Friday, December 08, 2023

2023.12.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Leviticus 19

Read Leviticus 19

Questions from the Scripture text: Who speaks to whom in Leviticus 19:1? To whom is Moses to speak (Leviticus 19:2)? With what command/summary title is he to begin? Why should they be holy? Who is YHWH to them? With which two commandments does He begin these statutes of holiness (Leviticus 19:3)? Then which commandment (Leviticus 19:4a)? On what basis (verse 4b, cf. Exodus 20:2a)? What instruction does He then repeat (Leviticus 19:5-7, cf. Leviticus 7:11, Leviticus 7:16–18)? How does Leviticus 19:8 expand upon the last phrase of Leviticus 7:18? What law do Leviticus 19:9-10 anticipate (cf. Leviticus 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:19–22)? What rationale does He give at the end of Leviticus 19:10? What commandment does Leviticus 19:11 repeat? And Leviticus 19:12? What rationale does He give at the end of verse 12? What section of the Book of the Covenant does Leviticus 19:13a summarize (cf. Exodus 22:7–15)? What law does Leviticus 19:13b anticipate (cf. Deuteronomy 24:15)? And Leviticus 19:14 (cf. Leviticus 27:18)? What rationale does the end of Leviticus 19:14 give? What parts of the Book of the Covenant does Leviticus 19:15 repeat (cf. Exodus 23:3Exodus 23:6)? What specific examples/applications does Leviticus 19:16 give? And what rationale at the end of verse 16? How do Leviticus 19:17-18 summarize the last six commandments (cf. 1 John 3:15)? What failure would constitute hatred (Leviticus 19:17, cf. Psalm 141:5; Proverbs 13:24, Proverbs 23:13)? What positive command encapsulates this summary (Leviticus 19:18b)? What rationale does the end of verse 18 give? How does Leviticus 19:19a introduce the second half of the chapter (cf. Leviticus 19:37a)? What three laws immediately follow? In what parts of life must the  “separateness” aspect of holiness be kept visible to them? What had not been done yet for the woman in Leviticus 19:20, that distinguishes this situation from Exodus 22:16–17? In addition to his purchasing her freedom to marry her, what else must be done (Leviticus 19:21-22)? Who makes the atonement? Who does the forgiving? To what period does Leviticus 19:23 apply? What must they not do for how long? Why? How is the fourth year’s fruit considered and used (Leviticus 19:24)? When may they begin eating it (Leviticus 19:25)? What is the rationale for the laws in Leviticus 19:20-25 (end of Leviticus 19:25)? What frequently repeated statute does Leviticus 19:26a repeat? What coming statute does verse 26b anticipate (cf. Deuteronomy 18:9–14)? What mourning and identity practices were they forbidden (Leviticus 19:27-28)? What other Canaanite practice were they forbidden in Leviticus 19:29? How does the command in Leviticus 19:30 (and its parallel back in Leviticus 19:3) vary slightly from the fourth commandment? What does verse 30 add? How does this place the 4th commandment into its particular ceremonial application? What rationale is given? What does Leviticus 19:31 add to the end of Leviticus 19:26? What rationale is given? What application of the fifth commandment does Leviticus 19:32 make? What rationale is given? How does Leviticus 19:33-34 expand upon Exodus 22:21? From whom would this distinguish Israel? What rationale is given? What law does Leviticus 19:35-36 anticipate (cf. Deuteronomy 25:14–15)? What rationale is given here? When Leviticus 19:37 closes the section that Leviticus 19:19a opened, what rationale is given?

What is the point of pulling all of these different parts of God’s law together? Leviticus 19 prepares us for the evening sermon on the Lord’s Day. In these thirty-seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that in every part of God’s law for His church, that which motivates obedience and shapes applicational details is sincere and active relating to the holy God Who has redeemed us into covenant with Himself.

Varied laws; singular cause. Many are puzzled by this chapter’s collection of laws from the decalogue (cf. Exodus 20:1–17), the Book of the Covenant (cf. Exodus 21–23), the ceremonial calendar and law, and the civil law of Deuteronomy. Some have given this chapter such headings as “sundry laws” or “various moral and ceremonial laws.” Others have even used it to argue for abrogating the moral law (by saying that it is treated the same as the civil and ceremonial) or for preserving the ceremonial and civil law (using this chapter to deny such obvious distinctions as the Lord writing one in stone with His finger, and writing the other by Moses’s hand and a pen).

But if we have been paying attention to Leviticus 10:10 as the controlling factor for understanding Leviticus 11–22, then we know that this section (chapters 17–22) is about properly responding to the holiness of God—especially as the people whom He has redeemed to be His own and to draw near to Him in the consecrated assembly. Even if we did not know that from the broader contours of Leviticus, if you did the questions portion of the devotional above, you yourself already know the distinguishing features of all of the laws that are either repeated, fleshed out and applied, or anticipated in this chapter. The Lord adds this universal rational: “I am YHWH your God, Who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”

This statement urges the consecration of God’s people in multiply, mutually reinforcing ways. He is holy. We are His—in covenant with Him and holy unto Him. He has redeemed us for Himself, so that we are His holy, purchased possession. And He has redeemed us from among the world, so that we ought to be distinct from them in our holiness. 

So, the Lord gives to the speech that He is commanding Moses His own title: “You shall be holy, for I YHWH your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2b).

Holiness that demands application, Leviticus 19:15-16. There is a legalism that wants to know exactly where the boundaries are so that the sinner can go right up to edge in his sinfulness. This is not a holiness that properly considers oneself as being set apart to the Lord for His worship, by His redemption. The believer ought not only do things that are technically permissible, but to live wholeheartedly in a way that honors God. In Leviticus 19:15, the statutes from Exodus 23:3, Exodus 23:6 are repeated. But now in Leviticus 19:16 he adds another application to them. When we are always telling other people’s business, we prejudice people’s opinions and even prejudice justice. So, not only is talebearing prohibited by the ninth commandment but also by this application of the fifth: living in a way that tends to those in authority justly exercising judgment. 

Holiness that demands the heart, Leviticus 19:17-18. This section applies the sixth commandment. Even before His incarnation, the Lord Jesus teaches the same thing here by His Spirit (cf. 1 Peter 1:11) that we see Him teach in His human/earthly ministry in Matthew 5:21–22 and through His apostle in 1 John 3:15: the sixth commandment is a matter of the heart. You mustn’t hate your brother in your heart (Leviticus 19:17). You must love your neighbor (Leviticus 19:18). And it’s God Himself, Who defines what this love is. Not the person that you are loving. Not yourself. And certainly not the culture around you. So, loving your brother or your neighbor includes not withholding a correction that is your duty to give (Leviticus 19:17), and refusing to bear grudges (Leviticus 19:18). 

Holiness that observes distinctions, Leviticus 19:19-25. Israel were not to mix themselves with the peoples around them. Any stranger who came among them was required to adopt Israel’s laws. So, the Lord reinforced this with regulations upon livestock, crop farming, and clothing—all of which were parables of not mixing. Not only were they to observe distinction. They themselves were to be distinct. 

Translation issues don’t do us any kindness in Leviticus 19:20, where NKJ’s “scourging” comes from a root that means “seek/investigate” and is probably a reference to the required price, “concubine” means slave girl, and something more like “promised” should replace “betrothed,” since the verse is quite clear that the redemption price and freedom that would be given in the case of a betrothal have not yet occurred. But its inclusion with Leviticus 19:19 and Leviticus 19:21-25 in the same “I am YHWH” section helps us. 

Even though this woman is a slave girl, what is done with her is considered a great sin. This was very different from the surrounding cultures at the time. In fact, it was so great a sin that if the Lord Himself didn’t make Himself known in the midst of His people to atone for them by a priest (Leviticus 19:21-22), they would not be forgiven, and they would perish. 

The section closes with a reminder of how defiling sin is. Even after the Canaanites are gone from the land, the fruit from the trees they left behind are “uncircumcised” for three years (Leviticus 19:23). The Lord is praised for making the trees themselves as consecrated and holy, so as to be fit for His people (Leviticus 19:24). But as they ate the fruit from the fifth year onward, it would be a reminder of how dangerous the sin of the Canaanites is, causing such uncleanness even of the land. 

Holiness in weighty matters: identity and death, Leviticus 19:26-28. These verses regulate mourning rituals and identity rituals that were common to the Canaanites. Even today, doing strange things with hear/beard, or marking one’s flesh, are often used to assert identity, or even expressive of a lack of identity. Because they do not know their Creator, they do not have being made in His image as primary to their identity. And because they do not have hope in His redemption that goes beyond death, there is quite a variety of ways that unbelievers respond to death, rather than simple burial—in which the soul is commended to God Who has redeemed it, and the body is committed to the ground in resurrection hope. 

YHWH your God, Leviticus 19:29-37. As the chapter moves toward conclusion “I am YHWH” comes more rapid fire. The sin prohibited in Leviticus 19:29 is revolting—so that it should be striking to us that our daughter’s dignity and life is actually a secondary consideration to the defiling of the consecrated land. In sad, sinful ages like theirs (and ours), we are unaccustomed to treating the holiness of the Lord and of His church as highest-order considerations. The single, perpetual, moral weekly Sabbath is joined by the other (plural, covenantal) Sabbaths (“My Sabbaths,” Leviticus 19:30) of the covenant God whose holiness (NKJ “sanctuary”) dwells among them. His making Himself known to them precludes all attempts at knowledge or power apart from Him (Leviticus 19:31). Even the specific detail of standing to honor an older man who enters a room is not an oddity of the American South, but a way that the consecrated people of God have been taught, for over three thousand years, to make the fifth commandment visible out of reverence for God (Leviticus 19:32). 

Leviticus 19:33-36 highlight the difference that YHWH has made: not only has He taken Israel out of Egypt; He takes “Egypt” out of the Israelites, from how they deal with strangers, to how they conduct economic business. YHWH makes all the difference. 

For Christians, though the ceremonial law has changed, the reason to follow Scripture in the new arrangement of His people has been heightened all the more. The Sabbath-keeping that remains (cf. Hebrews 4:9) is the Lord Jesus’s Day (cf. Revelation 1:10)! Simplicity of the worship has been ushered in by the Christ, in heaven, Who leads the assemblies of His church on earth (cf. and the texts opened there)! Church membership and eldership (cf. Hebrews 13:7), establishing the parameters for following the “one-another”s of the New Testament come in a context where the Spirit calls us “holy ones” (saints!). If we have a right view of God’s statutes for His people, we don’t balk at these things, but embrace that Jesus Christ is the same YHWH Who makes the difference in His consecrated people. The details aren't the same, but it’s the same difference!

How does your salvation, and your new relationship to God in Christ, obligate you to keep the moral law? What part of it do you most need to improve upon obeying? What do you most need to work on from Christ’s statutes for His church assemblies and for how the saints are to interact? How does your connection to Him motivate you in this?

Sample prayer:  Our holy Lord, we thank You for redeeming us from the world and for Yourself. Grant that our conduct would be holy from the world, and consecrated unto You, by Your Spirit, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or TPH174 “The Ten Commandments”

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