The LORD said to Moses. “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the LORD your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the LORD your God.’”
The people of Israel have been freed from slavery in Egypt by God’s mighty hand dealing with Pharaoh. They are now en-route to the promised land. The law has been given at Sinai with this mighty promise.
Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. Exodus 19.5-6
Moses has been instructed how to build the Tabernacle and it has been done ‘as the LORD commanded him’ and as the book of Leviticus begins Moses is instructed further as to how the people should live in every area of their lives in order that the promise above might be fulfilled.
Within these many rules and ordinances there is much that stands out. I do not pretend for one moment that Leviticus is an easy book but it yields many wonderful insights if you will stick at it (ideally reading it year on year as you seek to read the whole of God’s word).
This time round the verses at the head of this piece challenged me and I share that challenge with you.
The Israelites were not to do as the Egyptians did, nor were they to copy the Canaanites when they came to the land to which God was bringing them. In other words they were to be different, uniquely different and how is spelled out in Exodus 19.5-6 above!
So what you may say. We are not Israelites. This was written years and years ago. We live in a different culture with different expectations and different demands but wait! This is what Peter writes to God’s people scattered across many lands and nations. 1 Peter 1.1
You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2.9
The spiritual culture of Egypt was dark. The Israelites were not to go back to it.
The spiritual culture of Canaan was dark. The Israelites were not to embrace it.
They were to be different from ‘all the nations’.
So are we!
If we absorb the darkness of the spiritual culture of the nation in which we live then we fail to fulfill our calling as royal, holy and belonging to God. Further it is not just a question of not going with the flow but a positive going against the flow if we are to faithfully declare the praises of our great God.
Over and over again in the last half of Leviticus we read these words
I am the LORD your God
Is it obvious that he is your God? Is it obvious that he is my God?