Working my way through a catalog of commandments in Leviticus this morning (Lev. 18-20). Most make sense to this 21st century mind, others not so much. But what is clear is that the reason for the LORD laying out all these to do’s and to don’ts is that God’s people should be altogether different.
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the LORD your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow My rules and keep My statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God.
(Leviticus 18:1-4 ESV)
I am the LORD your God. I am the LORD. Twenty-one times over these ninety-four verses that reality is invoked as the meta-motivation for obedience. More than once every five verses is that truth brought home. In the midst of the commands that make sense and in those less than intuitive to modern sensibilities, what matters is that the LORD was their LORD. Not just through the act of creation, but more personally because of the act of deliverance. A people rescued from bondage. A people on their way to a promised land. A people with a personal connection to God — the LORD of creation their LORD through salvation.
And what really hits me as I finish up chapter 20, is that God is also the LORD of their separation.
“But I have said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples. . . . 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 20:24, 26 ESV)
God knew the propensity of his people to wanna go back to Egypt. He also knew their hearts would be attracted to the shiny, sin-filled practices of the nations living in the land they were to possess. So they needed to know that they were a separated people. A people severed from the rest, set apart from all others. A distinct and different sort of re-creation. Separated from the peoples. And what the LORD has separated, let no one join together.
In the world but not of the world. Walking in the land but not walking in its ways. While wholly invested as ambassadors, yet remaining holy as unto the Lord.
Fact of the matter is, God’s people are to be a different sort of people. Marching to the beat of a different drummer. Living a life which, by the very nature of being a separated people, is counter-cultural.
Bears some examination, I think. If we’re no longer marked by how different we are from the world, then have we joined together what was God has separated? Nestled in with nations? Partnered with the pagans? Adopting the ways of the world, rather than maintaining the distinctives which mark the kingdom of heaven? Not that we should live in exile from the world, for we’re commanded to go and make disciples of all nations. But that we would live in separation to the LORD our God. A holy people, for He is holy. A transcendent people, for He is transcendent. A people marked by truth, light, and conduct which reflects we are those set apart for a heavenly kingdom which is now though still yet to come.
What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make My dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.”
(2Corinthians 6:16-18 ESV)
Our God has separated us from the peoples that we might be His people in order to reach all peoples. Let’s beware lest we join together what God has separated.
By His grace. For His glory.