“I am the Lord your God…”
I’m reading through the book of Leviticus, again, in my Bible reading program. Sometimes it is hard to read Leviticus, the demands for holiness, all the blood and sacrifice codes, all the rules and regulations – it’s tempting to just gloss over or skip the whole thing. Still, it is God’s word, it serves a vital role in demonstrating the necessity for holiness in our approach to God, our absolute inability to live up to such a standard, and thus, our need for a perfect and holy Savior.
In my reading for today (Leviticus 19-27) I was particularly struck by the repetition of the phrase “I am the Lord your God.” In those 8 chapters alone, the phrase is used 41 times – you can’t miss it even if you are just skimming through. Eventually you start asking, “Why would God keep repeating that?”
One explanation might be that God is swearing an oath, and since there is no higher source of authority or power by which to swear, God swears by His own name: “I am the Lord.” Because God is the Lord, and because He has made a promise in His own name, 1) we can trust His word is true, and 2) we are to obey His word.
Still, there seems to be some distinct ways in which this phrase, “I am the Lord” is used to punctuate the text. Consider these with me for a moment:
He will Judge our actions – Frequently “I am the Lord” is paired with the call to be holy, because the Lord is Holy. Leviticus 18-27 is renowned (and for some, infamous) for its call to moral and ethical holiness. God defines holiness in terms of our treatment of the poor, our relationships (sexual and otherwise) with those around us, and our fair and honest practice in business. God’s people are to be marked by holiness, because we serve a God who is holy. For those who disregard God’s commands, who blatantly and willfully defy His holy word, who trample on the poor for the sake of personal gain – God reminds us that He is the Lord and He will judge our actions by the standard of His holiness and righteousness. (Praise be to God, for He has provided our righteousness in Christ Jesus His Son.)
He will provide – Sometimes, “I am the Lord,” follows God’s command to do something that makes little sense. God commanded a Sabbath year for the land, in which no crops would be planted, property would be returned to its original owners, slaves would be set free, etc. Financially, practically, we would think this is economic suicide. What would happen today if every farmer in America (or just Iowa alone) decided to take a year off from planting and harvesting? But God seems to say, “I know this doesn’t make any sense, but I am the Lord your God, and I will provide – trust in me.” What are you doing right now that requires you to trust that God will provide? Remember, He is the Lord, He will provide.
God alone will be worshiped – Within Leviticus there are several prohibitions against consulting “mediums and necromancers,” in others words, seeking guidance and instruction from the dead or from other gods. In turning to these false gods, we are giving our worship and placing our trust in something or someone other than the one true God. It saddens me how many friends and church members I see who consult horoscopes, or give their time and attention to “spirit guides” who communicate with the dead. But it is even more painful to watch as Christians are deluded into following the false gods of prosperity, beauty, politics, sex – thinking that in these things they will find fulfillment and peace in their lives. We serve the living God, who alone can satisfy the desires of our hearts, who alone will be worshiped.
Next time you read through the book of Leviticus, take a moment and underline all the times you see the phrase, “I am the Lord,” it will really open your eyes. As you go through your day today, remember, He is the Lord our God, calling us to a life of holiness in Christ our Lord, encouraging us to trust in His almighty hand to provide; and may we live to worship and honor Him alone.