17 And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear [the title of this sermon came from here: Live Here In Fear]: 18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God. (1 Peter 1:17–21)
Live here in fear. Does that sound right? Does God want us to live in fear? After all, we can find verses like 1 John 4:18:
18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. (1 John 4:18).
There are, however, different kinds of fear in the Bible. It is important to to look at the context of the verses. In 1 John 4:18, you will find that it is speaking about having a confident boldness in the day of judgment.
Elsewhere in the Bible, we find that we are not to fear persecution of our faith (1 Peter 3:14; Revelation 2:10); That we should speak the Word of God without fear (Philippians 1:14); and that we are not to fear death as Christians (Revelation 2:10).
Yet there is a fear we are to have, a reverent fear or, you could say, an awe of God, a respect of God…that is the kind of fear in view here.
15 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times. 16 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city…
20 So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. (Joshua 6:15-16, 20)
Life is full of circumstances that are bigger than we are. Each of us could probably point out a “wall of Jericho” that we have faced or even are facing right now. It could be a disease, like cancer or diabetes. Maybe it’s a problem in your marriage or at work. Whatever it is, to you it looks like the wall of Jericho.
Leviticus is a book that most Christians understand is important but they aren’t sure why. I hope to fix that—a little bit—with this overview of Leviticus.
To understand Leviticus you must understand that God is holy and what that means for us. The basic meaning of holy is “to be separate.” God is holy in that he is completely separate from sinful mankind. His holiness is such that we cannot approach his presence without being destroyed. God told Moses, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live” (Exodus 33:20).
But isn’t God loving and good? Yes, but God is also holy. Someone compared God to the sun. The sun is good, it gives light and life and warmth. But we cannot approach the sun—not by a million miles. We would be instantly vaporized. Such it is with God.
To those who demand that God change—make himself safe to be around—I ask, “What would happen if the sun changed so that it would be safe to be around?” It would cease to be a source of light and life and warmth.
God’s holiness is his core characteristic. Everything else that he is: loving, merciful, just, and so on flow out of his holiness. His love is holy. His mercy is holy. His justice is holy. No one in their right mind should demand or even suggest that it be God who changes to accommodate us.
Leviticus is the Old Testament answer to the question: how may we approach a holy God?