I Am the Lord Your God

“I am the Lord your God…”
(Leviticus 19:3)

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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

SDG

Of Cats and God…

“All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit.”
(Isaiah 44:9 ESV) 

This Sunday is “All Hallows Eve” otherwise known as Halloween.  I’ve tried to get my kids to dress up this year as the movers and shakers of the reformation (Calvin, Knox, Luther, or Idelette de Bure (Calvin’s wife)) since this Halloween falls on reformation Sunday.  Alas, we will instead have Athena, Jango Fett, Thomas the Train, and Yoda – you can’t win them all.

I am always impressed at how Halloween brings out our long buried superstitions.  We pay more attention to black cats and full moons now than at other times of the year.  Just the other day I was talking with a friend when a black cat crossed our path.  My friend was visibly troubled, and expressed her fear about her ensuing bad luck.  I tried to encourage her, but to no avail.  Just a couple of days later, she informed me that her computer had crashed when she tried to install a new program.  She was sure it was because of the black cat.

There are a lot of superstitions that people still hold onto today:

·         Friday the thirteenth is an unlucky day

·         A rabbit’s foot brings good luck

·         To find a four-leaf clover is to find good luck

·         If you walk under a ladder, you will have bad luck

·         If a black cat crosses your path you will have bad luck

·         To break a mirror will bring you seven years bad luck

·         To open an umbrella in the house is to bring bad luck

But my question to my friend, and to anyone who holds to these or any other superstitions is this: “How do these beliefs relate to your faith in the Almighty and Sovereign Lord?”

We confess every Sunday that we believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.  We affirm the faith of the confessions which teach us that “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass… for the manifestation of his glory” (Westminster Confession of Faith), and that “Jesus protects us so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation” (Heidelberg Catechism).  We believe that the great God of the universe has created all things for his pleasure, and has the “whole world in his hands.”  We confess that God is all-powerful, that His will cannot be thwarted – unless, of course, you happen to break a mirror, or come across a black cat.  Then God’s hands are tied.

It’s like this: God, in his eternal decree, has planned today to do you great good.  Perhaps he has ordained that this is the day for you to be set free from sickness or debt, or to find your heart’s true love.  Suddenly, you drop a mirror which shatters to the ground, and a voice from heaven thunders, “Oops!  That’s too bad, I had such great things planned for you.  See you in seven years.”  When you look at it this way, it makes the common superstitions we hold seem a little absurd.  Who has greater power, an untimely placed black cat, or the God who made you, the cat, and the world you live in?

The problem is, we tend to put too much faith in the foolishness of this world rather than trusting in the wisdom of God.  We see a cat or a broken mirror and start looking for bad things to happen, and eagerly assign the cause and effect.  Or maybe we have success and we attribute our accomplishments to a lucky number or our lucky socks.  We forget about the grace of God that has protected us from greater harm and blessed and prospered us with life, hope, and peace.  We’re always looking downward watching for cracks so we don’t break our mother’s backs, that we forget to look up and see the glory of God reminding us of his strength and love.  Holding to these superstitions is nothing more than idolatry – we are giving more power and honor to these lesser things than to the one true God. 

Christ died to set us free from such false gods, and to secure our faith and trust in the Living God.  Shouldn’t we see the rainbow and remember God’s promise?  Shouldn’t we see the golden fields and know that God has blessed us; giving Him all glory and honor?  Shouldn’t we hear the gospel message and know that “neither death nor life, angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor black-cats nor open umbrellas, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

Happy Reformation Sunday!

SDG