What’s Holiness About?

If we look at the very beginning of Leviticus 19, we see God telling Moses the following:

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. – Leviticus 19:1-2, NASB

God wants us to be holy, for He is holy. Fair enough. But what I love about God is He doesn’t tell you to do something without giving you the means to do it. And Leviticus 19 covers how to be holy.

‘Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father, and you shall keep My sabbaths; I am the LORD your God. Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am the LORD your God. Now when you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. It shall be eaten the same day you offer it, and the next day; but what remains until the third day shall be burned with fire. So if it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an offense; it will not be accepted. Everyone who eats it will bear his iniquity, for he has profaned the holy thing of the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from his people. – Leviticus 19:3-8, NASB

Now this isn’t the end all and be all of how to be holy. But it’s practical. It’s things we can definitely do. Among them:

  • revere our parents
  • keep the Sabbath for God
  • stay away from worshipping idols
  • certainly keep from making idols
  • when we make peace offerings, we do so in the prescribed manner

There’s a really odd thing about that peace offering one. It can be eaten the same day or the next day afterwards. But if it waits just one more day, it must be consumed with fire. The offering isn’t to be eaten. If someone eats of it, then they will bear the iniquity of the person who gave the peace offering in the first place. For those of you who’ve read my devotionals, you’re probably sensing a catch to what I’m saying. Fair enough, and it’s this, “Why the third day?” Why not the fourth day or the seventh day? It could be said it was because meat can spoil. Perhaps that what it is about. But it strikes me as rather odd that in a set of passages about holiness a prescription to prevent against rancid meat is the cause for that warning. It certainly looks more like a foreshadowing, given that we can look with hindsight.

We can think about that peace offering in two ways. Either God preserved the offering for Himself on the third day, symbolizing that something miraculous with respect to an offering would happen on the third day after an offering was given. Check, that sounds like Christ’s death and resurrection. Or we can look at it in that light but say that God consumed the sacrifice, thereby taking on the sins of the one giving the offering unto His own shoulders. Wait, that’s exactly what He did. So whichever way you want to consider it, if you tie it in with Christ’s sacrifice, you can’t help but say, “God was showing us that holiness is beyond what we are capable.” Think about it for a second…

How well can you keep that practical list? We say we can, but when we consider our own lives, are we honoring of them every step of the way? The obvious answer is a resounding and ear-shattering, “No!” We fall far short of even that simple standard. We can’t meet any standard He gives us for holiness. We have to rely completely on Him. We have to rely on the sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. Otherwise, we’re done. But that’s where the majesty of God comes in. He knew we’d fall short. He planned for it. He set into motion a plan for redemption that allowed us to meet His standard of holiness because He Himself met it for us. Let me write that again: He met it for us. Those are simple words to say. But they are humbling words to accept. It means we admit our own failure. But it also means that we rejoice that we serve and love a God who was willing to lift us up at such a great cost. He is our holiness. Nothing else is sufficient. But because of the Lord, nothing else needs to be.

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