Let’s face it. Leviticus is one of the toughest books in the Bible. It’s tough to read, it’s tough to learn from, and it’s tough to know what to do with it. I mean, the first 9 chapters are about animal sacrifices. When was the last time you made an animal sacrifice?
So, if we are going to find meaning in Leviticus, we have to step back and consider what I believe to be the main question of the book: What does it mean to be a whole-hearted member of God’s family? If our primary identity, what marks us in life, is our identity as God’s children, what does that mean? What should it look like?
Leviticus 19 contains a number of laws and guidelines for the people of Israel. Everything from “don’t lie” (verse 11) to “don’t pervert justice” (v15) to “don’t plant your field with two kinds of seeds” (v19). How do we, as Jesus followers in 2015, plow through all of this (pun intended)?
Well, the starting place is the phrase: “I am the Lord your God.” This phrase, or one similar to it, appears fifteen times in Leviticus 19. It stands as a continual reminder that God is our foundation. Our life, and our living, are rooted in the God who calls us by His name. He is the source of our purpose, our calling, our life.
The next thing to notice is that Leviticus 19 (as someone has pointed out) can be divided into 3 sections — three ways God’s people were to be holy:
- 19.1-8: they were set apart to belong to God
- 19.9-18: they were set apart by how they treat others
- 19.19-37: they were set apart: by being different than the peoples around them
In other words, Leviticus 19 tells us some really important things — things that still apply to us today as Christians. We belong to God, and because that is our primary identity, we then live like it. Now, it’s going to take some wisdom as we read Leviticus, discerning how to apply it to our lives. Because, no, I’m not worried about planting tomatoes next to green peppers. And I am pretty confident I have no need to sacrifice animals (as long as you don’t count the mousetraps I’ve put up in the basement).
But I can read Leviticus 19 and see in that chapter the ongoing call to be set apart to God, and set apart with my family and my church family, and with my neighbors wherever I meet them. For the most important thing, as Leviticus 19.18 and Matthew 22.36-40 both describe, is to be marked, in all those relationships, by love.