Read Leviticus 19
19 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.
3 “‘Each of you must respect your mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am the Lord your God.
4 “‘Do not turn to idols or make metal gods for yourselves. I am the Lordyour God.
5 “‘When you sacrifice a fellowship offering to the Lord, sacrifice it in such a way that it will be accepted on your behalf. 6 It shall be eaten on the day you sacrifice it or on the next day; anything left over until the third day must be burned up. 7 If any of it is eaten on the third day, it is impure and will not be accepted. 8 Whoever eats it will be held responsible because they have desecrated what is holy to the Lord; they must be cut off from their people.
9 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.
11 “‘Do not steal.
“‘Do not lie.
“‘Do not deceive one another.
12 “‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.
13 “‘Do not defraud or rob your neighbor.
“‘Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight.
14 “‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.
15 “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly.
16 “‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people.
“‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord.
17 “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor franklyso you will not share in their guilt.
18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
19 “‘Keep my decrees.
“‘Do not mate different kinds of animals.
“‘Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed.
“‘Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.
20 “‘If a man sleeps with a female slave who is promised to another man but who has not been ransomed or given her freedom, there must be due punishment.[a] Yet they are not to be put to death, because she had not been freed. 21 The man, however, must bring a ram to the entrance to the tent of meeting for a guilt offering to the Lord. 22 With the ram of the guilt offering the priest is to make atonement for him before the Lord for the sin he has committed, and his sin will be forgiven.
23 “‘When you enter the land and plant any kind of fruit tree, regard its fruit as forbidden.[b] For three years you are to consider it forbidden[c]; it must not be eaten. 24 In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. 25 But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit. In this way your harvest will be increased. I am the Lord your God.
26 “‘Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it.
“‘Do not practice divination or seek omens.
27 “‘Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.
28 “‘Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.
29 “‘Do not degrade your daughter by making her a prostitute, or the land will turn to prostitution and be filled with wickedness.
30 “‘Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the Lord.
31 “‘Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.
32 “‘Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.
33 “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
35 “‘Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. 36 Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah[d] and an honest hin.[e] I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt.
37 “‘Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them. I am the Lord.’”
At the very start of this chapter, the Lord gives Moses a very important proclamation: “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, you shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” God is calling the people of Israel (and us) to live holy lives, because He himself is holy.
What is holiness? In Hebrew something that is holy is set apart, separate, different, dedicated. God himself is separate from man and all of creation because of his divine nature and because he is set apart from sin. So, if we are to follow this commandment, to live holy lives because God is holy, then we are to live distinctly separate from the rest of the world and live above sin.
This command is reiterated in 1 Peter 1:14-16 when it says, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’”. Holiness is more than a set of actions or behaviors, it is a way to live life different from the rest of the world. As believers (obedient children) we are called to live set apart (do not conform) from the sin that is in the world (from the evil desires). Every time that we make a choice to separate ourselves from the patterns of this world, we are submitting to the divine authority of God and aligning ourselves with him…thus becoming more like Him!
God did not just command the Israelites to be holy without telling them how. The remaining verses of chapter 19 detail out God’s provision for holiness. Many of these verses are reiterations of the ten commandments and give the Israelites practical reminders for how to live holy lives. Even though not all of these laws are still applicable to us today, the nature of living a holy life has not changed. If we are to be holy as God is holy, it requires us to be obedient to God’s commands. It requires us to sacrifice our time, our resources, and our desires. And finally, it requires us to imitate God.
Israel’s primary calling was to be a holy nation, and it’s important to note that when the Lord gave Moses this specific command, he told him (v. 2) to “speak to all (emphasis added) the congregation of the people of Israel.” God wasn’t just calling Moses (or the priests) to pursue holiness; He was calling the entire nation. In much the same way, we are all called to pursue holiness because as Romans 12:1 tells us “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.”
- Define holiness in your own words.
- What are practical ways that you can pursue holiness in your day-to-day life?
- Spend some time reflecting on if you have a desire to pursue holiness. What is your motivation or your hindrance?
Did You Know?
In Leviticus 19, the phrase “I am the Lord” appears 15 times. Robert Jamieson, a Biblical commentator, makes this observation about this repetition:
“This solemn admonition, by which these various precepts are repeatedly sanctioned, is equivalent to ‘I, your Creator–your Deliverer from bondage, and your Sovereign, who have wisdom to establish laws, have power also to punish the violation of them.’ It was well fitted to impress the minds of the Israelites with a sense of their duty and God’s claims to obedience.”
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