The laws presented thus far are inviolable because God has given them. He is “the Lord.” But God doesn’t leave it at that. In chapter 19, he repeats a phrase that occurred in 11:44. God is holy. Because of that, Israel is to be holy.
Israel is holy because God has set her aside from the nations and taken her for Himself. But having done so, He has brought her into union with deity, and because God is Holy, Israel is also required to be holy.
Old Testament scholar Martin Buber puts it like this: “God is the absolute authority over the world because he is separated from it and transcends it. But he is not withdrawn from it. Israel, in imitating God by being a holy nation, similarly must not withdraw from the world of the nations but rather radiate a positive influence on them through every aspect of Jewish living.”
What is a holy God like? Our reading gives us insight not just to rules and regulations, but into the very ethic of God Himself, an ethic that is not just a display of outward appearances, but reaches into the very heart of our being.