As we move through Leviticus, it’s important to remember two things.
— First, for the Israelites, God was and is creating a different kind of people; a people who stand out in the world. They were to look different than the nations around them. We will see this more clearly today.
— Second, for us, God is showing us what he likes and wants from his people in principle and practice. We need to see what God likes and wants, and what commands are required from the principles found in the text. Christ covers the commands, and yet reinstates certain patterns of holy behavior.
Having these ideas in mind with help make sense of Leviticus 16, 17 and 18.
Starting at the end, the laws of Leviticus 18 are all about sexual relations. In our Victorian and yet hyper-sexualized society, each of these commands are important. No one command had precedent in the ancient Jewish community. For example, Leviticus 18:22 was just as bad in the eyes of God as Leviticus 18:23. It wasn’t that 22 was LESS serious or MORE serious, all of these actions would bring defilement on those who practiced them.
But it’s neither of these passages that we are focusing on today. Read Leviticus 18:1-5, or go back and read it again. God, when giving these commands to Israel, is trying to make a people that are different than the Egyptians and the Canaanites. He want a people who will walk in his commands and his statutes. God has unending, infinite wisdom; therefore, God’s ways of living are better than mere human ways. Therefore, when he is saying “Live my way, not the Egyptian way or the Canaanite way”, he is saying “Live the best way possible.”
God doesn’t want you to settle for a second class life. All the sexual gratification in the world doesn’t hold a candle to the joy of living life in accord with God’s commands. All these ancient prohibitions for sex are teaching us that we need to be careful to not allow sex to control our lives. Our sexual orientation, our gender identity, our gender expression, are all to be in accord with God’s commands throughout scripture and must be submitted to God. God wants you to be righteous in your sexual life because it is better for you and everyone around you.
The way you can become holy has also changed from the time of Leviticus 16. God’s best life for us is no longer in animal sacrifices, but in allowing Christ to be our atonement. The blood of Christ cleanses us from sin. Christ brings us before the mercy seat in his sacrifice, and he also goes out from the community as the scapegoat, carrying our sin far away.
Today can become your day of atonement. If you trust in the sacrifice of Jesus and call him your savior and lord then you can read Leviticus 16:30 in a powerful new way : “for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord.” This day can be today, and Christ can make you clean from all your sins.
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+16-18&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Leviticus 19-21 on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan