Updated: Jan 28
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.
You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord. You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
This is s Track 2 selection that is an optional Old Testament reading for Proper 25, in the Year A Ordinary after Pentecost season. Since this is the only time this reading will be read publicly, there is a good chance few will have ever hear these word read aloud. The next time they can potentially be read in an Episcopal church will be Sunday, October 25, 2020. That Sunday will be recognized as the Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost.
The Episcopal Lectionary lists Leviticus 19:1-2 as officially part of this reading. Those verse amount to “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” The title given to this chapter by the New International Version (NIV) is “Various Laws.” The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) calls this chapter “Ritual and Moral Holiness.” The New American Standard Bible (NASB) separates at verse 9, calling that the beginning of “Sundry Laws.” Little attention is placed on verses 1 and 2.
This brings to mind the directions given by a teacher on a test, which I saw posted on the Internet. This is how I see Leviticus 19.
For the Episcopal Lectionary to choose only verses 15-18, or only four out of thirty-four (not counting verses 1-2), begs the question: Why bother? The same question could have been asked by both students and parents, after some teacher failed all the people ready to take a test (pass or fail), who were just too eager to read instructions first.
The whole matter could be solved by simply reading Leviticus 19:1-2. That says it all. Nothing else needs to be said. “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” Do that then smile at Moses and say nothing to your neighbors. They are all busy trying to memorize laws that should be written on their hearts and minds by God being within.
The first direction says, “You shall be holy.” If you do not know how to be holy, then you fail the test. Don’t waste your time reading stuff you will never understand. You might as well stand up and tell everyone, “I am not in the name of the Lord!”
When God then told Moses to tell His people, “I [am] the Lord your God” and “[I] am holy,” that makes an important statement that says a child of God (like Moses) must be married to God, so one’s soul has merged with God’s Holy Spirit. That merger trumps a normal soul, which cannot be “holy” just by itself in a body of flesh, meaning the Holy Spirit is how one “shall be holy.”
Notice also how “you shall be” is stating the “second-person masculine plural future of היה (hayá)” and recognized how God knew the Israelites were nothing more than a rag-tag bunch of crowd followers that still had some learning to do. However, they had proved some level of commitment, so God had proposed marriage through Moses; so that was certainly the expectation in the future.
If you have been keeping up with the Gospel readings that go along with this, the parable Jesus told of the wedding feast was explained as God making a new offer to those who would follow Jesus and marry God. Those who had followed Moses kind of withered on the vine and died, in the sense that they divorced God, never really taking the steps necessary for being merged with His Holy Spirit.
Christianity began with the explosion created by the Apostles instantly being married to God, which immediately spread to three thousand more. Then Constantine pumped the brake pedal and what we see today is a return to the days when the Israelites offspring (Jews) were still just engaged to God. The question now is who is touching people with the Holy Spirit that is merged with their souls, so true Christians are growing like they once did?
In the story where the Episcopal priest went to Jesus and asked him, “Teacher, which is the most important law.” Ha ha ha ha. I meant the Pharisee. The Episcopal priest would have already tossed everything from Leviticus 19, with the exception of those listed in the lectionary reading above. I’m sure the Pharisee would have presented that question with the same tongue-in-cheek preconceived expectation: With so many laws, how can one be most important?
Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” (Matthew 22:37) Since Jesus only said what the Father told him to say, that is the same as saying, “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.” That entails being so head over heels in love with God that you open up your soul for His Holy Spirit to penetrate and God becomes one with you.
That means marriage to God is the most important law. From that union, there is no need to memorize 613 laws. With God in one’s heart, soul, and mind, the laws are etched within permanently. Nothing needs to be looked up. Whatever God says to do, THAT is the most important law at that time.
As for “you shall not render an unjust judgment,” then don’t do that.
As for “you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great,” then don’t do that either.
As for “with justice you shall judge your neighbor,” then certainly always do that.
As for “You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor,” those are also no brainers: don’t do that.
Why? Because you can truthfully say, “I am the Lord.” Or, as Jesus said, “I am in the Father as the Father is within me.” Two in one, with only the Lord speaking.
As far as being told “you shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin,” once again – don’t do that.
When told “you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself,” by all means reprove sinners, so you will not become a sinner yourself.
Finally, when Moses had them write this down: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” the law is set: do not take vengeance or bear a grudge. Love your neighbor as yourself!
Why? Because when one is married to God, then one can let God say through one’s mouth, “I am the Lord.”
Jesus did that when he told the Pharisee the same secondary law, from which everything else falls. Love God by proving it – Marry Him! Then love your neighbor because God is within you and wants to marry more. When the love of God is within your soul, you want to love neighbors the same as God loves you.
You just have to be married to God so you can say that truthfully. You have to be married to God to make it the truth. So all you who chant a confession of sins every Sunday, saying “I have not loved my neighbors as myself,” STOP THAT!!!
Of course, the problem is not knowing what to do. The problem is not doing what is right, good, and holy.
We allow our society to render unfair judgments all the time.
The rich (and from middle income and up is rich to the poor) hate the poor and bow down to celebrities, no matter how young and untested they are.
Americans judge anyone and anything, especially neighbors.
We slander any who get in our way.
We profit from using heritage as a way to drain the life blood out of them (financially).
We hate our own, if they follow behind a different political leader than the ones we like.
We hate all sinners, but then turn around and sin ourselves.
We find it extremely hard to love anyone other than SELF.
Why? Because there are few Saints around. Certainly, there are no Saints preaching in organizations called churches, temples and synagogues. There are no Good Shepherds who can truthfully say, “I am the Lord.”
We could be, if we wanted to be. But, when it pays more to memorize civil laws and take a bar exam to get a license to start making money making the laws of the land a complete farce. Forget about marrying God, because all one’s rich friends would stop having anything to do with one.
The Pharisees were lawyers. They made a great living from knowing all the laws. They just could never figure out how to do anything the Lord wanted them to do. After 70 A.D., being a lawyer was still the way to make a good living. Being a lawyer today means breaking all of God’s laws; so anyone who is not holy is a lawyer of self-law.
So, don’t worry. No one will read Leviticus 19 aloud in church. No one will preach about it if it somehow does get read aloud. There is nothing to start feeling all guilty about.
Carry on as usual.
R. T. Tippett