Leviticus 18 ~ 20161023 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
10/23 Leviticus 18; The Gospel and Human Sexuality; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20161023_leviticus-18.mp3
We are in Leviticus 18, and to understand what we are studying, we need to understand where we are in the book of Leviticus.
Leviticus 1-7 Sacrifices
Leviticus 8-10 Priests
Leviticus 11-15 Uncleanness
Leviticus 16 Day of Atonement
Leviticus 17-27 Holy Living
The first half of Leviticus gives the sacrificial system, dealing with uncleanness and how to be cleansed from uncleanness. Leviticus 16 brings us to the great Day of Atonement, where we are told:
Leviticus 16:30 For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins.
No work was to be done by the people on that day; rather work was done for the people by the priest. The people were to be completely cleansed by the work of their high priest.
The remainder of the book deals with the conduct expected of God's redeemed, cleansed, and forgiven people. What does life in relationship with the holy God look like? Having been decisively forgiven, how do we now live to please him? Notice carefully the sequence. We are forgiven and cleansed so that we can live lives that please the Lord. We must not reverse this order. We cannot attempt to please God with our conduct in order to be forgiven and accepted by him. God's grace and forgiveness always comes first. The power to live a transformed life comes from being already forgiven by a merciful God.
The Reason for The Rules
Leviticus 18:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the LORD your God. 3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. 4 You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.
Notice, this is based on relationship. God says in chapters 18-20 almost 50 times “I am the LORD your God.” The foundation for these regulations is relationship. Because I am your God and you are my people, this is how you must live. I am the LORD your God, who saved you out of the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God, who is giving you the promised land of Canaan. Therefore, because you are already my people, because we are in relationship, this is how I expect you to conduct yourselves. Because you are my people, your lives must be different from the cultures around you. This is linked to the previous chapter. Other people follow false gods. Other people live with a different world view. Don't live like those who follow other gods. If I am your God, then you must follow my rules.
There is a promise here of life for obedience. We are tempted to see God's rules as restrictive, stifling, oppressive, limiting. Rather, God designed his rules to be life giving, protecting, liberating, the path to lasting joy. Obedience to God's rules leads to life. Abundant life. Disregard of God's rules leads to pain and heartache, hurt and ultimately death. God gave us rules for our own good, for our happiness, to bless us.
Human Sexuality; Incest
Leviticus 18 is about human sexuality. Our sexuality matters to God. How we live, how we conduct ourselves matters to God. God is not silent on matters of sex. God does not leave us in the dark wondering, trying to find our own way. Graciously, God communicates clearly and openly to us.
Leviticus 18:6 “None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD. 7 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 8 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife; it is your father's nakedness. 9 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father's daughter or your mother's daughter, whether brought up in the family or in another home. 10 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son's daughter or of your daughter's daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness. 11 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife's daughter, brought up in your father's family, since she is your sister. 12 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's sister; she is your father's relative. 13 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother's sister, for she is your mother's relative. 14 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's brother, that is, you shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt. 15 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son's wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother's wife; it is your brother's nakedness. 17 You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, and you shall not take her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter to uncover her nakedness; they are relatives; it is depravity. 18 And you shall not take a woman as a rival wife to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive.
Some things ought to go without saying. But praise God, he said them, because our hearts are “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jer.17:9). We need clear boundaries. Our country today is clear evidence that it needs to be said, or anything and everything will be up for grabs. We see this danger addressed in the church in Corinth.
1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife.
We see here clearly God's heart of protection for his people. This section deals in detail with incest. These laws are fences, boundaries to protect his people, to protect those who may be weaker from being victimized. This protection extends to mother, sister, granddaughter, and aunt. Many of these relationships in the culture of the middle east would be found living in the same household in an extended family. These laws were necessary for Israel particularly, because the Israelites were forbidden to marry foreigners, and because the land was to be kept within a tribe marriages were typically within the tribe. These laws would prevent marriages with close relatives that would tend toward defects common to inbreeding.
But this was not the only reason. Inappropriate relationships extend even to in-laws, those related not by blood but by marriage. This included step-mother, step-sister, step-daughter, step-granddaughter, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law and aunt by marriage. In this chapter we find a great honoring of the marriage relationship. Jesus said:
Matthew 19:4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
The one flesh marriage relationship means that to uncover the nakedness of a woman is to uncover the nakedness of her husband, and to dishonor her husband, because the two are one flesh. The marriage relationship is to be honored.
Pornography and Petting
I find it interesting that the phrase this passage uses for the sexual relationship is 'to uncover the nakedness of.' This is clearly a euphemism, but I think we can glean some insight from it into our digital age. I'm talking about pornography. Many attempt to justify their sin by saying 'I'm not hurting anyone. I'm just looking. After all, they are the ones who put the pictures out there.' This passage says 'you shall not uncover the nakedness of.' Although this passage doesn't directly deal with this issue, Jesus does. He says:
Matthew 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.
