I finished today’s reading in Leviticus 18 through 20 and sat back. While I couldn’t remember all the detail of what I had just read, the rhythm of the passage continued to pound in my head and in my heart. If this were a symphony then the underlying melodic theme would be unmistakable. Twenty-five times in ninety-four verses . . . more than one out of every four . . . rings the clarion, calling all with ears to hear to know the underlying principle behind the many commandments. The trumpet sounds, again and again, “I am the LORD!”
God speaks to Moses and, in turn, directs him to relay to the congregation of the people of Israel the commands they are to obey. For the most part, these commands are in the “thou shall not” category. Behaviors and acts that characterized Egypt, the land they had left, and the Canaanites, the people they were about to dispossess. “You shall not walk in their statutes,” says the LORD, “You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God” (Lev. 18:1-4).
And so goes the back beat . . . and so is established the rhythm . . . and so is repeated the symphonic theme . . . I am the LORD.
Again and again, “thou shall not” after “thou shall not,” the people are brought back to the overarching reason for God’s command that they be not like the people of the nations around them, “I am the LORD.” And with that, the associated implication is pronounced three times.
Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. . . .
Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. . . .
You shall be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine. (Leviticus 19:2, 20:7, 20:26 ESV)
God had chosen them to be His people. God had separated them to Himself. Delivering them from Egypt, the old world that had enslaved them, that world that was behind them. About to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan, that they might live under heaven’s rule and economy and not be soiled by the world in front of them. And their’s was to be holy . . . just as their God is holy. And thus the back beat. Thus the rhythm. Thus the theme.
Less about checking the box of all that they didn’t do, it was about ever being drawn towards being who they were and reflecting Whose they were. To be continually reminded that “I am the LORD” . . . to, again and again, consider Jehovah, the “self-existing One,” the “I AM.” By ever keeping that rhythm pounding in their head and heart, they would stay focused on being the people God had call them to be. They would desire holiness as long as they remembered that He is holy.
So too would be those of the New Covenant. Those who, by grace, have been called to be the people of God:
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1Peter 1:14-16 ESV)
Desiring to be holy. Not that we might be accepted by God, but because we have been accepted by God . . . through the work of the cross . . . because of the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ, the Lamb of God. As, by faith being made alive in Christ, we desire to, because of the Father’s love, bring glory to the Father. Desiring, because of I AM’s holy nature, to live lives that are, by grace, holy as well.
If I keep the rhythm . . . if I get in the groove of the back beat . . . if the symphony’s theme, “I am the LORD,” resonates continually within me, then I will seek to live in accordance with the holiness of God.
By the power of the Spirit . . . through the all sufficient grace poured out by the Son . . . and for the everlasting glory of the Father . . .