The book of Leviticus, has always been a book that has stretched me and challenged my resolve to study God’s Word. The scope of topics and content can cause my mind and my stomach to convulse simultaneously. I cannot fathom keeping all the rules straight and my appetite is subdued when I review the various and very bloody sacrifices. For those of you who don’t tarry in the book of Leviticus, let me give you a very brief run down of the topics covered: different kinds of sacrifices and offerings, the ordination and role of priests, clean and unclean food, purification after childbirth (let’s be honest, that is messy work), infectious skin diseases, coping with mildew, intimate relationships, consequences of sin, feasts, sabbath, the Year of Jubilee and if that wasn’t inclusive enough there is a section called “various laws”. Let me say this again: there is a whole section on mildew people. God wasn’t messing around.
I cannot even imagine living under these conditions, trying to follow all those rules and remembering when to offer which sacrifice. Frankly, I struggle with this book because of its complexity, but more importantly, it paints the image of a God who was strict and unreasonable. I can’t understand why all of this even mattered. Why was it so important that they follow all the rules so carefully?
It wasn’t until I had the privilege of reading a good portion of the Old Testament in a short time frame that the larger picture emerged. If you look at the end of the book of Exodus, the people set up the tabernacle according to the Lord’s instructions. As Moses finished the work of putting everything in its place, a “cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”
Later in Leviticus we read, “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the entire assemble of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.’’” When the LORD came to dwell among His people, He required holiness, or absolute purity, from the people. There were no mundane or unimportant aspects of life. Every part of life became sacred, not because of its own value, but because of God’s presence.
God tells His people not to live like the people who possessed the land before them. He wants them to be different because they belong to Him. “I am the LORD your God, who has set you apart from the nations.” He claims the entire nation as His own and promises to be with them. “I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.”
When I look at the bigger picture, I no longer see a collection of random rules and rituals meant to shackle God’s people. I see a nation set apart because God chose to dwell among them giving them an opportunity for tremendous blessing. However, living with God also carried the weight of the possibility of terrible destruction if His holiness was not respected.
Today, we no longer live under the law of the Old Testament and we don’t live near a tabernacle filled with the glory of the LORD. However, we are meant to be set apart from the society around us. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Though we were not part of the Israelites who saw the pillar of cloud or of fire, we have God’s presence through the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t simply dwell near us; we are filled with His Holy Spirit. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he says “for we are the temple of the living God.” He then points right back to Leviticus 26:12 where God declares that He will be with His people (shared above).
When God chooses to dwell among us, there is no longer a differentiation between what is sacred and what is routine or tedious. When the Creator of the universe is present, every single aspect of life is affected. I find it simpler sometimes to separate life into different sections. I have boxes for church/God, family, work, health, friends and hobbies, though some boxes have become sad and forlorn since I had children. If I keep all these things as separate as possible, it means life isn’t as messy. I don’t have to worry about offending the people in one box by sharing beliefs or opinions from another. However, God refuses to fit neatly into the single box labelled “Church” or “Faith” that I prefer to confine Him to.
As the Holy Spirit changes us, the contents of the box overflow into all the different areas of my life. When that happens, I have a choice to make. I can try to force God back into His box, though He has a way of making His presence known anyway, or I can embrace the gift of having the Holy Spirit help me navigate all areas of life.
So many bits of my life can seem mundane at times. There is little excitement in the daily routine of laundry, packing lunches, calendar keeping and administrative tasks. While God may not have a preference on what laundry detergent I choose, His presence makes those moments matter. When God chose to dwell among His people, His expectation was that we would enjoy a relationship with Him recognizing His holiness. His presence transforms even the dullest moments into sacred seconds adding holiness to the hum drum.
 Leviticus 19 (New International Version)
 Exodus 40:34 (NIV)
 Leviticus 19:1-2 (NIV)
 Leviticus 20:24 (NIV)
 Leviticus 26:11-12 (NIV)
 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NIV)
 2 Corinthians 6:16 (NIV)