Why not pot? Why not beer? Why not live with such good cheer?

In recent years, several young adults in churches have asked me about drinking beer. A few have asked me about smoking weed. More are asking. The answer is found in perhaps a hundred different verses, all communicating the same principles. However, since one of the books I am reading through at this time is Leviticus, why not answer them there? If dusty old Leviticus answers their question, perhaps the Biblical evidence runs pretty deep.

 

The book we know as Leviticus records the way the redeemed Hebrews worshiped God. The book begins with the Lord called. In the Hebrew Bible this book is called by its first word, wayyigra, meaning and he called.

Before reading any further, I asked myself what is God calling the redeemed to, and why? The call is “You shall be holy, for I am holy,” Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26. Indeed, holiness or holy appears more than 150 times in the Levitical book.

While reading, I was familiar with what was going to happen in chapter 10. Two of the sons of Aaron, himself a priest and a son of Levi (Leviticus), would die together on the same day. I had, however, not previously connected their death to the call. As the Spirit reasoned with me, the connection to the call became increasingly obvious.

Qodesh is the Hebrew word we translate as holy. Perhaps the best way for us to apply the word is to understand in all its related forms there is the significance of being set apart for some specific purpose. This necessarily involves a separation from certain things and a dedication to others. Dare we say holiness involves a self-imposed limitation of use? It does.

 

Pumpkin Pillows

In our home there are two pumpkin colored canvas pillows placed on the couch. Recently, while lying on the floor, I asked Donna to throw me one of these pillows for my head. She immediately refused, saying those are not pillows for our heads. These are pillows to make the couch look pretty. Donna was considerate to point out there are other pillows in our house for common use like my head. If you come into our home and used one of the pumpkin colored pillows for personal comfort, you would be guilty of desecrating that which is holy. They are “holy pillows.”

 

Freely placed limits

Why the call to limitation, to relate to something as if it is not common?

Previously I mentioned the two sons of Aaron. Their names are Nadab and Abihu, and they did physically die together on the same day, Leviticus 10:1-2. Surely, the events of the day crushed hard upon all present. However, in verse 3 the words spoken by Moses add understanding to the day, “…before all the people I will be honored.”

Those who are following God bear unique responsibilities to exemplify the interests of God, which is in part to be able to distinguish between the common and holy, Leviticus 10:10. If I tell you the pumpkin colored canvas pillows are holy, you would expect them to be detailed and clean for their stated purpose of beautifying the interest of the couch (and Donna). Otherwise, my understanding and application of holiness would be wrong. I would not be honoring the interest of Donna (who has defined this holiness) if I did not distinguish between pillows to bring beauty and pillows for the comfort of my head.

 

Right thinking is never obsolete

Some would be quick to point out the Levitical system is obsolete, having been fulfilled by the crucifixion of Jesus, Hebrews 10:1-10. I agree. It is obsolete as a system of worship, but not for training in right thinking, 2 Timothy 3:16. The Levitical system was the system of worship, of looking forward to the Messiah, of expressing repentance from individual and corporate sinning – all done through a priest. However, we continue to be right to apply the call of holiness stated in Leviticus to those following Jesus today. To be more direct in my concern, I disagree with the increasing number of professing followers of Christ who are dismissing the moral implications of following the Way of Jesus, John 14:1-6.

 

Right thinking is relative, but relative only to what God states

Recently I was seated with a small group of Christians around a table. We were meeting with a teacher of the Bible, a teacher known around the world for more than 20 years. When asked about the Israeli Arab conflict over the holy lands he replied, “I do not believe Israel has any more right to the land than any other people or nation. God has replaced the covenants He made with Israel with the New Covenant He made with the Church.” Well, if you know my recent history, the teacher now had my attention. I was eager to hear this man out, having given over five years of my life to discussing these topics weekly. For starters, his opening comments revealed at best an ignorance of the full counsel of Scripture, and at worst an allegorical (symbolic) approach to the study of Scriptures. As the teacher continued to speak to our small group, it became apparent he was surprisingly ignorant of the Old Testament prophets. In his words, he was holding to a reformed (allegorical) view he had read. Therefore, he could not defend what he held as true when asked to explain Old Testament Scriptures that contradicted his expressed views. He dismissed the verses as unimportant.

You may wonder why I restated this conversation to you. It is because the dismissal of the full counsel of Scripture is a first step towards destructive thinking. For example, a few weeks prior to this conversation I heard the dismissal of sexual morality all together by a pastor of a mainstream denomination. This pastor stated that the New Covenant erased all obligations to the morality taught under the Old Covenant, and therefore freed followers of Jesus to live in any sexual morality they chose.

 

Ballroom Dance Lessons

Donna and I have taken ballroom dance lessons. In the first lesson, the instructors clearly defined my responsibility during every dance. “The only reason the man is a part of the dance is to move in such a way as to make the woman the center of beauty,” the instructors commanded. I soon learned if I am doing my job in the dance, I am always thinking ahead and making decisions with Donna’s best interest in mind. I freely give myself to moving in ways that bring honor to her on the dance floor. If I am doing my job well during the dance, I lead Donna with only the actions of my body. No words are spoken between us. Dancing in this way involves constant mental and physical intentionality on my part. If I am doing my job especially well, I can disguise my commands from the viewer. In essence, the leader and the follower become one expression when I freely place limits upon my movements in order to reveal her beauty. Following Christ is to bring beauty to His interests.

 

Pumpkin Pillows in Christ Jesus

The pumpkin colored pillows do not transmit holiness to anything or anyone touching them. There is no energy in the holy pillows. Rather they have entered a state of holiness by Donna’s authority, and therefore adhere to certain restrictions. Followers of Christ have been made holy in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 1:4, Colossians 1:22; 3:12. Therefore, because the followers have entered into a state of holiness through Christ Jesus, they freely adhere to certain restrictions.

The follower of the Way in Christ is to be distinct in motive and action from the common. If they live, love, and choose as the world does, for the reasons the world does, they are common, having underestimated God’s purpose in their lives. As with the ballroom dance, if they are thinking ahead and making decisions with Father God’s best interest in mind they are bringing beauty to His interests. The standard for our thinking is God himself: “You shall be holy, for I am holy,” Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7, 26. For God is distinct from all beings by His nature and His works.

 

Has God changed His mind?

Of primary concern in the Old Testament Levitical teaching are the administrators of the theocracy, the Priests. Even so, the nation of Israel was supposed to be a holy nation (a nation set apart to God and therefore unique), and a kingdom of priests, Exodus 19:5-6. Their actions, therefore, could not be common. It was unacceptable as followers of God to under-estimate His interest in their life. They were to present the proper picture of the nature of God to others: “By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy,” Leviticus 10:3.

Has the spirit of living described in the Old Testament been indeed replaced with the New Covenant? Are followers of Jesus now free to be common, under-estimating God’s desire for the proper picture of His nature to be presented in a world that can only increase itself? Can followers of the Way really live whatever morality they choose? 1 Peter 1:13-16 and 2:9-12 answer these priestly questions and more. I’ll leave you to look up the verses. Father will enjoy meeting with you among the words and lines.


1 Comment

  1. Cindy Gibson

    Very relevant and clearly stated. Thanks for writing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.