Slideshow image

Year 1, Week 14, Day 3

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Leviticus 17-18.

Today’s reading returns to matters of moral purity. Leviticus 17-20 parallels Leviticus 11-15 as each section discusses purity. However, there is a slight difference in the paralleling sections. Whereas Leviticus 11-15 explores ritual or ceremonial purity, Leviticus 17-20 explores moral purity. In the immediate aftermath of the matters of atonements laid out in Leviticus 16, which provided the basis for pardon and purification so that access into the presence of the LORD was established, the chapters that immediately follow express the manner in which Israel was to morally conduct themselves. Leviticus 17 begins explaining the moral implications from being in relationship with the LORD by exploring how sacrifices were to be offered as well as the need to refrain from consuming the blood of an animal. Leviticus 18 lays out a range of moral implications pertaining to sexual purity.

What struck me in today’s reading is the LORD’s requirement for His people to reflect His Holy character in how they were to live: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!” (Psalm 119:9-10). As Israel was granted access into the presence of the LORD atoning sacrifices, they were to be exclusively devoted to the LORD alone: “So they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore.” ( Leviticus 17:7). Being in an exclusive relationship with the LORD, not only pertained to singular devotion in worship, but also in how they lived: “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. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 18:3-4). Israel was not to take their cues on how to live from the nations around them, but from the LORD with whom they were in covenant relationship.

The first aspect of Israel living devotedly and obediently to the LORD concerned the eating of blood: “If any one of the house of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from among his people.” (Leviticus 17:10). The LORD expresses fierce opposition to eating of blood. The LORD explains the reason behind this prohibition: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” (Leviticus 17:11). The LORD had assigned great significance to blood. Blood signified life; it was the shedding of blood, that is the taking of a life, that provided atonement. The blood belonged to the LORD and He used it to give life and make atonement. Thus, something used so importantly for the LORD’s purposes required respect.

The second aspect of Israel living devotedly and obediently to the LORD concerned sexual relations. This section on physical human intimacy is prefaced by the statement that defines it grounding: “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 18:2). The instructions on sexual relations are rooted in the nature and character of the God whom they belonged to. Physical human intimacy is not ultimately defined merely by human consent, but by the holy standard of God Himself. The parameters stated in Leviticus 18 are not arbitrary, but timeless expressions of God’s will for human physical intimacy solely within the boundaries of the marital covenant: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:24-25). Any other sexual arrangement between a man and a woman was forbidden: “None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 18:6). The expression, “to uncover nakedness” used throughout this section was euphemism that referred to sexual relations. It is interesting to note that when the conversation shifts from heterosexual relations to same sex relations the euphemism was not used and the encounter was described differently: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22). While all sexual relations, outside of the marriage covenant are forbidden, the shift in language for same sex relationship signals an very different kind of wrongdoing. Same sex activity went beyond the mere “to uncover nakedness” violation, and were not according to natural physical design: “For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men” (Romans 1:26-27).

Israel was to live by the standards established for them by the LORD: “You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 18:5). Such moral purity grew out of their relationship to and worship of the LORD. The New Covenant provides clarity for us by stating the same kind of standards for sexual moral purity: “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 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, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). God’s redeemed people have been called and enabled to seek sexual purity.

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe