READ: Leviticus 20
THINK: We are approaching a big chunk of the Old Testament that is filled with a whole bunch of rules and laws that govern the lives, the interactions, the practices, and the worship of the Israelite community. Sometimes they seem weird. Sometimes they seem arbitrary. Sometimes they seem endless…they go on and on and on. There are literally hundreds of them. And as modern readers who are approaching this text across centuries and across language and across culture it can be incredibly difficult to read and to understand. The laws can seem anachronistic and arbitrary. But there is a key to reading them. There is a key that helps us understand what God is doing and why – even if the particulars seem rather odd at times. And that key is to be found in Leviticus 20.
Leviticus 20:7-8 says, “Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy.”
THAT is the big idea! That’s the whole point right there. The laws that God gives about are about helping us become all that we are created to be – and that is men and women in the image of God. The Bible isn’t about us. We are not the main character. The main character is God, and everything within it is about revealing the single big question – and the natural question that follows: Who is God? Then, who are we in light of that? The Bible is God revealing himself to us. He is revealing to us who he is, and he says that we’re created in his image. We are designed to be like him. We are designed to be holy because he is holy! And keeping his decrees helps us be holy. The decrees point us to him.
God commands us not to lie. Why? Because lying could damage relationships? Yes, but not completely. Because lying could cause problems that ultimately make our lives worse? Yes, but not completely. Why? Because God is truth! In this passage God commands Israel not to sacrifice children to Molek – a horrible pagan practice with details to sickening to recount here. Why? Because killing kids is bad for the next generation? Yes, but not completely. Because treating children as less than human has serious societal consequences? Yes, but not completely. Why? Because God is life! In this passage he gives many commands about adultery. Why should we keep sex within marriage? Because it’s the best thing for kids and families? Yes, but not completely. Because it makes our lives better and our relationships more fulfilling? Yes, but not completely. Why? Because God is faithful! We shouldn’t covet because God is contentment, we shouldn’t lie because God is truth! Do you see the pattern?
Everything – all of the laws and the rituals and the commands – is a part of God’s gracious self-revelation to us. The law wasn’t given as a burden. It was given as a gift. A gift of grace. It was God saying to his people, “This is who I am, and this is who you are in light of that.” God was looking at a people scarred and broken from four centuries of slavery in a pagan land and giving them an identity in him. That’s the law. And while the parts of the law that were intended to govern the civil affairs of the nation of Israel don’t apply to those of us living in other nations across space and time, the moral thrust of God’s commands applies to all people everywhere. Because his law points us to him. It helps us to be holy because he is holy.
PRAY: Thank God for loving you enough to reveal himself to humanity. Thank him for giving you an identity and a purpose. Worship him today because he is holy, and ask him to help you be holy as well.