“They are not to profane the holy things of the people of Israel that they have set apart for Adonai and thus cause them to bear guilt requiring a guilt offering, by eating their holy things; because I am Adonai, who makes them holy.“-Leviticus 22:15-16
At this moment in history, God was in the process of leading His people out of paganism by giving them His TORAH.
Leviticus 22 tells us that the priests had two basic responsibilities.
One was to make sure that they themselves did not profane God’s HOLY property, which in this context refers to the food taken from the sacrificial offerings.
Second, they were to make sure that the common Israelites did not sin by partaking of the HOLY food they were prohibited from eating.
All of this is easy enough to understand but then we come to the following phrase:
“…because I am Adonai, who makes them holy”
This is no throw-away phrase folks!
There’s a lot of theological dynamite packed in this phrase that we shouldn’t overlook.
What God was addressing here was the standard pagan belief that one could make oneself HOLY by doing certain things.
The idea that one can earn or work one’s way into a state of HOLINESS was the standard pagan belief at the time.
The pagans believed that if you ate the food of the gods, in some magical way, PRESTO, you also became HOLY.
Recall in previous parts of the Torah where the offerings were referred to as “food for God” or how the burnt offerings were “a sweet aroma” to the Lord’s nostrils.
The ancient Israelites really believed these things LITERALLY!
The Israelites had absorbed this pagan way of thinking from over four centuries of living in Egypt.
At this stage in history, it seems like the Lord hadn’t gone out of His way to correct what to the Israelites was just common sense.
They really believed HASHEM had a nose that liked smelling the burnt smoke from the offerings and that in some way the animals burned up on the altars was REAL food.
Since it was HOLY food, they naturally believed that somehow the HOLINESS of their God would be transmitted to them when they ate of it.
However, to this God was saying, “NO, IT IS I WHO MAKES YOU HOLY”!
God was trying to communicate to Israel something he had been trying to communicate for decades and yet still hadn’t stuck.
I AM THE ONLY ONE WHO MAKES YOU HOLY!
You CANNOT sacrifice your way to HOLINESS!!!
OBEYING MY LAWS DOES NOT EARN YOU HOLINESS!!!
And in here in Leviticus 22, God is saying “You cannot EAT your way to HOLINESS!“
One may object by asking “Didn’t following the Laws bring some kind of HOLINESS?”
Absolutely it did!
By obeying God’s commands, a worshipper is acting righteously and reflecting the HOLINESS of His Father in heaven.
However, it is NOT the saving kind of HOLINESS.
There is a precise and unchangeable order that MUST be followed!
First, you are saved by God.
Then, you are declared HOLY by God.
Finally, out of gratitude that you have been made HOLY by God’s grace, you obey God’s commands.
This is the established order and to this day has NOT changed.
Remember, God saved the Israelites from Egypt FIRST and then AFTERWARDS gave them His Torah to obey.