Grace Words

A Daily Bible Reader's Blog

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Brother’s Keeper

Our Daily Bible Readings this week took us through Leviticus 19, which, at first glance, appears to be a hodge-podge of commandments covering a variety of subjects.  The chapter, however, is  a quite clever composition and central to the book of Leviticus.  Within it you will find all of the ten commandments but there is at least one main difference between it and the other two places where those occur: The basis for these commands in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 6 is that God brought Israel out of the land of Egypt.  The basis for the commands in Leviticus 19 is that He is “Holy.”  Because God is holy, His people are to be holy.  One writer calls Leviticus 19 the “highest development of ethics in the Old Testament.”

But one command stood out to me, found in the latter part of verse 17: “Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.”

“Neighbor” in this text is not just one who lives in close proximity to you, but, in the Old Testament, refers to a fellow Israelite.  In other words, God’s people have a responsibility to one another to look after one another, to look out for one another, and if we observe failing on the part of our fellow family member – we must speak to him (or her).

The passage is central to the idea of loving your neighbor as yourself (verse 18), but it is also central to personal well-being.  If a Christian is headed down the wrong road, the Christian who sees it is responsible for warning.  There are no options for non-involvement. To refuse is to enter the fate of the misdirected.  From the beginning of the Bible, we are our brother’s keeper.

Wednesday, February 15. Leviticus 19 – 21

The laws presented thus far are inviolable because God has given them.  He is “the Lord.”  But God doesn’t leave it at that.  In chapter 19, he repeats a phrase that occurred in 11:44.  God is holy.  Because of that, Israel is to be holy.

Israel is holy because God has set her aside from the nations and taken her for Himself.  But having done so, He has brought her into union with deity, and because God is Holy, Israel is also required to be holy.

Old Testament scholar Martin Buber puts it like this: “God is the absolute authority over the world because he is separated from it and transcends it.  But he is not withdrawn from it.  Israel, in imitating God by being a holy nation, similarly must not withdraw from the world of the nations but rather radiate a positive influence on them through every aspect of Jewish living.”

What is a holy God like?  Our reading gives us insight not just to rules and regulations, but into the very ethic of God Himself, an ethic that is not just a display of outward appearances, but reaches into the very heart of our being.