Leviticus 20 ~ 20170129 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
01/29 Leviticus 20; The Wages of Sin and the Gift of God; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170129_leviticus-20.mp3
After a bit of a break, we are going to jump back in to the book of Leviticus. We are in chapter 20. Before we jump right in, we need to locate ourselves in the book to understand what we are looking at in its context.
We are in the second major half of Leviticus. Leviticus 16 is the centerpiece of Leviticus; and the book of Leviticus is the centerpiece of the Torah or Pentateuch; the five books of Moses.
Leviticus 1-7 outline the sacrificial system; Leviticus 8-10 describe the priests, those responsible for officiating the sacrifices; chapters 11-15 describe various sources of uncleanness that require sacrifice; and chapter 16 explains the great Day of Atonement; how uncleanness is cleansed so God can dwell with man. To use a New Testament theological term, Leviticus 16 deals with justification. We are told:
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.
Leviticus 17-27 is known as the holiness code; how does a person live after being made right with God through the work of the high priest? In New Testament terms, we would use the word sanctification. Now that I have been justified, now that I have been reconciled to God through the sacrifice of a substitute, what does life in relationship with a holy God look like?
The basis of these demands for holiness are rooted in our relationship with the LORD. 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 I have taken you to be my people, this is how you must live.
Leviticus 19 is one of Jesus' favorite chapters in the Bible. In 19:2 we find the oft repeated phrase "you shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy"; which forms the basis of Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5:48 that "you ...must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." Leviticus 19 spells out in very diverse real life ways what holiness looks like in daily life and relationships. 19:18 is what Jesus quotes when he says "you shall love your neighbor as yourself"(Mt.5:43; 19:19; 22:39); then in 19:34 this is expanded to include the stranger who sojourns with you; "you shall love him as yourself"; this is the basis for Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5 on loving you enemy, and the foundation of his teaching in Luke 10 on the good Samaritan and who was a neighbor to the man in need.
Chapter 19 is sandwiched between chapters 18 and 20. These two chapters cover much of the same ground, and if you remember back, chapter 18 was one of the most uncomfortable messages I have ever had to give. It deals with holiness and human sexuality, because holiness extends to every area of life.
We could ask, 'Why so much repetition? Why cover the same ground twice?' One reason is that this is important and we are often slow to hear. This information matters to God enough for him to say it twice. If God recorded it for us twice in the space of three chapters, we ought to take notice and heed his instruction. Another reason is that chapters 18 and 20 are coming at the same subject from two different angles. Chapter 18 is addressed to the individual Israelite, telling him 'do not do these things; they are highly displeasing to the LORD who bought you.' The goal is found in 18:4-5
Do these things and you will enjoy life in relationship with me. Life and obedience are linked together.
Chapter 20 is not addressed to the individual but to the holy community. If someone who is living as part of the community does any of these forbidden things and sins against the LORD, this is how the community is to respond. Nine times we find the phrase 'shall surely be put to death'; 6 times 'their blood is upon them'; 5 times 'cut off from among their people'; 3 times 'I will set my face against that man'; 3 times 'shall bear their iniquity' or 'sin'; 2 times 'shall be childless'; 2 times shall stone him with stones'; once 'shall be burned with fire'. Chapter 18 holds out life in following God's rules; chapter 20 commands death and separation as the consequence of refusing to follow God's ways. The wages of sin is death.
This passage has three main sections of judgment pronounced on disobedience, separated by two sections of exhortation to holy living.
20:1-6 sins against God [spiritual unfaithfulness]
--20:7-8 exhortation to holiness [source of holiness]
----20:9-21 sins against family [protecting human relationships]
--20:22-26 exhortation to holiness [promise of holiness]
20:27 sins against God [spiritual unfaithfulness]
We see in this passage a connection between spiritual unfaithfulness and sexual degeneracy; the same connection we see in Romans 1.
Consequences for Spiritual Unfaithfulness
This issue was briefly mentioned in Leviticus 18:21
Offering children to Molech was one of the reasons God told his people to exterminate entire civilizations. All the way back in Genesis, God told Abram that his descendants
Now that time has come; the Lord detests their practices and the land will vomit out its inhabitants. One of these detestable practices was child sacrifice.
David's son, king Solomon, married many foreign women who turned away his heart after other gods. We are told in 1 Kings 11
Jeremiah prophesies against Judah, because
Jeremiah says they have filled Topheth, the Valley of Hinnom with the blood of the innocents, and he calls these offerings 'whole bunrt offerings'. He says in chapter 32
In Ezekiel 16, God accuses Jerusalem of being an unfaithful bride.
When we visited Gezer, a once important Canaanite city on a major trade intersection west of Jerusalem, we looked at an excavation report that listed the skeleton of a child, and a number of jar buried infants, probably less than a week old, some of which had been burned.
God insisted that anyone in the land found guilty of offering a child to a false god must be stoned to death by the community. Even if the people chose to look the other way, or 'closed their eyes to that man,' God himself would enact the punishment. God took this personally. He says three times 'I myself will set my face against that man and will cut him off from among his people' (v.3, 5, 6). He calls this 'whoring after', likening idolatry to marital unfaithfulness.
In the United States, the number of legal abortions performed since the 1973 decision Roe vs. Wade is approaching 60 million children.
There were an estimated 906,000 legal abortions in 2015 in the U.S. The State of Florida records reason for each abortion; of the over 71 thousand abortions in florida in 2015, less than 1% of abortions were reported to terminate a pregnancy related to incestuous relationships, rape, endagering the life of the mother, or a threat to physical or psychological health of mother; a little over half a percent was due to a serious fetal abnormality; about 6 and a quarter percent was for social or economic reasons; over 92% the procedures were elective; there was no reason. We have filled our land with the blood of the innocents.
The wages of sin is death. This passage begins and ends with spiritual unfaithfulness. We are not to turn to those who deal with spirits or deal with the deceased. God alone is the source of all truth.
Exhortation to Holiness and the Source of Holiness
The ground for the commands is our relationship with God. Set yourselves apart and be set apart, for I am the LORD your God. Keep and do my commands; I am the LORD who sets you apart. We are to be holy, be set apart because the LORD is our God. We are to be holy because the LORD makes us holy. We cannot be holy on our own, of our own initiative. We do take initiative. We set ourselves apart, we choose to live lives of holiness; but we can only do so because God sets us apart; God sanctifies us. Be holy because I am the LORD who makes you holy.
Consequences for Sins against the Family
The next section is intended to protect the family. It begins by requiring children to respect the God-given authority of father and mother, and continues by forbidding sexual deviancy.
The family unit is to be preserved. Adultery, incest, homosexuality, polygamy, bestiality are forbidden. They are called perversion, an abomination, depravity, a disgrace, impurity. These are strong words. God created us for a good purpose, to leave father and mother and cleave to one wife, and become one flesh. Romans 1 traces a similar spiritual decline that moves from idolatry to sexual distortions. Suppressing truth about God and failure to honor him as God leads to foolish idolatry and then to the pursuit of dishonorable passions. Paul concludes “...they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die...” (Rom.1:32).
Exhortation to Holiness and Promise of Holiness
This passage is a warning. The nations I am driving out did all these things, and therefore I detested them. Do not do as they did, or the land will vomit you out as well. God is just. The wages of sin is death. Israel failed to heed God's warning, and although he is patient, he is just, and the land vomited them out; they went into captivity.
God says you shall therefore keep all my statues and all my rules and do them. ...You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess. ...I am the LORD your God who has separated you from the peoples. ...You shall be holy to me ...for I have separated you from the peoples that you should be mine. These are precious promises, and they are freely given. They are not earned. We do not become holy by our own efforts. God is the one who calls us out us from among the peoples, who freely gives us an inheritance, who sets us apart as holy to him, that we should belong to him. God is the one, according to Ezekiel 36 who says:
There is a spiritual decline in Romans 1 that moves from failure to worship God as he is, to idolatry, to dishonorable passions. But this is why Paul is not ashamed of the gospel:
Paul is not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation. To you, if you will believe.
What we earned is death. We all have sinned and fallen short. But in Jesus God offers us a free gift. He offers the powerful gift of life to all who will believe. It is a free gift to be received by faith. By believing. This is a powerful transforming gift. This is a gift that changes you.
Have you believed? Have you experienced the desire-transforming power of God's Spirit in you, as he calls you 'mine' and begins to make you holy?
We have a message of good news. For those who have had an abortion, we have good news of healing and forgiveness in Jesus. For those considering aborting, we have a message of hope in Jesus. There is another way, the way of life. For the sexually immoral, for the sexually deviant, for idolaters who worship their own desires above the Lord God, there is hope. Let's bring the good news that a holy God freely gives his Spirit to the broken, to the hurting, to transform them by his magnificent grace!
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org