Sermon Series


May 1, AD2011 – “Be Qodesh”, Pastor Ben Willis

Leviticus 11:29-45 [NLTse]

29 “Of the small animals that scurry along the ground, these are unclean for you: The mole rat, the rat, large lizards of all kinds, 30 the gecko, the monitor lizard, the common lizard, the sand lizard, and the chameleon. 31 All these small animals are unclean for you. If any of you touch the dead body of such an animal, you will be defiled until evening. 32 If such an animal dies and falls on something, that object will be unclean. This is true whether the object is made of wood, cloth, leather, or burlap. Whatever its use, you must dip it in water, and it will remain defiled until evening. After that, it will be ceremonially clean and may be used again.

33 “If such an animal falls into a clay pot, everything in the pot will be defiled, and the pot must be smashed. 34 If the water from such a container spills on any food, the food will be defiled. And any beverage in such a container will be defiled. 35 Any object on which the carcass of such an animal falls will be defiled. If it is an oven or hearth, it must be destroyed, for it is defiled, and you must treat it accordingly.

36 “However, if the carcass of such an animal falls into a spring or a cistern, the water will still be clean. But anyone who touches the carcass will be defiled. 37 If the carcass falls on seed grain to be planted in the field, the seed will still be considered clean. 38 But if the seed is wet when the carcass falls on it, the seed will be defiled.

39 “If an animal you are permitted to eat dies and you touch its carcass, you will be defiled until evening. 40 If you eat any of its meat or carry away its carcass, you must wash your clothes, and you will remain defiled until evening.

41 “All small animals that scurry along the ground are detestable, and you must never eat them. 42 This includes all animals that slither along on their bellies, as well as those with four legs and those with many feet. All such animals that scurry along the ground are detestable, and you must never eat them. 43 Do not defile yourselves by touching them. You must not make yourselves ceremonially unclean because of them. 44 For I AM the Lord your God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I AM holy. So do not defile yourselves with any of these small animals that scurry along the ground. 45 For I, the Lord, AM the One Who brought you up from the land of Egypt, that I might be your God. Therefore, you must be holy because I AM holy.

Of the 613 Rabbinical Laws, 247 – only a little less than half – come from the Book of Leviticus.

The Lord God – our Father – is a holy God. And He clearly sets out to Moses the holy way He desires sacrifice be offered to Him. We learn the righteous procedures for making a Burnt Offering, and the righteous procedures for making a Grain Offering. We read of the righteous way to make a Peace Offering and a Sin Offering and a Guilt Offering. We learn what sins required a Sin Offering and what sins required a Guilt Offering.

As a part of ordering His people and structuring His holy society, the Lord gave directions for the Ordination Service to ordain Aaron and his descendants into the Office of the Priesthood, and Aaron and his heir into the Office of the High Priesthood, and what offerings need to be made, and how to wash, and what to wear.

Even after they have been ordained, Leviticus describes how those who are priests are to conduct themselves daily, and goes on to dictate which animals the Israelites can eat and which they cannot, that childbirth makes a woman “unclean” before God and how she can be “purified” and restored to active life in the holy community, and on and on and on… All of these rules and regulations summed up in the words of the Lord that end our morning’s reading today: God saying, “You must be holy because I AM holy!”

I’ve had lots of conversations over the years with various folks asking whether or not I thought God truly cared about such details as we read throughout the pages of Leviticus. And the answer seems simple enough: Of course, or we wouldn’t have these particulars recorded for us in His Word! But there’s more to these details and directions and dictates than just a memorial to how the Lord wanted the Hebrews of old to live in fellowship with Him. There’s wealth here for us today, riches for comprehending His calling to us – to those of us who love Him as His bride, who’ve been adopted to be His sons.

