Leviticus 20-21

The Seriousness of Holiness

“Set yourselves apart for a holy life. Live a holy life, because I am GOD, your God. Do what I tell you; live the way I tell you. I am the GOD who makes you holy. – Leviticus 20:7-8 MSG

In this section of the book of Leviticus, God is calling His people to a life of holiness or distinctiveness. He continues to give them a series of prohibitions and instructions regarding the kind of life they are to live as His chosen people. He gives a list of activities from which they are to refrain, including child sacrifice, the occult, adultery, incest, homosexuality, polygamy, and beastiality – all regularly practiced by the people who currently occupied the land. He warns them, “You simply must not live like the nations I’m driving out before you. They did all these things and I hated every minute of it” (Leviticus 20:23 MSG). God is calling His people to a different and distinctive kind of life. But He knew how easy it was going to be for them to simply accept and assimilate the ways of the world in which they lived. It would be subtle and slow, but over time, they would begin to live just like the other nations. They would begin to absorb their ways and lose their distinctiveness. So God reminded them, “I’ve told you, remember, that you will possess their land that I’m giving to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am GOD, your God, who has distinguished you from the nations” (Leviticus 20:24 MSG).

Some of the commands of God regarding those who disobeyed seem harsh to our modern sensibilities. God commands that those who practice the ways of the world be put to death. This is serious stuff. God is not playing around. He wants those who lose their distinctiveness to be dealt with harshly. Why? Because the sin of their actions contaminate the entire congregation. God is far from politically correct. He is holy and demands holiness of His people. “Live holy lives before me because I, GOD, am holy. I have distinguished you from the nations to be my very own” (Leviticus 20:24 MSG). His people were to be counter-cultural. They were to be radically different. They were to stand out like a sore thumb. And any amount of compromise was not to be tolerated. But we live in a day when fitting in is the order of the day. We feel a need to blend in, not stand out. We want to be accepted by the world, not stand apart as distinct from it. Our goal seems to be sameness, not distinctiveness – to the point that it is hard to tell who is really chosen and who is not. We have fallen in love with the world. But John reminds us, “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world – wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important – has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him” (1 John 15-16 MSG). God is not a God of compromise. He is distinctly and radically different. And He demands that His people be different. And He demands that we take holiness seriously. We need to deal with sin seriously – in our lives and in our churches. Sin contaminates. Sin alienates. Sin robs us of our distinctiveness and our power as His people. He has set us apart. May we truly begin to live that way.

Father, I can be a professional at compromise. It is so much easier for me to blend in than stand out. Distinctiveness is hard. But You have set me apart to live a life apart – different than the world in which I live. Give me the strength and boldness to live a holy life. May I demand it of myself and of those around me. May Your Church reflect Your holiness in the world, so that we might be the light You’ve called us to be. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men

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