Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.
This whole book of Leviticus is challenging to folks in the world. I think this is, in part, because we believers have often applied these commands to non-believers. And that is not how these verses apply. I noticed that the chapters often begin with God telling Moses to “speak to the people” and then giving some instructions. The whole point of this is God telling His people how He wants wants His people to live. God is not giving instruction to the world at large, He is giving instruction to whomever decides they want to belong to God. Plain and simple.
God comes to this point and changes gears. He’s about to give instructions particularly to the priesthood, so it makes sense that He would come back, give a rehashing of some previous instruction, and then move on to the priests. Chapter 18 was instructions on sexual immorality and chapter 20 largely repeats those prohibitions, but adds the punishments for violating those laws. What strikes me as odd is the presence of going to mediums and spiritists in a section largely addressing sexual purity. That’s a thought process for another day.
So, all the context in place, what does this morning’s verse have for me by way of application? Two things, I think.
First, I am to be holy. Holy is one of those words whose meaning has come to be associated exclusively with church things, but the root word is thought to have meant that something must be “whole or intact” and could not be “transgressed or violated.” The root is thought to be the same root word as the word “hale” from a nearly obsolete turn of phrase, hale and hearty. Sin takes away from us; lessens us until there is little to nothing left of the person. Sin undermines who and what we are until the person we have become bears little to no resemblance to the person we set out to be. God wants us to be whole, intact, complete. He wants His people to be people of integrity. The only way to maintain my integrity is to rely on Him and to be obedient. Something in which I have not done well, in recent days.
Second, I need to not apply God’s standards for His people to those who are not His people. God’s standard is the standard for holiness; the standard for entry into Heaven. If someone wants to try to get into Heaven without Christ, then the Law is there to tell them how it cannot be done. We need only glance at the Law to know that we are disqualified. But I cannot run around expecting that non-believers should think there’s anything wrong with homosexuality (called out in chapters 18 and 20) when the standard I’m looking at is not the standard they’re looking at. I cannot expect non-believers to agree with anything in God’s Law. If they do, that’s awesome. But there are rather a lot of Laws that non-believers think are too stringent or limiting; too old-fashioned or in some way backwards. The Law doesn’t change because we don’t like it, but I am not the one assigned to enforce God’s Law. God will handle that in His own time and in His own way.
I need to be holy; whole, intact, inviolate, untransgressed; a man of integrity. And I need to not apply God’s standards for His people to those who are not His people.