The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. 3 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. 4 You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. 5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 18:1-5 NIV)
There is a contrast between the place where they were and the place where they are going – a contrast, too, between Canaan and Egypt and how Israel is to live.
There seems to be an emphasis via repetition on “my” and again, a contrast between my laws and my decrees (the Lord’s) and “their” (Egypt and Canaan).
Did the Israelites struggle to leave behind not only their slavery in Egypt but also the practices of Egypt?
Is there a distinction between “decrees” and “laws” or are these simply repetition and emphasis? They seem on reflection and reading to be different things. One is more pronouncements or judgments and the other laws / regulations.
We live in between all the time. We are in but not of the world. I think one of the things this means is to move the center of our identity from the things we are by birth, education, experiences to an identity rooted in God. An identity as Christians that is grounded in Jesus and not in the things that make us absent him in our lives.
It is hard. It is for me anyway. How do I navigate this world where I live and love and serve while still giving my highest loyalty to God? How do I allow God’s “decrees and laws” to be the governing thing in my life?
I remember a professor saying in seminary that many of the prohibitions in the law of Moses were things that the Canaanites and other surrounding peoples did. Not doing them would distinguish them from their neighbors and mark them out has holy, as separate.
None of this is as easy as it sounds or seems. Earlier generations have had prohibitions against card-playing, dancing, movies, etc. (and some still do). What really ought to distinguish us as children of God, as followers of Jesus? It is, I think, more about character and integrity and ultimately love than about externals.
God of the Israelites, help not to follow the ways of Egypt or Canaan. Show me in my world and time where that means you would have me walk, how that means you have me live. Make me holy as you are holy – make me love as you love. Make me what you would have me be. Amen.