Relating to Your Holy God
“For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God,
and you are to be holy because I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45).
Leviticus records the teaching of God through Moses at the foot of Mount Sinai during the month between God’s occupation of the tabernacle (Exodus 40:16, 34-38) and the taking of the census at Sinai (Numbers 1:1-3). The descendants of Jacob had learned that they were God’s special people (Genesis), and they had experienced the delivering power of their redeeming God (Exodus). Now, in an intense one-month course on holiness, God will teach the Exodus generation about His holy character and how to relate to their holy God. The account is selective according to Moses’ purpose to teach Israel how to fulfill the responsibility of the Mosaic Covenant by becoming a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6; Leviticus 26:5). (See Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative, p. 323)
Leviticus is God’s handbook for his newly redeemed people, instructing them how to worship and serve Him. Unlike the gods of Egypt or the gods of the pagan peoples they are set apart from, their God is holy. Relating to a holy God creates a problem—sin is a barrier to ongoing intimacy with a holy God. The chapters naturally divide into two sections. The first section (1-17) teaches how a sinful people are to approach a holy God—through the blood sacrifice that atones for their sin. The word atonement occurs 45 times in the book. The second section (18-27) shows them how to walk with a holy God—by trusting Him enough to do what He says. It’s called obedience.
The theme of Leviticus is holiness: “You are to be holy because I am holy (11:45; 19:2). The word holiness occurs 87 times in 27 chapters! The object lessons for God’s redeemed people of the church age are clear: Sin is horrible; God is holy. Those approaching a holy God need a sacrifice to cleanse them from sin (1 John 1:5-10). Those walking with a holy God need to worship Him through obedience (1 Peter 1:15-16; Romans 12:1-2):