1

³I am the LORD´
Sermon delivered on Chris the King Sunday at Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church November 21, 2010 8:00a.m.

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ³Speak to all the congregation of Israel and say to them: ³You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.´« ³You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning. You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the LORD. You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall rebuke your neighbor, not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.´ (Lev. 19:12; 13-18)

I remember like it was yesterday. I was in class listening to a lecture given by one of my professors at my alma mater. Dr. G., as we all called him, was lecturing on the field of the study of communication. Then all of sudden for a brief moment Dr. G. took a tangent to offer a biographical turn where he stated his religious affiliation. He made it clear to us that he was a Unitarian Universalist and he was an active member in his local congregation. This disclosure didn¶t bother me as much as what followed: he said, to paraphrase, ³I tend to stay away from the Old Testament. I don¶t like the God of the Old Testament. Too judgmental! I like the God of the New Testament because he is full of love, grace, and mercy.´ This gave me great pause. I was a bit horrified! I knew intuitively that something was severely wrong about his comments. Unfortunately my former professor, who is a brilliant scholar, is not alone in his assessment of the Old Testament. Many sincere Christians today simply don¶t know what to make of the Old Testament. Even more telling and dangerous is the sad fact that many

2

people believe that the Old Testament portrays a God distinct from the One revealed in the New Testament. These Christians suppose that the God revealed in the Old Testament is by nature angry, vengeful, unloving, unmerciful, legalistic, and wrathful towards human beings. These Christians argue that the God portrayed in the New Testament is a God that is inclusive, and loves unconditionally, and is on the side of the marginalized and the despised of the earth. Therefore, the God revealed in Jesus is antithetical to the God revealed through the law and the prophets. This view is not new in the history of the Christian faith. It is as old as the earliest beginnings of the Church of God. In the second century a fellow by the name of Marcion could not reconcile his reading of the Old Testament and his reading of the New. This is because his reading of the Scriptures was influenced by the false teachings of the Gnostics. The Gnostics believed that the created material world was inherently evil and the realm of the uncreated spirit was inherently good. Therefore, Marcion believed that the Creator God in the Old Testament created a world full of evil and decay, and therefore this God was evil and is wrathful in his dealings with human beings. Marcion reasoned that the God revealed in Jesus was the one and true good God, one of grace and truth. So with this in mind, Marcion proposed his own version of the Christian canon. He excluded the Old Testament in total, than revised the Gospels to make sure all references to the Old Testament Scriptures were obliterated. Marcion prioritized Paul¶s writings above the Gospels; he even revised Paul¶s references to the law and the prophets too! All the other epistles were either heavily revised or excluded also. By the time he was done, Marcion¶s Bible paled in familiarity to the canon which the Church universal recognized as authoritative. The ancient Church discerned that Marcion¶s view was folly, and rejected Marcion¶s teaching and his canon. By affirming the authority of the Old Testament, the Church affirmed that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is none other than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet here we are almost 20 centuries removed from the age of Marcion, and the Church is still haunted by Marcion¶s ghost. Today many Christians struggle to understand the relationship between the

3

Old and New Testaments. Many fail to see any connection between the two. They ask themselves, ³What does this book have anything to do with Jesus?´ So instead of pursuing this question through engaging the communion of saints, many Christians simply refuse to read the Old Testament at all. Some, who are not so bold, will opt to read some narrative portions of the Old Testament, especially those narratives which make it in children¶s picture Bibles. Others will find solace in the Psalms yet they yield some things hard to swallow; even many find guidance from the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job, yet wonder about the goodness of God in the face of suffering and evil. Many yet struggle, I admit as do I, with the depictions of the terrible and holy God who judges nations by sanctioning their extermination and the God who delivers nations into each others¶ hands as a sign of his judgment. God as the Divine Warrior, the one fights on behalf of his people doesn¶t sit well with modern Christians trying to live in peace in a present-day warn torn world. Nevertheless, as a preacher of God¶s word, I have an obligation to accurately handle the word of truth. Brothers and sisters, I declare unto you this morning that the God we serve is holy; his ways are not our ways as Isaiah reminds us. The LORD God who sits on the throne of heaven and makes earth his footstool desires to be known and to know us as his people. I believe, my brothers and sisters, it is our calling and mission to understand the One who alone is holy; the One who has redeemed us from the perils of sin and death, from the hands of the evil one. For Christ¶s sake, we must understand the One whom Jesus called ³Abba, Father.´ This call is for us to know God and worship him in the beauty of holiness. In the nineteen chapter of Leviticus, the LORD God calls Moses to speak on his behalf to the people of God. The LORD says to his people, ³You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God, am holy.´ What follows from this call is a series of commandments. Interspersed between these commandments is the refrain, ³I am the LORD.´ These commandments are not arbitrarily given to the people, but are given because of who God is. Who is the LORD that Israel must follow him?

