Acharei Mot-Kedoshim – “After The Death”-“Holy Ones”

This week we have a double parasha, Acharei Mot, which means “After The Death”, and Kedoshim, which translates to “Holy Ones”. These parashas span Leviticus 16-20, which cover the Yom Kippur service, sexual sins, punishment for child sacrifice, and the repeated command to observe the Lord’s commandments. However, all these themes can be summarized with one word, Holiness. This morning we will explore the lessons our parashas can teach us about Adonai’s holiness and how we are also to be holy.

In Leviticus 19:2 we have repeated for us again the command that we should “…Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy”. The Hebrew word for Holy is “Kadosh”. Essentially this word refers to the idea of separation. Something holy is set apart from something else in a special way. The Land of Israel is holy because it is set apart from every other land in God’s creation. The Sabbath is holy because it is set apart from all the other days of the week.

We must now ask how do we know if something is holy. Who decides what is holy? God’s Word, and specifically this verse, makes it clear that the Lord Himself is the definition of Holiness. He alone determines what is considered holy and what is not. Or as A.W. Tozer in The Knowledge Of The Holy, defines this truth:

“Holy is the way God is. To be holy He does not conform to a standard. He is that standard. He is absolutely holy with an infinite, incomprehensible fullness of purity that is incapable of being other than it is.”

So, Holiness is more than just God’s goodness or His perfection, it is His glorious and wonderful nature, everything about Him that makes Him greater than human beings and all of creation. This week we studied Revelation 4 in the Bible study. Revelation makes it clear that everything about the Lord is holy. He lives in a holy heaven, served by holy angels. Everything in heaven is set apart, and holy, and nothing unholy can live in that place. We read in our first parasha the commandments concerning Yom Kippur, which teaches us about holiness.

Only on this day could the High Priest of Israel step into the Most Holy Place, the place where the holy presence of the Lord dwelled on Earth. He was required to offer sacrifices for our sins because of our lack of holiness. In Leviticus 17:11, we read that the shedding of blood is required for the forgiveness of sins. The Yom Kippur ceremony required several different animal sacrifices. Through these sacrifices, we see repeatedly the true consequences of our sins, death. Because these sacrifices were done every year, it showed that this system did not perfectly make us holy to stand before Adonai. We continued to sin and so more sacrifices were required.

In this ceremony and the entire sacrificial system, our sinfulness, our lack of holiness, is demonstrated. We rationalize and justify our lack of holiness but if we spent even a moment before Adonai our sinfulness would be painfully exposed. The truth is that to approach God we need His help to do so, we cannot save ourselves. So, the Lord gave our people the sacrificial system of the Mosaic Covenant.

As we continue reading, we have numerous commandments concerning not engaging in sinful sexual activities, most of the Ten Commandments repeated, and the charge to love our neighbors as ourselves. The Lord commands our people not to imitate the sinful practices of the people who surrounded us. Our people’s history shows we failed this command. If we are honest, we will admit that today we continue to fail as well. Often, we do not appear to be any different from the sinful culture that surrounds us. Much of Messiah’s community has exchanged the holiness of the Lord for the praise of other sinful people.

As we read the Lord’s commandments, we quickly see how we fail to measure up to the clear standard we have been given. But the Law is not bad or evil, it is of God, and it reveals to us the reality of our fallen nature and lack of holiness. So with the reality of our sin set before us, the clear command of the Lord that we must be holy as he is holy, what are we to do? We need the Lord to enter our lives and save us from our sins.

The Yom Kippur sacrifice and the entire Mosaic Covenant was a gift given by the Lord, to our people, so that we could begin to approach the standard necessary for dwelling with Adonai. However, the Lord knew that we would break this covenant, and so He sent His Son, Messiah Yeshua, to be the final and perfect sacrifice for us. He became the ultimate Yom Kippur sacrifice, not just providing temporary forgiveness to Israel, but permanent and lasting forgiveness to all people throughout all time. This is an everlasting forgiveness, it can never be taken away.

When we accept the atonement, the forgiveness, that has been provided for us through Messiah Yeshua, the Spirit of God enters our hearts. We are sanctified, set apart, and made holy, not because of who we are or what we have done, but because of the holiness of the Lord. This process of being made holy starts the moment we welcome Messiah Yeshua into our lives and continues through our lives in this fallen world.

The reality is that we will never be perfect in this life. But we have the promise of forgiveness through repentance to the Lord through our wonderful Messiah. Many of us regret our sins, but do not repent. True repentance is more than just “feeling bad”, it is making holy changes in our lives through the Lord’s power. It is being obedient to the Lord’s standard of holiness. I pray if you have yet to truly turn away from unholiness towards our holy creator that you will this day.

May these parashas help us to understand the standard we are to strive to reach. May each of us look forward to our eternal home with Adonai where we can look upon the Lord with joy washed clean of our sins. May the Lord through His Spirit transform us daily to be conformed to His image.