What is the most-quoted verse or phrase in Scripture? Depending on what we count as a quotation or allusion, there are a few candidates for consideration. Among them is the short phrase at the end of Lev 18:5 – “You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD” (all Scripture ESV).
Life comes through keeping the Law. Not that the Law gives life; Paul refutes that notion in Gal 2:21; 3:21; etc. The law arouses sinful passions (Rom 7:5). But it has no power to impart spiritual life.
But God blesses those who keep His law. That’s the context by which the statement in Lev 18:5 should be understood. This phrase is repeated time and again throughout Scripture. Here are a few occasions where we find it in the Bible:
Nehemiah 9:29 And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey.
Ezekiel 20:11 I gave them my statutes and made known to them my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live (cf. vss 13, 21).
Luke 10:28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
Romans 10:5 For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.
Galatians 3:12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.”
At least one OT passage not only quotes Lev 18:5, but elaborates on it in detail: Deuteronomy 30. I won’t put the whole thing here (though it’s well worth reading!), but here are a few highlights from that chapter:
Deuteronomy 30:14-15 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. 15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.
Deuteronomy 30:19-20 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
Notice the close relationship between following God’s word and enjoying life and blessing. To obey the Bible is to enjoy the blessing of God. God is our life and His word provides for us the hope of salvation and eternity with him.
Consider these passages as you dig into your devotions this week.