Today you should read: Leviticus 20
When studying scripture, there are some very important clues to observe. One such observation concerns transitions—especially those that indicate purpose or result. For example, the phrase “so that” is sometimes very important. In the NASB, this phrase occurs a few times in Leviticus 20, one of which helps us understand the confusing Laws of this passage. “You are therefore to keep all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them.” Why? “So that [in order that] the land to which I am bringing you to live will not spew you out.” (v. 22)
Leviticus 20 is harsh, especially read through a modern lens. Leviticus 20 conjures visions of hellfire and brimstone preachers calling wrath on those who depart from legalistic righteousness. The chapter starts with a prohibition all people can get behind, do not sacrifice children. Although the more political left-leaning among us might not love the death-penalty associated with child sacrifice, nobody objects. However, once we get down to the sexual sins and the stiff penalties associated, we have some real problems in our modern context.
For example, it’s easy to understand the offense this chapter brings to the homosexual community, when it seems to pair homosexual acts alongside incest, bestiality, and adultery. This sin listing wasn’t written to accuse modern audiences of anything. Instead, it was a description of the practices of those inhabiting the Promised Land. The Canaanites living in the Land before the conquest did all these things and more (see verse 23).
The Promised Land was intended to be a return to Eden—it was intended to dwell a holy people, in a holy place, inhabited by their holy God, in His holy Temple. This helps us understand verse 18 of not lying with a menstruating woman, the offense of which seems much less than many other laws in this chapter. More than uncleanness, this prohibition likely stems from the fact that blood was a symbol for life and death and served as a reminder of the Fall in Genesis 3. Genesis 3 records the first shedding of blood and the fact that pain would be multiplied in childbearing. It was not right that a man should introduce the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant (circumcision) into the vivid reminder of the Fall that comes with menstruation.
In the same way, life of God’s Covenant People should be done inside of what we might call “Garden Principles,” or if you’re feeling word-smithy, “Edenic Indicatives” (which is super-fun to say). In the Garden of Eden, family was represented by one-man and one-woman. They enjoyed each other and were commanded to “Be fruitful and multiply.” Unfortunately, they did not conceive until after the Fall. However, the blueprint was there. Kids were to be raised, literally, walking with the Lord. Questions and future concern were to be brought to Yahweh and not mediums (v. 6).
Every prohibition we see in Leviticus 20 runs contrary to God’s design. Likewise, since death was a result of the Fall, so death is the result of many crimes presented in this chapter. The cringy-ness of the death penalty for modern audiences is truly a failure to understand what our sin deserves. At every sin, the just result should be death. And yet, God graciously extends mercy in order that we might turn to Him in repentance. Even as we experience the consequences of sin, it should lead us to repentance.
One main idea jumps out from this chapter. God’s people are separated people (v. 24)—that’s the definition of holiness. Don’t look like the fallen world. Learn from the Garden and live like that.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate
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