Leviticus on the Mount – Leviticus 19

Leviticus is one of the most feared books in the entire Bible. Many Christians choose not to read it at all, or else assume it is uniformly antiquated and irrelevant. Leviticus is the book where New Year’s Resolutions to read the whole bible die!  If you’ve ever picked up the Bible, intending to read it straight through, my hunch is that you got through Genesis and Exodus fairly well (possibly beginning to drag in the last part of Exodus), but when you hit Leviticus your bible reading came to a screeching halt.

I admit, it’s not the easiest book of the Bible to read, and it does contain directives that are strange and difficult to understand, let alone follow. It’s also been weaponized against gays and lesbians which back fires as crazy examples hair styles, clothing choices and stoning are fired back to show of how far from reality this book may appear.  Yet if we throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water then miss what God is trying to accomplish through it.  If we are willing to call it “God’s Word,” then what are we to do with it?  Does it apply today?  Yes! Did Jesus refer to Leviticus?  Yes!

This weekend we will hear from of Leviticus 19, which is part of what is known as the “Holiness Code.” That title comes from an oft-repeated phrase in this part of Leviticus, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Our passages in chapter 19 underscores many different actions that are indicative of holiness: compassionate treatment of others, especially the hungry and foreigners; not stealing or lying; just dealing with money and finances; resisting the lure of hatred against your neighbor. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that Leviticus 19 is where we get the “Golden Rule”: love your neighbor as yourself. Yes, this is a challenging but beautiful section of the Bible, and it unquestionably informed the life and ministry of Jesus.

Jesus took passages from Leviticus 19 and built on it in the Sermon on the Mount, which we’ll also hear this weekend. Jesus teaches that we are called not only to not hurt others, but to actually work for their betterment and peace. We are called not only to love our friends, but also our enemies. We are called not only to give to people in need, but to give generously and sacrificially. Jesus teaches us that holiness is not simply something we accomplish by going through the motions. It is what happens when our actions and our hearts are aligned, and our whole lives begin to be oriented to goodness and justice.

If this seems crazy and hard, maybe that’s the point. As we’ll hear Jesus say in the Sermon on the Mount, “If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

Main Idea: Jesus took passages from Leviticus 19, taught them, and applied them so that His disciples can live out the principles behind them.

Here’s my outline:

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…Matthew 5:17-19 (NIV)

  •  Deal with Anger, Seek Reconciliation

 17 “‘Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. 18 ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:17-18 (NIV)

 21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:21-24 (NIV)

  • Forget Getting Even, Give and Serve.

19 If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him: 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. As he has injured the other, so he is to be injured. Leviticus 24:19-20 (NIV)

 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. Matthew 5:38-42 (NIV)

  • Before Judging Others, Judge Yourself

 15 “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. 16 “‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people. “‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the LORD. Leviticus 19:15-16 (NIV)

 1  “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV)

Have a great weekend!



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Safe Sex – Leviticus 18

This section of Leviticus gives us instructions on sexuality.  We see that incest, rape, child abuse, prostitution, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, and other forms of sexual promiscuity and unfaithfulness are not part God’s plan for us. God cares about what we do with our bodies. He cares about how women are treated. He cares about marriage. He cares about children. All of this is evident through these laws.

These laws also distinguish Israel from the other nations who practice all kinds of sexual immorality and apply to believers today. God wants Israel (and us) to be faithful to our wives, have pure relations, and keep our commitments to one another because that is what He has done for Israel. God has been the faithful, pure, and committed husband of Israel. Therefore, Israel’s and our marital faithfulness to one another is supposed to be a picture of God’s covenant faithfulness to His people.

These laws get taken to new levels through Jesus’ teaching.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus takes content from Leviticus 18 and 19.  Jesus not only taught that we must not commit adultery, as Leviticus teaches. He also taught that anyone who looks at another person lustfully has already committed adultery in their heart (Matthew 5:27-28).

If Israel’s relations with one another were to be a picture of God and His people, marriage today between a husband and a wife is to be an even greater picture of Jesus and His church. In the Gospels, Jesus calls Himself our husband, or bridegroom (Matthew 9:15; Mark 2:19; Luke 5:34-35; John 3:29). Jesus is the true and faithful husband of anyone who puts their trust in Him. Therefore, we are to love our spouse, be faithful to our spouse, and lay our lives down for our spouse as an outward picture to the world of what Jesus has done for us.



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“Holier than Thou”

“Holy” or “holiness” is one of the most misunderstood words for Christians today.

“Holy,” is God’s most prominent attribute but the one that most believers understand the least and talk about the least.

This title, “Holier than Thou,” is taken from a Metallica song.  They have sold over 125 million albums worldwide putting them up there with the Beatles and The Eagles.  I like their music, but admit some lyrics are not wholesome.  The point is this song from their best selling album helps us understand the misunderstanding of how Christians interpret or live out the word: “Holy.”  Holy is not a tool used to look down or judge others as lesser.  Holiness is not a weapon, but a state of blessing or happiness.

The theme of Leviticus:  God is Holy and calls His people to be Holy or Set Apart.

 45 I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy. Leviticus 11:45 (NIV)

Key Word: Holy is used 77 times and implied over 150 times in Leviticus alone!

Key Phrase: “I am the Lord” 48 times.  This gives authority to the instruction, “be holy.”  “Why should I?” “Because, I am the Lord.”

To a lot of people, God’s holiness might be His least attractive attribute.  Most people I know want to define Him as “loving” or “merciful,” which is true and these are traits of God. The Bible however speaks of God’s holiness more than any other attribute.

For instance when Jesus taught the disciples to pray; did he say, “Our Father in heaven, “Loving” is your name,” or “Merciful is your name?”  No, Our Father in Heaven, “Hallowed” or Holy is your name.

The third person of the Trinity: is he called The Loving Spirit or the Merciful Spirit?  Those are definitely attributes of the Spirit, but He’s called by his primary or most descriptive trait, The Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately we can’t pick and choose what description of God we like, and reject the rest.

For most Christians, “holiness” is a rather mystical and somewhat puzzling term. We’re willing to be holy, but we don’t quite know what holiness is. We know that God is holy. We realize that we are to be holy, as He is. But how can we be holy?

The Jewish leaders in Jesus time defined holiness as keeping all 613 commandments in the Old Testament.  Then as if that wasn’t enough they developed a commentary from their rabbis called the Talmud, adding hundreds more instructions to each command!    Did Jesus call these Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes, “Oh holy ones?”   No, he referred to them as, “hypocrites, whitewashed tombs, blind guides and more.

The Jewish leaders misunderstood what it meant to be holy. Holiness was not about keeping the law and inventing new ways to follow it.

The early church also struggled with the concept of holiness too.  From Early church history we see many distorted views of holiness.

Clement of Alexandria (155-220) a Christian philosopher taught that holiness suffered with contact with women therefore he thought celibacy was the path to holiness.

Then Encratites believed the way of holiness was also connected with rejecting marriage, meat, and wine.

Asceticism emerged in about 312 AD after Constantine’s rise to power. With the legalization of Christianity many believers fled to seclusion as the path of holiness. They felt that holiness was only achieved through separation from the world literally.

Some would take vows of poverty, celibacy, and choose isolation as methods to achieve holiness.

What do you think? If we take away someone’s money does that make them holy?  If we drop someone out in the middle of nowhere does this make them holy?  If someone has no sex does this make them holy?   I hope that we would agree the answer is no.

As the Roman and Eastern Orthodox churches emerged they saw holiness through the various lenses of beauty and sacrifice: through Great Cathedrals and buildings, through eloquent liturgy, through the burning of incense, statues, stained glass, through large choirs and elaborate attire, through acts of penance.   Then later: through the crusades, through pilgrimages to the Holy land, through the worship of relics and idols, through doing services in Latin.

Also in the Middle Ages, people would whip themselves, called “self-flagellation” to achieve holiness.

What do you think?  Does God feel more real if we are in a cathedral surrounded by stained glass with incense and pipe organs?  I’ve been in those places and they are undoubtedly beautiful, historic and significant but have felt God’s presence stronger in tent in Guatemala or a modest building in India, Kenya or Mexico.

Even today some groups would have you believe if you are more emotional or loud, somehow you are holy, if you speak in tongues you are holy.

Even in my religious church upbringing  if you memorized large chunks of scripture, where in church every time the doors were opened, or went on a mission trip, you must be closer to God!

What history has taught us is holiness is not achieved by man’s accomplishments or man’s methodologies to holiness.

We as human beings cannot manufacture holiness.

Man’s philosophies to achieve holiness have all failed and will continue to fail because mankind cannot make itself holy.

How then are we made holy?  I’m glad you asked!

Hebrews 10 explains perfectly how Jesus fulfills Leviticus and how we are made holy.

10 We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Hebrews 10:10 (NIV)

Christ makes us Holy!  It’s his sacrifice once for all!  If you want to be holy as God calls you to be holy it’s through Jesus!

We don’t’ need a checklist for holiness, we need Jesus.

I hope you will put down your whip, your list of rules, vows of anything and accept Jesus.  Then you will be holy, forgiven, filled with joy and purpose.



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Which Old Testament Laws do we Follow Today?

Which OT Laws do we follow today? 

The book of Leviticus is a book full of laws.  And as we read the book of Leviticus it is important to understand how we should understand the book we are reading.  Because the book is full of so many laws we have to consider, should we be following these laws?  And if not, why don’t we follow them?

When you read the book of Leviticus you cannot automatically assume that every law you read still applies today.   But at the same time you cannot automatically ignore every law that is found in the book of Leviticus.

You have to discern, is this a law that was for a particular time and place or was it timeless?

The 3 Types of Laws in Leviticus

Moral laws.  These laws apply to all believers, in all cultures, at all times.  God’s moral laws never change.  Laws from Leviticus in this category are all reiterated in the New Testament.  If an Old Testament Law is repeated under the New Testament “law of Christ,” that law is still valid for us today.

Civil laws.  Civil laws were given for the governing of the nation of Israel at the time.  Similar legal principles may be valid for governing nations today, but they may not be identical in detail, and the same punishments associated with Israel’s civil laws do not apply to us.

 Ceremonial laws.  These laws governed the proper worship of God by the nation of Israel at that time.  These laws are not binding on believers today.   These laws are for a specific nation, at a specific time, and for a specific purpose.  And so for the sake of separating Israelites from the Gentiles, you will read about laws like dietary regulations (don’t eat shell fish) and other regulations of animal sacrifice and cleanliness. These laws are not meant for all people or all times.

Generally speaking, the “obscure” laws that unbelievers use for their own agendas are in the civil and ceremonial categories.  They wrongly imply that all these commands are still binding for modern-day Christians.  However, just as many civil and cultural laws in today’s society have changed since our country was founded, so God through Christ’s sacrificial work on the cross fulfilled many of these Old Testament laws.  These laws were not arbitrarily dismissed, nor did they become irrelevant, but rather the civil and ceremonial laws were fulfilled or ended with the coming of Christ (Luke 24:44Romans 10:4)

Let’s explain how the Ceremonial and Civil laws were fulfilled in Christ.   

The Old Testament civil and ceremonial laws were designed by God to set the nation of Israel apart from all the pagan nations of that time.  Sacrifices were made to atone for sin so the people could approach a holy God.  Ceremonial laws included rituals for cleanliness and purity.  God wanted His people to stand out!  He wanted their lifestyle to be clearly different than the sinful lifestyles of the surrounding cultures.

Things changed dramatically with the coming of Jesus Christ.  God’s people are now part of the Church, a worldwide assembly of believers.  We live in different countries and cultures.  We no longer have the national boundaries or cultural regulations that the people of Israel had.  We’re no longer required to make animal sacrifices to atone for our sin.  We’re no longer set apart by obeying ceremonial laws about meats, fabrics, and length of hair.  Instead, we’re to be set apart from the secular world around us by our godliness and moral purity.  In addition, the Church is not a civil government, so sin no longer carries a civil penalty, as it did when God’s people were a nation-state.

 So if these passages don’t apply to us, why are they included in the Bible? 

When these Scriptures are put into their proper context, they present us with a clear picture of the absolute holiness of God, and they help us to see that we’re completely unworthy to approach God on our own merit.  Like the Israelites in Old Testament times, we must be thoroughly cleansed – only now that cleansing comes through Jesus Christ.

When Jesus died on the cross, the heavy curtain of separation in the Temple was torn in half (Matthew 27:50-51).  This symbolized that we no longer need ceremonial laws or animal sacrifices to approach God.  We are now purified through Jesus, and we can approach God directly.

Why do some unbelievers make such a big deal about these verses, while overlooking the larger scope of the Bible?

The laws in Leviticus are often used in today’s culture as a quick justification for discarding God’s biblical decrees on topics such as “same-sex marriage.”  Critics of the Bible claim that if Christians don’t follow all the laws in Leviticus, it’s inconsistent for them to maintain such a firm stance on Leviticus 18:22:  “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman.  It is an abomination.”

First of all, this kind of reasoning is obviously unbiblical.  It’s never acceptable or even logical to use one (so-called) sinful act to justify another sinful act — or to say that if Christians “disobey” something in the Bible, it must be OK to disregard anything else the Bible says!

Secondly, we know Leviticus 18:22 falls into the Moral Law category, and God’s moral laws never change.  The topic of homosexuality is addressed again in the New Testament (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, for example).  There are also many other moral laws in Leviticus that would be hard for even the most jaded skeptic to dismiss.  Ignoring all of Leviticus would mean tossing out God’s moral laws against lying (19:11), theft (19:13), slander (19:16), hatred (19:17), revenge (19:18), cheating (19:36)… and that’s just for starters.

Would it be a better witness for Christians to follow all the Old Testament laws?

Actually, no!   That answer may come as a surprise, but if we as Christians truly believe the clear gospel message of the New Testament, we literally cannot continue to follow some of the old laws.  Sacrificing animals, for example, is no longer a means of atonement for Christians today.  If we insisted on following that Old Testament system, we would be denying the power and efficacy of Christ’s death on the cross.

So if Christians wear clothing of mixed fabrics or eat certain types of meat that were forbidden 3,500 years ago, we’re not breaking the laws God gave to Israel at the time of Moses.  Rather, we’re living obediently in current times in light of their fulfillment in Christ.  Although we still adhere to the moral teachings of the Old Testament, believers today cannot follow all the old civil and ceremonial laws.

Why do we follow the Moral Laws today?

The moral law is unlike the other 2 types in that the moral law is not to a particular culture or for a particular time period.  The moral law can also be described as the natural law.  This isn’t because it is natural to obey the law, but because it is the way God created the natural world to function.

The moral law is timeless.  It exists before, during, and after the culture in which it was given.

For example, murder.  When did murder become a sin?  When Cain killed Abel, there was no commandment against murder.  But it was still wrong.

Why?  How can something be a law without having been given as a law?  Murder is a part of the moral law.  It existed even before the giving of the Ten Commandments and is still important in our day and age.

This is why we often place such high importance on the Ten Commandments as Christians.  It’s not because the list of 10 is more important because it’s from the book of Exodus instead of Leviticus.  It’s simply because it is the best summary of the moral law.  These are laws that are timeless and that we should hold dearly.

While reading the laws in Leviticus, we must ask ourselves, is this a ceremonial, civil or moral law?

I hope this is helpful,



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