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I am the Lord your God. 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. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.Leviticus 18:1
Twice in two days, God has told us to be set apart from the unbelievers around us. Yesterday, He described something the Israelites were to do to be set apart, and today He’s describing things the Israelites are not to do in order to be set apart.
As you begin reading through the list of “do nots” in this chapter, it seems time- and culture-specific. Since we don’t do animal sacrifices today, we kind of skim over those verses. But then He starts addressing the “do nots” of sexual relations, and that is as current today as it was then. Verses 6-20 covers every possible taboo with family, extended relations and married persons, and if you jump down to verse 23, God forbids bestiality. It’s hard to argue with any of that.
But then … two little back-to-back sentences in the midst of that list that happen to be the two biggest hot-button issues in our culture.
Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord. (18:21)
Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable. (18:22)
You have no idea how much I wanted to avoid the Old Testament reading for today and write something light and happy on the seven baskets of leftovers in Mark 8 when Jesus, yet again, fed the multitude with practically nothing. But my thoughts kept returning to these two lines in Leviticus, and how great the divide between those who take them at face value and those who don’t.
None of what I’m about to say is intended for those outside Christianity. They do not live according to the laws, precepts and decrees of God. Why would we expect them to? No, this is for the ones who do belong to God, the ones who are supposed to care what God thinks.
The killing of children is not new. In ancient times it was called child sacrifice; today we call it abortion. Back then, it was done in the name of idolatry; today it is done in the name of choice. But even there we see common ground. Idolatry of self (concern over convenience, reputation, freedom, finances) is still idolatry.
Molech was one of the most notorious idols. It has been said that the statue was heated to extreme temperatures, and then infants would be laid on the scorching, outstretched hands of Molech. That makes you flinch, doesn’t it? Me too. But how is that any different than killing an infant moments before its birth? I believe in my heart of hearts that even the staunchest abortion advocate would, if they happened upon an abandoned infant lying on the sidewalk in front of an abortion clinic, compassionately scoop it up, comfort it, warm it, and try to get help for it. So I don’t understand why the purposeful stilling of that same infant’s beating heart is acceptable if it occurs on the other side of that wall. And I will never understand how someone who claims to love God can take that position.
I’m not going to persuade any pro-abortionists to change their mind. Only the wooing of God can do that. But I am going to say to anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ to heed the words we just read above. (And it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: if you are grieving the decision you made to abort your child, God’s forgiveness and comfort is just a prayer away. Never forget that His mercies are new every morning, and that He is the Great Restorer, who delights in turning our ashes into beauty.)
And as for homosexuality? First, lest anyone think the words in Leviticus are only an Old Testament admonition to men, Romans 1 is the New Testament counterpart and it includes both men and women. Second, I have a deep love for several of my friends and one extended family member who are gay. I will never change their minds about this; only the wooing of God can do that. My calling is to love them fiercely, so that if they ever do find themselves questioning the issue, they know they could come to me and not find condemnation. I won’t compromise my beliefs or deny them if asked outright. But I will love them and keep loving them, no matter what.
The great debate over these two issues is always peppered with themes of morality, or freedom, or choice, or rights. But that’s not where the discussion should start. It should start with these two questions:
- Did God really forbid it? (He clearly did.)
- Does that matter to you?
I would expect that an unbeliever’s honest reply to number two would be, “No.” They don’t understand the gospel. They’ve never wept in gratitude at the revelation of the Cross, and what it cost God to put His Son there. They’ve never experienced the incredible lightness that comes when God lifts a lifetime of sin and shame from your shoulders, and fills your heart with a longing for heaven, just because He’s there. So why would it matter to them what God thinks? But if you’re a believer in Christ and you say it doesn’t matter to you, that’s alarming. Because what are we here for, if not to love God and obey what He tells us?
If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.John 14:15