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Lev. 19:1-2, 9-18 1
1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.

9 “‘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. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God. 11 “‘Do not steal. “‘Do not lie. “‘Do not deceive one another. 12 “‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord. 13 “‘Do not defraud or rob your neighbor. “‘Do not hold back the wages of a hired worker overnight. 14 “‘Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the Lord. 15 “‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. 16 “‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people. “‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord. 17 “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. 18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Background

The Book of Leviticus is the third book of the Greek Old Testament of Christian biblical canons and the third of five books of the Pentateuch. Leviticus comes the word “vayikra,” “He [God] called.” Its Greek name Levitikon, “things pertaining to the Levites”, and its Latin name Leviticus, are based on the term torat kohanim, “instruction of (or ′for′) the priests” from early rabbinic times.
The English name is from the Latin Leviticus, taken in turn from Greek and a reference to the Levites, the tribe of Aaron, from whom the Kohanim (‘”priests”) descended. The book, however, addresses all the people of Israel (1:2) though some passages address the priests specifically (6:8). Most of its chapters (1–7, 11–27) consist of God’s speeches to Moses which he is commanded to repeat to the Israelites. This takes place within the story of the Israelites’ Exodus after they escaped Egypt and reached Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:1). The Book of Exodus narrates how Moses led the Israelites in building the Tabernacle (Exodus 35–40) based on God’s instructions (Exodus 25–31). Then in Leviticus, God tells the Israelites and their priests how to make offerings in the Tabernacle and how to conduct themselves while camped around the holy tent sanctuary. Leviticus takes place during the month or month-and-a-half between the completion of the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:17) and the Israelites’ departure from Sinai (Numbers 1:1, 10:11).

The instructions of Leviticus emphasize ritual, legal and moral practices rather than beliefs. Nevertheless, they reflect the worldview of the creation story in Genesis 1 that God wishes to live with humans. The book teaches that faithful performance of the sanctuary rituals can make that possible, so long as the people avoid sin and impurity whenever possible. The rituals, especially the sin and guilt offerings, provide the means to gain forgiveness for sins (Leviticus 4–5) and purification from impurities (Leviticus 11–16) so that God can continue to live in the Tabernacle in the midst of the people.

There is some discussion of  ceremonial concepts in chapter 19 but most of the discussion is about morality. Prior chapters seem to have considerable discussion of what were relatively narrow issues such as  two long chapters concerning leprosy.  Chapter 19, however, handles many of the weightier matters and covers them in a single verse such as judgment and mercy.  The laws of this chapter, which were peculiar to the Jews, are concerning their peace-offerings (v. 5-8). Concerning the gleanings of their fields (v. 9, v. 10). Against mixtures of their cattle, seed, and cloth (v. 19). Concerning their trees (v. 23-25). Against some superstitious usages (v. 26-28). There are also those binding on us because they are formed from the roots of the ten commandments. Here is the preface to the ten commandments, “I am the Lord,’’ repeated fifteen times. A sum of the ten commandments.This chapter begins with “Be you holy,’’ (v. 2), and continues with “Thou shalt love thy neighbour’’ (v. 18), and an answer to the question, “Who is my neighbour?’’ (v. 33, v. 34).

There is something for each commandment.

  1. The first commandment is implied here, “I am your God.’’ And here is a prohibition of enchantment (v. 26) and witchcraft (v. 31), which make a god of the devil.
  2. Idolatry is forbidden, (v. 4).
  3. Profanation of God’s name (v. 12).
  4. Sabbath-sanctification is pressed (v. 3, v. 30).
  5. Children are required to honor their parents (v. 3), and the aged (v. 32).
  6. Hatred and revenge are forbidden, against the sixth commandment (v. 17, v. 18).
  7. Adultery (v. 20-22), and whoredom(prostitution) (v. 29).
  8. Justice is here required in judgment (v. 15), theft forbidden (v. 11), fraud and withholding dues (v. 13), and false weights (v. 35, v. 36).
  9. Lying (v. 11). Slandering (v. 14). Tale-bearing, and bearing false-witness (v. 16).
  10. The tenth commandment lays a restraint upon the heart, so does that (v. 17), “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart.’’ And here is a solemn charge to observe all these statutes (v. 37).

Now these are things which do not need much help to the understand,  What is required is constant care and watchfulness for observing and following them. “A good understanding have all those that do these commandments.’’

Biblical Truths and Theology

Verses 1-2 begin by telling us to ‘Be holy, because I am holy’. This is the most important thing that the Book of Leviticus teaches. Jesus also teaches this in Matthew 5:48. God’s people cannot do whatever things they themselves want to do. They must do the things that God wants them to do. They must be separate because they are God’s people. They belong to Him. So they cannot behave as other people behave.
Deuteronomy 6:5 tells us to love God and Leviticus tells us to obey God. Jesus said this: ‘If you love me, you will obey me’, John 14:15. So they are both the same thing. We show our love for God when we obey His laws.

God wants his people to care about poor people. He told them that they must leave part of the harvest for poor people to gather. This part is called the ‘gleanings’. You can read more about this in Ruth chapter 2. Poor people still had to work to gather this food. Christians must also care about poor people, Galatians 2:10. And God still wants people who can work for their food to do that, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12.

God’s people should not steal. They should not try to get things by any unfair method. They should not say things that are false. They should not cheat people.

‘In my name’ means that God would agree. So the person is asking God to agree with something false. People would think that God is a bad god. And that is what is means to make God’s name unclean.

There is a similar law in Deuteronomy 24:14. There the neighbour becomes a servant. As in Matthew 20:8, employers had to pay wages the same day. Ephesians 6:9 and Colossians 4:1 tell us that Christians too must act fairly towards servants.

We must not try to get an advantage because of someone else’s weakness. We must not be cruel to someone who cannot defend himself. Instead, God wants us to help people who have problems. We must support them because God cares about those people too, James 1:27.

God is a fair judge. Even the greatest person cannot persuade him to do something that is not proper. When God’s people act as judges, they make their judgements on his behalf. So they must be fair to everyone, whether that person is rich or poor.

God’s people have a duty to protect other people. They must protect those people from dangers. And also, God’s people should not gossip. They should be careful not to hurt people, either by their actions or by their words.

Deuteronomy 32:35 and Romans 12:19 tell us that God will punish people. We must not do it.

Items for Discussion

  • What is the difference between believing in God and the Ten Commandments and just believing in God or the Ten Commandments?
  • What is the commandment that God has given us that you feel the world ignores the most? Why?
  • God believes in taking care of the poor and needy – What is the difference between gleaning and welfare? Does it matter which we do?
  • Where in Leviticus do you see the need to obey for reasons other than to avoid punishment?
  • What should a person’s heart be like if they are obeying God for all the right reasons?

Matt 23:1-12
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 5 “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7 they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. 8 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Background

In the prior chapter 22, we had Jesus’s conversations with the Scribes and Pharisees 2. Now we have his conversation about them, or rather against them.

  • He permits their office and role to exist (v. 2, v. 3).
  • He warns his disciples not to imitate their hypocrisy and pride (v. 4-12).
  • He exhibits a charge against them for both high crimes and misdemeanors, corrupting the law, opposing the gospel, and treacherous dealing both with God and man; and to each article he prefixes a woe (v. 13-33).
  • He passes sentence upon Jerusalem, and foretells the ruin of the city and temple, especially for the sin of persecution (v. 34-39).

See Woes of the Pharisees for further information.

Biblical Truths and Theology 3

Verses 1-3 Jesus spoke to the crowds about the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. His purpose was to warn about the wrong ways that the leaders of religion often behave. Of course, there were also many wrong religions at the time of Christ. The Romans worshipped many false gods, that included their emperor. The Sadducees had the right God, but several wrong beliefs (Acts 23:8). The Pharisees believed the right things and taught God’s law to the people. That is how religion should be. The problem was that many leaders of that right religion had the wrong attitudes. It was important for Jesus to warn about that problem.

It is important to understand that Jesus did not say that people must obey the traditions of the Pharisees. He said the most important laws are to love God and to love other people. Jesus told the people not to do what those teachers did but to behave in the way that they taught people to behave. Then, Jesus described some of the actions of those Pharisees and the teachers of the law. Not all the actions that Jesus describes are wrong. It is not wrong to wear impressive clothes or to sit in an important place. Jesus was using those things as a way to describe the wrong attitudes that many Pharisees and teachers had.

Verse 4 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law should have taught the people to obey God’s law. But they added to the law all kinds of rules. They tried to make rules for all circumstances. The result was a large number of rules, many of which were not necessary. Those rules were like heavy loads that were too hard for people to carry. The people needed help. But many teachers of the law and the Pharisees became too proud to help the ordinary people.

Verse 5 The Pharisees liked people to see how good they were. Many of them tried to carry out their good deeds in public. Perhaps they thought that they were showing the people how to serve God properly. However, many of them became proud about the things that they were doing. They wanted the people to think that they were very holy. They desired that people should respect them. That seemed to be more important to them than what God thought.

The scripture boxes were usually small leather boxes. They called those little boxes ‘phylacteries’. The boxes contained tiny rolls of a similar material to paper. On the rolls were four passages from the law in the Old Testament. These passages were Exodus 13:2-10; Exodus 13:11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Deuteronomy 11:13-21. Men wore the boxes on their arms and they tied the boxes to the front of their heads. Most Jews wore those boxes at home or in the synagogue at the time of prayer. However, some of the Pharisees were trying to impress people by their use of those scripture boxes. They made their scripture boxes wider to make them more noticeable. They prayed in public so that everyone would see them (Matthew 6:5).

Moses told the Jews to add to the corners of their clothes. Those corner pieces had a blue string in them. When a Jew saw his corner pieces, he would remember to obey God’s commands (Numbers 15:37-41). The Pharisees made their corner pieces longer than other people did. People would see those larger corner pieces. They would know that the Pharisees tried to obey the commands.

It was not wrong for the Pharisees to pray in public. They wanted to obey God’s law. It was not wrong for them to show that. However, it was wrong if they tried to impress other people by means of those things. Our prayers must be sincere. We must not try to impress other people as we pray. We must obey God’s law whether other people see it or not. Our duty to God is much more important than what other people think about us.

Verse 6 At feasts, the host chose each person’s place. The host invited important people to the places near to him, in order to give them honor. The most important places were next to the host, on his right side and his left side. As the leaders of their religion, many Pharisees loved to be in those important places.

We cannot be certain about the arrangement in the synagogues at that time. It seems that there was a platform at the front. The preacher would sit on that platform as he taught. Either behind the preacher or in front of the platform there would be the chief seats. Probably the people who sat in the chief seats would look towards the people. The chief seats were for the most important people. Many Pharisees loved to be in the chief seats.

It was not wrong that the people gave those important places to the leaders of their religion. It was not wrong that the Pharisees accepted that honor. However, many people care too much about their own importance. So, they do not give God the honor that he deserves. Also, they did not care enough about other people.

Verse 7 The market was the public place in each town or village where people met together. Many Pharisees loved it when people greeted them as someone of importance. They liked to receive honor from those people whom they regarded as less important. They enjoyed it when people called them teacher. In that society, to call someone ‘teacher’ meant that the person was superior to the speaker. They considered it very important that they had that rank in society.

Verses 8-10 There are two words for teacher. The first one means a superior teacher. The second one means a person who teaches. Jesus told the disciples not to let anyone call them superior. All the disciples are just brothers and sisters. No disciple is superior to any other disciple. We do have many teachers. However, they are in no way superior to any other Christian. We have one real teacher and that is the Lord Jesus. This second word teacher does not mean superior. However, Jesus is superior because he is our lord and master.

We each have a natural father and it is right to call him father. But the disciples must not give to any man the honor that God alone deserves. All the disciples are brothers and sisters in God’s family. Therefore, all of them have the one Father in heaven. He is God.
In the same way, the disciples have one master and he is the Lord Jesus.

Verses 11-12 The attitude among the disciples must be the opposite of the wrong attitude that many Pharisees showed. The most important disciples are the ones who serve the other disciples. Many of the Pharisees tried to make themselves important. God opposes proud people. God will refuse those people who make themselves important. But God will make the humble person great.

Items for Discussion

  • Why is humility in such short supply within our society?
  • Can you teach humility? If so, how? If not, why?
  • Where is hypocrisy the worst in society today?
  • Where is hypocrisy the least in society today?
  • Where are the dangers of hypocrisy?
  • How does hypocrisy affect the following: education; youth; evangelism; leadership?

Discussion Challenge

  • So how do you guard against being hypocritical?

 

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