A State of Readiness.
Leviticus 21-22, Luke 12
So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the Lord. And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified among the people of Israel. I am the Lord who sanctifies you, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord – Leviticus 22:31-33 ESV
Holiness was not an option. It was a requirement. God’s demand that His people be holy was based on His very character, represented by His name. God’s ongoing presence among them required that they be holy. His commands were not the byproduct of an overly demanding personality. His very nature required an atmosphere of holiness. To profane His name was to denigrate His character. It was to treat Him with disrespect and dishonor, and to do so was a dangerous thing. God’s desire that His people maintain their holiness was as much for their own protection as anything else. Their actions could not diminish God’s holiness in any way. Their sins could never alter His righteous character or standing. But their failure to live in holiness could result in their own discipline and, in some cases, destruction. So it was important that they see holiness as non-optional.
There is a sense in which holiness is about readiness. The high priest had to be ready to come before the Lord on behalf of the people. He could not afford to defile himself or allow himself to become unclean, otherwise he would be unworthy to offer sacrifices before the Lord and make atonement for the sins of the people. It was a dangerous thing for the high priest, or any priest for that matter, to disqualify himself for service. He was God’s chosen representative, “for the priest is holy to his God” (Leviticus 21:7 ESV). Every area of his life was to be holy. He was to live his life with his set-apartness in mind. He could never forget the fact that he belonged to God and that his lifestyle, at home, in private, and within the community, had a direct impact on his holy standing before God. He was to live in a constant state of readiness and holiness.
What does this passage reveal about God?
The priests and the sacrificial animals were essential if the people were to maintain a right standing before God. God required unblemished animals and undefiled priests to offer acceptable sacrifices before Him on behalf of the people. The people’s only hope for acceptance before God and forgiveness for their inevitable sins was based on the acceptability of the sacrificial animal and the one offering it. It would have been important to the people that the high priest remain holy and that there were always an abundance of unblemished animals on hand. Sin was unavoidable, so they never wanted to find themselves with a sacrifice that was unacceptable or a high priest who was unworthy to come into God’s presence. Even a blemish on the skin could keep the high priest from coming before the Lord. So he had to take special care regarding how he lived. He had to be careful about what he touched and ate. He had to have a firm grasp on his household, because even their conduct could negatively impact his qualification for service. God demanded that His priests live holy lives, constantly ready to reflect His glory among the people and to represent the people in His presence.
What does this passage reveal about man?
There is a sense in which the Israelites had a vested interest in the holiness of their high priest and the quality of the sacrificial animals. They would have wanted to have known that their priests were ready, willing and able to offer sacrifices on their behalf, and that there were always animals ready to stand in their place as an acceptable sacrifice for their sins. The people were totally dependent on the priest and the sacrificial animal for their future well-being and any hope they had of forestalling the wrath of God against the sins they had and would commit. Their hope was based on the character of that one man and the acceptability of that single animal. They knew from experience that sin was inevitable and, therefore, sacrifice was unavoidable. They had a vested interest in the holiness of the high priest and their own substitionary sacrifice.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
Over in the book of Hebrews, Jesus is unveiled as both the priest and the sacrifice for the sins of man. “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26 ESV). He was ready, acceptable, holy, separated and fully prepared to stand in my place when the time came. He offered His own blood on my behalf in order to satisfy the just demands of a holy God. He was ready, willing and able. And there is a sense in which He calls me to live in a state of readiness as well. I have been set apart by His sacrifice. I was purchased by His blood, ransomed from slavery to sin and made a son of God. I am now to live holy because God has made me holy. I am His. And over in the book of Luke, Jesus calls me to live with a Kingdom perspective, with my eyes focused on the prospect of His eminent return and the reality of an eternal existence that supersedes this temporal one.
Jesus told His disciples to live with a healthy fear of God, rather than to live in fear of man. “ But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell.Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:5 ESV). He wasn’t threatening His disciples with a loss of their salvation, but was simply warning them to live with a constant awareness that it is God who determines the fate of men, not men themselves. Men can kill, but only God can determine a man’s eternal destiny. Jesus told His disciples to live worry-free lives, realizing that God was their ultimate provider. He encouraged them to “seek his kingdom” instead. Their focus was to be on the eternal, rather than the temporal. The things of this earthly kingdom were inconsequential in comparison to the Kingdom God had prepared for them. So they were to live in a state of readiness for the future, holding on to the things of this world with a loose grip. Jesus warned them, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Luke 12:40 ESV). There is a sense in which we are to live our lives in a constant state of preparedness for His return. We are to live my life in such a way that His return would not catch me off guard, by surprise or unprepared. That means I must live in holiness and readiness, not in order to ensure my salvation, but as an expression of my understanding that this world is not my home.
Father, I want to live my life in a constant state of readiness for Your Son’s return. Don’t let me get bogged down by the cares of this world, the distractions of materialism and the thousands of things that can negatively influence my set-apartness. I want to live as if I belong somewhere else, because I do. I want to live as if I don’t belong here, because I don’t. I am a citizen of another Kingdom. Help me to live like it, act like it, and think like it. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men