Book of Leviticus Chapter
Nineteen Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
The "Ten Commandments" are part of a large body of God's Laws and some have counted 613 of them in the Old Testament. You'll see shortened forms of the Ten Commandments in this chapter. Here are Verses 1-2: "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 'Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, 'You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.'" The Hebrew word for "holy" here, may be translated as "set apart for a consecrated purpose." God's purpose. The world pressures us to act a certain way, dress in a fairly specific, but changing manner, use certain words and phrases popular at the time, and much more. God has in mind that Israel would, and all of us will turn aside from mere conformity to the world, trusting His infinitely better way. God is utterly different in a very good sense from the notions and attitudes of humanity, and encountering Him, we start to become like Him. In John 3:3 and 3:7, Jesus told a religious man, a Pharisee named Nicodemus, that becoming right with God is more than religion. "You must be born again," He said—a life-changing experience that initiates "holy" thoughts and resulting good behavior, from deep in the center of our being.
We saw in Chapter 18 that God intends for the family to be a place of safety, untouched by the thoughts, words and actions of this sinful world. Verse 3 of this chapter is reflective of the 4th and 5th Commandments seen in Exodus 20:10-12 and Deuteronomy 5:12-16: "Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father, and you shall keep My sabbaths; I am the Lord your God." And this is a "two way street"—parents are to remember that healthy, appropriate discipline is beneficial, but it is to be done in honest love. Verse 4 of this chapter is reflective of the First and Second Commandments: "Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods; I am the Lord your God." And He is. The Lord created us (Genesis 1 & John 1), and we are offered re-creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). He is our Lord and He is our God.
Notice in Verses 5-8 that it is not only what you do, but how you do it that is important to God. Here are those verses: "Now when you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted. 6 It shall be eaten the same day you offer it, and the next day; but what remains until the third day shall be burned with fire. 7 So if it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an offense; it will not be accepted. 8 Everyone who eats it will bear his iniquity, for he has profaned the holy thing of the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from his people." The peace offering and all the other offerings in Leviticus, look ahead to Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world. The ordeal of Jesus in dying for our sins would last three days, ending in His resurrection, and it is an offer of God's peace, made personal for us through faith. Hebrews 11 speaks in detail of the Old Testament saints, revealing that all of them found acceptance with God on the basis of their faith in the Lord. It was for them and it is for us: faith is essential to peace with God.
Verses 9-10 are simply wonderful: "Now when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Nor shall you glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the needy and for the stranger. I am the Lord your God." The Lord has your needs in mind, but He has this delightful tendency to involve people in the process. When you take your need to Him, He nudges someone, then somebody else, and still more people to meet that need. God will take care of the needy and the outsiders among us, revealing that need to those able to help. The problem is that we all too often say "no" to His prompting, and if you are needy, I am sorry we have let you down.
Honesty. The world needs it so badly, and yet there is so little of it. God's commands in Verses 11-12 are so clear: "You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. 12 You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the Lord." What if we told the truth? What would happen? Well, wars might begin because the truth is that our motives are base and we often hide anger behind a smile. That's why we need to be "born again," initiating a process of gradual change for the good, wrought by Jesus on the cross and by the Holy Spirit deep inside.
Reading these verses, note that the commands of this chapter are self-evident. We really do know what we are supposed to do and how we are supposed to be. It's also evident that if everyone stopped resisting the Lord and responded to His will, this world would be better for us all. Verse 13: "You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning." Unfortunately, a "me first" attitude is within us all. If I have money, am I willing to share with somebody in need? If I owe someone something, do I willingly give it to them? Have you ever ridiculed someone? Here's Verse 14: "You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the Lord." Note that to make "fun" of someone is the precise opposite of loving God and your neighbor.
Have you heard of the author, the Oxford Don, C. S. Lewis? He referred to humanity as a "bent" race of beings. That's what Verses 15-16 are all about: "You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. 16 You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am the Lord." All too many of us have judged others on flimsy evidence and then spent years trying to prove our judgment of them, often slandering them in the process. Stop doing it!
Read Verses 17-18 carefully: "You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord." These verses go far beyond our outward actions. We are to take our hurt, anger and vengeance to the Lord, giving all to Him. 99.99% of humanity prefers themselves to others. It's rare to find someone who gives up their own needs in favor of somebody else's, and that's precisely what Jesus did, as prefigured by the sacrifices in the Book of Leviticus. He gave up everything in ways too great for us to understand, and our response is to—believe—enabling godly love to take root and grow in our hearts.
"Listen to Me," the Lord urges in the poetic statement of Verse 19: "You are to keep My statutes. You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together." It's terrible if you somehow profess to be "religious" and yet do wrong things. Your motives and actions are to be pure. YOU are to be pure, and only the Lord Himself can help you be that way.
Verses 20-22: "Now if a man lies carnally with a woman who is a slave acquired for another man, but who has in no way been redeemed nor given her freedom, there shall be punishment; they shall not, however, be put to death, because she was not free. 21 He shall bring his guilt offering to the Lord to the doorway of the tent of meeting, a ram for a guilt offering. 22 The priest shall also make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the Lord for his sin which he has committed, and the sin which he has committed will be forgiven him." A woman in a tribe of Israel who had become a slave was protected by God. The nation had no system of welfare, no spousal support after a divorce, and she had no real hope, except for the system provided by the Lord, a most unusual system in that time and place. If someone took advantage of her, she was not to be "put to death," a likelihood in the culture of the land Israel would enter. The man could be forgiven, but only after public remorse, expressed in an open sacrifice, a "guilt offering" to the Lord in front of a Levitical priest. The Law might forgive Him, but the sacrifice was intended to show him his sin and his need for repentance.
How grateful are you? How aware are you that every good thing in your life is because God loves you? Denial of something you think is your right can bring you to gratitude. Verses 23-25: "When you enter the land and plant all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; it shall not be eaten. 24 But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the Lord. 25 In the fifth year you are to eat of its fruit, that its yield may increase for you; I am the Lord your God." Instead of always focusing on what you have, take some time and look to God. Thank the Lord in everything (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and learn to trust that both your "bad luck" and your "good luck" are actually His blessings.
God wants you to be different—in a good way. You are God's message to the world that trusting in Him is the right way to live. Verses 26-28 are examples of human effort, disguised as religion, rampant activities in the land they would enter: "You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying. 27 You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard. 28 You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the Lord." The drinking of blood was a common practice in idolatrous religion. Trimming beards in the manner of Verse 27 was thought to appease certain false gods, and the practice of cutting, along with its cousin, tattooing, was very popular. Much like circumcision, God pointed out to this people that they were to be different from the people they would displace. Especially they were to have simple faith in the Lord, the greatest difference of all.
Have you ever lived in a country where young girls are sold by their fathers into prostitution? I have, and it's a sad practice. Verse 29 reminds us that so-called "modern" cultural choices are not modern at all, as the Lord continues, "Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, so that the land will not fall to harlotry and the land become full of lewdness." Instead Israel was urged to find the rest offered by the Lord, as in Verse 30: "You shall keep My sabbaths and revere My sanctuary; I am the Lord." But all too many try some kind of "do-it-yourself" false religion, as in Verse 31: "Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God." Be different. Be holy.
Do you want to be treated well by others? You probably won't be in this life because something is terribly wrong with humanity, but that doesn't mean you respond in kind. Trusting in the Lord, we discover deep in ourselves a growing urge to pass on God's kindness to others, as in Verses 32-36: "You shall rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the Lord. 33 When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God. 35 You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity. 36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin; I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt." Treating others justly is a sign that the Lord is in us.
He is the Lord our God who has turned us away from the gates of death and hell to the Door to refreshing new life, both here and in the eternity to come. Verse 37 concludes: "You shall thus observe all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them; I am the Lord." He who has done everything for us reasonably expects that we turn to Him and be led by His Holy Spirit.
Father, we know You are leading us into the way we should go. Help us to listen and understand. Save us from ourselves. Give us hearts that respond, along with hands, feet and hearts that do Your will. In Jesus Name. Amen.