A quick read through the book of Leviticus (which is generally the way I read it) may lead you to believe that the focus of the book is on obedience to God’s law–obedience to a set of moral laws that seems to establish a code of conduct practically impossible to follow.
Upon closer inspection you will see that the theme of the book is holiness: “You must distinguish between what is sacred and what is common” (Leviticus 10:10, NLT). What’s behind the laws, and is stated repeatedly throughout the book, is a description of God’s holiness.
So, if the Lord is holy, the people who worship Him must be holy because only holy can be in the presence of Holy. Yahweh is certainly not a god who can be worshiped from afar. He is the “I AM” who resides among and within His people.
What’s often misunderstood about holiness, especially in view of the overwhelmingly complex code of conduct detailed in the book of Leviticus, is that holiness is granted by God. It’s not the various acts of obeying a moral code that makes us holy before God. It’s God who makes us holy!
God imputes His Holiness on His people.
Sometimes we think that we must act holy to become holy. But, it’s the inverse that’s true. When we become holy, then we act holy.
So why the inachievable moral law, the unattainable code of conduct?
The Apostle Paul provides a definitive answer to that question: “It was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, ‘You must not covet.’ … But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died. So I discovered that the law’s commands, which were supposed to bring life, brought spiritual death instead… But still, the law itself is holy, and its commands are holy and right and good” (Romans 7:7-12, NLT).
God’s law reveals our sin!
And, the need for a resolution to our sin problem: “So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins” (Romans 8:3, NLT).
Then Paul explains how we become holy and subsequently are enabled to act holy: “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do… if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.. You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children… For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:11-15, NLT).
When we accept God’s Son, Jesus Christ, as the absolute sacrifice for our sin problem, God sends His Spirit to abide within us. His indwelling Spirit imputes His Holiness and empowers us to act holy when we are led by by the Spirit.
And, then as His people we participate in God’s Holiness and can proclaim, “Holy, Holy, Holy” is the Lord our God!
I am the Lord who makes you holy. (Leviticus 22:32, NLT)