others with gossip? How do you feel toward people with less money? People who can’t speak English? People who do not speak clearly? People with a disability? God teaches us to be there for those at risk.

At the deepest level, loving others flows from the recognition that they are “like us,” that they bear the image of God with us. ~ James K. Mead

Everyday Holiness Yields to God’s Power.  If this were possible with our own will power we would not have needed Jesus. God is the One who infuses within us the power to grow in holiness. He will make us holy (Leviticus 20:8; 22:9, 32). The writer to the Hebrews says that God is the One who creates holiness within us (Hebrews 10:10) and that “without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

What I learned about holiness from Leviticus is that we don’t have to wear robes, become monks, fast extensively, punish ourselves,  go to holy places nor have holy moments to be holy people. It’s an everyday holiness through which the character of God is revealed to those around us.  Today, and every day, let’s ask God to remove all barriers between us and Him … between each of us with one another … and between us and the world around us. We ask this to have opportunity to share His holiness with the dark and unholy world around us.

Audio of this message can be heard HERE. Or you can subscribe to the sermon podcast in the iTunes store by searching for Forsythe Church of Christ.

Some recommended related readings:

Commentary on Leviticus 19 by James K. Mead

Christ-haunted Landscape by Bruce Modhal. (Modhal writes, “Leviticus, like the rest of scripture, looks to God to bring in the redemptive reign of God, which will look like a world living out the provisions of Leviticus 19, which looks like the life of Christ. With every splash of baptism water we celebrate the extension of God’s jurisdiction and the part we have to play in it.“)
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