We cannot accurately understand this passage until we have first looked at and understand Leviticus 17-27. In the Law there were certain feasts and Sabbaths that the Jews were suppose to keep each year. First, what I want to do this morning is show you what is required for holy living. Then I want to show you how Jesus, and what He did while He was on Earth, and what He has done since His ascension, and what He continues to do now, and what His second coming will accomplish—how all of these things, fulfills and has replaced all of those Jewish celebrations. I want to speak to you this morning on “The Holiness Code of Leviticus.” So if you want to follow along with me turn back to Leviticus chapter seventeen.
So why study Leviticus? It’s the Old Testament Law; it doesn’t apply any more, right? Well, maybe not in the same way that it used to. There are a lot of sacrifices, rules, and feasts. Each one of them had a certain part in keeping the Israelites in line, and compatible with God. As I was studying the holiness code chapters (that’s the name given for Leviticus chapters 17-27 by a man named Klostermann in 1877; I wonder is that the same man who made that bread?—never mind); I’ve found it best to compare and contrast the three main topics. We will compare which parts of each topic are still applicable today, and look at the differences that exist between the Israelites and us. The main thing is they had to be holy. Leviticus 19:2 says: "Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.’” There is a path to holiness in Leviticus, the three things that I will expound upon: forgiveness of sins, living by certain laws, rules, and regulations, and living in community with each other and God. Holiness, though not in the same form as the law, is still a requirement today.
First, before anything else, they had to be forgiven of sins. So how did they go about doing this? They needed a lamb without blemish to bring to the priest at the temple. This was done for any number of things. You made a sacrifice to the Lord when you sinned knowingly, when you wronged someone on purpose, and even when you hurt them by accident. In chapter seventeen of Leviticus we have commands against nonsacrificial slaughter. Adam Clarke in his commentary on the Bible says: “As sacrifice was ever deemed essential to true religion. It was necessary that it should be performed in such a way as to ensure God alone could show how this should be done so as to be pleasing in His sight, and therefore He has given the most plain and particular directions concerning it…That no blood should be offered to idols, God commands every animal used for food or sacrifice to be slain at the door of the tabernacle.” They were not allowed to make a sacrifice to the Lord away from the tabernacle. If they killed an animal that was supposed to be brought to the Lord as a sacrifice, they were cut off from their people. Blood was so important that it could only be used for one thing, and one thing only, forgiveness. “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
They could not eat any blood; because blood is the life of everything. It flows through us. The act of sacrificing the ox, lamb, goat, by slitting its throat, in fact stops its life flow, and that poor innocent animal, which had done nothing wrong, was killed in their place for the forgiveness of their sins. Blood shed was necessary for the forgiveness of sins. Leviticus 17:11 says: “It is the blood that removes the sins, because it is life.” Blood shed has always been, and always will be necessary for the forgiveness of sins. At one time millions of animals were given for sins, and each time a new one had to be offered for an offence, it couldn’t be reused. That animal only had the power, and the ability to be used for forgiveness of each instance of transgression against the Lord. It was not a lasing sacrifice, and it wasn’t able to forgive forever, it had to be performed annually. The writer of Hebrews asks this question:
2If it could [remove sins forever], would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, 4because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
So if its not by animals, who’s blood takes away sins? 1 Peter 3:18 says: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” Christ was given the power when He died on the cross, and He has the power still, that He only had to offer Himself once, and through Him all sins can be forgiven. The Bible also says:
25Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Again, the one who was without sin was offered for the sinner; we no longer have to take the lamb to the priest; our Lamb sits on the right hand of God the Father and is waiting to make intercession for us. Hebrews 4:16 says: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Clarke says: “And it is well worthy of being remarked, that Christ not only died for sinners, but our redemption is everywhere attributed to His Blood and the shedding of that blood; and that on the altar of the cross, this might make an atonement for the lives and souls of men, He not only bowed His head, and gave up the ghost, but His side was opened, the pericardium and the heart evidently pierced, that the vital fluid might be poured out from the very seat of life, and that thus the blood, which is the life, should be poured out to make an atonement for the life of the soul.” Christ was sacrificed in entirely the same manner that the lambs were first done thousands of years ago. His blood is life. It always will be. “…so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.” He never needs to die again, it was good once and for always, and for all sins.
