READ: Leviticus 18:1-5
Be Different Introduction
The start of chapter 17 saw the beginning of a new major section in the book of Leviticus. Chapters 17-20 deal with crimes and often their respective punishments as it relates to society in general; chapters 21 & 22 deal with crimes and the special laws that particularly relate to the priests. This particular chapter, chapter 18, deals primarily with sexual sins.
The chapter begins and ends with a very straightforward explanation as to why these particular laws are established. The nation they had come from, Egypt, and the nations in and around the land they were going to, Canaan, practiced these forbidden actions; often the practices of this chapter were found in religious and cultic rituals.
One might almost suggest that the motivations behind this chapter are three-fold.
First, that the people will be different. God’s people were to be different, they were not to simply become like the other nations (vs. 3, 24, 26, 27, 29, 30). They served a special God – the One True God – they were to be His people and He was to be their Lord (vs, 2, 4, 5, 6, 21, 30). The Israelites were not to conform to the standards and practices of others, they were to set the standards and practices to which everyone else was to conform. If everyone around them walked these forbidden paths but the Hebrews walked a different path, then they would stick out as being different.
Secondly, such laws and regulations should have kept the people from falling into the idolatrous traps of the surrounding heresies. If these practices (child-sacrifice for instance) were intertwined into a local religion then it should have become blatently obvious that such a ‘god’ and his rituals were well off the mark of the One True God. For instance, the very fact that Baal and Asherah (male and female Canaanite deities) worship involved a massive sexual orgy ritual in an attempt to initiate spring should have kept the Hebrews well away from such an idolatrous cult. Sadly, the got caught up in such idolatry.
Finally, the passage reveals the moral depravity of such actions. The last part of the chapter, vs. 24, 25, 27, 28, emphasizes that these practices have defiled the people which in turn has defiled the land. Therefore the land is ‘vomitting’ these nations from its shores. Of course, there is a divine aspect to this ‘vomitting’ in the sense that it is ultimatley God casting out these other nations becasue they have hit such a low moral bar.
This chapter presents an option, will you get caught up in the worship and the ways of the world or will you follow me, I am the Lord!?!
I guess that is a question that many of us still need to ask today. Sometimes the question may be directed at an imoral/defiling aspect of our lives (e.g. sexual sins just as this chapter focuses on); sometimes the question may be directed at areas in our lives in which we are afraid to be different (e.g. voicing our convictions, ignoring peer pressure); sometimes the quesiton may be directed at an area of life that is leading us down a path that heads in the opposite direction to God (e.g. hours of TV watching at the expense of spending some time with God).
Will you follow the Lord or follow the world?