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!
Watch Messages: YouTube-Upwards Church