Leviticus – How to Be Holy
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
Leviticus provides details for how the worship of God should be conducted among the children of Israel, and it is detailed. Detailed in the same way NASA might detail a mission to Mars, with the torque of every bolt and exacting measurements and equations of each system. A spacecraft has to be perfect or it won't make it home. Leviticus suggests the same thing about approaching God, it has to be perfect, and Leviticus is God's guidebook or blueprint for doing it right.
In fact, when the Son of God came to earth, centuries later, He echoed the same sentiment: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matthew 5:48
With that, a casual reading of Leviticus could suggest that God is the ultimate legalist. I mean, by about the tenth page you can be absolutely overwhelmed with detail! Everything has to be precise. Exact. And, of course, this is how the worship of God should be if you think about it, because He is God, after all.
As David sang in his 'Song of Deliverance', "As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless…" 2 Samuel 22:31
You may surmise while reading Leviticus that God must be in heaven with some kind of scorecard and a red pen just waiting for people to mess up so He has a reason to flunk them like that teacher each of us had in school – you couldn't do anything right, as hard as you tried, they would always find something! Except when it came to that one kid, the teacher's pet, who could do no wrong, right? It's a stereotype but it's pretty accurate. But here there isn't even a teacher's pet, no one escapes the perfection required, the flawlessness.
But God isn't legalistic at all. This is where the Pharisees missed the mark completely by trying to follow each of God's directives in the Law in the most minute detail while missing the entire point, which was that He is holy – and He wants us to be like Him.
God's plan for the children of Israel to worship Him rightly, even though He was Holy and they were not, was possible only through the system He devised and provided to Moses. It involved three things:
Priests. The individuals set apart to God who conducted the sacrifices, offerings, and rituals on behalf of the nation and was led by the High Priest who represented the people before God. Not just anyone could waltz into the holy places of the tabernacle – only the High Priest was allowed and only under specific terms. In the New Covenant, Jesus is our Great High Priest who was tempted in every way we are yet remained without sin, (Hebrews 4:14-16) and by His sacrificial death, burial and resurrection became the one mediator between man and God. Fulfilling the role of the Levitical High Priest.
Offerings. Five are outlined at the beginning of Leviticus as a sort of gift to God in worship, that God would receive it and, in return, extend the grace and mercy needed to cover the sins of those bringing the gift. John the Baptist rightly identified Jesus as "The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." (John: 1:29) Jesus gave Himself as the once-for-all sacrifice, fulfilling the temporary nature of the Levitical offerings with His own blood, as Peter wrote: "with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot." (1 Peter 1:19) And so now we come to God by faith through the finished work of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.
Obedience. The Law and Commandments were directives, not suggestions, and the only way the priests could truly represent the people and God could govern as Lord and King were through the obedience of the nation, corporately and individually. It is no different in the new covenant where we come to Jesus by faith and receive by grace His gift of salvation and forgiveness for our sins. He said over and over again, things like, "If you love me, keep my commandments." "If any man wants to follow me let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me."
But just like in Leviticus, we don't obey His commands because that is the end in itself, we obey willingly and out of love because we want to be like Him. Jesus was the supreme example of Holiness and His life is what God meant when He told the children of Israel "You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God am Holy."
When you read Leviticus realize that God's desire for you is to be holy, which is to be like Jesus. For your life to exhibit holiness that comes from purity of mind and motive, selfless giving, heartfelt adoration and love for God, love for all people and remorse for sin.