Parashat Kedoshim (Holy ones)
Vayikra (Leviticus) 19:1–20:27
The first two verses of this week’s portion are key for us to understand who God is, what He is, and what is His desire for us.
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy’.”
Verse one begins with the word “and” which means that something precedes it; it is a continuation of something. If we look at last week’s portion, we can gain a better understanding of what God is communicating to us in these verses:
Thus you are to keep (observe) My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the LORD your God.
God commanded the entire congregation of Israel to be Holy. Why? Simply, because God is Holy. By extension, we followers of the living God today — Jew and Gentile, alike — are also commanded to be holy. Each one of us is presented with a daily choice: choose God or the world. We cannot serve both — we either choose God and His ways, or the world and its ways.
What does it mean to be holy? In Hebrew, the command of holiness to the children of Israel in these passages is “קְדֹשִׁ֣ים” (kedoshim), which parallels the Hebrew word used for God’s holiness, which is “קָד֔וֹשׁ” (kadosh). It can mean “lofty and exalted, righteous, holy and exalted in his ethics, to stick to the ways of the LORD, saint, sanctified and sacred.” As I consider these various descriptions of God’s holiness, Him being “kadosh” and His desire for me to be “kadosh”, I am so convicted! I am far from being there, yet I am inspired to strive to live in such a way. God has given me the Holy Spirit to lead me and guide me to walk in His ways. His Spirit is holy and when He lives in me, He will expose the areas in my life that are un-holy and not glorifying to God.
In Leviticus 20:26, God repeats this instruction with a small, yet very important, addition:
Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.
To be holy essentially means “to be set apart”; in the same way God set apart the children of Israel from all the people of the earth to be His, so He did through His Son, Yeshua our Messiah, for each person that believes in Him. Yeshua told us: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
Living holy lives — being set apart for God — must be motivated by our love for Him. We are free to choose to obey, and if we truly love Him, we will show it in our actions. Obedience is a result of our love for Him; it is not a means of obtaining salvation from Him!
One final thought: In the same way that God commanded Israel to be holy and set apart by not practicing “…any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 18:30), followers of Messiah are also commanded to do away with the old fleshly things:
“Therefore if any man is in Messiah, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
2 Corinthians 5:17
We are new creations in Messiah! Let us remember that we are called to be set apart for the King and His Kingdom!