In the many themes woven throughout the book of Leviticus, I find another that stands out strongly to me; faith that produces obedience. Leviticus provides instructions regarding a different lifestyle for the chosen who desire to walk in a life of faith. These instructions were irrelevant to any other nation, their meaning only important to those who called upon the Creator of the Universe, YH VH, to be their Elohim.
Consider the word “obedience” for a moment and its definition. Webster defines it as “compliance with an order, request, law or submission to another’s authority”. This definition leads to a question, “Whose authority are we going to submit to?”
Anyone who has been pursuing Torah has more than likely heard the phrase, “we are not under the law.” This very direct statement can trip up those who consider the Law a privilege to abide in when they are confronted with explaining “why” they abide in It. Many of us forget, when unexpectedly challenged, just which Scriptures to use to combat the onslaught of verses from Galatians and other books being thrown at us in rapid fire fashion. Is there a better way to fend off the onslaught than lowering ourselves to a “my verse, your verse” argument? I believe so.
Let us look one of the definitions for obedience, “compliance with another’s authority”. A simple statement we are asked to abide in every day. Consider this example. You are driving down the freeway and see a sign stating the speed limit is 60 MPH. You look down the road toward the horizon to find no other traffic. A glance in the rear view mirror shows the same thing. At this time you make a decision not to be confined to the limit set on the sign. Instead, you decide 75 would be a better plan. Pressing down on the pedal you confidently consider your great wisdom of doing things your way and how much time you will save at the greater speed. In your heart this is a good plan because you will be getting home so much faster to be with family. Your heart is in the right place so speeding when no one is around is a great idea! A few miles down the road your thoughts are interrupted by a strange siren. In your rear view mirror blue lights flash blaringly. Again you resort to your vast inward intelligence and decide to keep driving. More lights appear, so you ignore them. Why bother complying with the officer trying to flag you down, you are in control of your decisions and do not need to submit to any authority. Your heart is in the right place wanting to have more time with family.
The next hours play out with tack strips in the road beneath you while you listen to the clicking sound of cool metal bracelets tightening around your wrists. A cold and dark night lies ahead of you as you blankly stare at the bars locking the entrance to your free room.
The next morning you appear before a man in a black robe shaking his head in disbelief while reading the report of the officer who brought you in. He asks how you would like to plead to the charges. Firmly you stand and declare, “I am not under the law. It is done away with!” Then you explain how your heart was in the right place. Back to the nice free room you go.
This story may sound silly on the surface, but it is how many people look at the book of Leviticus. When confronted with the wonderful words of this book, the response of “I am not under the Law” is really saying, “I do not want to live under that Law.”
Truth is, we live under, or rather within, laws every day. The fact you may be reading this while sitting in your own house instead of the free room downtown means you are living within laws. The question concerning obedience is not if we will be or not, but rather are we willing to live within the laws HaShem has revealed in His Torah.
Some of the most controversial laws or instructions are found in this week’s Torah portion, the dietary laws. I have been a part of so many discussions regarding these instructions through the years. Many people will talk about the wonders of Elohim’s wisdom contained in these verses. They will explain that shrimp are like the cockroaches of the sea and how pork has enzymes which cause disease. These conversations are fine, but do they miss the point? Is the point that He is wiser than us and was able to see these things as bad for us? Or do we merely get the simplest understanding, this is what HaShem and choose to do it?
Years ago I saw a bumper sticker. It said, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it!” I pointed it out to a friend, who looked at me and said, “That is not right.” I looked toward him with questioning eyes as he responded, “God said it. That settles it. Our belief is irrelevant.”
Are we willing to live our lives by that motto? Can we simply respond to friends and family who are questioning our lifestyle and tell them our lives are set apart to Him simply based upon our desire to live under His authority just because He told us to? Is it necessary to go through a lengthy explanation of why we do not eat certain things because of Yah’s wisdom concerning our health, but rather because He said it? Are we willing to confront friends and family with the statement that they too are living under someone’s law whether it is federal, state, community, denomination or non-denominational laws? Can we simply tell them, “We all live under someone’s laws; I choose to live under the laws of Yah because I love Him and desire to live a life of obedience to what He has revealed.”?
So what does it mean to live a life which is set apart? It is really very simple. His instructions as revealed in Leviticus set us apart from others. When we go to a restaurant and order a salad minus the bacon bits, we are not merely choosing obedience; we are being set apart in our lifestyle. When we desire to enter into His Shabbat, we are set apart. When we prefer Passover and the accompanying Feasts over other holidays we are set apart.
Living set apart by His instructions may not be the easy way in life, but really, what are we living for? Are we living for our ease or for His honor? In the end, what is His Torah all about? It is about honoring Him the way He desires to be honored. Yes, it is as that simple.
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