Leviticus 19-20, Luke 11
You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine. – Leviticus 20:26 ESV
Seventeen times in these two chapters God reminded His people that, "I am the Lord your God." He was to be their King, Lord, Judge and God. He had chosen them and set them apart as His own, and He expected their lives to reflect their unique standing as the people of God. God had made it clear when He said, "I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples" (Leviticus 20:24 ESV). He commanded them to keep all His statutes and rules, "that the land where I am bringing you may not vomit you out. And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them" (Leviticus 20:22-23 ESV).
The holiness or separateness of God's people was to be more than ceremonial. This wasn't to be some kind of divine designation with no practical outcome. Everything about the book of Leviticus and the law of God was practical and prescriptive. God was giving them His rules for living as His people, and they were comprehensive and conclusive. There was no room for negotiation or interpretation. Repeatedly, God told them, "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy" (Leviticus 19:2 ESV). He was the standard.
What does this passage reveal about God?
God expected the holiness of His people to show up in every area of their lives. So in that sense, it was a kind of whole-iness. In essence, holiness is the imitation of God and His character. His holiness is holistic in nature. In fact, holiness is His nature. It is the expression of His very being. So true holiness in human beings should be an outward expression of who we truly are as children of God. Our actions should flow from our character as the adopted children of God. All throughout these two chapters, God rehearses His rules for righteous conduct. He gives them practical, everyday life applications of the principle of holiness. They were to honor their parents, keep His sabbath, provide for the poor, refrain from stealing, practice justice, refuse to hate one another, refrain from sexual sin, treat the elderly with respect, deal with strangers the same way they would friends, and maintain ethical standards in all their business dealings. God was demanding that they NOT act like the nations who were currently occupying the land He was giving them. The character of those people was by nature, godless and sinful. They had few, if any, rules to guide and guard their lives. Any regulations to which they submitted were man-made and easily altered or ignored. The nations living in the land of Canaan were guilty of gross misconduct and a godless lifestyle that illustrated the power that sin had over their lives. But God wanted His people to live differently. He wanted them to live according to a higher, greater standard. So He commanded them to "consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God" (Leviticus 20:7 ESV).
What does this passage reveal about man?
Adultery, dishonesty, injustice, hatred, prejudice, stealing, lying, idolatry, murder, and selfishness. These are just a few of the characteristics that make up the nature of man in the days of Moses. And not much has changed over the centuries. Even in the days of Jesus, the same problems were rampant, even among those who were considered the spiritually elite. Jesus referred to them as "an evil generation" (Luke 11:29 ESV). Even their religious leaders were marked by what appeared to be outward conformance to the laws of God, but their inward condition was far from acceptable to God. Jesus accused them of cleansing "the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness" (Luke 11:39 ESV). He let them know that the inner condition of their hearts was the real problem. He compared them to unmarked graves, hidden from view, and full of all kinds of impurity and death. No one could see what was going on inside their hearts and, therefore, they contaminated all those around them with their sinful dispositions masquerading as righteous behavior. These men had turned everything into just a set of rules to be kept. They had missed the whole point of wholly holiness. Which is why Jesus said of them, "This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me" (Matthew 15:8 ESV). He was quoting from the prophet Isaiah, and indicating that nothing had really changed over the years. The people of His day suffered from the same problem as their ancestors.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
There is a desperate need for our holiness to be practical and visible in this world. Not just as a show, but as a reflection of what God has done and is doing in our lives. Unlike the Jews in Moses' day, we have been given the Holy Spirit to empower us for living lives of holiness. He makes it possible for us to live in obedience to God's righteous requirements. We are not left to our own devices and dependent upon our own self-effort. We truly can live holy lives because we have the Holy Spirit of God living within us. In Luke's gospel, he records Jesus saying, "No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light" (Luke 11:33-36 ESV). His point appears to be the acceptance of Himself as the light of the world. In this context, the eye is the portal to the soul. A good eye, allows all the light to enter in, exposing darkness and illuminating the entire body from within. The good eye represents the ability to see light and comprehend truth. Which is why, on another occasion, Jesus referred to the Pharisees as "blind guides." Jesus refers to the whole body being full of light, having no part in darkness. He says, "it will be wholly bright." The picture is one of completeness, wholeness, and comprehensiveness. This is not about outward illumination, but total transformation of the person's being. That is what holiness is to be. It is a total renovation of the inner character that shows up in our outward actions and attitudes. Actions that stem from reformed character are always more effective and lasting. They lack the hypocrisy and shallowness that come with self-motivated attempts at behavioral conformity. We can only ACT righteous for so long. God wants to make us righteous in the inside, through the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. Then our outward behavior will mirror our inner character, and we will be "wholly bright."
Father, it is far too easy to fake holiness. But it never lasts. We can try and act like we are righteous, but it won't be long until we are exposed for what we really are. I want my actions to be a true reflection of what You are doing in my inner being through the power of Your Holy Spirit. I want my outer man to flow from the transformation You are bringing about in my inner man. So that I might be practically holy in all that I do and say. Amen