Living in God’s Holy Presence: To become the saints that we are (Lev. 18-20)

Publié le 20 mars 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon by Damien Jourdain

The Problem

What is the most difficult instruction you have ever been given? Have you ever received an order that seemed impossible to follow? In 2015 I had been working in California for Google for 6 months, and we had a meeting with the two co-founders of Google Larry Page and Sergey Brin, to discuss our delivery drone project.

I had carefully prepared my team’s roadmap for the development of the drone’s autopilot, and I had done my best to be both ambitious but realistic about how long it would take. During the meeting, Larry Page asks how long the development will take, I take a deep breath. I tell him 3 months, explaining all the necessary steps. He looks at me with an incredulous look, and answers « 3 months? But you should be able to get it done by the weekend, right? » How do you react when the co-founder of one of the most influential companies in the world, who has more than 50 billion dollars in his bank account, tells you to do in 3 days what you think you can accomplish in 3 months?

This morning in Leviticus 18 to 20 we will also see a command given not by Larry Page, but by someone much greater, by Yahweh, the perfect creator of the universe. He will also give a command that is probably impossible to follow for Israel, the people he has chosen to reveal himself to the world: be holy, like me. How to react to demands for perfection when, frankly, we are… far from perfect?

First of all, let’s quickly put our passage in the context of Leviticus. We have seen that this book is organized like a mountain, with chapter 16 as its summit, which we will study in a few weeks.

In the last few weeks we have studied the rising side of this mountain
of this mountain, chapters 1 to 15. We have seen that God has opened the way for Israel to know and approach him through the tabernacle and the priests. But as we saw in chapter 10, having God live beside you is dangerous, because sin has tainted our lives.

So how can Israel hope to survive with this holy God residing in the midst of her camp? This is what the second part of Leviticus is about, the other side of the mountain. If chapters 1-16 show us how to approach God chapters 17-27 will show us how to live with God.

MAIN POINT
And we will see this morning that what God requires to dwell with Him is holiness. Here is the main point I want you to remember this morning: God is holy, and only a holy people can dwell with him. So let us become the saints that we are in Christ.

We’re going to deal mostly with chapter 19 this morning, touching on a few sections of chapters 18 and 20. We are going to say Leviticus 19 in its entirety. Let’s hear God speak to us.

Reading: Leviticus 19

And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the Lord your God. Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the Lord your God.

“When you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. It shall be eaten the same day you offer it or on the day after, and anything left over until the third day shall be burned up with fire. If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is tainted; it will not be accepted, and everyone who eats it shall bear his iniquity, because he has profaned what is holy to the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from his people.

“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. 10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.

11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. 12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.

13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. 14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life[a] of your neighbor: I am the Lord.

17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

19 “You shall keep my statutes. You shall not let your cattle breed with a different kind. You shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material.

20 “If a man lies sexually with a woman who is a slave, assigned to another man and not yet ransomed or given her freedom, a distinction shall be made. They shall not be put to death, because she was not free; 21 but he shall bring his compensation to the Lord, to the entrance of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering. 22 And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the Lord for his sin that he has committed, and he shall be forgiven for the sin that he has committed.

23 “When you come into the land and plant any kind of tree for food, then you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it must not be eaten. 24 And in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. 25 But in the fifth year you may eat of its fruit, to increase its yield for you: I am the Lord your God.

26 “You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes. 27 You shall not round off the hair on your temples or mar the edges of your beard. 28 You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves: I am the Lord.

29 “Do not profane your daughter by making her a prostitute, lest the land fall into prostitution and the land become full of depravity. 30 You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord.

31 “Do not turn to mediums or necromancers; do not seek them out, and so make yourselves unclean by them: I am the Lord your God.

32 “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.

33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

35 “You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity. 36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. 37 And you shall observe all my statutes and all my rules, and do them: I am the Lord.”

La Parole de Dieu. Prions.

PRIER

Lord God, we want to thank you for revealing yourself to us through your Word, and through your Son Jesus Christ. Thank you because otherwise we would not know you. Open our eyes now, give us understanding to listen, and guide my words. For the edification of your people and the glory of your name. Amen.

ROADMAP

Here is our roadmap for this morning. We will see that holiness is necessary to dwell with God. We will then see that for the people of God, they must be holy in everything they do. Finally, we will conclude with the glorious promise that holiness is assured for those who are in Christ. Holiness is necessary, holiness must be absolute, and holiness is assured in Christ.

