Last year about this time we began challenging the congregation to read the Bible in 90 Days. As we went through the Old Testament, there were some pretty “R” rated (if not “X” rated) passages. I heard about one family traveling on a trip with the grandchildren, reading the Bible aloud while the other was driving. They had to stop reading out loud because the kids where listening! Grandma just couldn’t read certain passages and speak the words aloud. Leviticus 18 is one of those chapters. As I work with men, statistics tell me that when it comes to sexual purity, men who are in church are not too much different than men outside of the church. Purity is a desire, but impurity is a great temptation.
Leviticus 18 contains a series of laws that have to do with sexual expression (except for Leviticus 18:21, which forbids child sacrifice, which is really a whole other topic). We might wonder why God didn’t simply say, “Have sexual relations only with your spouse,” rather than offer such detail in the form: “Do not have sexual relations with… (you name it).”
The answer to this question comes in Leviticus 18:3. God is leading the Israelites out of Egypt, where various forms of sexual immorality were common, into the land of Canaan, where the people do the very things Leviticus 18 prohibits. As Leviticus 18:27 explains, “All these detestable activities are practiced by the people of the land where I am taking you, and this is how the land has become defiled.” God was concerned that the Israelites would easily be tempted to imitate the Canaanites’ sexual impurity, so he spelled out graphically the relationships in which sexual activity was forbidden. He knew that his people were like young children who needed specific instructions and prohibitions.
Although our context differs a lot from that of the Israelites, we face a pretty similar situation. We live today in a culture that endorses unimaginable sexual activity. Even though our society still agrees with Leviticus 18 about some things, like the wrongness of sex with a close relative, our world presents us with new challenges to our sexual holiness, like readily available pornography.
The New Testament does not really offer an updated list of sexual “don’ts,” like a new rulebook for Christian sexual conduct. Rather, it calls us to holiness in every part of our lives, including our sexuality (see 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). We should not imitate the ways of our world when it comes to sexual expression, but we are to devote our whole being to God, which includes our bodies. We are to live each day with the realization that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). So, we have the obligation and privilege of honoring God with our bodies. When we take this calling seriously, each day we will desire to dishonor God with our bodies less and less. We will seek to give him all that we are, all the time, giving Him honor.
Application: In what areas of life are you tempted to compromise in the are of purity? How have you come to realize your weaknesses? What safeguards have you set in place? What in our culture tempts you to set aside God’s standards for sexuality? What helps you to live according to God’s standards? What lures you to adopt the ways of our fallen culture? What has been your track record over the past few months? If you wish to start over, what prevents you from confession, restoration and commitment to purity (1 John 1:9)? Who is the man who holds you accountable? Whom are you holding accountable, your neighbor, brother, son, co-worker?