Leviticus 17-18, Luke 10
You must obey all my regulations and be careful to obey my decrees, for I am the Lord your God. If you obey my decrees and my regulations, you will find life through them. I am the Lord. – Leviticus 18:4-5 ESV
Holiness is not some ethereal, unrealistic goal reserved only for the spiritually elite. God had set apart all of the people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, as His possession. In that sense, they were already holy in His eyes. He had redeemed them as His own. They were positionally holy or set apart. They belonged to Him. But God also expected to live like it. He expected them to conduct their lives with a kind of practical holiness that gave proof that they were His children. So God gave them rules and regulations, laws for life and daily living. All of these laws were designed to set them apart from the nations around them. God made it clear that their lives were to be lived distinctively different from the nations around them. “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. I am the Lord your God. So do not act like the people in Egypt, where you used to live, or like the people of Canaan, where I am taking you. You must not imitate their way of life” (Leviticus 18:2-3 ESV).
Rather than imitate the lifestyles of the pagan nations the occupied the land of Canaan, the people of God were to live in obedience to God’s decrees and regulations. If they did, He promised they they would find life through them. Obedience to God would result in the blessings of God. They would discover the joy of living under God’s pleasure, rather than His wrath. They would enjoy His love, grace, and mercy. They would experience His presence, provision and power in their lives. Practical holiness, life lived on God’s terms, would bring far more joy and contentment than imitating the ways of this world could ever bring.
What does this passage reveal about God?
When sin entered into the world through the rebellion of Adam and Eve, it created a broken, dysfunctional environment where everything became twisted and perverted from the way God had originally intended it. Like a cancer, sin quickly spread and the intensity of the sins of man increased exponentially as the human race exploded in size. Yet while unrighteousness increased, God’s holiness remained the same. His standards never diminished and His expectations regarding man never waivered. He didn’t lower the bar or dumb down the requirements. He simply made them perfectly clear. The book of Leviticus contains God’s black and white articulation of His standards. It contains God’s rules for living and His requirements for enjoying His abiding presence and divine pleasure. God expected His people to live differently. But He knew they would fail. He knew they did not have the capacity for complete obedience, so He provided them with a means for restoring their broken relationship with Him through sacrifice and atonement. That is why He puts such a high priority on the blood of the animals. It was through the shedding of the their blood, their very lives, that men could be restored to a right relationship with Him. The death of the animal through the shedding of their blood was the key to both physical and spiritual life for the people of God.
And the life of every individual who God redeemed through the blood of an innocent animal was to be lived in obedience to Him – in practical, visible ways.
What does this passage reveal about man?
God knows us well. He knows our hearts and fully understands that, because of sin, we are wired to live in disobedience to Him. We will always gravitate to the ways of this world. That’s why He had to spell out everything in painstaking detail. In chapter 18 of Leviticus He had to articulate just what He meant when He commanded them to “not do as they do in the land of Canaan.” Man’s tendency to find loopholes to all rules and workarounds to all regulations required that He leave nothing to the imagination. So He forbade them to practice incest in any of its forms. He outlawed adultery. He ruled out any form of polygamy. He blatantly restricted them from participating in homosexuality or beastiality. It’s fascinating to think about the fact that God had to spell it out for them, because He knew otherwise, they would eventually do those very things. And the reality is, they ended up doing all these things, in spite of His prohibitions against them. They would end up disobeying any and all of His laws eventually. But He continued to provide a way of making atonement and finding forgiveness and cleansing. That’s why the blood was so important. It was not to be taken lightly or treated with contempt. “For the life of every creature is its blood” (Leviticus 17:14 ESV). The book of Hebrews tells us, “under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22 ESV). The blood of the animal was the key to forgiveness. Obedience to God’s law was the key to enjoying His pleasure. But since perfect obedience was impossible and sin was inevitable, sacrifice was unavoidable. The shedding of blood was a constant need and a regular reminder of man’s sin and God’s grace.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
The writer of Hebrews gives us a clear understanding of the sacrificial system under Moses. “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4 ESV). The sacrifices were a constant reminder of sin. God had called His people to practical holiness – lives lived out in obedience to His laws in everyday, real-life ways. But they couldn’t. They could try, but they would constantly find themselves failing and falling short of His divine standards. They had to rely on God’s mercy and take advantage of His provision of atonement made possible through the shedding of blood.
But unlike the Israelites, my sins have been taken care of once and for all time. The sacrifice of Jesus’ on the cross in my place has made it possible for me to receive forgiveness of sin and a right standing before God that is permanent and unchanging. And yet, I am called to live a life in obedience to His will and in keeping with His holy, righteous standards. Not in order to earn His favor, but in gratitude for the favor He has already shown to me. My obedience and my efforts towards living a life of holiness that shows up in practical terms, is not based on earning, but on a yearning to express my love to the one who poured out His love on me through the death of His own Son. In the book of Luke, when Jesus was being tested by the lawyer and asked how a man might inherit eternal life, the lawyer was thinking in terms of adherence to the law of God. When Jesus asked the man what was written in the law, he responded, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Luke 10:27 ESV). Jesus then said to the man, “Do this, and you will live.” Jesus basically told him that if he would live his life in total, complete obedience and devotion to God that showed up in his treatment of his fellow man, he would experience life as God had intended it to be. He would have to love His neighbor in practical terms. He would have to live sacrificially and selflessly. But no man is capable of that kind of life without the power of God made possible through a relationship through His Son, Jesus Christ. I have that power residing within me through the presence of the Holy Spirit. And as a result, I have the capacity to live differently and distinctively. I can live a life of practical holiness where my outward actions are expressions of the inward change that has taken place in my life due to the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
Father, I want to live a life that flows from the indwelling power of Your Holy Spirit. I want my salvation to show up in practical ways and to manifest itself in love for You and others. I want my obedience to be an expression of love and gratitude to You for all that You have done. You have given me the motivation through the gracious gift of Your Son, and the inspiration through the indwelling power of Your Spirit. Please continue to make my holiness, my position as Your child, to show up in practical ways in my daily life. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men