I. Holiness is necessary for abiding with God
Let’s begin by seeing that holiness is necessary to be able to dwell with
God. In verse 2 of chapter 19 God gives this incredible, but very clear, command to Israel: « Be holy for I am holy, » God commands holiness. Before we get into the details and study what this holy life looks like, we will make some general remarks about and in particular try to define what it is and its purpose. Holiness: what it is, and why it is important.

Holiness is living lives dedicated to God.
Our mountainside section begins in chapter 18 and ends in chapter 20.
In chapter 18, verses 3 to 5, God begins by saying:

You shall not do that which is done in Egypt where you have dwelt, nor shall you do that which is done in the land of Canaan, where I am leading you. You shall not follow their customs. You will follow my rules and you will respect my prescriptions, you shall follow them. I am the Lord your God. You will respect my rules and regulations.

The section ends in chapter 20 verses 22-23:

You shall keep all my commandments and all my rules; you shall do them, so that the land so that the land where I am bringing you to settle will not vomit you out. You shall not follow the customs of the nations which I will drive out before you, for they have done this and I abhor them.

These two sections serve as an introduction and conclusion to this section on holiness, and they contain the two key elements of holiness arranged in mirror image, as is often the case in the Old Testament. Do not live like other people, in verses 18:3 and 20:23. And live instead according to God’s instructions in verses 18:4 and 20:22. Separation, on the one hand, and moral perfection on the other. This is what the children’s catechism taught us last week, these two facets of sanctification: Dying to sin, and living in the righteousness of God. Total dedication to God, and moral perfection. This is a holy life.

Before I continue, I would like to acknowledge that the word « holiness », « being holy », can be frightening. Some of you may have been abused in the past, in churches, in your families, or in religious communities that used this call to holiness to condemn you, to manipulate you, to crush you. This is a subject that can hurt.

If this is you this morning, I encourage you to pay attention until the end of this message. For what I hope to show you is that far from being a death sentence, this call to holiness is a glorious promise for those who are in Christ. Don’t pick up the phone!

The goal of our salvation is fellowship with God
God will detail for us what he means by consecration and moral perfection in these 3 chapters, but before that it is important to have in mind the why of holiness. For what purpose does God require holiness? If we lose sight of this, all we will remember is a list of « don’t do this, don’t do that, » and we would miss what God wants to communicate to us.

Let’s start with a larger question: for what purpose are we saved? How
would you answer this question? Is it to escape Hell? Is it to go to heaven
and enjoy the things you love to do without the inconvenience of disease and sin that are common in this world?

This is indeed one of the things that salvation promises. But these are only tangential benefits to the real purpose of our salvation. No, to see that purpose we can turn a little further to Leviticus 26:11-12 « I will make my dwelling among you, and I will not show disgust toward you. I will walk among you, I will be your God, and you will be my people. » In other words, the goal of salvation is fellowship with God, it is God who walks with us, nothing less! God has already established his dwelling place, it is true, in the tabernacle.

And we have seen him show his glory in a punctual way at the end of chapter 9. But God promises a much more intense, much more intimate, much more continuous communion than that! This is the goal of our salvation, this intimate communion between God and his people, a return to the intimacy that God shared with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, where he walked with them in the cool of the evening.

Holiness takes us from justification to glorification
So what is the role of holiness in this great plan of God? You will recall that God prescribed three types of sacrifices in the Levitical cult. We begin with the sacrifice that symbolizes the fact that our sins must be punished before we can approach God. And it ended with the sacrifice of communion, where the people feasted with God, symbolizing the restored communion with God, illustrating the purpose of salvation.

And the sacrifice that God commanded between the one of atonement and the one of communion is the burnt offering, where an animal was burnt entirely, entirely dedicated to God. It underwent a total transformation by fire, it was not destroyed, it was transformed, passing from the flesh to
a smoke whose smell is pleasing to God. A smoke that went up to God to go in a sense into his presence to dwell with him.

Sanctification is this, it is the way that he transforms us to be able to enter into the presence of God, to be able to dwell with Him. Sanctification makes the link between our justification, the forgiveness of our sins, and the glorification, when we can walk with God.

Let’s summarize what we’ve seen so far. Holiness requires that our lives be wholly devoted to God, and it requires moral perfection. And this holiness is necessary in order to reach the goal of our salvation, intimate communion with God.

II. For the people of God, holiness must be absolute
So what does the life of a saint look like? It’s time to get our hands dirty. The
chapters 18-20 are the epicenter of Old Testament ethical teaching, especially chapter 19. So this morning, we’re only going to scratch the surface. But we will see that the holiness to which God calls us must be absolute, it affects all aspects of individual, family and community life, the sexual, religious and economic domains. Everything.

Chapter 19 is divided into two parts, more or less. After the call to holiness in verse 2, one part runs from verse 3 to verse 18, and another from verse 19 to verse 37. These sections are delineated by the repetition of « You shall keep all my commandments. » And we have the two main axes of holiness: moral perfection, in the first, and total dedication to God, in the second.

Be holy, for I am holy: holiness is absolute
Let’s look first at verses 3 to 18. In these verses we find themes that should be themes that should be familiar to you. Listen to this:

  1. [4] You shall not turn to false gods
  2. [4] You shall not make gods of molten metal
  3. [12] You shall not swear falsely by my name, for that would be dishonoring the name of your God
  4. [3] Each of you shall keep my Sabbaths
  5. [3] Each one of you shall treat his mother and father with reverence
  6. [16] You shall not attack the life of your neighbor.
  7. [29] You shall not dishonor your daughter by giving her up to prostitution.
  8. [11] You shall not commit theft
  9. [11] You shall not lie or deceive one another.
  10. [13] you shall not bear a grudge against your people

And yes, we find here the 10 Commandments given to Israel in Exodus 20. Being holy implies following the 10 Commandments. This moral ethic is at the heart of our humanity. You want to know how to live fulfilled lives: start here!

The first thing that is striking about these instructions is the lack of separation between what is « religious » and the rest. In verse 3, for example, the text moves unabashedly from respect for parents to the Sabbaths, from moral to religious commandments. The Bible has no complexes about integrating ethics and theology. You cannot have one without the other, these things are inseparable. This is a good reminder for us who tend to separate these spheres.

The second striking thing is the breadth of the scope of these instructions. It starts at home with the parents in verse 3, it concerns the bedroom with all the rules about sex, the closet with the clothes, the dining room with the food, what happens at work with the harvest, in the street, the church… The scope of holiness has no limits, holiness touches our whole life. It cannot be limited to Sunday morning, or put on hold when we go to the office. God does not give us the freedom to keep a small part of our lives out of reach of his call to holiness.

So it’s good to ask ourselves: Have you relegated holiness to only certain areas of your life? I must confess that for me when I hear « holiness » it brings to mind reading the Bible, prayer, preparation for my cell group. But in these examples God wants to break down these artificial barriers that we erect and expand the field of application of holiness to all. This is a separation that we have to fight against and this is for me one of the great lessons of this chapter.

And it makes every minute an opportunity for praise. For an Israelite, not to glean the edges of his field becomes an act of worship: « I thank you God because you provide for all my needs. » For me, refusing to turn around to look at a beautiful woman becomes a way of praising God, to say, « It is you I desire, it is in you that I find my delight. » And for you? Where can you grow in holiness? What little detail of your life did you abandon in Canaan? Holiness is meant to be absolute in your lives.

Be holy, for I am holy: love your neighbor.
Another theme that characterizes the saint is his attitude towards the most needy, the most vulnerable. We see this in verse 10 in the context of economic insecurity: « You shall leave a portion of the harvest to the poor and to the stranger. » We see it in verse 13 in the context of employment « Do not keep a wage earner’s paycheck until tomorrow. » We see it in verses 14 and 32 with the deaf, the blind, the old. And finally in the context of immigration in verses 33-34 « You shall treat the stranger sojourning among you as an Israelite, as one of you ».

Whether it is precariousness, handicap, age, legal status, all these things put a person in a weak position with regard to others. Other verses that deal with theft, lying, justice, also have this relationship of strength in common: when one feels in a position of strength, when one feels that one has a certain advantage, one possesses a certain authority on the others. An authority that can be abused. And this is therefore fertile ground for sin, because it’s easy to take advantage of the situation. But God makes it clear through all these examples: whoever wants to remain with him must take care of the most vulnerable.

Let’s be very clear about this: if we abuse our authority in these situations, it is because we have a problem with Authority, with a capital « A ». The rejection of God’s authority is at the heart of the first sin, when Adam and Eve decided to reject God’s authority and decided to do as they pleased. And rejecting God’s authority is the death knell for our authority in the other spheres of life. It is to accept the law of the strongest.

This explains why a certain sentence is repeated 15 times in this chapter, 50 times in all in chapters 18 to 20. The leitmotif « I am the Lord », which punctuates these chapters, reminds us who holds all authority. It is in his image that we are all created, and it is from his authority we derive the mini-authorities we enjoy. Here God reminds us of his authority, and that our return to communion with him involves a re-formatting of our relationship with authority.

And the saints demonstrate this return to normalcy in the way they treat the poor, strangers, wage earners, or anyone over whom they exercise authority. The saint submits to and lives under the authority of Yahweh, and therefore treats others as brothers and sisters who belong to the same creator.

In the end, therefore, it seems only natural that this first section should end as it does in verse 18: « You shall love your neighbor as yourself. » When we realize our common dependence on Yahweh, that we are all indebted to Him, and that the authority He invests in us is for the purpose of doing good and loving others, then yes, it can all be summarized by this famous golden rule. Jesus quotes this verse in Matthew 22:37-40 in response to a Pharisee who asked him what the greatest commandment was, « Jesus answered him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. [Consecration] This is the first and greatest commandment. And this is the second, which is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. [Moral perfection] On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets. » »

Our love for our neighbor thus becomes a good test for us holy apprentices. If we see ourselves exploiting the vulnerable, lying at work, stealing, despising immigrants, it shows us what is really going on in our hearts. It shows us that, despite what we say with our lips, in reality we are not totally submitted to God. We see ourselves as god. When this happens to you, repent. Submit to your God again, confess your sins to him, for he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all evil (1 John 1:9). And ask him to continue to transform your heart by his Holy Spirit.

Be holy for I am holy: live against the grain
If the first section of this chapter is organized around the 10 commandments and what the moral life of the saint should look like, the second section of this chapter, especially verses particularly verses 19 to 31, may seem a little more inconsistent.

In verse 19 we are told about the mating of animals, seed, and the fabrics of our garments. Verses 27 and 28 talk about hairstyles, beards, and tattoos, before talking about prostitution in the next verse.

For those who want to show that the Bible has no place in the life of the 21st
century French, it is easy to see why a chapter like this is one of their favorite weapons. But when the text is given a chance to express itself, we see, on the contrary, a unity emerging around the purity of worship. Verse 19, with its repetition of « two » (two beasts of different species, two kinds of seed, two kinds of sons), reminds us of the duality of the clean and the unclean in chapters 11 to 15. The cultic aspect is still evident in verses 20-25, which remind us of the sacrifices to be made to atone for sins. Finally, verses 26-31 refer to the ritual cults practiced in Canaan, the divination, the
prostitution in the temple, the way the body, the skin, the hair, was used in their religious rituals. All these verses illustrate what we saw at the beginning of chapter 18: « You shall not do what is done in the land of Canaan where I am leading you. You shall not follow their customs. »
The Israelites are to keep their worship pure and not pollute it with the practices of Canaan.

Understanding this context then helps us interpret this passage. These commands clearly have a pedagogical purpose, illustrating a truth that God wanted to instill in his people, that holiness requires separation, complete dedication to God. This was very important for the well-being of Israel. Why? Look at the motivation Moses gives in verses 29 and 31.

He forbids these practices « lest the land become prostituted, » « lest you become unclean. » The risk is that you will fall away from God. And that’s worse than anything else. This is the primary motivation behind these commands, and it applies directly to us Christians today.

The purpose of our lives is to devote ourselves entirely to God, to live for Him in everything. For if we leave even a small slice of life in Canaan, the danger is that it will end up distancing us from our God. And that should scare us, we who have been redeemed by Christ. This week, this truth convinced me, for example, that I needed to make restitution to an employer and a store that I had stolen from in the past. Letting it remain hidden would only draw me away from my God.

So this morning, also ask yourself if any of your practices or habits are leading you to compromise your devotion to God. This is a very good question to ask yourself when you are making a decision, when you are hesitating between two choices: which option will bring me
closer to God? Does this choice risk taking me away from God? The saint dedicates his whole life to God.

