Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the May 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)
Lesson Aim: Because he is holy, walk as his holy people.
By Mark Scott
Has this exchange happened in your family? Dad says, “Son, take out the trash.” The son says, “Why do I have to take out the trash?” Dad says, “Because if you don’t, the house will stinketh, and your mom won’t be happy.” The son continues to complain and keeps asking, “Why?” Finally dad says, “Because I?m your father.”
What does dad’s identity have to do with the son’s obedience? Everything in the world.
It was the same for Israel. The behavior of God’s “holy nation” was inextricably linked to the Lord’s unique identity and his redemptive activity on their behalf. All of these various commands find their common denominator in the phrase, “I am the Lord” (a phrase that occurs eight times in our selected texts). We continue in our study of the legal (covenantal or constitutional) literature of the Old Testament (Deuteronomy and Leviticus) to learn what it means to be “wholly his.”
His Holy Nation Presents an Accurate View of God | Deuteronomy 28:9, 10; Leviticus 22:31-33
The possibility of presenting an inaccurate view of God should scare any godly leader. Moses did that in bringing water from the rock, and his act kept him from entering the holy land (Numbers 20:10-13; Deuteronomy 3:23-26). Paul was concerned he might preach to others but end up being disqualified himself (1 Corinthians 9:27). But all Christians—not just leaders—should be concerned about God’s name being blasphemed among unbelievers by committing ungodly behavior (Romans 2:24).
Deuteronomy 28 marked out for Israel the blessings for obedience and the curses for disobedience. The covenant-making God promised Israel four blessings. He would establish (stand or cause to rise) Israel as he promised. He would make the peoples on earth fear Israel. He would make the people holy. And finally, he would redeem them from Egyptian slavery.
But these promises went hand-in-hand with Israel’s cooperation. Leviticus 22 marked out the consecration of the priests and Israel’s offerings. These last verses of the chapter make it clear what Israel was to do. They would be called upon to keep the commands (Leviticus 28:31; Deuteronomy 28:9) of God by following him. They would be expected to walk in obedience (or walk in his ways). They would not be allowed to profane (pollute or defile) the Lord’s name. And they would need to acknowledge (make holy) God himself.
His Holy Nation Promotes a Generous View toward Others | Leviticus 19:1, 2, 9-18
Leviticus 18-19 is known as Israel’s code of holiness. Like Deuteronomy 6, it is a high-water mark of the Old Testament. At the heart of it (as in right in the middle) is the command that Peter quoted in the New Testament, “Be holy because I am holy” (Leviticus 19:1, 2; 1 Peter 1:16).
God called Israel to be proactive in seeking the goodwill of others. Holiness is not limited to moral goodness; holiness also seeks justice for others. These laws can be thought of in terms of helping, “truthing” (Ephesians 4:15), fulfilling, defending, and advocating.
God’s holy nation helps others. When harvest comes, the reapers do not reap the edges of the field, and they do not make a second pass through the vineyard. They leave them for the poor and the foreigner. The Hebrew word for foreigner is “ger” (pronounced similar to “care”). God’s people are to “care” for the “ger.”
God’s holy nation makes truth telling a high priority. They do not lie or swear falsely (same word as lie). Profaning God’s name has nothing to do with mispronouncing his divine name. But it does have to do with integrity of speech. This means not to deceive anyone or spread slander among God’s people.
God’s holy nation fulfills goodwill toward others. Moses came at this in negative and positive ways. Negatively, God’s people do not steal (violate others by taking) or rob, nor do they defraud (hold back things due to others). Positively, they pay their day workers on the day of their work. There are no prolonged IOUs.
God’s holy nation defends others. Cursing a deaf person? How could they hear the curse? Place a stumbling block in front of a blind person? How would they not trip? God’s people do not pervert justice or play favorites; God’s people judge fairly.
God’s holy nation advocates for one another. They do not endanger (or fail to stand up for) their neighbor. They certainly do not hate their neighbor. If a rebuke is necessary, they reason or plead tenderly with their neighbor so that sin is not incurred. And finally, they do not seek revenge or bear a grudge. Being holy is quite far-reaching and comprehensive.
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.