Here Israel learns exactly what God expects from them before resuming their journey to the Promised Land. Of the 161 verses in this section, 42 of them offer God’s counsel concerning unity with him. And he gives clear warnings regarding what will happen to those who disobey.
Nothing could be more explicit: “So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them” (Leviticus 18:5, NASB).
God says that these practices have defiled the land, and that is why God intends to use Israel to punish the people now living in the Promised Land – the land will literally “vomit” them out of their land, to be replaced by a holy people of God. In unity with God, the commandments that follow are easier to understand.
In Chapters 18 through20, God gives strong rules regarding immorality, idolatry and human sacrifice, all of which were practiced in Egypt and likely carried on to some extent by Israel after their exodus. God finishes this section with a stunning warning: “You are therefore to keep all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them, so that the land to which I am bringing you to live will not spew you out” (Leviticus 20:22, NASB).
Which raises a very important question: what does it take, in God eyes, for us in America to defile our land with evil behavior to the point where we are literally vomited from our homes by God? How different are some of our cultural norms today from those of ancient pagan Egypt?
In God’s eyes, holiness is what allows us to live the lives he wants us to enjoy. He concludes this section by describing the key festivals and feasts of the year in Leviticus 23. These periods are full of Sabbath, sacrifice and celebration. The most important ones require “no work of any kind” so that a holy convocation may be called where all Israel gathers to focus on the festivals, together, in unity with God. The festivals define ultimate holiness.
But God concludes, “When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I AM the LORD your God” (Leviticus 23:22, NASB).
God does not stop with our obedience – our joyful holiness must culminate in charity to the needy inside and outside the community.
This foretells a New Commandment from the Messiah of Israel telling us to love each other as he has loved us!