by Pastor David Groendyk
You may have found this chapter an unexpectedly interesting read today. By my count, I see quite explicitly at least nine of the Ten Commandments (vv. 3, 4, 11, 12, 16, 17, 20, 29) (the only exception being the tenth commandment—do not covet—which you can find implicitly throughout this whole chapter). This chapter also contains part of Jesus’ famous summary of the law: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 18). Maybe not what you expected when you turned to Leviticus 19 today!
Verse 2 is the theme verse for this entire book: “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” This is the ultimate reason for Christians to strive for holiness—we have been created and re-created for the purpose of being like God. God’s commands are not meant to be a suffocating set of rules for us to follow in order for God to take away our fun. They’re the means by which we reflect his glory and greatness and so grow to be more like him and grow to be closer to him. In this way, we can see that growing in holiness is meant to be a tool to help us persevere as Christians in this life, and it is also the tool by which God prepares us for heaven. This is why we see God constantly restating his name throughout this chapter. It’s not because Israel has amnesia, but it’s an intentional reminder that these commands are coming from the authoritative One who has saved and redeemed his people and now calls them to be like him. That’s a pretty heavy incentive. Do you treat holiness lightly sometimes? Are there some areas of your life that you are content with not growing in holiness?
We could summarize the whole of our growth in holiness as 1) growing in our love for God and 2) growing in our love for our neighbor. How do we love God and love our neighbor? By keeping all of the commands that God gives us! If Jesus preached a sermon entitled, “What is Love?” it would be a ten-point sermon consisting of the Ten Commandments. If you need to, re-read this chapter, but this time have in mind that these commands are how we show our love for our neighbor. Be generous rather than store up for yourself (vv. 9–10), never lie to one another (v. 11), don’t delay in giving someone what is rightfully theirs (v. 13), don’t insult someone even if it’s behind their back (v. 14), rid yourself of all partiality (v. 15), slander no one (v. 16), do not take revenge or bear a grudge (v. 18), don’t cut corners to try to gain an advantage (v. 35). I tried to limit myself there to just the most relevant and piercing commands in this chapter, but you can see that that’s not a small number of commands! God knows us. He knows how we try to tear down and take advantage of each other. He knows our propensity to hate in our hearts (see v. 17 and Matt. 5:21–26). It is a difficult calling to fight our sin and hatred and grow in loving each other by keeping these commands. But by God’s grace and power, we’re able to do it. If you feel enslaved to your sins, remember that God has broken the power of your sin. His indwelling Spirit means that you can and should be growing in your holiness. Which of the commands listed above do you struggle with most? What specific help do you need to pray for today? Go forward relying fully on God’s promise to empower you!