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Joy Gets Its Hands Dirty

Leviticus 18 & 19 & Mark 12:28-34

Introduction

Leviticus 18 & 19 is where the rubber hits the road. Leviticus moves on to the matter of wholeness of life and personal holiness. God gives to His people, Israel, some laws of how they were to live. Laws for such things as: food & diet, foreign nationals, justice, the poor, sex, social etiquette and tattoos. Sounds very relevant for us today in Boscombe, doesn’t it?
 
Let’s briefly take 2 examples. Firstly, concerning the laws regarding sexual activity. The other nations engaged in all these sexual activities as given in Leviticus 18, often as part of their religious devotion and worship but also as an abusive power. But Israel was not to be like that! Sexual activity was to be between one man and one woman within marriage. Tattoos. Look in Leviticus 19:28. Why are tattoos mentioned? Primarily because the other nations tattooed and cut themselves as signs of their devotion, worship and allegiance to their gods. That was their manner of “outward holiness” as it were. Hence their prohibition for Israel who were to be very different from the surrounding nations.
 

Israel were not to be like these other nations in any way, shape or form. Other cultures were not to be allowed to infiltrate them. Israel was to stand out as God’s light to the other nations. These laws were for Israel and also for all immigrants, foreign nationals and aliens who lived among them (Leviticus 18:26). In our second reading from Mark 12, we see that Jesus said that the whole of the Law, including these in our 2 chapters in Leviticus today, is summarised as “Love God and love all other people”.


From Mark 12, we see that Jesus said that the whole of the Law, including these in our 2 chapters in Leviticus today, is summarised as “Love God and love all other people”.
 
The Lord said to Moses, 2 ‘Speak to the Israelites and say to them: “I am the Lord your God. 3 You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. 4 You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. 5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.(Leviticus 18:1-5)
 
1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 ‘Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.
3 ‘“Each of you must respect your mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am the Lord your God.
4 ‘“Do not turn to idols or make metal gods for yourselves. I am the Lord your God.
5 ‘“When you sacrifice a fellowship offering to the Lord, sacrifice it in such a way that it will be accepted on your behalf. 6 It shall be eaten on the day you sacrifice it or on the next day; anything left over until the third day must be burned. 7 If any of it is eaten on the third day, it is impure and will not be accepted. 8 Whoever eats it will be held responsible because they have desecrated what is holy to the Lord; they must be cut off from their people.
9 ‘“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:1-10)
 
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’
29 ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” 31 The second is this: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.’
32 ‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.(Mark 12:28-34)
 

Repeatedly in this book, God has said “Be holy, for I am holy”. But what is holiness? As we have glimpsed in the last 2 weeks, holiness is what separates God from all His creation. For God alone is holy and full of glory. Remember what Aaron had to do when entering the holy of holies on the day of Atonement? He had to create a wall of smoky incense, so that he wouldn’t glimpse God’s glory and holiness and be struck down dead, like his sons Nadab and Abihu. Holiness is in fact the sum of all God’s attributes. God is holiness and holiness is God.


Holiness is also a moral attribute of God, of His purity, and His freedom from the stain of ALL sin. There is an innate moral goodness about God – an absolute perfection which always seeks creation’s welfare. The goodness of God has several key aspects within His moral attributes. These include the following but they are not an exhaustive listing: Grace, holiness, patience, love, mercy, righteousness and truth. They are part of our God’s moral framework. Have you seen evidence of these in your own life?

Let’s keep having a look at our God. God says, for example, in Leviticus 19:2 “I…” That indicates that God is personal. This God is personal and there is an intimacy to be had with a personal God like this. No god of rock or wood like the surrounding polytheistic nations for Israel! Their God is one! God is a God who is personal, and must therefore be capable of having and sustaining relationships. A God who sustains relationships will also want to be known! We know that God is spirit, yet also a personal and infinite being (John 4:24). He is one in substance or nature and incapable of being divided. Even more, as we saw last week, God is love. Love is one of His key attributes. If God was only a single person, then how could love possibly be shown? Love requires more than one Person for Love to be active. If it is not active, then it cannot be love. How can we answer this seeming paradox?
 
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