4

Recall the story of Israel¶s deliverance from slavery in the book the Exodus. The Lord hears the cries of his people from under Pharaoh¶s oppressive hand. The LORD remembers the covenant which he established with their fathers. Then the Lord GOD reveals himself to Moses at Mt. Horeb in a bush blazing with fire, but not consumed. The LORD speaks to Moses, saying, ³Moses! Moses...Come no closer! Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground«I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob«´ (Exodus 3:4-6) Moses meets this God who is like no other at the place of his dwelling, the mountain of God. Moses hides his face in fear from his holy Presence. The LORD speaks out of the blazing bush and charges this exiled Egyptian prince to return to the land of Egypt and speak on behalf of God to Pharaoh to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. When Moses asks what he shall say when the Israelites ask for God¶s name, God responds, ³I AM WHO I AM«tell them that I AM has sent me to you.¶ This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations´ (Exodus 3:14-15a). I AM WHO I AM, the holy name of the God of Israel. This name so holy, the ancients declared, none spoke his name. Jews until this day will read the name Adonai in place of YHWH when they read it in the Tanakh. The name rightly refers to mystery of God. God is the selfexisting One. He is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. He is eternal; he is the Lord of all time. He transcends all time and space and is ever present in time and space. God is God all by himself. As Christians we believe this same God eternally exists as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He is the triune Lord of life. He is from everlasting to everlasting. All of creation joins in the company of heaven in unceasing praise, ³Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might; heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the Highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest.´

5

Every living creature in heaven, in earth, and under the earth gives praise to his Name. In the story of Exodus the LORD makes his name known among his people and the Egyptians. God performed mighty deeds which left the nation in terrifying awe. God struck Egypt with ten plagues, the last resulting in the death of all Egypt¶s firstborn. All of Israel¶s firstborn were spared from the strike of the death angel with the sign of blood from a male lamb without blemish the Israelites painted over the door posts. God passed over them. Further, this same God parted the waters of the Red Sea so that the children of Israel may cross over. God closed up the walls of the Sea and drowns Pharaoh¶s armies when they pursued the people. The LORD God led the children Israel through the wilderness by the Presence of his Glory in the form of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. This God¶s Shekinah descended upon Mt. Sinai, shook the foundations. This God is holy, separate from all that he has made. He is not like anything that has been created by his hands. He is totally and wholly ³Other.´ The LORD, YHWH, is his name. Because who he is and the promise he made with their fathers, God reveals his law, the Torah, to his people and calls them to enter into holiness. Holiness is not some ethereal existence. Holiness is the life of being separated unto the Lord. The Lord calls his people into a life of separation. Because of his goodness towards his people, God demands that his people be distinct from all other peoples who surrounded them. God commanded Israel to be a royal priesthood, a holy nation. The people of Israel were called to live a life differently in the land of promise. They had to leave behind the idolatrous acts and ways they picked up while in captivity in Egypt and they had to avoid the idolatrous acts of the Canaanites whom God evicted. Chapter nineteen of Leviticus is set within the section of the book which scholars call the Holiness Code. This section which stretches from chapters 17 to 26, contains rules and regulations on how the people of God where to conduct themselves ethically in the presence of the Holy One in their midst. You see, God desired to establish his name among all nations by setting apart this one nation. Holiness was God¶s call to the children Israel to sanctify themselves to be vessels of God¶s glory in the earth. What this looked like can be seen in the commandments. ³Honor

