5. God's Refining Presence: Leviticus
God’s holy presence permeates every part of our lives! When we fix our attention on God and the work he’s doing in us, we grow in holiness.
"For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, because I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt, to be your God; so you shall be holy, because I am holy." -Leviticus 11:44-45.
How can imperfect people live in a relationship with a perfect God? At the beginning of Leviticus, Moses, the leader of God’s people the Israelites, is unable to enter into the tent housing God’s presence. God’s people have turned from Him and worshiped an idol, breaking their end of the promised agreement with God. This has fractured their relationship.
But God is faithful to unfaithful people. Leviticus describes the provisions God gives, that the Israelites might live in his presence. Why are these provisions necessary?
By his nature, God is holy. His holiness is his perfect presence. In his holiness, God is set apart from all that is impure and evil. God’s presence is good but also dangerous, like the sun. For anyone to be in a relationship with God, they must be holy as well. Knowing that Israel can not keep his law perfectly, God provides a way within the law for the people’s impurity and sin to be covered, that they might be able to live in his holy presence without being destroyed.
For example, God gives the provision of sacrifices. By making these offerings, the people are forgiven of their sins and made right with God. God also provides ritual and moral guidelines for the people to follow. To be ritually pure, the people are to stay away from or purify themselves after coming in contact with certain things that represent death, like skin disease, mold, bones, or impure animals. Being ritually impure isn’t sinful in itself, but carelessly bringing it into God’s pure presence is. To be morally pure, God instructs the people how to live morally holy lives, doing things such as caring for the poor, living in sexual purity, and upholding justice. And for the priests, the people who will be operating closest to God’s presence, there is an even more intense set of guidelines to follow.
While these sacrifices, rituals and moral guidelines reveal to us the holiness of God, they don’t actually deal with the root issue of sin. They’re more like a bandaid for the time being, pointing to something greater to come.
Ultimately, all the provisions of Leviticus are only a shadow of the final provision: Jesus Christ. Jesus became the sacrifice that covered his people’s sins for all eternity. Jesus became the perfect priest that enters God’s presence on his people’s behalf. And Jesus became the way that his people now live in holiness.
If you are in Christ, you can rest in your good standing before God and his holy presence. But this doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care how you live. God loves you in your sin, but because he loves you, he can’t leave you in your sin. Leviticus shows us that our holy God cares about every detail of our lives, and he is committed to transforming every part of it with his holy presence.
How do we live holy, set-apart lives? Transformation happens when we simply fix our attention on Christ and the work he’s doing in us.
In your own life, what would it look like to live focused and aware of God and his holy presence with you? Set an intention to notice God’s work in you today.
RESPOND: Take a moment to thank God for sending his holy presence to dwell within you and work transformation.