I have this phrase, and similar ones, underlined in my Bible in Leviticus 18-22. It occurs 38 times in 5 chapters! God gives a lot of commands in these chapters, but he also continues to reinforce His rationale, “For I am the Lord your God.” We tend to just look at the seemingly endless list of dos and don’ts, without paying attention to God’s reason behind the commands.
These particular commands particularly addressed pagan practices of the religion of Egypt. God is saying, “I don’t want you to behave like the pagans in Egypt who serve other Gods. I have rescued you from Egypt. I have adopted you as my firstborn son. I am your God.” Just as the Lord said in giving the clean/unclean laws in Leviticus 11-15, His desire for Israel is for them to be “set apart” from unbelievers and their practices and to identify themselves with Him as their God.
Christianity is about relationship, not religion – and that is exactly what these chapters show. More than anything else in these chapters, the Lord is continually reminding Israel of the covenant relationship that He has with them. Their reason for obedience is not to “be good.” Their reason for obedience is not to have good character. God is asking them to obey Him out of love, as an act of worship, because He is their God.
Paul put it this way:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
It is an act of worship to God to allow His truth to change our minds about the way we behaved before we knew Him and to seek to do what pleases Him, instead of being conformed to the world around us.
This concept is universally understood, but seldom applied to our relationship with God. The reality is that our behavior demonstrates what it is that we really love. If Israel had continued to embrace the pagan practices of Egypt, their actions would demonstrate that their hearts were still back in Egypt.
What does my behavior reveal about the condition of my heart?
Can others tell what is ultimate to me by my behavior?