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)