Leviticus Part Two: Dive
A PERSPECTIVE LESSON FROM GROVER
How are you going eating your Brussels Sprouts? Doesn’t it feel a bit like that when reading Leviticus, you just want to jump forward to dessert but you have to eat your vegetables: the solid foundation of the Pentateuch. So keep going, you will be so proud of yourself when you finish.
This week I want to highlight one of the key themes found in Leviticus: The Holiness of God. Holiness is not a word that is taught about much today but I wanted to show you how important this is to understand the book of Leviticus. When I discuss holiness it weirdly reminds me of the very old Grover video from Sesame Street. So let’s take a lesson on perspective from Grover. Grover is trying to teach the kids on the concept of near and far, and he comes really close to the camera and quietly says “near” and then runs away from the camera and screams “far”. It is actually a really funny video when you watch it as an adult. As we study the nature of God and the concept of holiness, we need to understand that whether God is as close as our breath or he is seated in heavenly places giving us rules and regulations like in Leviticus, just like Grover the only thing that changes is perspective, Grover doesn’t change and neither does God. At times in Leviticus God can feel distant and far away but he is the same God that heals you, changes you and protects you today. So as you study the nature of God in the Old Testament you have to remember that this same all-powerful God is the one that walks with you, don’t let perspective defuse his power or put him on your level.
A great commentary called An Introduction to the Old Testament states “Before getting lost in the details, it is important for us to discern, behind all of these laws and the central concepts of purity and cleanness, the central teaching of the book is that God is holy.(18:2, 4, 19:3-4, 10, 20:7, 11:45, 19:2, 20:26)” Longman goes on to explain “The book of Leviticus thus teaches that God is separate from the present world and that only those who are also freed from the taint of sin are permitted into his presence.”
As we mentioned last week Jesus paid the price for our sin, he was the ‘once and for all’ sacrifice of atonement so that we don’t have to keep atoning for each and every sin we commit (Hebrews 10) Praise Jesus! We can be reconciled in our relationship with God, we get to be near to this holy God that seems so intent on distance in the Old Testament. I thank God (literally) for Jesus, I can’t imagine lugging a cow to church every week to offer a sacrifice for my sin just to be near God, I think I would opt for the pigeon, but even that is horrible to think about. Imagine being under these laws for generation after generation, and having a concept of God that was distant, and then God comes into the world as a man and you get to encounter him on a personal level. God hasn’t changed, just his perspective, he is now near. He is now ‘God with us’, he is now able to be close and have an intimate relationship with his people. That is the same God that you are reading about in Leviticus, so get to know him.
I have loved reading Leviticus this time around, I have loved noticing the different facets of God revealed in this book: the glory and fire that comes out of the presence of the Lord in 9:23-24. The call to keep the fire on the altar burning continuously, it must not go out (Lev 6:12-13) just like our lives we need to keep the Holy Spirit fire burning. I have loved seeing the pattern of order for the atonement and instructions, did you notice the Lord gave them to Moses, Moses gave them to Aaron and the Priests and then Aaron and the priests atone for the people. God is a God of order. As I read scriptures like Leviticus 11:44, I am reminded of 1 Peter 1:15 ‘But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written; “Be holy, because I am holy.” And 1 Peter 2:9 ‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.’ Peter takes the images and declarations of the Old Testament and reassigns them to the people of God and that’s us. All Christians are called to be a holy nation, the royal priesthood as we see in Leviticus, called into the presence of a Holy God to honour and minister before him.
This is an honour, not a chore. But the great thing about our holiness is that it comes from Jesus not works or sacrifice, the more you have Christ in your life the more you become like him. The blood of Jesus covers our sin and cleanses us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7), so that we can come boldly into the presence of God (Hebrews 10:19), but let’s not allow this freedom to stop us from pursuing holiness and purity in our lives before a holy and pure God.
Before I finish, let me tell you a story, that gave me a fresh revelation of God’s holiness. When I was a Youth Pastor I had an encounter with God that changed my life forever! I had been praying all week for our Friday night Youth meeting that God would show us his holiness. Now for those who have been Christians longer than me, you know that this prayer is like praying for patience. You never know how God is going to answer it, perhaps a situation that tests your patience. But I was passionate, I wanted the youth to get a revelation of God’s holiness and power in their lives. So that Friday I got to the school hall that we met in ready to set up and pray and as I entered the hall, with another youth leader by my side, we were hit with this overwhelming, heart stopping, awe inspiring presence of God. This was like nothing I had experienced before, this was like a thick cloud, this was overwhelming and I didn’t feel excited, I didn’t feel like I wanted to praise, I didn’t feel like I wanted to even enter the hall at all, all I felt was awe. I felt like Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5, ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips.’ I was quickly reminded that my humanity cannot stand in the presence of a Holy God without Jesus.
The next thing I was on my face in tears, weeping at the presence of God, weeping at my humanity, weeping that he would come and be with us in a school hall in such a strong tangible way, weeping at gratitude that I can be in his presence and the blood of Jesus washes me clean. After 20 minutes I got up off the ground and what I saw was the most incredible sight I had ever seen. All of our youth leaders were on their faces, weeping in the presence of God, one guy didn’t make it through the door, he was half in and half out. It would have looked so funny to anyone walking past. That night was one of the best nights at youth that we ever had, that incredible presence stayed with us all night and we ended up worshipping and rejoicing at how good God is! But what has stayed with me was the sense of awe and respect I felt, God is holy and not to be disrespected. His perspective changed in the New Testament, he came near, but he didn’t change. He is all-powerful God!
I think God put Leviticus in the Bible for us so that we don’t lose respect for the God that we get to encounter every day. The same God of Leviticus is the same God that is with you, all powerful, all knowing and he deserves our respect, honor and awe! Don’t ever underestimate the power of God to save, to heal, to set you free, don’t bring the all-powerful God down to your level, come up to his.
Have a great time discovering a new facet of God in Leviticus this week!