Living in Holiness
Leviticus 18:1-5,20-26;20:6:1-7 April 21 2013
These chapters launch the fourth major section of Leviticus, which lists rules for holy living. These moral rules focus on personal relationships. First, however, Moses reminds Israel that God has given them the blood of animals to make atonement. All sacrifices are to be made to God at the tabernacle , and blood is to be used for no other purpose than sacrifice . God’s standards are high. But He is a forgiving God, who accepts the sinner who comes with blood to confess and to be restored. Moses then goes on to list sexual relationships which defile the individual and pollute the land . Anyone who makes a practice of these forbidden sins is to be “cut off from their people”
1. “Do as they do” (Leviticus18:1-5)
Leviticus 18:1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. 3 According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. 4 You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am the Lord your God. 5 You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.
One of the most common excuses for sexual looseness is, “everyone else does it.” While particularly strong in high school, where many teens are ridiculed for being virgins, our society pressures young and older adults by making sexual promiscuity seem “normal.” God reminded Israel that as His people, they were not to do as the people of Egypt, where they had lived, do. They were not to do as the people of Canaan, where they would live, do. “Everybody else does it” has never been a valid excuse. Because we are God’s people, we are to do as He says, not follow the practices of pagans.
2. “Molech” “Detestable” (18:20-26).
Leviticus 18:20 Moreover you shall not lie carnally with your neighbor’s wife, to defile yourself with her. 21 And you shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. 23 Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It is perversion.24 ‘Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. 25 For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants. 26 You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you.
Here is a law against all conformity to the corrupt usages of the heathen. Also laws against incest, against brutal lusts, and barbarous idolatries; and the enforcement of these laws from the ruin of the Canaanites. God here gives moral precepts. Close and constant adherence to God’s ordinances is the most effectual preservative from gross sin. The grace of God only will secure us; that grace is to be expected only in the use of the means of grace. Nor does He ever leave any to their hearts’ lusts, till they have left him and his services. The reference is to sacrifice, not a pagan deity. This was a child sacrifice, offered to any pagan deity from whom a person hoped to derive some benefit.
The word used here to describe homosexual acts is `ebah. It expresses strong revulsion, and is used of practices that are morally rather than ritually disgusting to God. Prov. 6:17-19 lists seven other `ebahs, including “hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes,” and “feet that are quick to rush into evil.” To God, homosexuality is hardly an “alternative lifestyle.”
3. Law against sacrificing children to Moloch, Of children that curse their parents. (Leviticus 20:1-8)
Leviticus 20:1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2“ Again, you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who gives any of his descendants to Molech, he shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3 I will set My face against that man, and will cut him off from his people, because he has given some of his descendants to Molech, to defile My sanctuary and profane My holy name. 4 And if the people of the land should in any way hide their eyes from the man, when he gives some of his descendants to Molech, and they do not kill him, 5 then I will set My face against that man and against his family; and I will cut him off from his people, and all who prostitute themselves with him to commit harlotry with Molech.6‘ And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people. 7 Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. 8 And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them: I am the Lord who sanctifies you.
Are we shocked at the unnatural cruelty of the ancient idolaters in sacrificing their children? We may justly be so. But are there not very many parents, who, by bad teaching and wicked examples, and by the mysteries of iniquity which they show their children, devote them to the service of Satan, and forward their everlasting ruin, in a manner even more to be lamented? What an account must such parents render to God, and what a meeting will they have with their children at the day of judgment! On the other hand, let children remember that he who cursed father or mother was surely put to death. This law Christ confirmed. Laws which were made before are repeated, and penalties annexed to them. If men will not avoid evil practices, because the law has made these practices sin, and it is right that we go on that principle, surely they should avoid them when the law has made them death, from a principle of self-preservation. In the midst of these laws comes in a general charge, Sanctify yourselves, and be ye holy. It is the Lord that sanctifies, and his work will be done, though it be difficult. Yet his grace is so far from doing away our endeavours, that it strongly encourages them. Work out your salvation, for it is God that worketh in you.
Moses now recapitulates subjects dealt with in earlier chapters . Here the consequences of disregarding various regulations are spelled out.
The chapter looks at two kinds of sins: offenses against true religion and offenses against family . Both deserve the death penalty, because they are crimes that threaten the very existence of God’s people as a covenant community. But the emphasis here too is on exhortations to live a holy life .
A feature of the chapter is the expectation that the community will act against one who violates these laws. It is everyone’s task to maintain purity among the people of God.