Richard Agee

Leviticus 19: The LORD defines what is holy

Richard AgeeLeviticus 19 is about God wanting us to be as holy as He is. If we couldn’t be holy as God is holy, God wouldn’t have told us to even try to be holy like Him. If it was utterly too difficult to do, He wouldn’t have told us to do it. This is not a random chapter, inserted out of the blue to dumbfound us. This isn’t merely a book of dos and don’ts.

God is calling Israel out of all the other nations to be holy to Him. He didn’t call the Russians, the Greeks to be holy. He called Israel to come out of an unholy place and moved them into another unholy country to clean it out. This chapter gives us tips and guidelines on how we can be holy as God is holy. Honoring our parents and loving our neighbor as ourselves is what make us holy. 

The phrase “I am YHWH your Elohim” appears many times — at least 13-14 times — in this chapter. This is a book for the Levitical priesthood to teach them what is holy and unholy and what is clean and unclean. The chapter opens with the verse: 

“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 19:2)

God is not talking about clean vs. unclean but holy vs. unholy. Loving your neighbor as yourself and not bearing tales is a matter of holiness, not ritual cleanliness. Did you notice that God considers revering one’s mother and father more important than keeping the Sabbath?

“Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father, and you shall keep My sabbaths; I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:3)

God knows us better than we know ourselves. Someone who honors their parents has an easier time honoring God. If God is our Father, Jerusalem is our mother, according to the Apostle Paul. We are to live in such a way that we honor God and show that Yeshua has made us worthy to live in the New Jerusalem. 

God did not waste His time here. He is not simply repeating the 10 commandments to hear Himself speak. He wants us to know Him better. The children of Israel have lived in ignorance of God for over 400 years and God is teaching the children of Israel about Himself. The reason that most of us believe in God and love God is because our parents or grandparents taught us. 

“Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:4)

Do not make a mould of God or image. This not limited to a statute of Mary or Jesus in a Catholic church. Eastern Orthodox churches also have icons and images. I’ve been in Protestant churches including Presbyterian, Methodist churches that have images Jesus near the altar where people bow towards when they pray. 

This verse doesn’t mean you can’t take photos of your family or friends and have them on your wall. They are not idols or images. They are not worshiped. The tabernacle was full of artistic images, even representations of angels, yet God sanctions them. Ex. 22:31; Lev. 11:44; and Lev. 20:26 elaborate on this. 

This chapter is about God wanting us to be as holy as He is. If we couldn’t be holy as God is holy, God wouldn’t have told us to even try to be holy like Him. If it was utterly too difficult to do, He wouldn’t have told us to do it. This is not a random chapter, inserted out of the blue to dumbfound us. This isn’t just a book of do’s and don’ts. 

God is calling Israel out of all the other nations to be holy to Him. He didn’t call the Russians, the Greeks to be holy. He called Israel to come out of an unholy place and moved them into another unholy country to clean it out. 

“Now when you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted.” (Leviticus 19:5)

If a person or family broke the rules on eating this offering, they would be cut off from their people, not cut off from God. They were not killed. They were cut off from the promise to Abraham. We don’t think of Abraham much when we think of the Exodus and Mt. Sinai. That is the difference between holy and unholy, what is set apart and what is common. 

“You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; each of you shall not falsely accuse his neighbor. And you shall not swear by my name in an unjust matter, and you shall not profane the name of your God; it is I who am the Lord your God. You shall not act unjustly towards your neighbor, and you shall not plunder, and the wages of a day laborer shall not rest overnight with you until morning.” (Leviticus 19:11–13 New English Translation of the Septuagint)

You should never use God’s name to deceive others to get something we don’t deserve. We should pay people their wages when they have done the work. This is how God tells us we can be holy. 

“You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:14)

It’s easy to speak bad about those who are deaf because they can’t hear to defend themselves. Ignoring a deaf person is easy because they can’t speak up for themselves. Think about this on a spiritual level. It’s easier to blame those who are deaf to the word of God or blind to the word of God than to go to them to help them hear and see, isn’t it. It’s easier to judge people than to help people out. God is calling Israel out, He showed them things that He didn’t show the Russians or the Greeks and they were not to become arrogant or to treat those outside the promise with contempt. The children of Israel were called out of Egypt, out of literal darkness for Abraham’s sake, not their sake. They were deaf and blinded to God’s words because God had allowed them to be deaf and blind for a time. We conveniently forget that we were once deaf and blind to God’s word, too. 

“You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.” (Leviticus 19:15)

God doesn’t care about how rich or poor you are, if you are violating God’s Torah, you are unholy. God is not a respecter of persons. God doesn’t play favorites. 

“You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:16)

We are not to gossip about people, but we are also not to spread malicious truths about people, particularly if that malicious truth is about an act that the person has repented of. 

“You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the LORD. You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:16–18)

This shows us how God is. God doesn’t hold a grudge, act with vengeance or want the death of anyone because Yeshua already paid that price so we don’t have to. When we let go of grudges and let go of our right for payback, this brings us closer to God’s holy character. God tells us to do what is right because He is God and we are not. 

Reader: Jeff. Speaker: Richard Agee. Summary: Tammy.


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