Next, the Israelites were called to live a holy life. Set apart from all the other nations in the world, they were going to live by the standards that God prescribed. How were they to do this?—Laws, rules and regulations. The important thing is not to look at each specific instruction given, but to look at them in sections. Basically there are two sections: rules for all of Israel, and rules for priests. What God is intending to do is keep His people away from the practices of the idol god Molech. What we need to realize is that some of these things still apply for us today, and others don’t. Which ones don’t? The priestly codes are the only ones that don’t apply today!
Chapter eighteen in Leviticus deals entirely with sexual relations. It speaks against incest, adultery, homosexuality, and beastiality. Why would God say these things are wrong? Williams L. Coleman in Interpretations of The Leviticus Holiness Code says: “It is simple to deduce that the practices in question were pagan idolatrous practices. It therefore is logical to state that what is being discussed in the chapter deals with idolatrous practices which the children of Israel are not to engage in.” God wanted His people, His holy people, to not participate in all the sexual pleasures the other nations in the world were engaged in. He knew that those types of activities only led to destruction. In fact the only thing sexually He allows is intimacy with ones spouse. He still and always will be totally against sexual immorality.
Chapter nineteen starts out with a very familiar verse: "Tell all the people of Israel: 'I am the Lord your God. You must be holy because I am holy’.” God basically says, “Now that I’ve just scratched the surface of what you need to do to be my special people, we’re now going to go a little deeper.” Lawrence Kushner and David Mamet in their book Five Cities of Refuge say: “Holiness is being aware that you are in the presence of God.” Jacob Milgrom in his book Leviticus 17-22 says: “Persons and objects are subject to four possible states: holy, common, pure, and impure. …the holy may not come into contact with the impure.” Not, the holy shouldn’t come into contact, or it’s best that they not come into contact. No they may not come into contact with the impure. God is holy, and God dwelt in the middle of their camp. For God to be present and for them to be in His presence they had to be holy. It wasn’t an option. It still isn’t an option. 1 Peter 1:16 says: “for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’”. Not that what’s in the Old Testament doesn’t apply to us anymore, because it does, this is still in the portion that applies to all of Israel; therefore, it applies to all of us who are called to be holy. The reality is we are all called to be holy. And what the New Testament does is show us who now makes us holy. We are still required to live, and be holy. Now that God dwells in heaven, and one day will dwell in the New Jerusalem, for us to enter in, for us to be in His presence, and for Him to be present there, we humans must be sanctified holy. Because the holy-pure, cannot, cannot, cannot, come into contact with the common-impure. And the best place to look for the process of becoming holy is in the Holiness Code of Leviticus.
So, now we are in chapter nineteen, God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments in Exodus twenty. What He now does is elaborate on certain commandments. We see that not only is there a literal translation, but God intends for more than what is on the surface. Why then were the Pharisees so surprised when Jesus did this? Had God not already said there’s more than meets the eye? We start with commandment number five in verse three: “Ye shall fear every man his mother and father”. Not only are we to honor them, but the main way of honoring them is to have the profoundest respect for them. He talks about fleeing from idols in verse four. What God does after that is say stealing is not just robbing someone like we might think. Stealing is also not giving to the poor, cheating someone, defrauding someone, and holding back someone’s wages. Can I say it again? Stealing is also not giving to the poor, cheating someone, defrauding someone, and holding back someone’s wages. Again, why did people think it was a new thing that Jesus summed up the commandments by this statement: Love God, and love your neighbors? God had already said this in commandments six through ten! And in Leviticus nineteen verses fourteen through eighteen He says the exact same thing! Basically, don’t take advantage of the handicap, don’t hate anyone, and love everyone the same way you love yourself. Clarke says: “The spirit and design of these precepts are, that not man shall in any case take advantage of the ignorance, simplicity, or inexperience of his neighbor, but in all things do to his neighbor as he would, on a change of circumstances, that his neighbor should do to him.” But for the grace of God go you and I. God could just wink, and we could be in the same predicament as they are. So we need to be courteous to them, because chances are, it’s not their fault their handicapped.
