Friday, January 29, 2016

"Be holy, because I am holy!"

Day #30

Scripture Reading:  Leviticus 19 - 21 ...

What would you say to someone who asked you, "What is the Bible about?"  The Bible covers many subjects, but ultimately it is all about the God who created the earth and the entire universe and everything in it; the eternal God who had no beginning and who will have no end.  But in order to understand the Bible you need to ask another question:  What is it about God that makes the cross of Jesus necessary and the Gospel of Jesus Christ such good news?  The truth is that from the time mankind sinned against God in Genesis 3, the rest of the Bible is about how sinful man can enter into the presence of a holy God.  Mankind’s sin, our need for redemption and God’s provision through the Savior, Jesus Christ, is revealed in the Bible, God’s Word.  This explains why, in Leviticus, Moses is continually commanding the people to obey God, and in our reading today, to "be holy," because God is holy.

Chapter 19 begins with the Lord saying to Moses, "Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: 'Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy'" (19:1-2).  What follows is a long list of "Do not's ...  It may seem like the commandments are “negative,” but remember that the commandments of God are summarized, first by Moses (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18), and later by Jesus, as "Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself"  (Matthew 22:37,39).  The problem lies not with God’s commandments, but with our sinful nature.  Human nature is BENT ... is prone toward evil.  The natural state of mankind leans toward sin.  Before the flood God described mankind in the words of Genesis 6:5:  "The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time."

So God chose one man and promised to make a great nation out of him.  The man's name was Abraham.  Israel was the nation God brought forth from Abraham and He was with these people, even as they languished as slaves in Egypt; and He brought them out of Egypt with a mighty hand and promised them the land of Canaan, the land He had sworn to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants forever.  It was now to these people that God spoke His law and said, "Be holy, because I am holy."   "Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God.  Keep my decrees and follow them.  I am the LORD, who makes you holy" (20:7).

Through the specific prohibitions God showed them how to live and how NOT to live.  God says, "I am the LORD your God, who has set you apart from the nations."  ... "You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own" (20:24,26).  Israel's holiness had less to do with them and more to do with their God ... the only true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God says "you are to be holy TO ME ..."  To be "holy" is to be "consecrated; set apart" ...  Israel was no ordinary nation, no ordinary race, no ordinary people ... they were the people of God!  And it was not because they had done or could do anything to earn God's favor.  God had chosen THEM!!

People in general just don't get this today.  Most people want God to treat everyone the same ... but if God were to do that everyone would be lost!  We give people way too much credit and then act as though anyone, with a little bit of effort, can be "good enough" to enter God's presence.  God says otherwise.  God chose this people, gave them His law, and sets them apart from the nations of the world.  The Savior would come from them and save all whom God would choose, set apart and consecrate from all the nations.  But how?  We still haven't answered the question of how sinners can come into the presence of our holy God.

As He talks about the priests, God says, "Consider them holy, because I the LORD am holy - I who make YOU holy!" (21:8).  " ... I am the LORD, who makes them holy ..." (21:23).  We can never become holy by ourselves.  Unless God MAKES us holy, we cannot ... we dare not, enter His presence.  The punishment of those who attempted even to offer a sacrifice when they were unclean was death.  Eternal death awaits those who are not "made holy."  THAT's what the Bible is about!!

Speaking about the sacrifice of Jesus, the writer of Hebrews explains, "By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy" (Hebrews 10:14).  Because we CAN'T be holy, God MAKES us holy through faith in Jesus.  As He set apart the priests in Leviticus, listen to what God says of those who believe in Jesus:  "To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and father - to HIM be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen!!" (Revelation 1:5-6).

THIS is what the Bible is all about.  It is what every believer should be able to share with those who ask where our hope comes from.  This is the Gospel, the good news, as Paul writes to the Romans:  "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes ... for in the Gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith" (Romans 1:16-17).  As you read Leviticus and the consequences of sin, how thankful we who believe in Jesus must be that we have a Savior.

Now God says to us, His people who are saved by grace, "Be holy, because I am holy" (I Peter 1:16).  God sees us as holy as we put our faith in the blood of Jesus Christ and then we seek to be holy as His Spirit works within us. Our faith and hope are found in this Gospel ... the message of the entire Bible.  As those chosen and saved by God, how shall we respond?  By being holy ... because HE is holy!!

"Our Father and our God, Your plan of salvation for those whom You have chosen to be Yours is found nowhere else but in Your Word.  Thank You for revealing the WAY into Your presence through Him Who IS the Way, the Truth and the Life ... Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Lord.  With humble thanksgiving I praise You for Your love and Your grace and ask You to work in me by Your Spirit to give me the desire to BE holy, because You ARE holy!  In Jesus' name, Amen"

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