Be Holy For I Am Holy

A Study through Leviticus

Genesis is a book of beginnings; the beginning of creation and humanity; the beginning of sin and depravity; and the beginning of salvation. Exodus recounts not only the liberation of God’s people from bondage in Egypt, but is a picture of the deliverance from the world and the journey toward God’s Promised Land. Exodus shows us God’s attentiveness to His people and his desire to “dwell” with them (Exodus 29:45-46). Leviticus is a book about how a sinful people can relate to a holy God. In particular the word Leviticus means “pertaining to the Levites.” Leviticus is a manual for the tribe of Levites on how to serve the Lord in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. As priests the Levites were mediaries. They represented the people before God and they represented God before the people.


Leviticus is a book about holiness. The key verses of this book are:


·         Leviticus 11:44-45 - 44 For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. 45 For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

God is holy. Sin separates people from Holy God (Is. 59:2). The Bible says of Holy God, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness” (Hab. 1:13).  The Bible also says that if we regard or entertain sin in our hearts God will not hear our prayers (Ps. 66:18). Sin is awful. It makes a bloody mess and brings about the death of the innocent. Sin destroys and defiles. The great issue addressed in Leviticus is how can sinful people approach a Holy God? That means we need to deal with sin.

The word “atonement” is found 52 times in 46 verses of Leviticus. Atonement means at-one-ment. Atonement is God’s plan to make a way for sinful humanity to be at one with Him in a saving eternal relationship. Leviticus is a book that teaches not only the costliness of sin but how to deal or atone for sin. In the Old Testament the word “atone” is a translation of the Hebrew word kophar which means to cover. In the New Testament atonement involves propitiation (Greek – hilasterion) which means to appease or to satisfy. In the Old Testament sins are covered and passed over until in the New Testament Jesus can atone for them through the shedding of His blood on the cross which satisfies the just requirement of God’s law (Rom. 3:21-26).

Leviticus is also a book about the forgiveness of God. Ten times in Leviticus the phrase “shall be forgiven” is found (4:20, 26, 31, 35; 5:10, 13, 16, 18; 6:7; 19:22). The phrase “shall be forgiven” is translated from the Hebrew word sawlakh and means forgiven, spared, pardoned. God has a desire to forgive our sins so that we can be at one with Him. This is a major theme in Leviticus.

The Bible states that without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness or remission of sin (Heb. 9:22). Therefore it’s not surprising that we find the word “blood” occurs 87 times in 66 verses. Why is the shedding of blood necessary to remit sin? Isn’t that a bit over the top or repulsive? The reason shedding blood is necessary to deal with sin is because God wants us to understand that sin is serious, sin results in death. This is  demonstrated by the shedding of blood in sacrifice.

Leviticus is a book about dealing with sin so that we can be right with God and have a relationship with Him. But the most important message of Leviticus is what it conveys about Jesus. The Bible speaks of the types and shadows of Christ in the Old Testament (Rom. 5:14; Col. 2:17; Heb. 8:5; 10:1). When we read the Old Testament there is an immediate relevance that pertains to the people to whom it was originally addressed. But there is also a greater application and that is how it relates to Christ. When we study Leviticus we will see insights into the atoning work of Jesus through aspects of the Law.

We need to be holy to relate to God. The word “holy” is a translation of the Hebrew term kodesh and means dedicated, set apart, special. “Holy” occurs 95 times in 78 verses of this book. The word “sanctify” occurs 7 times in Leviticus and is a translation of the Hebrew term kawdash and means to be holy. One commentator states that the Hebrew root of q-d-s (i.e. “holy”) in all its forms occurs 150 times in Leviticus. That’s about 20% of all occurrences in the Old Testament. [1]

Leviticus is a book that defines a holy life as consecration and sanctification or separation. The word “consecrate” occurs 22 times in 21 verses in Leviticus. Consecration means to stand empty handed before God. It means we come to God to be filled by Him. It means we come to Him with what we have humbly submitting to be used by Him however He sees fit. The word “sanctify” occurs seven times in seven verses of Leviticus. Sanctification means to be set apart for God’s use. It involves cleansing. When we see the use of water in scripture it is a type of being washed in the water of God’s word (cf. Eph. 5:25). To be sanctified is to have the Spirit cleanse our hearts from anything opposed to or out of alignment with God in order to prepare us for God’s use. The one seeking to be used by God needs consecration and sanctification as their preparation.

This is a book that calls God’s people to be different, set apart, and unique from those in the sinful world. Living a holy life is not merely keeping a set of rules and laws, it is learning and living by the spirit of those heaven sent instructions. Jesus said he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Mat. 5:17). Sometimes as Christians we look at the Law as irrelevant. We look at the Law as the Old Covenant and not worth the time and study of those under the New Covenant. But nothing could be further from the truth. The scriptures referred to in the New Testament were the Old Testament books. The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed. The New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. The Old and New Testaments are inseparable. You can’t understand the New without the Old and you can’t understand the Old without the New. The Old Testament speaks of levitical priests. The New Testament speaks of Christians as “a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Peter 2:9). We learn about that priesthood from the Old Testament. We will gain great insight into how to live a holy life in this Old Testament book of Leviticus.


[1] V.P. Hamilton, Handbook on the Pentateuch (Baker Book House Pub.: Grand Rapids, MI, 1982) p. 246. 

1Leviticus 1-7Sinful People Need a Sacrifice to Approach a Holy Godn/a
2Leviticus 8-10Priestly Consecrationn/a
3Leviticus 11-17A Holy Walk before the LORDn/a