************ Sermon on Leviticus 19:2 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on December 10, 2000
Topic: HolinessDannecker illustrates that hands and feet and minds and bodies that belong to Jesus cannot be used for unholy purposes.
In his early life, the great German sculptor Johann von Dannecker gained a reputation for his statues of the Greek goddesses. Approaching his prime, Dannecker felt he ought to devote all his strength and time to the creation of a masterpiece, so he set about to carve a figure of Christ. Twice he failed before he finally carved a statue so perfect that when people gazed upon it, they were moved to adore the Savior it portrayed. Years later, Napoleon sent for Dannecker and asked him to "make for me a statue of Venus for the Louvre." Dannecker refused, sending the French emperor this message: "Sir, the hands that carved the Christ can never again carve a heathen goddess."
We celebrated the Lord's Supper this morning. We've been reminded that God has bought us with the blood of Christ. In Christ we have been washed, cleansed, forgiven. Now, belonging to Jesus, we are called to be holy even as He is holy.
Holiness. That's our theme this evening. We have been called to holiness. We have been called to be holy like God and His Christ. As our text puts it: "Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy" (Lev 19:2).
I The Lord is Holy
A "I, the LORD your God, am holy."
Did you notice the phrase that is repeated over and over again in Leviticus 19? Fifteen times we hear God saying, "I am the LORD your God." In the Hebrew that word LORD is Yahweh. The Jews thought this name so holy and so precious that they would never say it, even when reading the Scriptures; instead, they would substitute the Hebrew word for LORD in its place. "I am the LORD your God." "I am Yahweh." What does this name mean?
This means that He is the one and only God. That He is and was and ever shall be. That He is the Author and Sustainer of life. That He is the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega. That He is the Almighty. That He is King, that He reigns and rules all things.
That name Yahweh especially identifies Him as the God of the covenant Who saves His people. He is the God Who continually intervenes to save. God did this in Egypt and at the Red Sea. God did this with Gideon and the Midianites – remember, with 300 soldiers Gideon defeated an army that was beyond counting. God did this with Jericho – her great walls came tumbling down at a shout. God did this with Sihon and Og – these kings of the Amorites struck fear into the hearts of Israel yet they were defeated. God did this when David faced Goliath – imagine a young lad beating a heavily armed giant with a sling and a stone. God did this time and again through the ministry of Elijah – think of the contest between the 450 prophets of Baal on the one hand and Elijah all by himself on the other hand. Over and over again God saved His people.
What God did in the Old Testament He also does in the New. God saves us from sin and death through the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ Jesus. We were reminded of that this morning in the Lord's Supper. He is the saving God of the covenant; He is Yahweh.
B This saving God, Yahweh, identifies Himself to us as being holy. "I, the LORD your God, am holy."
God is holy. That Biblical word "holy" has two meanings. The first meaning of holy is "apartness" or "separateness." That which is holy is set apart from common things. It is different; it is "other." God is the "holy other." He is absolutely distinct and different from anything else in creation. As the Holy One God is transcendent and incomparable. This is the Bible's message in more than one place:
(Ex 15:11) Who among the gods is like you, O LORD? Who is like you-- majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?
(1Sam 2:2) There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.
The second meaning of God's holiness refers to His purity. There is no moral blemish, no defect, no stain of wickedness within Him. He is morally excellent and ethically perfect. As the Holy One God hates all sin and evil. This too is the Bible's message in more than one place:
(Job 34:10) So listen to me, you men of understanding. Far be it from God to do evil, from the Almighty to do wrong.
(Hab 1:13) Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.
C It is not enough to say that God is holy. We also have to say that God acts holy. In other words, God is also holy in His actions. We wouldn't expect less from God. God can only act consistent with Who He is. God does righteous acts because He is holy.
In the Hebrew language the concept of acting holy – is rooted in a word that means "straight." We use the same metaphor today. When a criminal reforms his life, he "goes straight." When a person lives an obedient life, he walks the "straight and narrow." Conversely, if someone is a thief or a liar he is "crooked." Yahweh is straight. He is righteous. He is holy in what He does.
II We Are to be Holy
A Yahweh, our Savior God is holy. Now, He wants those He saves to be just like Him. He wants us to be holy. He says, "Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy" (Lev 19:2).
First, like God, this means we are to be separate, apart. We are to be different, separate, from the world. In our passage from Leviticus we hear what sounds like strange commands:
(Lev 19:19) "'Keep my decrees. "'Do not mate different kinds of animals. "'Do not plant your field with two kinds of seed. "'Do not wear clothing woven of two kinds of material.
(Leviticus 19:26-28) "'Do not eat any meat with the blood still in it. "'Do not practice divination or sorcery. (27) "'Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard. (28) "'Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 19:30-31) "'Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the LORD. (31) "'Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.
God did not want His children to mix with the world. God's people were not to intermarry, to worship other gods, or to interweave their lives with the practices and values of the people of Canaan. And to press the point home, specific "separation" commands were given that applied not just to people but also to plants, animals, and even cloth. Israel's daily life, you see, was to reflect God's principle of separation.
You may find such commands a bit trivial. But they are not that different from what many of us over 30 or 40 have grown up with. I remember when we first got a TV. My parents decreed that the only show we could watch on Sunday was Walt Disney. Was it trivial? Was it hairsplitting? Perhaps. But my parents wanted to keep Sunday holy. It was more than that though – they also wanted to teach five kids that we were separate, different from the world.
I want to challenge parents today to teach their kids what their parents taught them – that they are holy, that they are to be separate, different from the world.
The Apostle Paul has holiness as separation in mind when he speaks against intermarriage:
(2 Cor 6:14-17) Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (15) What harmony is there between Christ and Belial ? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? (16) What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." (17) "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you."Parents, remind your children and youth – over and over again – that they are to date and marry only in the Lord because they are holy and separate. Anything else is less than pleasing in God's sight.
Did you know, the church has holiness as separation in mind when she baptizes little children. For this mark of the covenant visibly separates the holy children of believers from the children of unbelievers.
The Christian Reformed Church has holiness as separation in mind when she strongly encourages parents to give their children a Christ-centered education. Christian children are holy, they are different, and they are to be taught as different. Those are not just hot, panting bodies on the playground or in the classroom. Those are holy children of God.
B Yahweh, our Savior God, is holy. Now, He wants those He saves to be just like Him. He wants us to be holy. He says, "Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy" (Lev 19:2).
Second, like God, this means we are to be pure, without blemish, without the stain of wickedness.
In Catechism class before the service we talked about the six stages of sin and we applied this specifically to Adam and Eve:
Knowledge - they were told about the tree of knowledge of good and evil and its fruit
Curiosity - they became curious about the tree and its fruit and wondered what the fruit would do
Desire - they began to want to eat the fruit of the tree
Lust or Strong Desire - they really wanted to eat from the tree and its fruit
Decision - they made a decision to eat from the tree
Action - they took from the tree and ate
Somewhere between stages 3 and 4 Adam and Eve fell into sin.
Yahweh, our Creator and Savior, wants us to be holy like He is. This means we are to stop ourselves from going to stages 3 and 4. We are to avoid any situation that tempts us and causes us to fall. We are to strive to never get beyond the first and second stages.
We cannot talk of holiness without talking about sex and money for these are the two subjects the Bible brings up the most when it comes to instruction about holy living. Did you know, almost every book of the New Testament talks about these two. Holiness means that God's people need to be pure when it comes to sex and money.
God's people are to be pure when it comes to sex. Leviticus 19 speaks against forcing sexual relations upon a defenseless slave girl (vs 20f). It forbids parents from turning their daughters into prostitutes (vs 29). Purity means faithfulness for those who are married. Purity means sexual abstinence for the unmarried.
A beautiful blond senior shares: "When we date, we start giving gifts, like flowers or candy. When a couple becomes engaged, they give special things -- a diamond and very personal things. The most personal gift that I can ever give is myself. I have nothing more precious to give. When I marry, I want to give my husband the best that I have -- my whole self as completely as I can."
God's people are also to be pure when it comes to money. Leviticus 19 has lots to say about that:
(Lev 19:11) "'Do not steal. "'Do not lie. "'Do not deceive one another.
(Lev 19:13) "'Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him. "'Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight.
(Lev 19:35-36) "'Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. (36) Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt.
Perhaps you heard the news this past week about telemarketers that were robbing the elderly. An older person would be called and told they had won $50,000 cash. All they had to do was send $1,000 cash for shipping and handling costs and the money would be theirs. Many would actually send in the money. A month or two later the same telemarketer would call again under another name and would promise to collect the first $50,000 – you guessed it -- in exchange for another $1,000. Many of those taken in the first time would also be taken in the second time.
Have you ever wondered about those who call on the phone looking for donations: the fireman's fund, the handicap? Someone called me on behalf of the handicap asking me to buy light-bulbs that cost $4.00 each but would last 4 times as long as a normal light-bulb; now, you can purchase light-bulbs for less than $1.00 each. But, it was for the handicap so I bought 3 or 4 of them. Later I found out I supported the handicap alright – The Handicap Corporation. My money went to a business and not to those with disabilities.
Topic: FraudIn contrast, Yahweh's holy people do not engage in shady business practices like these. Yahweh's people are called to be holy in the use and collection of money.
In Illinois, a fundraiser for the Illinois Firefighters Alliance harvested $20,000 a month supposedly to help the widows and orphans of firefighters. The Illinois attorney general says there is no such organization. An organization called Telesystems raised $9 million in donations to aid cancer-stricken children. Telesystems pocketed 8 of the $9 million, calling it their fundraising fee. For America's missing and abused children, more than $400,000 was collected; only $24,000 of it was spent on the children.
Our God has saved us. We were reminded of that in the Lord's Supper. This saving God is a holy God. Now, He calls us to be like Him. He says, "Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy."
That's the challenge facing you and me during the coming week. "Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy."
So I want to challenge you this week, congregation. I want to challenge you to be different, to be separate, to be apart from the world. I want to challenge you to be pure, spotless, without blemish. "Be holy because I, the LORD God Who saves you, am holy."
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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