Leviticus 19-21 You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. You shall love your neighbor as yourself

From Leviticus 19-21

03 Leviticus SacrificeGod commands his people to be holy, because he is holy. This chapter demonstrates that holiness is much more than ritual purity. It is displayed in every corner of practical life. Holiness calls us to love our neighbour.

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

Our passage today includes a series of commands given to Israel. They relate to several areas of their everyday life.

19 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “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. 3 Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God. 4 Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the LORD your God. (Lev 19.1-4)

‘Holiness’. God commands his people to be holy because He is holy.

We are called to imitate God. Disciples are meant to be like their master.

The command is followed by several other commands which show how the first ought to be done. They are to revere their parents. Honor them for their care and listen to their wisdom. Likewise the Sabbaths (plural) show respect for the LORD and his works. Lastly they are not to turn away from the LORD into idolatry.

5 “When you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. 6 It shall be eaten the same day you offer it or on the day after, and anything left over until the third day shall be burned up with fire. 7 If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is tainted; it will not be accepted, 8 and everyone who eats it shall bear his iniquity, because he has profaned what is holy to the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from his people. (Lev 19.5-8)

‘Peace offerings’. The chapter is primarily concerned with social concerns and thus a fitting place for the most social of all the sacrifices.

‘Bear his iniquity’, ‘cut off from the people’. The offerings still had to be offered properly in a respectful manner. Lest the offerer bear his iniquity. This in itself is punishment, but it may also lead to further punishment.

9 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the LORD your God. (Lev 19.9-10)

‘Gleanings’. This is the same law that enabled Boaz to provide for Ruth in Ruth 2.1-7. The command provides for the poor who have no crops of their own or families to support them.

11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. 12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. 13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. 14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the LORD. (Lev 19.11-14)

The prohibitions against stealing and lying are associated with various relationships. With the LORD, in view is the giving of an oath, with no intention to fulfill the vow. There is concern for the well being of the poor and needy who rely of their daily wage.

15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. (Lev 19.15-16)

This law protects people, protects their right to a fair trial. Now we delve into how to deal with conflict with the people around us.

17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. (Lev 19.17-18)

‘Love your neighbour’. This command strikes at the root of vengeful behavior. They are not to hate or bear a grudge in response to some sort of hurt. Rather they ought to air their grievances with the desire to reconcile. The context of this great commandment has in mind practical social ethics in public. This is what it means to be holy.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.

This great chapter stands among the richest seams of OT ethics, along with passages like Dt. 23–25; Ps. 15; Am. 5; Mi. 6:6–8; Jb. 31; Ezk. 18; and Is. 58. It will richly reward close study using a cross-reference Bible, since many of its laws are expanded further in Deuteronomy and echoed in the Psalms, Proverbs and Prophets. It includes and expands all of the Ten Commandments in one way or another, and also condenses them into what Jesus called the second great commandment in the law and Paul regarded as its very essence: Love your neighbour as yourself (18; cf. Mt. 22:37–40; Rom. 13:8–10). (Wright, C.J.H., 1994. Leviticus. In D. A. Carson et al., eds. New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, p. 147.)

Story of Jesus

In the gospel Jesus was asked what the greatest commands of the law of Moses are

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Mt 22:36-40)

If we want to know what God requires of us, our basic question is not, “How do I keep the external requirements of the law?” but, “How do I become a loving person?” As we become more like God in character by becoming more loving, we thereby become more holy. (Gane, R., 2004. Leviticus, Numbers, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.)

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