Day 10: In Pursuit of Holiness

Today’s reading: Leviticus 11-21, Ps 14-15

In the details of today’s reading, we find the framework being laid for how God’s people are supposed to behave. Every society constitutes itself according to a certain set of expectations and rules, whether spoken or unspoken.   Today’s chapters begin to make crystal clear the answer to the question, “How, then, shall we live?”

Sometimes, people want to take these ethical instructions exactly as we find them in Leviticus and mandate them in our twenty-first century context. The argument is that if they are written in the Bible, we must continue to obey them today. What we quickly discover in conversations with these persons, though, is that they really don’t mean, “Obey them all.” Just the ones that continue to be important. . .in their opinion. After all, when’s the last time you knew someone who obeyed the meticulous instructions of the entire fifteenth chapter on bodily discharges?

Discovering what we are supposed to learn from these chapters requires both discernment and interpretation. In the book of Leviticus, a particular type of ethics is being established, intended to shape the community so they will be holy, as God is holy. This pursuit of holiness, so that the people’s behavior will represent God’s character, is at the heart of all the laws here.

Reading through the Psalms, you’ll notice how often they, too, make reference to ethics. And so, perhaps one of today’s readings, Psalm 15, helps summarize for us the kind of ethical living God desires from the Israelites. . .and from us.

“God, who gets invited to dinner at your place? How do we get on your guest list? ‘Walk straight, act right, tell the truth. Don’t hurt your friend, don’t blame your neighbor, despise the despicable. Keep your word even when it costs you, make an honest living, never take a bribe. You’ll never get blacklisted if you live like this.'”  (The Message)

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4 Responses to Day 10: In Pursuit of Holiness

  1. Nancy says:

    I enjoyed reading how “The Message” translation interprets Psalm 14:4 as “don’t they know they can’t get away with this – Treating people like a fast food meal over which they’re too busy to pray.” I prefer the NIV translation, but I do like how “The Message” makes me notice verses I might have skipped over it I had just read about “men eating bread who do not call on the Lord.”

  2. Some of the “instructions” given in these chapters seem to me more of a prophylactic nature. Could it be that these “laws” were given to the Israelites as a way to prevent illnesses and have a healthier lifestyle? Maybe they saved some people by imposing quarantines and things like that. Also, I keep reading about not eating the fat and thinking if God is giving me a tip here? 🙂

    • runninrev says:

      Great observation about the instructions and possible health benefits.

    • Patricia McKeithen says:

      I agree. Many of these laws are much more protective of the Isrealites in the dessert with no refrigeration, no washing machines, and no antibiotics than which direction to place an animal prior to butchering and where to splatter the blood. Jordon Reuben, a practicing Christian with an Orthodox Jewish grandmother wrote a book based on this “Bible diet” as it related to his own health issues. Although he has made lots of money off of it, he offered scientific and anecdotal evidence why these laws make nutritional sense. Having a daughter with food sensitivities, I’ve seen first hand how important a healthy diet based on how God designed us can be.

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