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“I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians” (Exodus 6:7).

AFTER ISRAEL WAS DELIVERED FROM CAPTIVITY, WHAT THEN? That is a question God answered even before He liberated them: “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God.” Having rescued them from four centuries of servitude, God would enter into a “covenant,” a special two-way agreement, with them. He would be their God in a unique sense, but as His people, they would have some responsibilities along with their blessings. “You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine” (Exodus 19:4,5). Israel would have to keep their part of the agreement.

In Leviticus 26:12, God said to Israel, “I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” Surrounded by the moral and religious corruption of Canaan, they would need to keep themselves free of those influences, so that they could truly be God’s people, in practice as well as in name.

Paul quotes Leviticus 26:12 in the New Testament and applies it to Christians living in environments like Corinth: “For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, ‘I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people’” (2 Corinthians 6:16). If it was true of Israel, it is also true of Christians — if God is to “walk among” us, we must do more than rely on the privilege of a special status; we must maintain a purity in our actual lives that identifies us as belonging to God. God said then the same thing He says now, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:45; 1 Peter 1:16).

For here is the truth of the matter: we haven’t really been liberated or “saved” if, for all practical purposes, we continue to live in “Egypt.” God requires that we leave our chains behind, not only as a group, but also inwardly, privately, and individually.

O Thou, to whose all-searching sight
The darkness shineth as the light!
Search, prove my heart; it pants for Thee.
Oh, burst these bonds, and set it free!
(Gerhard Tersteegen)

Gary Henry — +

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