Finally, a last aspect on which we must say two words is that of sexuality.
For if we have not read them this morning, chapters 18 and 20 deal mainly with sexuality, what God allows and what he forbids in this area. For it is in the area of sexuality that Israel will stand out most sharply from the nations of Canaan. Unlike the composition of the textiles of our clothes, these prescriptions are directly applicable to us too, because they are not only instructive or anticipatory of Christ, but like the 10 commandments they also and above all have a moral dimension, anchored in Creation. To say that they are inapplicable to us today is not to take the text seriously.

God called Israel to keep from adultery, incest, homosexuality, and bestiality. Israel’s sexual practice was to remind the world of the purpose of sexuality. This intimate alliance between a man and a woman, and the gift of sexuality that they share exclusively together, that communion that
culminates in a moment of intense shared pleasure. This is what God’s union with his people is like. And sexuality is an incredible gift to illustrate this reality! But it is a gift that, like others, we have perverted and redefined to our liking.

And God continues to call his people to be pure in this area. This struggle
is not new. And it has never been easy or popular. It was not in 1500 BC, it is still not in 2021. But God, now as then, calls us to persevere and to
continue to live against the tide in the area of sexuality.

III. Holiness is assured in Christ
In verse 37 God concludes the chapter by saying, « You shall keep all my statutes and regulations all my rules, you shall do them. I am the Lord. » The saint must keep all the commandments, and all the rules. Not just some, but all. And then by « respecting » God does not mean admiring the tablets when one goes to the temple, as one a work of art in a museum. No, as he specifies, to respect them is to « put them into practice ». And God hammers it home 15 times in this chapter, reminding us that the weight behind these
instructions: I am the Lord. Holiness is necessary for the people of God, and it is meant to be in our lives in all its aspects, including our sexuality. For as Hebrews says (Heb 12:14): without sanctification we cannot see the Lord.

So, with all of this, how do you feel? Do you say to yourself, « I have mastered holiness. I’ve got it under control, no worries? I hope not. I think that if you understand what God requires in these chapters, you must feel a weight on your shoulders, the impossibility of keeping all these rules. Of course the ritual practices no longer apply to us Christians, because
they were there to prefigure Christ. But the moral rules, which we have seen are based on the 10 Commandments, the love of one’s neighbor, all this is applicable to us Christians.

Moreover, as we saw at the beginning of the year, Jesus will not relax these moral commandments, on the contrary, in the Sermon on the Mount, he will make their scope even wider and more personal, even in the depths of our hearts… How do you react to this call to holiness, « Be holy, for I am holy, the Lord your God »?

Some of you are not Christians. We are very happy that you are with us this morning, and we hope that you will taste the love of Jesus Christ. Living a holy life may not interest you more than that, at least not really if the demands of holiness are in conflict with some of your life choices. This may also be the case for Christians present this morning as well. Perhaps this call to holiness leaves you without desire to consecrate yourself totally to God. Perhaps it’s as desirable to you as the plague.

Maybe you want a God who helps you when you’re in need, who comforts you when you’re sad, but who does it according to your rules, and who otherwise leaves you alone. I think all of us here sympathize with you. Since our exile from the Garden of Eden, since this separation from God, we do not naturally desire what is holy, pure, and good. We desire to live our lives as we see fit, without God bothering us.

And you Christians. Perhaps you really want to please God, to conform your lives to his desires. But you realize that it is impossible to follow all of his prescriptions. And rightly so. Who can obey this command. It is impossible! Perhaps this depresses you, discourages you.

This command may leave you indifferent, or it may crush you.

But for those who have placed their trust in Christ, this command is now good news. Remember, first of all, on which side of the mountain of Leviticus are we? On the downward slope, the one after the atoning climb. That is, after God has accepted to place his Presence in the midst of Israel! The holiness that he prescribes here is therefore not a precondition for his adoption of Israel. What this means for us is that holiness is not a condition for our adoption either. No, just as God liberated Israel from Egypt before giving them the 10 Commandments, just as he came to dwell in their midst before calling them to live in a holy way. Likewise for us, God calls us to
live holy lives after adopting us in Christ. Holiness is always a response
to his love, not a way to earn his love or to make us accepted. This is a common truth throughout the Bible, in the Old and New Testaments. God first sets us free, he redeems us by his grace. And his people’s response to his grace is to live lives dedicated to him. So if you find this command overwhelming, it may be because you have forgotten which side of the mountain you are on.

But that’s not all. Look at verses 20:7-8. « You shall consecrate yourselves and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. » So far, this echoes the beginning of chapter 19. Verse 8 continues « You shall keep my commandments and do them. » This echoes the end of chapter 19 this time. But look at how the verse ends: « I am the Lord who considers you holy. » Or as other translations say, « I am the LORD, who sanctifies you. » The LORD considers Israel holy. He is the one who sanctifies. The sanctification is ultimately his work, a work he does on his adopted people. And for Christians of the new covenant, it is a promise. By adopting us in Christ, God has also committed himself to making us holy! He considers us holy, and he sanctifies us.

Remember the 3 types of sacrifices: atonement, burnt offering & communion. These illustrate the forgiveness of our sins, our sanctification, and our glorification. Jesus offered himself as a sacrifice for us. And this is a better sacrifice, because in one sacrifice he has accomplished once and for all what these three Levitical sacrifices symbolized: the forgiveness of sins, the sanctification of his people, and the assurance of fellowship with the Father. Jesus offered himself not only to forgive our sins, but also to cleanse us and make us holy.

Look with me at Hebrews 10:14. This verse has done me so much good this week. « For by one offering [Christ] has led those whom he makes holy to perfection forever. » Take a good look. If you have placed your trust in Christ, Jesus has already made you perfect! He has led you (past tense) to perfection. It is already done. You are already holy! But at the same time, he makes you holy (present tense), today! Your sanctification is in a sense already accomplished, guaranteed, secured by the perfect sacrifice of Christ. And in another sense, it continues to be accomplished every day. The sacrifice that forgives your sins also assures you of sanctification. Isn’t that wonderful?

That’s the reality today for all who are in Christ. And so it allows us to read
Leviticus 19 in a new light, and that’s what I’d like to conclude with. Two applications of this wonderful reality. When we read, « You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy, » we no longer see a threat. No, in Christ this command becomes the sovereign promise of our Father, who says « you shall be holy for you are already holy in my Son ». God affirms our holiness, and he fulfills it in Christ. Our holiness is no longer a hope, but a certainty
guaranteed in Christ.

In the same way, the leitmotiv « I am the Lord », which is found 50 times in these 3 chapters, is no longer the voice of the judge hammering out his authority to condemn us. No, it is the voice of our Father who reminds us that he is the sovereign, he is Yahweh. If he repeats it, it is because he knows that we forget him. We forget that he is there in all the areas of our lives, in the smallest details, and that he is sovereign over everything. I am the Lord, and you shall be holy: there, there, there, and there! This is the assurance of our total transformation. So Christian, make this your refrain
every day. When worries keep telling you « You’ll never make it! You have no hope! ».

When your heart smells rotten and says « You’re a nobody. Did you do that again? You are a slave to sin, you will never change! « Then hear your God thunder: I am the Lord your God! I am the one who makes you holy! »

« Who then will accuse those whom God has chosen? It is God who declares them righteous! Who will condemn them? Jesus Christ died, but more than that, he rose from the dead, and is at the right hand of God and he intercedes for us! Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Could it be distress, anguish persecution, hunger, poverty, danger or the sword? On the contrary, in all of these we are more than conquerors thanks to the one who loved us. In fact, we have the assurance that neither death nor life, nor angels nor dominions, nor the present nor the future, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God manifested in Jesus Christ our Lord. »

Brothers and sisters, Jesus offered himself to forgive our sins and to make us holy. Through his blood we have the assurance of free access to the sanctuary, for by his blood we are already holy! We can therefore approach God with a sincere heart, an unshakeable faith, our hearts cleansed of an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water, for he has already sanctified us!

And God calls us to conform our lives to the reality of who we are in Christ. Brothers and sisters, God is holy, and only a holy people can dwell with him. But glory be to God, in Christ we are holy. So let us become the saints that we are.

PRAY
Lord, who could invent a God like you and a salvation like ours in Christ. We rejected you, but you offered yourself in Christ to redeem us, to sanctify us, to unite us to you. Thank you for your grace. Help us to live in a holy way in all areas of our lives, in the assurance that it is you who works in us, for our sanctification. In Jesus’ name, amen.