This week’s reading took us from Leviticus 15 to Numbers 5. Our reading for today’s lesson comes from 1 Peter 1:13-21.
In his first letter, the first chapter and the 16th verse, Peter, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, lifts this statement directly from Leviticus: “Be holy, for I am holy.”
This is the first time I ever remember reading and studying through Leviticus seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Here’s what I discovered. God is holy. Israel is called to be holy. God wants a holy nation. For Israel to be holy as God is holy, there’s got to be some major changes in them as a people. They’ve got to learn to think in terms of what is clean and what is unclean, what is holy and what is unholy. They’ve got to unlearn a pile of Egyptian behaviors and learn how to live a whole new lifestyle. They’ve got to be converted from sexual perversion and idolatry, to God’s intent for sexual behaviors and God’s way of worship. Now think of this: They’ve just only left Egypt not too many months ago. Numbers 1:1 dates this as the second month of the second year that they left Egypt. God has drafted them, rescued them from Egyptian slavery, and enrolled them into His Holy University in the wilderness campus. It’s time for basic training and they must undergo a holy overhaul.
We can’t really appreciate this. They’ve never in their lives experienced God so up close and personal. Aaron has never been a priest before, nor have his children. These laws are fresh out of God’s mouth to Moses ears and then announced to them. The textbook for their holy training started at Mount Sinai in Exodus 20, where God proclaimed His own laws directly to them.
And what was that like? It was terrifying! They could not stand it! They said to Moses, “If God keeps speaking to us like this, we will all die!” They asked Moses to go to God, get instructions, and bring back to them what God commanded, and they said, “We will do whatever the Lord says!” Deut. 5:27.
But what happened when Moses left them to go before God and receive God’s commandments and instructions on Mount Sinai?
Within 40 days, their fears had faded and they decided to make some gods for themselves. The holy lessons they had heard just days earlier somehow got lost. Holy Commandment number 1: you shall have no other gods besides Me. Holy Commandment number 2: You shall not make for yourselves any graven images to bow down to and serve. What were they thinking? Why are they acting this way?
They were simply defaulting to what they grew up with and what they knew best… and, if we are honest, what they believed in and loved most.
“Be Holy” is not a call to comfort. It is not a call to the familiar. It is not a call to indulgence of my desires. It’s not even a call to be religious. (Making idols is religious). “Be Holy,” pure and simple, is a call to BE LIKE GOD. But how? How is that possible for people who are sinful and fallen? How can broken people be whole and holy like the perfect God? Furthermore, how can people who don’t have any aspirations toward holiness be holy? Most people I meet don’t put being holy at the top of their list of things they wish they were. Have you noticed that?
Ask anybody: In one word, what do you want to be? You might hear: healthy, or happy, or handsome, or rich, but not too many people you ask will at once, in all honesty tell you: I just want to be holy like God is holy. Israel didn’t seem to want that, did they?
But, if you asked God: Lord, in one word, Lord, what do you want me to be? What do you think God would tell you? Be holy, as I am holy.
Brothers and Sisters: I think this sums up the meaning of seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness in Leviticus, (and in the entire Bible for that matter).
Being holy changes EVERYTHING about us, does it not? It changes our heart, mind, soul and strength… everything. Being holy, as God is holy, is more than being innocent. It is more than being faithful, or loving, or courageous, or hopeful, or honest, or moral, or wise, or hard working, or sacrificial, or a social justice advocate, or spiritual, or pure, or sincere, or loyal, or dedicated to church, or generous, or dependable, or gracious, or merciful, etc., etc.
Being holy, is being like God. Not being God, or acting like you are a god! No! Those are characteristics of evil. Being holy is also not being a biblical theologian or an expert at explaining God, though you could be holy and have those gifts. And without the holy scriptures, you would be lost in your search for God’s instructions on how to be holy.
To better understand what it means to be holy, we must start with our understanding of who God is and what is our relationship with Him. I am so thankful, because this is exactly what we are doing as we read through the Bible this year, this is the very heart of what it means to be seeking His kingdom and righteousness! As we continue, God will open our eyes to things about Himself and about us that we need to see. There are shocking things about ourselves that only the light of God’s truth can expose. There are staggering and awesome things about God that only those who seek Him can discover. This adventure through God’s word can be a basic training in becoming holy as God is holy. But, we must be warned, just hearing without an obedient heart that applies what we learn is an activity of a much lessor purpose. What we do with God’s word reflects on us. Like looking into a mirror reveals us, God’s word exposes and judges us. For those who are seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness, this adventure through the Bible has tremendous potential for drawing you closer to God’s likeness and into God’s holiness. BUT: It depends on our hearts, and it depends on God’s affect on our hearts.
God knows if you are a candidate for being holy. He knows if you will receive or resist His work to form Christ in you. He knows.
Let’s get this clear. If you are interested in being holy and letting God have His way with you, then prepare for a challenge of a lifetime, but know that IT IS SO worth it! On the other hand, if you are NOT interested in being holy and letting God have His way with you, then you need to repent. SEARCH YOUR HEART. Rethink why God put you here, reflect on why God sacrificed Jesus on the cross for you, give an ear to what God says sin did and does to you. Consider the high price He paid so that you and I can be holy, as He is holy, and give up whatever is in the way of letting God restore you to His own likeness.
Being saved is not primarily about getting out of hell and going to heaven. Heaven is not a place for anyone who resists holiness and being like God. Being saved IS all about becoming holy as we seek God’s kingdom and righteousness first, above all, for life. Eternal life is ultimately being like God and enjoying God forever in glory. Eph. 5:1-7, Phil. 3:20-21, 1 John 3:1-3.