6

your father and your mother«keep my Sabbaths« I am the LORD« don¶t reap the harvest from the edges of your field so that the poor and the alien may glean from it«..I am the LORD your God«.show no partiality towards the poor nor the great, but with justice shall you judge our neighbor« I am the LORD« you shall love your neighbor as yourself« I am the LORD.´ At the root of holiness is God¶s justice. God commanded the people of Israel set themselves apart from their neighbors by conducting themselves as agents of God¶s justice and mercy towards the deaf, the blind, the poor, the alien, the widow and the orphan. Holiness was more than not wearing certain fabrics together (although God told them do so!), it was more than keeping the kosher laws although they were to do so! Holiness was doing right by others! Many people in and outside the Church fail to realize that God is a God of justice and mercy! God gets angry at Israel in the Old Testament not because God suffers from bipolar disorder, but because God¶s name is tarnished when his people disobey his commandments to love their neighbors as themselves. Their failure is our failure as the people of God to proclaim the God we serve is the God who is holy and just and calls his people and all the nations to account when injustice and depravity are their bread and wine. God is calling us to be holy, because the LORD is holy! The God revealed to us in the Old Testament is the God who defends the widow, the poor, and the sets the captives free. He is the Lord who keeps covenant with his people. He uplifts the humble and humbles the proud. He heals the sick, causes the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, the dumb to talk! He delivers the oppressed and justly punishes the oppressor. He is the God who raised Jesus from the dead and by the power of His Spirit will quicken our mortal bodies so we may have eternal life! The God we serve is the God who is just. Therefore, God calls his people to be just in their business affairs. He calls them to look out for those who need of nourishment. He reminds his people that he is the LORD, the One who delivered them when they were crying out for justice and mercy when they needed them. Brothers and sisters, let us not forget that these laws in Leviticus and in the Old Testament apply directly to us even to this day. I am not

7

suggesting that we should revert back and follow everything minute laws which pertain to purity because Christ as done away with the purity requirements in his sacrifice. What I am saying is that the Scriptures were written for our admonition. The words our God echo from the Leviticus into our hearts by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit because our God calls us to act justly towards our neighbors and our enemies!

Jesus summed up these laws into the two greatest commandments, one reiterated in this passage, the other in Deuteronomy 6:5, ³You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.´ And ³Love your neighbor as yourself.´ Why? God says, ³ I am the LORD.´ Too many Christians fail to hold justice as essential aspect of holiness. Holiness cannot be separate from justice! It is unjust to keep someone away from God¶s house because they don¶t have the proper attire; it is unjust to mistreat someone who doesn¶t believe like you do! It is unjust to tarnish someone¶s reputation because they don¶t love like you do! It is unjust to withhold wages that one rightfully earns because they speak a language that is different from yours! It is unjust to deny adequate healthcare to those who live with inadequate wages and meager living arrangements. It is unjust therefore it is sin! Holiness without justice is no longer holy, it is unrighteousness. It is abomination and a stench in the nostrils of almighty God. I know that there are some holy people in this house who don¶t smoke and chew nor hang with them that do. But the God I serve looks passed all that and wants to know, ³Do you love your neighbor as yourself?! Do you pursue justice?! Do you love mercy! Do you walk humbly with your God?!!´ I know you fast often and consecrate yourselves unto God. That¶s good! I¶m not knocking it. But God wants to ask you today, ³Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter² when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth

8

like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.´ Is 58:5-9

People of God, Leviticus reminds us that we serve the holy God. His holiness is an expression of his goodness to us and all that he has made. God¶s holiness is expressed through his righteous judgments toward us. God judges us in righteousness and he grants mercy towards us sinners. The call to be holy for us Christians is the call reinterpreted in the words of Jesus: ³Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.´ We are made mature and complete in our conduct, our affections, and our thoughts towards one another through the power of the Holy Spirit. God¶s Spirit gives us the power, when yielded, to treat everybody right! Notice I said, ³when yielded!´ We must be wholly yielded to the Spirit¶s work in us. This is not outward expression alone. We need to be careful not to think that our attire is a ticket to glory. Yes, we need affirm modesty in the way we dress, but that doesn¶t mean that we have license to be mean and hateful towards others who don¶t wear the same thing that we do when we come to church. God desires us to be holy, because God is holy. That means we love what God loves, we desire what God desires, and we pray that God¶s will be done on earth as it is heaven. As we draw near to God, he draws near to us. It¶s not about earning our salvation. Salvation is a free gift, bought with the price of Christ¶s blood. We sanctify ourselves, as the people of Israel, because we like them, have been redeemed. As a redeemed and reconciled people, God desires you and me to walk blamelessly before him; he wants us to pursue justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with him. This is the essence of holiness. This is the revelation of the Holiness of God. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ says to us, ³I am the LORD your God. I am the LORD who keeps covenant with you. I, the LORD, am holy.´ And to his words, we respond in faith, saying, ³Thy testimonies are very sure: holiness becometh thine house, O LORD, for ever.´ AMEN.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful