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“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy…Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt. Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:1-37)
This is God’s word to his elect. This is God’s word to his elect in every place, in every generation. — “Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.” Because the Lord our God is holy, he requires that we also be holy. — “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). May God the Holy Ghost, whose Word we have before us, be our Teacher and graciously inscribe these words upon our hearts. — “Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.”
First and foremost, this is a blessed declaration of grace. The Lord God here declares to his chosen, covenant people that they shall be a holy people, not partially holy, not mostly holy, but entirely holy, absolutely holy, perfectly holy. This is not a recommendation, but a declaration. It is a declaration of grace made to a specific people.
The word “holy” has two distinct meanings. Both definitions of the word must be understood and applied here. To be holy is to be separate, distinct, peculiar, separated, and severed from all others. And to be holy is to be pure or purified, sanctified.
The Lord God here declares to his Israel, to all who stand before him as his covenant people, “You shall be separate, distinct, peculiar, separated and severed from all others, pure and purified before me, sanctified.” We know that this is the intent and meaning of this statement by comparing Scripture with Scripture (Exodus 19:6; Leviticus 11:44; 20:7, 26; 1 Thessalonians 4:7).
The Lord God almighty, by the work of his sovereign, free, distinguishing grace, takes such things as us, such things as he finds in the dung heap of fallen humanity and makes them holy. He made us holy by blood atonement, by the obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ unto death (Hebrews 10:9-14; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, 19-20; Titus 2:11-14; 1 Peter 2:7-10). He makes every chosen, redeemed sinner holy by the new birth, imparting to them a holy nature born of God that cannot sin (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 1:27; 2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 3:5, 9). And in the last day the Lord God will bring us into the perfection of holiness in resurrection glory. — “Then shall I be satisfied, when I awake with thy likeness” (Psalm 17:15).
“Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy.” This is also a call to holiness.
“Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy.” (v. 2)
“Therefore shall ye observe all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: I am the LORD.” (v. 37)
The Lord God here calls you and me to holiness, godliness, and righteous behavior in our daily lives. He here calls us to be separate, distinct, peculiar, separated, and severed from all others, pure and purified before men in our conduct. We know that this is also the intent and meaning of these words because they are so used by the Spirit of God in the inspired writings of both the apostle Paul (1 Thessalonians 4:1-7) and the apostle Peter (1 Peter 1:13-16).
Here in Leviticus 19 the holy Lord God calls for you and me to be holy as we live in this world; and he does not leave it for us to decide what he means. In these 37 verses, he tells us specifically how we are to live in this world as his holy people.
I can hear some say, “But, Pastor, these verses are found in Old Testament law, and we are not under the law.” You are exactly right on both counts. But the fact that we are free from the law in Christ does not mean that we are without law, not at all. The believer’s law, the believer’s rule of life is the whole Revelation of God in Holy Scripture. That which is here written is addressed to you and me and is just as authoritative as Ephesians 1 or Romans 9. True, it must be understood and applied in gospel terms, but it must be both understood and applied.
Here the Lord God tells us specifically how we are to live in this world in a way that honors God. We please God by faith in Christ. Without faith it is impossible to please him (Hebrews 11:6). But we must never imagine that if we believe in Christ it does not matter how we live. God the Holy Ghost tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4:1 that we “ought to walk and to please God.”
When our daughter, Faith, began to go out with friends, I almost always said to her before she left the house, “Sweetheart, don’t ever forget who you are and whose you are;” often adding, “Everything you say and do reflects on your parents, our church family, the gospel we believe, and God our Savior.” I say the same thing to every heaven born soul. — “Don’t ever forget who you are and whose you are.” As Paul put it in 1st Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
Are you interested in the honor and glory of God? Would you like to know exactly how to live in this world for the honor of God? Here are thirteen statements about this thing called holiness. If you and I would live in this world for the glory of God, we must…
1. Give honor to whom honor is due. — “Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God” (v. 3; Romans 13:7).
We have a saying, “Charity begins at home.” We need to learn that reverence, respect, and honor begin at home too. How desperately this generation needs to learn this. Children, honor your parents. Obey, yes; but there is more to honor than obedience. Honor is on the inside and shows itself on the outside. Men and women, honor your parents. Parents, if they are truly parents, are more than the people through whom you were born. They are people who have nourished, nurtured, and trained you in the knowledge of Christ.
This command extends to all divinely appointed authority. — In general, the Lord commands us to simply be respectful to our superiors. — “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD” (v. 32).
2. If we would live in this world for the honor of our God, we must worship him.
In verses 3-8 the Lord deals with outward things. Though true worship is essentially an inward, heart work, where there is heart worship there is also outward, public worship.
“Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God. Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God. And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, ye shall offer it at your own will. It shall be eaten the same day ye offer it, and on the morrow: and if ought remain until the third day, it shall be burnt in the fire. And if it be eaten at all on the third day, it is abominable; it shall not be accepted. Therefore everyone that eateth it shall bear his iniquity, because he hath profaned the hallowed thing of the LORD: and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.”
In verse 3 the Lord God tells us to keep his sabbaths. Without question, the Old Testament sabbath days were pictures of faith in Christ, pictures of resting our souls in and upon Christ. But those Old Testament sabbaths were divinely appointed times of worship. — If we would live in this world for the honor of God, we must never neglect the worship of God in his house (Hebrews 10:25).
In verse 4, the Lord God tells us to worship him as God alone. We must not turn aside to idols. We must allow nothing to take the place of our God in our hearts’ affection. Set your affection on Christ (1 Corinthians 10:14-15; Colossians 3:1-3).
Verse 5 demands that our worship of our God be willing and free. Yes, the Lord God demands that we worship him, but we must do so because we want to, willingly (2 Corinthians 8:12; 9:7).
Yet, our worship of God must be in accordance with his Word. Our ordinances of divine worship must be divinely prescribed, and the divine order observed (vv. 6-8). In verse 30 we read, “Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD.” All sacrifices were to be willing sacrifices. All that was given was to be used immediately. And every sacrifice, be it great or small, was to be treated as a “hallowed thing,” as that which belonged to God. Thus, it is today. — If we would worship God, we must worship him in the way he prescribes in his Word, observing his ordinances as he prescribes and adhering faithfully to the doctrine of his Word.
3. If we would live in this world for the honor of our God, we must avoid covetousness and greed and ever care for those in need.
“And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the LORD your God.” (vv. 9-10)
We are not the owners of anything. We are God’s stewards. We ought never get all we can for ourselves. I do not suggest, and the Scriptures do not teach that believers should not acquire wealth or that believers should not enjoy the wealth they obtain. Abraham, David, Solomon, Lydia, and Onesimus were all wealthy believers. But as God’s people, we are his stewards in his house. As such, we are to use that with which he entrusts us for his glory, according to his will, for the benefit of other. In a word, we ought to constantly go out of our way to be kind, generous, thoughtful, and caring, especially to those who are most likely to be neglected and abused.
“And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” (vv. 33-34)
Every needy soul we see ought to remind us that when we were strangers in need, our blessed Boaz provided us with handfuls of purpose, by which he brought us to our great himself (Ruth 2:8-9, 16). Always deal with the poor and needy (the spiritually poor and physically poor, and the spiritually needy and physically needy) in mercy. In doing so, you may bring some of our Redeemer’s Ruths to him.
4. Living for the glory of God means living in honesty, dealing with people honestly.
“Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.” (v. 11)
“Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.” (v. 13)
“Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt.” (vv. 35-36)
God’s grace comes to sinners through, with, by, and in Christ by just weights and balances (Romans 3:24-26; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Galatians 3:13-14). Let us, like our God, deal with all in justness and honesty, with mercy and grace.
5. Let us, for the glory of our great God cherish and reverence his name. — “And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD” (v. 12).
6. Honoring God means treating men and women with respect and tenderness, rather than with the harsh, beastly cruelty that is so wickedly natural to our proud hearts (v. 14).
It might seem that this 14th verse should be properly addressed to children, but never to adults. It is, however, addressed to you and me, from whom our children learn how to be mean and cruel. — “Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the LORD.”
How base, how depraved, how cruel we are! God doesn’t build a damn where there is no water. He gives us this word because we need to hear it. Take the command as it stands. — Do not curse or get upset with a person because he is deaf, and you have to repeat everything you say to him. He can’t hear you. Do not put a stumbling block before a blind man so that you can laugh at his hurt.
Take the command spiritually. — Do not curse the deaf. You were just as deaf not very long ago. Do not put a stumbling block before the blind. A stumbling block is anything put between the sinner and the Savior, any hindrance by which sinners might be kept from Christ (Romans 14:13; Deuteronomy 27:18).
He who fears God honors all men, showing neither contempt for the poor nor preference for the mighty. — “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbour” (v. 15).
7. If we would honor our God, we must learn to bridle our tongues. — “Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD” (v. 16).
Slanderers, gossips, talebearers are ungodly people (Proverbs 11:13; 1 Timothy 5:13). Anytime gossip enters your ear, let your ear be its grave. To stand against the blood of a man is to falsely accuse him of evil, if even by insinuation. — “Speak evil of no man” (Titus 3:2).
8. If we would live in this world for the honor of our God, we must love our neighbors as ourselves.
“Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” (vv. 17-18)
This is not, as many would like, a command to point out your brother’s sins, but just the opposite. The Lord is telling us here to rebuke our brother’s sin by refusing to let it affect us. The words, “and not suffer sin upon him,” would be better translated, “that thou bear not sin for him.” If you bear a grudge for an evil done to you, you are party to the evil done. Leave it alone. God will avenge his own. The thing for us to do is love the offender (Proverbs 20:22; Romans 12:20-21; 14:19).
The coals of fire we are taught to heap upon those who would do us wrong are not coals of judgment, but coals of grace, by which the hearts of our enemies are melted. Our Savior preached this doctrine in his Sermon on the Mount.
Nothing is more grueling to our flesh than the exercise of kindness and love toward those who hate us. But if we would honor our Savior and serve the souls of men, we must conquer the hearts of our enemies the same way that Christ conquered our hearts, by heaping the coals of mercy, grace, and love on their heads.
9. For the honor of our God, we must distinguish things that differ.
“Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.” (v. 19)
We cannot wear the woolen garment of nature (works, righteousness, and free will salvation) with the linen garments of grace. We must not mingle the worship of God with idolatry (2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1).
10. Living for the honor of our God means that we confess our sins and find forgiveness through Christ’s sin-atoning blood (1 John 1:9 - 2:2).
“And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free. And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, even a ram for a trespass offering. And the priest shall make an atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before the LORD for his sin which he hath done: and the sin which he hath done shall be forgiven him.” (vv. 20-22)
11. Living for God’s glory means that his will and his honor takes priority over everything else.
“And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of. But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the LORD withal. And in the fifth year shall ye eat of the fruit thereof, that it may yield unto you the increase thereof: I am the LORD your God. Ye shall not eat anything with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times.” (vv. 23-26)
12. The honor of the Lord our God demands that we have nothing to do with, give no approval to, and studiously avoid the practices of the idolatry and the superstitions of the world.
“Ye shall not eat anything with the blood: neither shall ye use enchantment, nor observe times. Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.” (vv. 26-28)
All these things were pagan religious rites, by which ignorant barbarians hoped to gain great strength, or good luck, or drive away evil spirits. In a word, we are not to act like the heathen or give credibility to them. — “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God” (v. 31).
13. If we would honor our God, we must teach and train our children to worship and serve him. — “Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness.” (v. 29).
This is prohibition against giving one’s daughter to be a prostitute for Baal. It is also a prohibition against leaving a child to her own devices, without restraint, as Eli did his sons.
By these comprehensive commands, the Lord God teaches us how we are to live in this world as his elect. We must continually sanctify ourselves just as our Lord Jesus sanctified himself for us (John 17:19). He certainly did not make himself more holy. But he did continually set himself apart to his Father’s glory and bowed to his Father’s will, seeking his Father’s honor above all things and in all things. O Spirit of God, give me grace thus to walk in holiness, in sanctification, sanctifying myself to my God for the glory of God!
The Lord our God gives us an irresistible motive for honoring him in our lives. No less than fifteen times in this chapter, he says, “For I am the Lord your God.” As such, he has a rightful claim upon us. We are not our own. We have been bought with the price of Christ’s precious blood. Let us, therefore, glorify God in our bodies and in our spirits, which are God’s (Colossians 1:10; 1 Peter 1:13-16).
The Lord God has made us holy. He has sanctified us. Let us therefore walk before him “in behaviour as becometh holiness.” Thereby, “sanctify yourselves.” Soon, we shall be holy, perfectly holy, sanctified, perfectly sanctified in, by, and with Christ in Glory!
 John Gill wrote, “This was to lead Israel to the simplicity and sincerity of religion, and of all the parts and doctrines of the law and Gospel in their distinct kinds, as faith and works, to mingle which together in our justification before God is forbidden; or rather to teach the saints not to mix with the men of the world, in evil conversation, or in superstitious worship; to which may be added, to show that spiritual regeneration is not partly of corruptible and partly of incorruptible seed, nor partly of the will of man, and partly of the will of God; nor partly of the power of man, and partly of the power of God, but wholly of the Spirit and grace of God.
As to the mystical sense, the “field” may represent the church of God, which is not an open but an enclosed field, enclosed by the grace of God, and separated from others by it, well manured and cultivated by the Spirit of God, and through the word and ordinances, as means, in which all manner of fruit and flowers grow, and is the property of Christ (see Song of Solomon 4:12-14 and Matthew 13:44); the seed may signify the word or doctrine of the Gospel, sown by the ministers of it, skillfully and plentifully, which should be pure and unmixed, not contradictory, nor inconsistent, but all of a piece; the doctrines of it, as those of election, justification, peace, pardon, and salvation, are to be represented, not as partly of works and partly of grace, but as entirely of the grace of God through Christ: or good and bad men may be signified by the mingled seed; good men, who are made so by the grace of God, and are the good seed, or the good ground which receives it, which hear the word, understand it, and bring forth fruit; bad men, such as are of bad principles and practices, these are not to be mixed together in a church state; bad men are neither to be received nor retained.
The design of this, as of the other, seems to be in general to caution against unnatural lusts and impure mixtures, and all communion of good and bad men, and particularly against joining the righteousness of Christ with the works of men, in the business of justification: Christ’s righteousness is often compared to a garment, and sometimes to fine linen, clean and white; and men’s righteousness to filthy rags (Revelation 19:8; Isaiah 64:6); which are by no means to be put together in the said affair; such who believe in Christ are justified by the obedience of one and not of more, and by faith in that obedience and righteousness, without the works of the law (Romans 5:19; 3:28; 4:6); to join them together is needless, disagreeable, and dangerous.”