Leviticus – Holiness


Exodus 26-27 give the Lord’s instruction for the building of the tabernacle, the place of worship during ancient Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness. These instructions are carried out and the tabernacle accepted as an appropriate place of worship (Ex. 35-40). Exodus 28-29 recount the Lord’s instructions for ordaining Aaron and his sons as priests. Leviticus contains instructions for priests and worship.

Leviticus 1 – 5 list the five main types of sacrifice. Leviticus 6-7 provide further instruction on sacrifice for the priests, and Leviticus 8-10 describe the beginning of sacrifice at the tabernacle. Leviticus 11-15 provide instruction on that which is clean and unclean. Leviticus 16 describes the ritual of the Day of Atonement, a way of removing the impact of sin and uncleanness. Leviticus 17-27 is the Holiness Code. These chapters then give instruction in how ancient Israel was to live a holy life.


Discussion : What do you think is the main theme of the book of Leviticus?

Answer : Holiness. The word “holy” is mentioned 152 times – more than any other book in the Bible.

God is a holy God. We must be a holy people.

Lev 19:2 “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.

Why does God demand holiness from us?

1. Sin hurts us

God does not want us to sin because He loves us and does not want us to be hurt by sin. The way of sin always leads to terrible consequences.

Galatians 6:8 (NIV) The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

2. Sin hurts God

Eph 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.

This is actually related to the first point. Sin hurts God because God knows that it will hurt us. God is not an eccentric God that likes and dislikes something out of His whims and fancies and calls what He likes good and what He dislikes sin.

This second point really seeks to emphasis that God is a God with feelings. He can certainly be hurt and nothing hurts Him more than to see sin infecting His people.

3. God cannot maintain fellowship with us if we are in sin

1 John 1:6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.

Not being able to have fellowship with God also means that God will not answer our prayers.

Isaiah 59:1-3 Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. {2} But your iniquities (ie sins) have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. {3} For your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt. Your lips have spoken lies, and your tongue mutters wicked things.

Meditation : Think about all those times when we need God desperately and we will have no access to Him.

We cannot call on Him when we have difficulties.
We cannot call on God to save our loved ones.
We cannot call on God to bless us.

How to be holy?

There are two aspects of being holy.

1. To offer sacrifices to atone for (or take away) our sins

Leviticus 4:1-4 (NIV) The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Say to the Israelites: ‘When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands– 3 “‘If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, he must bring to the LORD a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed. 4 He is to present the bull at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting before the LORD. He is to lay his hand on its head and slaughter it before the LORD.

Discussion : If this ritual is required for the atonement of sin, why are not practicing it today. How does Jesus eliminate the need for constant sacrifices to appease God?

God explains how one is to be holy – by offering perfect sacrifices (Chapters 1 to 7) through a perfect priest (Chapters 8 to 10). Our sins have to be atoned by a sacrifice without blemish (1:3, 2:1) offered by God’s chosen priest (1:5, 2:2). That is why we need Jesus. He is the perfect priest who offers the perfect sacrifice (Himself).

This is an area of difference for the Protestant and Catholic. Roman Catholics believe that besides a genuine repentance and confession of sins, works of penance are required as compensation to divine justice for the forgiveness of sins. Protestants believe that works of penance are not necessary for the remission of sins. Nowhere does the Bible talk about works of penance as necessary for the forgiveness of sins.

The Bible is clear that Christ’s death was an once­and­for­all sacrifice for our sins. When Christ died for our sins, He paid for its debt and satisfied God’s divine justice completely. There is no need for us to continually offer sacrifices for our sins by works of penance.

Hebrews 10:14 because by one sacrifice he (ie Jesus) has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (NIV)

Hebrews 9:28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (NIV)

John 19:30 (NIV) When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

If we still have to satisfy God for what is due to our sins, then in what way is Christ’s redemptive work considered finished?

Since Christ has fully paid for the debt of our sins, all that is left for us to do to receive forgiveness of sins and escape punishment is to have faith in Jesus.

2. To strive towards a holy life in every aspect of our life

After the book of Leviticus tells us how to get ourselves right before God (by offering the perfect sacrifice), it tells us how to lead a life pleasing to God in every area (to maintain that fellowship with God). Chapter 18 contains detailed prohibitions against sexual perversions and chapter 19 against all kinds of wrongdoing.

When we believe in Jesus, God will treat us as if we are righteous.

Rom 4:5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

However, even though a Christian is deemed righteous before God, he is never free from sin in his daily life. That is the struggle that every Christian will face, including the great apostle Paul.

Romans 7:15-17 (NIV) I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.

Therefore, our position and daily life is different. Our relationship with God stands even though we may fall occasionally into sin (for example, our earthly father does not stop becoming our father even when we did something wrong to him) but fellowship is broken (communication breaks down when we disappoint our father).

What happens if we are not holy?

Chapter 20 contains details of how the Israelites were to inflict punishment on those who have disobeyed God’s commandments. The punishments in those days were severe. Many offenders were given the death sentence!

Leviticus 20:9-14 (NIV) “‘If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother, and his blood will be on his own head. 10 “‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife–with the wife of his neighbor–both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death. 11 “‘If a man sleeps with his father’s wife, he has dishonored his father. Both the man and the woman must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. 12 “‘If a man sleeps with his daughter-in-law, both of them must be put to death. What they have done is a perversion; their blood will be on their own heads. 13 “‘If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. 14 “‘If a man marries both a woman and her mother, it is wicked. Both he and they must be burned in the fire, so that no wickedness will be among you.

While God may seem harsh in His punishments, He punishes us because He loves us.

Heb 12:5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.”

God knows that if the punishment for sin is not severe, we will continue to sin and the effects for sin will be much worse than His punishment. There will be no deterrent to sin unless the punishment is severe enough. Think of what will happen if society punishes rapists and kidnappers with only a small fine instead of jail sentence. All hell will break loose and the society will suffer.

What happens if we are holy?

Just as the Lord promises punishment to those who disobeys, He promises rich rewards to those who obey Him.

Leviticus 26:3-12 (NIV) “‘If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, 4 I will send you rain in its season, and the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit. 5 Your threshing will continue until grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting, and you will eat all the food you want and live in safety in your land. 6 “‘I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I will remove savage beasts from the land, and the sword will not pass through your country. 7 You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you. 8 Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you. 9 “‘I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you. 10 You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new. 11 I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. 12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.