Unlike chapters 17 and 18, Leviticus 19 has a bunch of various laws of what seem to be completely unrelated subjects. The first verse is that quoted verse (1 Peter 1:16), “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” From that statement onward, it seems like these laws will sometimes have something to do with the ten commandments, and at other times seem to have nothing to do with anything…
What does respecting our mother and father have to do with observing the Sabbath? Why are these two commands stated first, one right after the other? It seems like when God says, “I am the Lord your God”, it is the beginning of the next thought. So, when we read of honoring our mother and father and respecting the Sabbath, certainly there should be something related. What I would suggest is something that is rather deep and profound, and isn’t so easy to grasp in the first hearing of it. Often the prophets would refer to Israel as “the daughter of Zion”, and in Galatians 4:26, Paul takes this concept and supercharges it by telling us, “The Jerusalem, which is above, is our mother.” When we read Exodus 4:22, we read of God being the Father of Israel, and Israel being His firstborn son.
It seems as though the mother of Israel is Zion, and the Father of Israel is the LORD. Now, Zion is not simply a place on the map, but is an eternal city that even Abraham sought for (Hebrews 11:10). Likewise, Israel is not a people of God because they have descended from Jacob. Jacob wrestled with God, and the condition unto which He came in God from that wrestling was identified as “Israel”. Whatever Israel is, it cannot simply be considered the name of a person or nation or people. It is a spiritual reality unto which you are brought through maturity in God. For we Gentiles to be grafted into that (Romans 11:11-24), it would require more than just mere acceptance of the Gospel by faith. Faith demands that our lives are no longer constituted by what we know, and what we have believed up to this point. Now we are utterly changed, and our views must be altered. We have come unto the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and we’ve been grafted into Israel. We are to be Hebraic, or we are not the church at all. We are no longer Gentiles, but are now welcomed into the commonwealth of Israel.
Is this making sense?
To honor our Father and Mother, we observe the Sabbath, because our Father and Mother are from eternity. The Sabbath is more than just one day that we take off a week. It is a point at which we cease from our work, and we simply enter the rest of God – as Paul put it: we work with all of His strength (Colossians 1:29). The Sabbath, which we’ll talk about in a few chapters, is a state unto which we come when we fully enter the rest of God, ceasing from our own work, just as Jesus offered Himself unto God and then sat down. There is not a place in the Holy of Holies on the earth to sit down. The only place for Christ to sit would be upon the very throne itself (the Ark of the Covenant). Similarly, for we who are taken up with priestly ministry, we must cease from our own work to sit with Him upon His throne (Revelation 3:21). This is what it means to be at rest. This is what it means to honor our Father and Mother, the LORD and Zion.
“Do not turn to idols or make gods of cast metal for yourselves. I am the LORD your God.” This is obviously from the second of the Ten Commandments.
“When you sacrifice a fellowship offering to the Lord, sacrifice it in such a way that it will be accepted on your behalf. It shall be eaten on the day you sacrifice it or on the next day; anything let over until the third day must be burned up. If any of it is eaten on the third day, it is impure and will not be accepted. Whoever eats it will be held responsible because he has desecrated what is holy to the LORD; that person must be cut off from his people. When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them fro the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.”
With this one, we see the connection between what is left over. For this first command, that we should not eat of the fellowship offering on the third day, one reason that I don’t think we should ignore would be that refrigerators didn’t exist back then. Meat wouldn’t have lasted that long and still been sanitary to eat. So, there is a real sense in which God is giving them guidelines as to when they should throw away the food that they have cooked and didn’t eat.
Yet, we also look forward and see that Christ rose on the third day. Whether there is a pattern here or not can be debated. It does seem like it might fit that God is telling us that when that third day comes, it is now too late to take of the communion. The third day doesn’t merely represent the resurrection of Christ, but the return of Christ, in this mentality. If we wait until the third day to take of the meal, it has already been resurrected and no longer is symbolic of the broken body or the blood poured out. Likewise, if we wait until Christ returns before we desire to commune with Him, we are waiting too long and will not be given that opportunity. This is why there are two whole chapters devoted to the beginning of Revelations where Christ is pleading with the churches to overcome and sup with Him.
For the second regulation, we can see another very practical guideline. Don’t harvest unto the edge of the field, because there are poor and foreigners who will need to scavenge to find food. Don’t make them scavenge. We read in Deuteronomy 15:9 that when you mistreat the poor, they might cry out against you, and the Lord will hold you guilty of sin. God always hears the cry of the oppressed. If what we’re doing brings about that oppression, He will turn against us.
So, when we see the two of these regulations given together, it is almost like God is reflecting back to the manna. You were to take only what you need, and anything left over until the third day was moldy and full of worms (just like the fellowship offering would be deteriorating by this point). Yet, on the sixth day, you gather what you need for two days, and it would last until the first day of the week. In Deuteronomy 15, God says there will be no poor among you, and then starts talking about how to treat the poor. He was going to bless them enough that there was no excuse for the poor to be in their midst. And yet, there were poor in their midst. Some would take of the “manna” (God’s provision) and keep it to themselves, even when they knew that moth and rust would just corrode it. Others would then be left without “manna”, asking God where the provision is because it had already all been taken by those who are already rich and full. How many Christians live in this same principle, that even within the same congregation there can be someone who has millions of dollars, and another person who is barely scraping by and is about to lose their home? This is detestable to the Lord.
“Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another. Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God.” Here, we can plainly see that all of these connect through the common thread of deception. It is about seeking our own gratification and promotion over and above anyone else. We are willing to drag someone through the mud, and then use him or her as a sidewalk so that our shoes don’t get muddy. In this, we dehumanize the other person – or in the case of profaning God’s name, we treat Him as though He is just an idol and doesn’t even notice.
“Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him. Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight. Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord.” Here we can see the common thread being what Jesus taught: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. As far as not cursing the deaf or putting a stumbling block in front of the blind, not only does this have logical implications (it just seems mean to do these things), but it also seems to be reflected in what Paul says regarding slaves: Obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart (Ephesians 6:5-6). In this, we see Paul saying to work honestly, even when no one is looking, because it is the right thing to do, and because you want to honor Christ.
“Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord.”
This first verse reminds me of James’ words in the second chapter of his epistle. He tells us not to show favoritism as well, most likely thinking of this very verse while writing it. The common thread between all of these would be in regard to thinking of others before yourself. Here we have such verses as Romans 12:10, Ephesians 5:21, Philippians 2:3, Colossians 3:12, and 1 Peter 3:8 to go to in comparison.
“Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
Here, the first sentence of not hating your brother in your heart is the common link. Jesus expounds this in Matthew 5, and does so better than I can. “Anyone who is angry with his brother without cause will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” In this we find the meaning most brought out in the original words. Raca is an Aramaic word of contempt, like one who would mock or deride another. Yet, when Jesus says that if we say, “You fool,” what He is going after is the idea of calling your brother worthless. When you will think of someone as having nothing to contribute to this planet, you have murdered them in your heart, because what difference would it make in your mind if they were to die or live? Actually, the difference would be that if they died, it would get rid of a stumbling block to humanity! The world would be a better place without them! Yet, in the eyes of our Creator, everyone was made for greatness, and to say that someone was worthless is to essentially say that God failed when He made that person.
When we are commanded to rebuke our brother frankly, and then to not seek revenge or holy a grudge, these are both connected in that when we hate our brother, we would be willing to allow them to continue in their sin, and maybe they will be judged for it. It goes right back to that holding hatred in the heart. We’re supposed to submit unto one another in love, and to build one another up, speaking the truth in love and confessing our faults one to another.
We’ll continue through chapter 19 in part 2.