20200418 Parsha Sh’mini Be Holy

The Parsha this week is Sh’mini which means the eighth as in the eighth day and describes the culmination of the consecration of Aaron and his sons. The account is very detailed regarding the offerings. The remainder of the Parsha has two major stories that really don’t seem related, but perhaps they are.

Chapter 10 tells the story of Aaron’s two oldest sons who took it upon themselves to offer sacrifices in an unauthorized manor. Their punishment was swift and final. Fire came from heaven and killed them both. They did not regard the instructions of Adonai.

Chapter 11 gives us a description of the kinds of animals that we are permitted to eat. Most of us follow the rules laid down in Chapter 11 to a certain degree. Some are very careful to follow God’s instructions to a Tee while others are more relaxed.

This morning I want to bring your attention to verses 44 and 45.

Leviticus 11:44-45 “For I am Adonai your God. Therefore, sanctify yourselves, and be holy, for I am holy. You are not to defile yourselves with any kind of creeping thing that moves on the earth. (45) For I am Adonai who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. Therefore, you should be holy, for I am holy.

We are coming out of a very strange period in the life of the United States. There has never been a national shutdown order. There really wasn’t a national shutdown order in this case, but the effect was still the same. Millions of Americans shuttered at home, suddenly found themselves out of job with no means of supporting their families. Tragically, the invisible monster originating from China called Covid-19 has infected millions around the world and as of this writing, almost 150,000 lives have been lost.

As a result of this virus we have been asked, and in some states, ordered to stay home except to go to work if you still have a job, or to buy groceries. We have been separated from much of what was considered normal American life.

We have been separated, set apart. How does that apply to our text?

Most of you know that I have taught for a long time about holiness and what it means. For those of you who are new, I used to think God was being cruel and unfair when he told us to be holy, because He was holy. The Holiness of God was too far above me, it was unattainable. How could I ever achieve such a level of righteousness so as to be like God?

Baruch Hashem, I have learned that when Adonai says we can be holy like He is holy, it doesn’t mean we have to be totally sinless. It means to be separated out from the world and its ways.
For the last few weeks, we have been separated out away from jobs, friends, family, activities that we enjoy. So, as some of the restrictions of our personal liberties are slowly being restored in the next few weeks I was wondering if there could be a holy purpose in all that has occurred with this Chinese virus?

What are some of the things we have lost?
1. Loved ones have died. This is the main thing we have lost.
2. 1 in 4 Americans have lost the jobs or had wages cut.
3. Many are in danger of losing their homes or vehicles.

But are there some things that we have gained or benefited from during this crisis?
1. Some of us have gained weight, but we are not going there this morning.
2. We have gained a greater appreciation for the teachers of our nation that sacrifice so much to teach our children.
3. Hopefully, we have used this down time to get reacquainted with our spouses, parents, children and others we hold dear.
4. I have seen people stepping out of their comfort zone to help other people.
5. Industries have re-tooled to provide masks, respirators and other needed medical supplies.
6. We have learned that Hollywood and sports are not essential. But healthcare workers, truckers, farmers, and the guys that re-stock the grocery shelves, they are essential.

What about in your own personal lives? This is not exactly the easiest format for discussion, but you can comment and we can see how others may have been blessed through this shutdown. Of course, it won’t be private, but perhaps there is something you might want to share.

For me, this has been a learning experience.

1. I hope I have become more sensitive to the hurts of others around me.
2. I have been blessed with good friends who will take the time to rebuke me in love when I am wrong.
3. Trusting God to meet needs can be a challenge in times like this.
4. Our ministry outreach online has more than tripled.

We are not out of the woods yet and perhaps we will have a few more weeks before we get back to some semblance of normality. But I thought that this might be a great opportunity for each one of us to reach out to someone who might need an encouraging word. While I fuss about technology, it has great potential and it makes reaching out to others very easy. So, turn off Netflix, put down the remote, and call or write to your brother or sister, aunts or uncles, maybe you are estranged from someone. Now would be a great time to let them know you care about them.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with someone on my mind. That’s an opportunity to pray for that person. They might need the prayer and I certainly could benefit from the practice.

Make this time of separation a time of Holy Separation. Let people you know and love that you care about them. You could even call someone you don’t particularly like and tell them God loves them. I promise, you will be blessed.

And when we do come out of this and we return to work, school, or wherever, be kind. You don’t know what all people went through during this time.

Ask yourself, when we see the Chinese Virus in the rear view mirror, am I a bitter person or am I a better person? Am I closer to friends and family or have I closed them out?

The governor of New York said this week “we brought the number down. God did not do that. Faith did not do that.” He obviously does not know that God that I know. The one that can heal and restore during these times of isolation.

A few years ago the US Army had a recruiting slogan “Be all you can be”.

In our text it says to “be holy”. That verb “be” or “to be” is powerful. If you look it up in your webster dictionary, the definitions ramble on for a couple of pages. A couple of things struck me. “To be” can mean to exist, or equality, so when God says to be holy like He is holy, tells me there is equality. I can be separated out to and for God. And, I can have right standing before God because He had a son who really did exist and because of the sacrificial death of Yeshua we actually can BE holy.