And I think we also get clear help on the question 'how far is too far?' 'We didn't actually go all the way.' But 'you shall not uncover the nakedness of...' to have any kind of sexual encounter with anyone who is not your spouse, is not appropriate for the follower of Jesus.
Protection of Women
There is protection here for women. To have relationships with a woman and her daughter or granddaughter or sister would be damaging to that natural relationship. The language of verse 18 forbids the polygamous situation of taking a rival wife while her sister is still alive. We see the damaging results of this kind of rivalry in the story of Jacob with Leah and Rachel in the last half of Genesis.
Leviticus 18:19 “You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness.
There is protection of a woman here even from her own husband at inappropriate times.
Leviticus 18:20 And you shall not lie sexually with your neighbor's wife and so make yourself unclean with her.
This is a restatement of the seventh commandment “you shall not commit adultery” (Ex.20:14). This whole chapter is a working out in detail the implications of this command, along with the 5th command to honor father and mother, and the 10th to not covet your neighbor's wife.
Leviticus 18:21 You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.
This command is expanded in chapter 20, so we will deal with it in more detail there.
Leviticus 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23 And you shall not lie with any animal and so make yourself unclean with it, neither shall any woman give herself to an animal to lie with it: it is perversion.
Homosexuality and bestiality are condemned here. 'Abomination' speaks of something utterly repulsive. 'Perversion' speaks of something that violates the created order of things. This is a violation of God's order in creation. Jesus points us back to God's design for marriage.
Matthew 19:4 ...he who created them from the beginning made them male and female,
And the entire New Testament reinforces this teaching that marriage is to be between one man and one woman for life.
Leviticus 18:24 “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, 25 and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you 27 (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), 28 lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. 29 For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people. 30 So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.”
Incest is an abomination, polygamy is an abomination, adultery is an abomination, idolatry is an abomination, homosexuality is an abomination, bestiality is an abomination, pornography, lust of any kind is an abomination. These are not laws merely for Israel; Egypt and Canaan knew better and were being judged for their violation of this universal morality. Centuries earlier, God had said to Abraham,
Genesis 15:16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
God is incredibly patient. But he will punish sin. And we learn from the later prophets that Israel did not listen, and violated these laws, and the land did indeed 'vomit them out;' they were conquered by foreign nations and went into captivity.
I have said as we have been going through Leviticus that we are not looking for laws to obey, we are looking for glimpses of Jesus. And in this passage we get a glimpse of the heart of Jesus, the heart of Jesus to protect people, to care for women and children, widows and orphans. To protect people from relational suicide and self-destructive behavior. To protect his people from destructive temptation that will destroy life and steal joy. We get a glimpse of the heart of Jesus, who offers us life and life abundantly, if we will follow him.
1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
We were meant for more than sexual immorality. Our bodies were created for a high purpose, to be a dwelling place for the Most High God, to bring glory and honor to him.
We get a glimpse of the heart of Jesus that is repulsed by the lukewarm church of Revelation 3. He says
Revelation 3:15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
Jesus says 'I am about to vomit you out;' Jesus has a violent emotional reaction against those that are complacent about him. You might be offended by Jesus, or you might become a passionate follower of Jesus, but to just be ho-hum is not an option. To just be a casual cultural Christian without a real vital relationship with Jesus is violently repulsive to Jesus. Better to be a Saul of Tarsus, vehemently persecuting and imprisoning followers of Jesus, than to be a Pilate, who comes face to face with Jesus and shrugs his shoulders and says 'what is truth?'
And we get a glimpse of the transformational power of the gospel of our Lord Jesus. Jesus “came not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Lk.5:2). About the woman of the street who had a reputation known to all, Jesus said:
Luke 7:47 ...her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”
To the woman caught in the very act of adultery and dragged out to be judged by Jesus, he said:
John 8:11 ...And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
1 Corinthians 6 says:
1 Corinthians 6:9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
This is quite the laundry list of sins that are abominable, detestable, abhorrent to a holy God. But not one of these sinners is beyond hope! Not one of these sinners is too fare gone for the grace of God. Not one is beyond the reach of the transforming power good news that Jesus came to rescue sinners! Jesus came to die for sinners. Not one of these sins defines you. And such were some of you! But you were washed! You were sanctified! You were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God! What you were you are no longer. You can be clean! There is hope in Jesus for the sexually immoral, for the adulterer, for the homosexual, for the thief, for the drunk, for the selfish. Jesus' love reaches out to such as these. Jesus came for these. Jesus came to give us a new identity! Jesus came to set us free!
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org