Leviticus 18 - Uncomfortable Holiness
This chapter will make you squirm, but you must be aware of God's righteous requirements.
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Read Leviticus 18
The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. 3 You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. 4 You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. 5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.
6 “ ‘No one is to approach any close relative to have sexual relations. I am the Lord.
7 “ ‘Do not dishonor your father by having sexual relations with your mother. She is your mother; do not have relations with her.
8 “ ‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s wife; that would dishonor your father.
9 “ ‘Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.
10 “ ‘Do not have sexual relations with your son’s daughter or your daughter’s daughter; that would dishonor you.
11 “ ‘Do not have sexual relations with the daughter of your father’s wife, born to your father; she is your sister.
12 “ ‘Do not have sexual relations with your father’s sister; she is your father’s close relative.
13 “ ‘Do not have sexual relations with your mother’s sister, because she is your mother’s close relative.
14 “ ‘Do not dishonor your father’s brother by approaching his wife to have sexual relations; she is your aunt.
15 “ ‘Do not have sexual relations with your daughter-in-law. She is your son’s wife; do not have relations with her.
16 “ ‘Do not have sexual relations with your brother’s wife; that would dishonor your brother.
17 “ ‘Do not have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter. Do not have sexual relations with either her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter; they are her close relatives. That is wickedness.
18 “ ‘Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.
19 “ ‘Do not approach a woman to have sexual relations during the uncleanness of her monthly period.
20 “ ‘Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor’s wife and defile yourself with her.
21 “ ‘Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molek, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.
22 “ ‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.
23 “ ‘Do not have sexual relations with an animal and defile yourself with it. A woman must not present herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it; that is a perversion.
24 “ ‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. 25 Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things, 27 for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. 28 And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.
29 “ ‘Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people. 30 Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the Lord your God.’ ”
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Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 108
Q. What is God’s will for us
in the seventh commandment?
A. God condemns all unchastity.
We should therefore
thoroughly detest it
and, married or single,
live decent and chaste lives.
Leviticus 18 is one of those passages that evokes a host of different responses in people. For some, it confirms their ideas that the Bible is nothing but a book of prudish rules. Others focus on one particular type of sexual relationship prohibited in this passage and are quite angry with those who practice it, but don't seem to care about the way so many other relationships mentioned in this chapter are flaunted. Still others develop elaborate explanations about how these commands were for the people of God way back then, but not now. After all, the God of love must be all for love, no matter how some people choose to express it.
Sadly, most people simply ignore passages like Leviticus 18. It's just uncomfortable and weird. They'd rather just stick to the warm and fuzzy stuff.
Certainly this would not be one of the first chapters we'd go to with a person just learning about Christianity, or to bring comfort to a saint in their dying moments. But yet this passage is critical knowledge for those who wish to live into their citizenship in the kingdom of heaven.
The opening and closing paragraphs underscore the importance of the chaste living this chapter commands. First, as God's people, we must realize that we've been rescued from the defiled and detestable mass of humanity identified by their deviant sexualities, just as God had rescued Israel from the pagan Egyptians and Canaanites.
Since we've been set free in Christ, we have a continuing obligation to "keep the Lord's decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them (v5)." Since we've been made holy in Christ, understanding that 'holy' means separated (Lev. 20:26), we must separate ourselves from worldly sexual ethics and "cut off" those in our number who stubbornly persist in the "detestable things" mentioned in this chapter (v29-30).
Unfortunately, Q&A 108 of the Heidelberg Catechism has been the most talked about portion of our Confessions in the Christian Reformed Church these last few years. This is unfortunate, not because the topic of human sexuality ought to be hush-hush or ignored, but because it's become increasingly clear that so many in these conversations - especially those arguing for more acceptance of deviant sexual lifestyles - seem ignorant of or have detached themselves from so many of the other critical Biblical doctrines our Confessions summarize.
In other words, the best way to equip people to come to correct conclusions regarding sexuality is to make sure they have a comprehensive understanding of Christianity.
You need to have a firm grip on the sexual ethics communicated in Leviticus 18, even as uncomfortable and unpopular as what these concepts are in our society. The best way to tighten your grip is to strengthen your understanding of how it is that you've been made holy in Christ and set apart to glorify our God and Father.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father who righteously demands that we keep His requirements;
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will understand and live according to God's sexual standards, and that you'll become increasingly aware of what it means to be made holy;
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - 1 Peter 1