It really wasn’t a lot, and it still isn’t a lot to be considered holy. In fact, everything that God asks of us is more than reasonable. It all has to do with treating others properly, and treating ourselves properly. Chapter twenty in Leviticus begins with the last thing we have to do to be holy. Worship God, and look at His Word for the answers. Verse six says: “I will be against anyone who goes to mediums and fortune-tellers for advice, because that person is being unfaithful to me.” The chapter ends with punishment for not obeying His commandments. Punishment hasn’t changed either. Those who don’t accept Him and live a holy life will not enter the Heaven, that means there’s only one other place; and it’s not purgatory, it’s hell. But it’s our choice, it was the Israelites choice. God has given us the choice, He doesn’t force us to follow Him, but He does require it. Why? Why is this a requirement? Because God Himself paid a high price to make holiness attainable, He shed His blood for us to be able to live a holy life, and we must get to that point in our lives. Hebrews 13:12 says: “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through His own blood.” There is a better life in Jesus Christ. There is a better life in Jesus Christ. Life is not only better for us, it is better for all that we come in contact with, and because of that, our life will reflect Him by serving others, and will lead them to Him as well. What could be better than that? To lead someone to Jesus Christ by letting them see Him through you.
Chapters 21 and 22 deal with the priestly regulations; these two chapters show what it took to be able to offer the sacrifices to God. Everything a human being had to do, to be able to approach the Mercy Seat. There is no more, anyone that needs to follow what’s outlined in these two chapters. It just shows us how much, how close to perfection one had to be to be able to enter the Most Holy Place, and make intercession for a sinner. The priest could only use one sacrifice per person. God made one sacrifice good for all people. Jesus Christ, that one sacrifice, is now our Great High Priest. We can approach Him without fear, and without hesitation. Hebrews 8:1-2 says:
We have a high priest who sits on the right side of God's throne in heaven. Our high priest serves in the Most Holy Place, the true place of worship that was made by God, not by humans.
Thank God He decided to offer Himself in the form of His Son Jesus Christ, someone perfect, that God Himself is the offering (who is always pure), and sits on the right hand of God ready to now make intercession for us. We no longer have to go to a priest.
Leviticus ends with specific instructions on how the Israelites are to keep God’s Sabbaths. God intends for His holy people to live in community with each other and with God. God sets aside one day in seven for the people to come together as a body of believers and they worship Him. These days, called Sabbaths are holy, because He is holy, and the Israelites keep them by celebrating and worshipping in community. So when was their Sabbath? It was from sundown on Friday night, until sundown on Saturday. They did no work, they only worshipped God. It was for everyone. With that in mind, the Lord also commanded that they observe special feasts, or celebrations throughout the year. Again, this was done together as a group, and was done as an act of worship, and adoration to the Lord God Almighty. Leviticus chapter 23 gives the exact dates for each of these observances. As I finish, I want to go through these real quick and make application for our life. Starting at the beginning of the year is the Festival of the Passover. This is in the Jewish month of Nisan, or March/April for us. It consists of three parts: the Passover, Unleavened Bread, and First Fruits. On the 14th day of Nisan is the Passover. They must kill a lamb and put blood on the doorpost. Then beginning on the 15th day, and going for seven days is the purging of all leaven, or yeast, which was considered the symbol of sin. The 1st and 7th days of the feast are also a Sabbath, in addition to the regular Sabbath. The First Fruits portion of this festival is done on the day after the Sabbath. There is a wave offering of sheaf, it is the promise of harvest yet to come. Remember “the promise of harvest yet to come.” In the 3rd Month (Sivan or May/June) is the Festival of Pentecost. Pentecost or Feast of Weeks is 50 days after the first fruits. A wave offering is made to the Lord of two loaves of leavened bread. After this celebration there is an interlude between festivals. Then in the 7th Month of Tishri, or September/October, is the Festival of Tabernacles. This also consists of 3 parts: Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, and Feast of Booths or Tabernacles. The Feast of Trumpets is on the first day of that month. The trumpet is blown, and results in a holy convocation. When they trumpet sounds all the people are gathered together outside The Tabernacle. Then on the Day of Atonement the High Priest goes into the Holy of Holies, and makes atonement for the children of Israel. This happens on the 10th day of Tishri. This festival ends with the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles; this begins on the 15th day, and lasts for 7 days. This is a harvest celebration, and is a memorial to all the tabernacles that were set-up in the wilderness. Keep in mind, “the promise of harvest yet to come in the one feast; and a harvest celebration in another.”
I wish to point out again that not in the same way holiness was required for Israel, but holiness is still a requirement today. “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.”—that “make perfect” means holy—can never make holy. The feasts in the way the Israelites observed them can never make us holy, but in a new form each of the Feasts of Israel needs to happen in our life. The path to holiness is still a required trail. Mitch and Zhava Glaser in their book The Fall Feasts of Israel say: “The themes of the fall feasts are especially meaningful to a believer in Jesus. The feasts—and the entire Old Testament—are fulfilled in Christ.” The law and the feasts foreshadow everything that Christ is going to accomplish with his death, resurrection, and second coming. I want to show you how Jesus fulfills and makes everything right for us. First, the Israelites were slaves in Egypt; John 8:34 says: “Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.’” We were bound by the chains of sin, but finally there came the last Day of Atonement when Jesus Christ died on the cross. The Passover and Unleavened Bread are now found in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8:
Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
We must come to Christ, sincere in our repentance, and truthful about our sins (He knows already, so you might as well tell Him) we must forsake our sins, and accept the sacrifice He made, and let that blood cover our sins, and start down the path toward entire sanctification. That is, a holy life, set apart to God’s will for your life. The first fruits are now 1 Corinthians 15:20: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” We take comfort in knowing that our harvest (Christ returning to this Earth to gather His church) is yet to come. “…and he [Jesus Christ] will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” One day it’s going to happen, and we must be ready! The Feast of Weeks; Christ went away so the Comforter could come. It is by that Comforter, The Holy Spirit, that all are convicted of sin. Pentecost proved for us the promise of the Spirit, and now the Jews and the Gentiles form one body in Jesus Christ. Praise The Lord! And The Feast of Trumpets is now 1 Thessalonians 4:16 when: “… the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.” That will be our holy convocation. The poet said:
And when at last we see the face of Jesus,
Before whose image other loves all flee.
And when they crown Him Lord of all I'll be there,
Now this is just what Heaven means to me.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for that day, but I also know that I’ve got plenty of work that God still wants me to do, and I would venture to guess that He still has a job that He wants you to do as well. Lastly, if you’ve been forgiven of your sins, and you’re living a holy life, you’re ready for the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles which Revelation 21:1-3 foretells:
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.’”
God will again one day tabernacle with us. He will be in the center of that city, The Prince of Peace, the Light that Forever Shines, and we will once again be camped around Him. This will truly be a harvest celebration, unlike any before. This celebration will not just last for seven days, it will last for all eternity. Would you stand? With all heads bowed, and eyes closed as the worship comes. I wonder this morning, are you ready for that day? If you’re not, you can be! I’m not sure where you’re at this morning. Maybe you’re still a slave to sin. I’m happy to report to you this morning, that The Great Emancipator is ready, and able to break those addictions in your life. I don’t know where you’re at on this path to holiness, but if God’s put His finger on something this morning, now’s the time to take care of it. Maybe you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, but you just aren’t living a holy life—you can start today!