I'm not really into dream analysis, but in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy the overarching theme is the holiness of God. That's what I've been reading about the past few days. These books are chock-full of edicts God gave the Hebrew people, through Moses. Some of the requirements make no sense to us. That's because our temptation is to get God to conform to OUR standard of "holiness", whereas the truth is that He IS the standard. I think my dream reinforced in my mind that the people of God are to be a holy people, because He is holy (Leviticus 20:7).
The other 11 tribes of the Hebrew people were to produce the soldiers that fought the physical battles for the nation. The tribe of Levi, however, was not to be numbered among the soldiers. Back in Egypt, when God instituted Passover, He declared that the firstborn male of every human and animal would be holy unto the Lord. In the first chapters of Numbers, He declared that the tribe of Levi would represent by taking the place of that firstborn consecration. (See Numbers 3:41.) The entire tribe of Levi would not fight; they would be holy unto the Lord and would perform the priestly tasks associated with the Tabernacle (later the Temple) and with worship.
Aaron, the first Levitical priest, was Moses' brother. Aaron had four sons when God named him to this role. He must have been so proud, thinking, "This is great! I have four young adult sons, who can help me carry out these new duties!" Unfortunately, in the learning process, two of his sons, the two older ones, mishandled the worship objects (some theologians theorize they were drunk) and abused the sacred ceremonies decreed by God. And, as a horrific result, God struck them dead. It is a fearsome story, recorded in Leviticus 10. God is serious about His holiness.
What are the implications for us today?
The command in Leviticus 20:7 to be holy because He is holy still applies.
So set yourselves apart to be holy, for I am the LORD your God.
Leviticus 20:7 (NLT)
The temptation for the Christian is to overemphasize the grace of God, by which we are saved through the finished work of Jesus Christ. Many use this truth to justify being "loose and lazy" in the way we live our lives. Are we bound by the Levitical rules laid out in the Old Testament? No. Has Jesus' holiness paid the penalty for our sins, all of them? Yes.
But, consider this Dietrich Bonhoeffer quote, concerning "cheap grace":
"Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."
In other words, "cheap grace" is not true grace at all.
We ARE holy, because of the shed blood of Jesus, which covers every single one of our sins. But, the apostles and writers of the New Testament repeatedly remind us to WALK in holiness, to live out that holy state which has been given to us through faith in Jesus, and by God's grace. His standard of holiness has not changed, although Jesus paid the price for us. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are still thoroughly holy and perfect and pure. We are to walk in that reality, by the power of the Holy Spirit who lives inside us.
13Therefore prepare your minds for action.d Be sober-minded. Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14As obedient children, do not conform to the passions of your former ignorance. 15But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, 16for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:13-16Did you catch that? Peter quoted Leviticus 20:7!
I have found it fascinating (no, REALLY!) to read in Numbers about how God assigned the Levites different duties. Moses and his brother Aaron were Levites. It's no accident God appointed them born into this tribe. Numbers 3 and 4 line out how the clans of the three sons of Levi (Gershon, Kohath and Merari) were to serve in their duties. God was very specific, because He wanted to protect His people from His fearsome holiness. Hebrews 12:21 tells us that the manifestation of God's holiness was so fearsome that even Moses was completely terrified!
In establishing Old Testament law, God essentially said "There's one right way to do things, and only one." In the New Covenant, revealed and established by Yeshua Mashiach (Jesus Christ), there is STILL one and only one way to please God, and that is the Way revealed and provided by Messiah Jesus.
The gospel message is not a popular one. It is a message that divides, especially in our modern-day culture where the message is "You are a bum if you don't approve of anything and everything." Totally slippery, slidey, "anything goes" approval.
It's hard to stand up and speak out, and even harder to LIVE OUT the holiness of the gospel in our everyday lives.
- To be holy in the quiet, unseen disciplines of holiness - - prayer throughout the day and daily personal Bible study
- To be holy in our conversations with others
- To be holy in the many unselfish acts the Holy Spirit convicts us to do, for others
- To be holy in our witnessing and sharing the gospel with those who worship other gods
- To be holy in our service in our local congregations
- To be holy in our civic duties, campaigning for and making time to vote for candidates whose positions line up with God's standard of holiness
- To be holy in our forms of entertainment, and the amount of time we spend in those pursuits
It's good to read the Old Testament, because it's easy to be lulled into the false belief that God is only a god of goo-ey love, a love devoid of truth (which really is not love at all). When we read the Old Testament, we are reminded that our God is also a God of uncompromising holiness, deserving of reverence and awe...and obedience.
Yes, oh yes, Galatians 4:24-25 and Hebrews 8:13 tell us that we are no longer bound by the Old Testament law, and Temple regulations, and such.
But, don't be fooled. God's holiness never fades. It never goes out of style.