Week of Feb. 14

The Latch that Opens the Door to Holiness

Read: Leviticus 18-19; Psalm 13; Acts 19
“And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.’”
Leviticus 19:1-2, ESV


“And the Lord spoke” carried supreme authority when Israel received God’s law. Community was formed by God’s word and his word set the boundaries for inclusion and exclusion in it. Not so any longer in Western culture! As Dallas Willard writes, “What characterizes life in so-called Western societies today, however, is the absence, or presumed absence, of knowledge of good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice: knowledge that might serve as a rational basis for moral decisions, for policy enactments, and for rational critique of established patterns of response to moral issues.” He terms this ethical condition as “The Disappearance of Moral Knowledge” (Willard, The Disappearance of Moral Knowledge, p. xxx).

Correcting this moral collapse in our society falls beyond the scope of this devotional, but I will speak to how we may fulfill God’s demands for holiness in such a pluralistic culture. I believe that God’s word provides a path to human flourishing at home, at church, and in society.

Let's See What the Bible Says

Leviticus 18 and 19 begin with the same pronouncement, as I have stated above. “And the Lord spoke to Moses” carries supreme moral weight. His spoken word formed the foundation for covenant community in Israel. As a result, holiness in sexual behavior was to be the standard for his kingdom of priests (cf. Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 1:16; 2:5). Holiness means to be separate, and God wanted his people to be a witness to him in their natures and actions.

The pagan world was characterized by unbridled sexual behavior, but this was not to be so among God’s people in any time period (see Galatians 5:16-21, “sexual immorality”). I have written previously that holy people do not practice incest (18:6-17; 1 Corinthians 5:1), adultery (18:20; Matthew 5:57-28), child sacrifice (18:21), bestiality (18:23; Exodus 22:19; Deuteronomy 27:21), and homosexuality (18:22; Romans 1:26-27). Sexual purity was to be all-inclusive.

Our contemporary society tends to pick and choose which types of sexual conduct will be approved or disapproved, but God’s mandate covers all areas. Sometimes Christians emphasize personal freedom but fail in regard to moral responsibility. I hope that we recognize that there can be no rights without responsibilities, if God is to be Lord. He, in fact, instructs Moses to communicate this very truth in 18:2 and he accents the point in 19:1 by calling Israel to practice holiness that corresponds to his own! There is a key connection between what we read in chapter 18 and the laws that we find in chapter 19. Let me widen our view.

“Leviticus 19 has been called the highest development of ethics in the Old Testament” (NAC). We will see readily that it restates the ten commandments and clearly places them under the umbrella of holiness. God calls us to be holy, even as he is holy, and this is an abiding principle that is evident in our treatment of others (19:2; cf. 1 Peter 1:15-16). Holiness is a divine attribute. When we display it, then we are glorifying the Father. It enables us to “commune” with him (NAC).

The second table of the law shines forth in this chapter. As God’s children, we will honor our parents (19:3) and observe the Lord’s Day (19:3b). We will eschew idolatry in any form (19:4). Why? Because our hearts are to be in our worship (19:5)! We will provide for the poor (See 19:9-10; Matthew 6:2), practice justice (cf. 19:15; Matthew 7:12), respect the dignity of the aged (cf. 19:32; 1 Timothy 5:1-2), show genuine concern for the foreigner (cf. 19:9-10, 33-34; Mark 7:24-30), and treat others fairly in business (e.g. 19:13, 35-36; cf. Matthew 5:40-42). These practical requirements stem from the second table of the law, but they also are evident throughout the New Testament. Is your head spinning? Mine is! Pause for a moment, then turn your thoughts to ways to be formed spiritually.

Let's Deepen Our Walk

I will go out on a limb here and risk a bit of embarrassment. I needed to refill the windshield wiper reservoir with “bug juice,” as we term it. I hopped out of my truck only to realize that I could never remember where the hood latch is on the vehicle. In my defense, I have only had the truck for 3 ½ years. O.K. Yes, I should know where it was, but I did not. I stood there and wished for the good old days where auto manuals came with a little quick-access guide to vehicles. I wanted a clear picture of what to do. I looked around me to make sure no one was watching and pulled out a YouTube video to show me where the hood release latch was located!

Thankfully, Leviticus 18-19 offers us a better and more clear picture of God’s will for us. Chapter 18 opens with God speaking his will and, as chapter nineteen draws to a close, he states a key command: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” Ring a bell? We are to love God and love our neighbor (Mark 12:29-31). We have before us a clear picture of God’s moral principles that permeate the entirety of the Bible. These chapters make it wonderfully clear how we may link love for God to pious actions in our society.

Here is a thought for our moral formation: Re-read Dallas Willard’s statement in the introduction. Our lives are to be characterized by our allegiance to God and not to our Western culture. Our moral “practices” are to be formed in relationship to God. Holiness is the latch to communion with God.

Let's Think and Discuss

1. What areas of Leviticus 18-19 rise to the surface in your relationship with God? These are places that the Holy Spirit is directing you to bring under God’s authority (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:15, 19-20). The Spirit will guide you to make the necessary changes. Commit yourself to renewed holiness.

2. For families: Help your children to commit this verse to heart: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2). Then supply the art materials for them to create a sign for their room using this verse. While they are working, ask them where they struggle most with being holy. Pray together about this area of concern. Ask them to place their new sign in a special place that will remind them to ask for God's help as they are learning to follow him faithfully.

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock