If you’re following Mark Robert’s daily bible reading chart for 2021, today you begin reading Leviticus for the next 9 days.
Are you getting excited yet?
This is a book often skipped in Bible reading charts. With its many details of sacrifices, religious rites and prohibitions, it’s easy to get bogged down and miss the point for 21st century Christians.
“The book of Leviticus was the first book studied by a Jewish child; yet is often among the last books of the Bible to be studied by a Christian.,” observed Chuck Swindoll. ‘Today’s readers are often put off by the book’s lists of laws regarding diet, sacrifice, and social behavior. But within these highly detailed directives we discover the holiness—the separateness, distinction, and utter “otherness”—of God. And we learn how sin devastates humanity’s relationship with their Creator.”
For those interested, Robert Dobson offers a analysis of the book of Leviticus with its various laws, rituals, and offerings.
Leviticus can be summarized in one word: “Holy.” And in one verse:. “For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy.” (Lev 11:44)
“Holy” literally means “set apart or separate.” It is used in a moral sense in scripture. Christians are to be separated from sin. It means morally pure. Religiously right. Consecrated to God.
The word “holy” is used 457 times in the Old Testament. 196 times in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy Moses admonished God’s people, Israel, to be holy. He spoke of a holy day. Holy habitation. Holy garments. Holy men. Holy offerings. And holy things. God expected His people to be holy. Separate from pagans. Set apart from sinners. Sanctified in life.
Even though we are not under the Old Law, the principle and precept of God’s holiness has not changed. Peter quoted Moses and commanded Christians to be holy (1 Pet 1:21). He said we are to be a holy nation. A holy Priesthood. And to engage in holy conduct.
Our challenge today is well stated by John Maxwell when he wrote, “Seeking holiness rather than happiness is a hard thing to do in the culture in which we live, because so much is geared to happiness—whatever makes you feel good. In a secular society, happiness is the aim of life. In a spiritual society, holiness is the thing that we strive for….Happiness is really found in holiness. But if we try to bypass holiness in our search for happiness, we’ll miss it altogether. Happiness is a by-product of holiness; it’s a benefit of living a pure life, rightly related to God, self and others.”
Holiness, however, is not just something we do, but it’s who we are. Peter implored, “Be holy.” God wants us to “be” something. Not just do something. Being speaks to the inner person. The heart. The soul. The mind.
Author Rubel Shelly expressed it this way: “Holiness isn’t the rigid moralism of a thousand “don’ts” so much as the infinite “do’s” that can make life better. Jesus explained, for example, that “Do not commit adultery” actually calls us to build wholesome and holy relationships and “Do not bear false witness” has the intent of calling us to be totally honest. So being holy is less about what scared people avoid than what changed people do.”
How can we be holy in a sinful society that glorifies the sordid and sleazy? Peter’s answer is simple. Look to Jesus. He is our example. Follow in His footsteps. Develop His mind-set. George Hodges was right when he wrote, “To know Christ is the way to grow in holiness. Christianity is not a religion of rules. It is the religion of the divine example. Try to follow the blessed steps of the most holy life. Take His advice. Ask yourself, in the moment of perplexity or temptation, what would He do if He were here? Nothing else will so surely lead us into the way of holy living.”
Peter calls his readers to purity of life in a polluted world. It wasn’t easy then. And it’s not easy now. There has always been an “anti-God atmosphere around us,” as Warren Wiersbe calls it. A culture of corruption. A world of wickedness. A life-style of licentiousness.
Holiness goes against our culture. It’s not popular. It’s not the norm. It calls for spiritual commitment. Self-sacrifice. And daily discipline. The reality is this. Christian holiness challenges us to be different. To be godly. To be pure. To be righteous.
It will be easier to shun temptation, overcome evil and say “no” to Satan’s allurements, when we commit to being “ partakers of his holiness” and to “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
The ancient message of Leviticus is still relevant today: “Be holy.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman