Monday, February 7, 2011

Holy Unto The Lord

DAY 38

Morning Reading - Leviticus 1-3
Evening Reading - Matthew 24:23-51

Okay, let's be honest, most of us do not typically sit down for a restful afternoon and crack open the book of Leviticus. For the modern reader the book of Leviticus can be a difficult read. This difficulty is due to at least three factors:

1. The book of Leviticus provides detailed instructions regarding the ancient rituals and worship practices of the people of Israel. These detailed instructions can make for laborious reading!

2. Modern readers have no firsthand experience of these ancient practices. Unlike the very human stories found in Genesis and Exodus, the book of Leviticus is written more like a manual or handbook regarding practices and ceremononies that are completely forgeign to the modern reader.

3. For Christians, many of these laws no longer apply, specifically the sacrificial system, which is no longer required because of the "once and for all" sacrifice of Jesus. However, as we will discover, many aspects of the moral commandments in the book of Leviticus continue to inform Christian ethics and moral reflection.

At the conclusion of the book of Exodus, the glory of Lord descended and filled the Tabernacle. Remember, the construction of the Tabernacle was a response to the question "How can a holy God dwell in the midst of a sinful and disobedient people?" The levitical holiness code was a response to the same question. The Tabernacle provided a structure in which the people could worship God. The levitcal code provided the specific instructions regarding the sacrificial system as well as standards of ethical conduct. It is also important to note that the levitical code ("the law") was not a prerequisite for entry into the community of God's people, but was rather instruction on how a person was to live within the context of this covenant community.

As we read through the book of Leviticus, try not to get distracted by the details; remember, these are ancient rites that are foreign to the modern reader. Instead, focus on the overarching theme of the book, which is the call to holiness. One of the central passages of Leviticus contains the command from the Lord, "Be holy, as I am holy" (11:44). This command is repeated several times throughout the book of Leviticus and is quoted by Peter in the New Testament. As Christians, we know that we are made holy only through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus; however, just like the people of Israel, we are called to respond to God's grace by living lives that are "holy unto the Lord."

Of course, we don't live perfectly holy lives, but as we continue our spiritual journey of transformation, we are changed more and more into the image and likenss of Christ. Through this process of transformation we are sanctified and made holy in God's sight. The book of Leviticus reminds us of this central call to holiness.


  1. I just put your last sentence on top of my notes page. It will help me stay focused through some graphic directions. Question: The Tent of Meeting was separate from the Tabernacle. Once God descended and filed the Tabernacle, and the offerings are taken to the Tent of Meeting -- is that the first Tent of Meeting or the Tabernacle?

  2. have picked up on a very subtle point of tension within the text of Exodus. Most scholars think that the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the bible) were compiled from different sources, different strands of tradition. Sometimes these different sources were just cut and pasted next to each other. This is what seems to be happening in Exodus. For the most part, the terms "Tabernacle" and "Tent of Meeting" refer to the same thing. So, at the end of Exodus when God descends in into the Tent of Meeting and the Tabernacle, the author is talking about the same place. However, in Exodus 33, Moses sets up a tent of meeting outside the camp. This seems to be a separate structure. This structure may have been a precursor to the Tabernacle and once the final Tabernacle was built it was no longer needed, but the terminology continued. Some scholars think that Exodus 33 is from a different source than the surrounding text. Bottom the end of Exodus there is one Tabernacle that is also called a Tent of Meeting!

  3. Ah -- I was thinking it came down to one but the CLEAN AND NEAT part of me was wanting it to be two structures. All these animal sacrifices, etc. seem rather messy (and that is saying it mildly) for the ornate Tabernacle.

  4. There also seems to be a theme of separation in the details of the tabernacle as well as the detailed sacrifices and laws of purity. Did God want to create a distinction between his chosen people and those who worshiped other gods with different rituals?

  5. fact, the word "holy" literally means "set apart" or "consecrated." Some have seen a problem with God's apparent particularism in choosing the Hebrew people. However, it becomes very clear in the Old Testament narrative that God's choosing of Israel has universal implications. The prophet Isaiah declares that God will give the people of Israel as "a light to the nations." So, God's particularity in choosing Israel is for the much larger purpose of blessing "all the nations."