Leviticus 19:19-37 ~ 20161120 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
11/20 Leviticus 19:19-37; Practical Holiness and Separation; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161120_leviticus-19_19-37.mp3
Leviticus 19 is about holiness. This chapter commands "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy." We are to be holy because God is holy. God is holy, but holiness is one of those words that is a bit elusive. Holiness a difficult concept to define. We need something tangible to understand what holiness means. This chapter gives us a very practical description of what holiness looks like. And holiness touches every area of life. The first 10 verses covers subjects like authority, time, idolatry, worship, and giving. The next 8 verses deal with respect for others, respect for personal property, respect for God's name, respect for neighbor, for employee, for the disabled, respect for the legal system, respect for those who have personally wronged you.
The final sections deal with topics ranging from agricultural practices, to sexual harassment, the occult, prostitution, holy days, holy places, respect for the elderly, care for immigrants and foreigners, and fair commerce. Holiness is comprehensive. It deals with all of life.
Verses 1-10 fall into four sections, each concluding with the phrase "I am the LORD your God." Verses 11-18 also divides into four sections, each concluding with the phrase "I am the LORD." The final section, verses 19-37 is bracketed by the phrase at the beginning of verse 19 "You shall keep my statutes" which is repeated and expanded in verse 37 "And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them". This sections uses the prases "I am the LORD your God" and "I am the LORD" 4 times each in an alternating 'abba' then 'baab' pattern.
We are to be holy because the LORD our God is holy. But what holiness looks like for us will differ in many ways from what holiness looks like for God. We are to be holy because God is holy. But our holiness will be the holiness of a creature, where God's holiness is the holiness of the Creator. We cannot be holy in the ulitmate sense of the word, totally unique, distinct, separate, other; absolutely unique and unparalleled. God's holiness means that there is no one like God. But we are to be separate, distinct, set apart from sin, from the world.
Leviticus 19 is addressed to the nation of Israel after they had been delivered from Egypt and before they entered the promised land. This chapter gives instructions for what holiness was to look like for them then. What holiness looks like for us will be different in some ways from what holiness looked like for ancient Israel, and in some ways it will be very much the same.
Holiness then as now was never a way to gain favor with God, but rather it is a response to God's unilateral forgiveness toward sinners, who has made a way for us to enjoy relationship with him. 'If you love me you will keep my commands' Jesus said. And we only love because he first loved us. Holiness is a response to God's grace and love.
There is no reason given in the text for these commands. This echoes back to the creation where God made plants and animals to bear fruit and reproduce each after its kind [different Hebrew word “miyn”; here “kil'ayim”]. We may get a hint of why in a parallel passage in Deuteronomy.
The word translated 'forfeited' [qadash] is literally 'become holy,' or set apart, dedicated to the LORD. Mixtures of different kinds were set apart to the LORD. We know from Exodus 30 that the specific blend of aromatic spices that made up the holy incense was not to be made for common use. We know from Exodus 28 that the holy garments to set apart the priesthood were to be made of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and and fine twined linen. We also learn from Ezekiel's description in chapters 1 and 10 of the cherubim around God's throne that they were composite beings, each with the face of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. So it is possible that these laws were meant to guard the holiness of God's sanctuary.
This is an interesting case. In the very next chapter (Lev.20:10) the consequence for adultery is that both the man and woman are to e put to death. Deuteronomy 22 addresses adultery the same way, then goes on to the case of a man who has relations with a betrothed woman. If it is in the city, where she could have cried for help but didn't, they are both killed. But if it was in the country only the male is killed because it is assumed that she cried for help but there was no one to rescue her. In the case of a man who has relations with a woman who is not betrothed, he is required to marry her, and to give her father the full bride price. In this chapter, at issue is a slave woman. She has no consequences, because she is not free, and may not have felt she could resist. He is held accountable to the LORD for his actions. He has sinned against the LORD, and must bring a guilt offering Sexual assault against someone who is vulnerable is a sin against the LORD, and the wages of sin is death. In this case, God mercifully accepts the sacrifice of a substitute.
Horticulture and Firstfruits
Notice this is a law specific to entrance into the land of promise. Literally this says 'you shall regard its fruit as uncircumcised. A common practice in orchards is to pinch off the buds of young trees for the first years to strengthen them so that they produce more later. The fruit of the fourth year is a specific type of firstfruits offering, a setting apart all the fruit for the Lord, a recognition that every good thing belongs to the Lord and comes from the Lord. It is given back as an offering of praise to the LORD
These laws specifically forbid occult practices. Eating blood, interpreting omens, telling fortunes, cutting the edges of the hair or self mutilation were connected to worship of false gods. We have a graphic illustration of this in 1 Kings 18 with the prophets of Baal.
God's people are not to engage in occult practices of any kind, self harm or self mutilation.
Prostitution, Holy Times, Holy Places
Prostitution was often connected with false worship. Greed is a manifestation of false worship. It is demonic for a parent to offer a daughter as a prostitute for the sake of money. Even in desperate poverty, we are to look to the LORD to provide for our needs, and to walk in obedience. God reminds his people of proper worship; keep my Sabbaths. Reverence my sanctuary.
We have an example of this in 1 Samuel 28, when Saul was afraid and 'enquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him' (v.6), so he turned to a medium to conjure up Samuel from the grave. Attempts to seek information about the future are inappropriate outside of biblical revelation. God is the one who holds the future, and it is his to reveal or conceal what will take place. It is ours to trust him. When we don't know what will happen, we are to walk in faith filled obedience to what he has told us to do.
Honor the Aged
Verse 3 told us we are to fear mother and father. Here we are taught to honor and respect the elderly and fear God. In a culture that questions the value of the elderly and dismisses them as irrelevant we would do well to listen to this instruction. In a culture that considers disrespect as funny and cool, we need to regain a proper fear of the LORD, who tells us to rise before the gray head, and honor the face of the old man.
Love the Stranger
This is the counterpart to verses 17 and 18; to the brother or neighbor who wrongs you, love him as yourself. Now we are told; do not wrong a foreigner, but treat him as a native, and love him as yourself. The motive? You know what it is like to be a foreigner and to be mistreated. Love, actively seeking the good of the other, even when it costs us, is to characterize our relationships, especially with those we would tend not to love. We are to love those who have wronged us. We are to love those that are different from us and potentially vulnerable in society. We are not to take advantage of them. Rather we are to treat them as we would want to be treated.
If you're selling something, describe it accurately. Deal honestly. Do not seek to increase profits by deceit. Why? Because the LORD is God. He is our deliverer, our rescuer, we bear his name, so he can define how we are to conduct ourselves as his representatives.
God cares how we act. Holiness matters. We are his ambassadors. His representatives. In everything we do. In every area of life. All the time. We are to be men and women of character, of integrity, of love. We are to live in a way that is different than the world.
You know how the world works. But it shall not be so among you. Serve others, because Jesus came to serve you. Love others, because Jesus first loved you. Give your life for others, because Jesus gave his life for you.
Don't lie. Don't cheat. Don't steal. Rather work so you can give. Honor your parents. Honor the elderly. Treat the poor the disabled and the vulnerable with digninty and resepect. Don't take advantage of anyone. Love your enemies. Love them as you love yourself. Show hospitality to strangers. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness.
Be holy in all your conduct.
You belong to God, so glorify God in your body. In everything you do.
Holiness touches all of life. Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org