Read Leviticus 11:44-45
Leviticus – Tom, what were you thinking.
Leviticus—what a book! You think that it might be in the back of the Bible with the maps and lists of other things. I mean, it’s just a list of do’s and don’ts, right?
But what if it is not just a list of commands but part of a story? What if it fits right where it is supposed to fit in the narrative of God’s people? What if it is a story with most of its roots in Egypt and a conclusion with the Lamb of God on the cross?
The Greek translators named this book Leviticus during translation. The Hebrew people called it: Viyikra which means “called out.” The Hebrews did not title the books of the Torah. They used the first few words of the book.
Why? These accounts were passed on in the oral tradition for centuries. What are the fist words of the book? “The Lord called to Moses…”
Turn to the alphabetical index in the hymnals and this group look up It is Well with my soul. This group, I want you to look up When Peace Like a River.
Think of some of the songs you know so well by their intro. I don’t have a fancy satellite radio that tells me the name of the song and the artist, so I guess.
The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows when
Do you have it yet?
But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother
How about Big wheels keep on turning
Carry me home to see my kin
Who doesn’t know Sweet Home Alabama? Most know it right away from its musical intro.
Now, some of you may like the Greek titles. They would indicate that maybe this book is just for the priestly order—the Levites. Those don’t apply to me. I don’t have to go out and buy a goat and two chickens to sacrifice because I got a tattoo. Many of them are just for the priests but most are for all.
So, let me have a look at your tattoos after the service and I will tell you if you can get off with a couple of birds or you had better save up for a bull. No, the sacrifices in Leviticus point us to the one sacrifice for all time.
OK, so the Greeks liked title and author—or at least the Septuagint (2nd or 3rd century AD) did—so that’s how we get our modern names, but the Hebrew people knew these books by the first line.
Here’s the list for the Torah
Hebrew Greek to English Hebrew Meaning
Bereishit Genesis In the Beginning
Shemot Exodus Names
Vayikra Leviticus And He Called
Bamidbar Numbers In the Wilderness
Devarim Deuteronomy Words
OK, let’s talk about the story. You know it. God created. Man fell. Sin is in the world. It gets really bd. Noah and his family are saved from a devastating flood. Tower of Babel, Abraham called out of Ur and promised descendants, a land, and that all would be blessed through him (his seed).
Abraham-Isaac—Jacob who is renamed Israel and has a bunch of sons. One of them Joseph is sold into slavery and eventually rises to most powerful man in Egypt. Only Pharaoh could overrule him and Pharaoh knew better.
Joseph saves his family—which includes 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel. The other two come from Jospeh and they are Manasseh and Ephraim. These are sons of Joseph.
Then in the book of Shemot—these are the names of the sons of Israel who went into Egypt. Shortly after this introduction we find, and there was a Pharaoh who did not remember Joseph. So slavery begins and last about 400 years.
Along come Moses and Aaron and the exodus from Egypt. It all went like clockwork, well not exactly.
The people are a mess. While Moses is up getting instruction from God, Aaron has the people build a golden calf. That’s not their only transgression, but it’s a biggie. The whole lot of them are a bunch of complainers who sometimes say they wish they were slaves in Egypt again.
And so we come to today’s verse—two verses. I’m not starting with a whole chapter or even the first chapter which jumps right into making a sacrifice. Remember, this book is the continuation of a narrative not an appendix in the back of the book.
Leviticus 11:44-45 (NIV)
I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground. I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.
The people whom God rescued from Egypt don’t really have the whole picture yet. God has made them his chosen people. What does that mean? Among other things, they were:
· Given an identity as his people
· Given a sign in the flesh for the males
· A land promised to them (all the way back to Abraham)
· To be a great nation (back to Abraham)
· Given the law (some already came in Exodus, more in Leviticus)
· Through Abraham’s seed, all the world would be blessed—Messiah.
So, as we enter into this trip through Leviticus, understand that one of the things that should mark these people as God’s own, would be that they would be holy as God is holy.
You know the story. They didn’t get 100% on the test. In fact, there were a bunch of F’s and incompletes.
But as we move forward in Leviticus—Vayikra—keep that in mind. Be holy as God is holy.
OBTW—those words apply to us as well.