- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2000

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. D. Michael Minter at Reston Bible Church in Reston.

The book of Leviticus is not everyone's favorite. It is a complex book named for the Levite priests, and it deals with sacrifices, priests and feast days. But the main theme is holiness, which foreshadows the New Testament and has practical application for our lives.

Israel's people made sacrifices to become right with God and kept feasts to stay right with God. We become right by accepting Christ, the sacrificial lamb. We stay right by fellowship with the Lord.

From the word holy came other terms such as "saint" or "sanctified," all of them meaning "set apart" or "other than," as God is holy and different from the world. So when God gave Moses the laws, he called out a people of Israel, saying, "I will make you different than the other nations." By living longer, holier and better lives, the people of Israel could show they found the one true God… .

In the book of Acts, Stephen says, "Moses was raised in all the wisdom of Egypt." Egypt had a great amount of human wisdom, science and also superstitions, and Moses learned all of this before he was given the 613 laws and the first five books of the Bible.

Now, many of those laws seemed strange, but 3,500 years later we find them filled with medical truths. The New Testament says the we may eat what is put before us, but Leviticus 11 divided out the "clean" and "unclean" in animals, fish and fowl. So it says, "Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven footed and chews the cud among the beasts, that shall you eat."

We have come to understand that the clean animals have complex digestive systems; the unclean take poisons into their system. Scaly fish eat living food; non-scaled or hard-shell fish eat what is dead. Today, of course, we can cook and purify pork, crab or shrimp, but in giving His laws God was saying, "I know a bit more about physical health, since I created these animals."

Notice that God doesn't explain about germs and genetics, but only tells us what is right and wrong. It is our part to obey… . Look at other examples, such as leprosy. Not until the 1700s or 1800s did we understand quarantine for infectious disease, but that was in God's law. It talks about cloth on the upper lip, like a doctor's mask. Clothes were to be burned, and the book of Numbers says after touching something that is dead, wash in "running water," not just any water.

What science and medicine tell us today, God knew many years ago. Leviticus 18 talks about sexual activity, and it's pretty blunt. But now we know the genetic problems of inter-family marriage and about sexually transmitted disease, which infects 60 million Americans today. That's why when Christians cry out for abstinence, society says "it won't work" because people won't obey. And they're probably right. Leviticus also talks about being spiritually "holy unto Me, for I the Lord am holy." … There is only one true spirit, and that is the spirit of God, and all the occult, witchcraft and New Age is a different spirit.

Finally, Deuteronomy 4 and 5 tell us again why God gave all these laws. If they are kept, the nations "shall fear all these statutes and say, 'Surely, this great nation is a wise and understanding people." God didn't give us laws to make our lives miserable, but neither were the laws given to get us into heaven. Indeed, the laws are impossible to keep. They drive us to Christ, and we learn that our salvation comes only by grace.

But the laws are good for us. They allow a longer, healthier, more vibrant life. The parallel in the New Testament can be found in I Peter, which says, "As obedient children … be holy in all manner of life." The Bible says we are to walk in this world as "strangers and pilgrims." We are passing through, bound for the promise of heaven, being an example that there is a one true God dwelling in the church.

Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Walter E. Fauntroy at New Bethel Baptist Church in the District.

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