For 430 years Israel had lived in Egypt in the midst of Egypt’s pantheon of gods and within a society based upon Egypt’s varied beliefs and practices of worship. 430 years – that longer than the United States has even existed as a nation! It was all the Israelites had ever known, and reading carefully we can see that many of the Israelites had come to adopt the faith and ways of their Egyptian slave drivers. But the Lord didn’t want His people to worship Him as the Egyptians worshiped their gods. So Moses recorded how the Lord God did want to be worshiped, because it was very different.

The word holy translates the Hebrew word, qodesh. Qodesh communicates the idea of apartness, holiness, sacredness, hallowed, holy; distinct from the common or profane; totally good and entirely without evil. The LORD reveals Himself to be holy, set apart, distinct from the other gods that were (and are) worshiped; totally good and entirely without evil. And He calls human beings – those who will trust Him and follow Him – to a holiness resembling His Own.

What this means is, that when I – a Christian – speed while driving my car along the highway or through town that I am staining God’s holiness, because the Lord calls us to obey the laws of the land, and since the typical citizen does not obey the laws of the land we are ruining an opportunity to show forth God’s holiness in us. When I tell someone I’m going to do something and I don’t do it I am staining the holiness of God, because the Lord calls us to do what we say we’re going to do – to keep our word even if it hurts us to do so! And because the typical person does not keep their word we are ruining an opportunity to demonstrate the Father’s holiness, separateness, qodesh in us. When I use bad language, or even when I just grumble and complain all the time, I’m staining the Lord God’s holiness because so many people cuss and because everyone seems to be so ready to tell you their sad story or what a tough day and life they’ve had! So by keeping our language gentle and acceptable to all, we are showing ourselves – and our God – to be holy. By setting our minds on the good in the world, God’s grace to the world, the mercy He’s shown the world, all that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy around us, being people who bless others and encourage others and spread the hope we have in Christ we do what nobody else in the world is doing: While everyone else is complaining, we are showing others the holiness – the apartness and distinctness, the qodesh of Christ…

I know that Christians getting caught in scandals make headlines and tarnish the holiness of God. But so much more often than the big offenses, aren’t the little things I’ve been talking about, aren’t these the reasons people call Christians “hypocrites”? When Christians talk badly about each other, when Christians lie or cheat, when Christians are bitter or unforgiving, when Christians are tight-fisted or rude, aren’t these more commonly the reasons unbelievers think badly about Christ’s church because even they know it’s not the way God’s calling us to be.

The Bible’s filled with dos and don’ts. But since we’re not saved by doing or not doing these lists our Savior wants us to do or doesn’t want us to do must be there for some other reason. They’re there to teach us how to live and how to love God’s way. And when we live and love His way we’ll show ourselves and our God to be holy. We won’t have to work at it, we won’t be able to help it: God’s ways are different, peculiar, distinct. And when we live and love that way we’ll stand out, others will see we’re different, apart from the crowd, qodesh. It won’t be because we’re trying to draw attention to ourselves, it will be because not many people show mercy, give of themselves sacrificially, and seek to be servant-hearted the ways our qodesh Lord call us to be.

There’s a woman in our congregation who’s friends wonder how she can trust God when so many bad things seem to be going on in the world. And yet all she sees are examples of God’s protection and provision and grace when she looks at the same dire situations…

A young couple in our church is hoping to downsize their possessions to have more resources to help the poor, share about Jesus, and be ready to go where God tells them and their young family to go…

Giving up TV and Facebook and gaming and entertainment time to commit to our spouse or children or serving neighbors or sharing Christ…

A young man among us forgives his offender privately, but his act is made public and the Lord God gets public glory! …

A younger man in our church has friends at school who wonder why doesn’t swear like everyone else, and why he doesn’t want to fool around with as-many-of-the-girls-as-he-can, like the other guys do…

That’s what it means to be holy. So many are concerned with what other people think. Are we hoping they’ll think we are holy?

Our Beloved calls us to be holy. So, read the Word; trust the Word; and, live the Word. Be holy.