Next to the preservation of life the most powerful human drive is sex. And sex, as we are beginning to understand these days, is like a great river which, when it flows quietly between its banks, is a boon and a blessing to mankind. But when it is raging in full flood, inundating the landscape in permissiveness and promiscuity, it is terribly destructive and hurtful. And so God's Word is careful to regulate us and help us in this area. It is amazing that God takes the risk of letting us have this fantastic power in our lives. He doesn't take sex away from us if we misuse it. He takes that risk with us, with a plea to us that we learn to keep it within its banks. That is the way this chapter starts:
And the LORD said to Moses, "Say to the people of Israel, I am the LORD your God. [That is, you can trust me.] You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. [All the nations have gone astray.] You shall do my ordinances and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. [That is, trust me!] You shall therefore keep my statutes and my ordinances, by doing which a man shall live: I am the LORD." (Lev 18:1-5 RSV)
You can see how God underscores the purpose of these instructions. They are to make you live, not die -- not be restricted, not narrowed and hemmed in and prohibited from expressing yourself. No, quite the contrary! They are in order that you might live, might enjoy life to the fullest degree, might find it whole and rich.
So God instructs us, now, in this area of sex and here we learn truth about sex that you will never learn by reading the book All You Have Ever Wanted to Know About Sex but Have Been Afraid to Ask. There is a lot here that is not in that book. I have read the book and found it very shallow. The author doesn't know very much about sex. He documents a few obscure sexual practices I hadn't heard about previously, but he gives very little information about what sex is and what it is for. Like every other worldly book about sex, this one doesn't tell you very much. It is very distorted.
But here in Scripture you get the truth about sex. All through the Scriptures we are taught that sex is to be a total union of a man and his wife, expressing physical, emotional, and spiritual oneness. That is what sex is all about. It is a total union. Therefore marriage is its only possible expression -- anything else immediately becomes abortive and hurtful because the union cannot be total outside of marriage. No way! So, you see, sex with the wrong person is always harmful. And the most harmful of all, according to this passage, is sex with those who are near of kin. That is what God goes on to warn his people about, beginning with Verse 6:
"None of you shall approach anyone near of kin to him to uncover nakedness. I am the LORD. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife; it is your father's nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, the daughter of your father or the daughter of your mother, whether born at home or born abroad. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son's daughter or of your daughter's daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness." (Lev 18:6-10 RSV)
The section goes right on, covering the cases of all the relatives and in-laws. The phrase which is used repeatedly here, "uncover nakedness," is a Biblical euphemism which designates the total act of sex, especially including sexual arousal, preliminary fore-play. Even that is prohibited because it is harmful. There is to be no sexual arousal practiced with anyone who falls into these categories.
By reading this section carefully and comparing it with other passages which deal with sex we can perceive two basic reasons for this prohibition:
First, genetically, as we well know, sex with relatives which results in procreation inevitably intensifies weaknesses in the family strain. The royal families of Europe are not very healthy because they have been intermarrying within their near of kin relationships for centuries and are now so closely intermarried that there is much physical weakness among them. And laws everywhere forbid incest. There is a recognition on the part of governments that society is injured by sexual relationships resulting in children between those of close kin.
And, second, psychologically, to have sex or even to arouse passion in one who is near of kin is to have a form of sex with oneself. As the passage indicates, nearness of kin is closeness to self. The "nakedness" of relatives is related to our own "nakedness." And sex with oneself, in any form, apparently violates a kind of protective shield which is intended by God to keep the race from demonic invasion. We don't understand much about human life. We are really very, very ignorant about what happens in human relationships, and that is where these words can be of great help to us. You need only read the scriptural passages that deal with sex to realize that there is a tie between illicit sexual practices and openness to demonic influence. This is why God warns again and again throughout the Scriptures that nations or individuals who give themselves over to widespread sexual laxity are opening themselves to the most destructive, pernicious, demonic activity.
When a proper regard for the sexual limitations prescribed by God is broken down, the barrier which protects mankind from the unseen forces of darkness which surround us is vitiated and demonic invasion can then occur very easily. This is what destroys a race. A nation begins to fall apart at that point. Society comes apart at the seams. You only need to read the first chapter of Romans to see how inevitable is the decay and the decline. And it moves rapidly into other forms of violations and perversions, as this passage goes on to specify: Verses 19-23:
"You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness. [That is an inordinate sexual demand, even within the marriage relationship.] And you shall not lie carnally with your neighbor's wife, and defile yourself with her. [That is adultery.] You shall not give any of your children to devote them by fire to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. [That was an offering of infants to the fiery iron god, Molech. They actually laid children in the heated arms of the image of the god so that the children were cremated alive. This was demon worship and evidently it was regarded as some form of sexual act.] You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. [That is homosexuality.] And you shall not lie with any beast and defile yourself with it, neither shall any woman give herself to a beast to lie with it: it is perversion." [That is, bestiality.] (Lev 18:19-23 RSV)
All these practices, the Bible suggests, provide open doors to the destruction of the race, and of the individuals involved, because they open people's lives to demonic influence. The spirits of darkness which are waiting to move into humanity to possess it, individually and corporately, are given purchase, are given foothold by loose sexual practice. Thus satanic influence grows, and oppression and mental illness and all the other accompaniment of demonic activity creeps into the race. The end result of this process is given in Verses 24-30:
"Do not defile yourselves by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am casting out before you defiled themselves; and the land became defiled, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you shall keep my statutes and my ordinances and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (for all of these abominations the men of the land did, who were before you, so that the land became defiled); lest the land vomit you out, when you defile it, as it vomited out the nation that was before you. For whoever shall do any of these abominations, the persons that do them shall be cut off from among their people. So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs which were practiced before you, and never to defile yourselves by them: I am the LORD your God." (Lev 18:24-30 RSV)
How tenderly God deals with his people! How graciously and faithfully he warns them that by violating his statutes they will only destroy themselves and that the ultimate effect of sexual looseness is ecological disaster.
Now that is an amazing revelation! And it shows how little we understand life. We are so ignorant of our own humanity and of the way we are tied together and affect each other by what we do -- whether other people know about what we do or not. Especially have we been ignorant of the way in which all humanity relates ultimately to the land -- God never forgets that. Man does.
I wonder if there aren't young people who really have never had occasion to stop to think whether milk actually comes in cardboard cartons. It doesn't, of course. It comes from a cow, who eats grass. And bread doesn't come in loaves wrapped in waxed paper. It comes from grain grown on the land. Cities have a way of removing us from the land and we forget that we are a people totally dependent upon the soil. All human life stems directly from the land and is intimately related to the natural world.
And God says that there is a tie between wrongful sexual practices and ecological disaster. When sexual practices are wrong, demonic influence twists the thinking of men and they do things to the land which turns it against its inhabitants. The expressive figure that God uses is that the land is defiled and it "vomits out" the people -- it can't stand them anymore. It rejects them.
If you think that the ecological crisis we are undergoing today -- the widespread pollution and the destruction of our natural resources -- is due to the population explosion, you are very, very wrong, because there have been ecological disasters for millennia before now in human history. Here in this passage is the record of one. The inhabitants of the land of Canaan were cast out beforehand by the land itself because of the sexual looseness of the people. And there are many records of similar ecological disasters in human history -- long before there was a worldwide population boom. It isn't population explosion that creates the disaster. No, the reason for it is that man in his ignorance of life does not understand the things that unite us to the land and to nature.
We would never think that our harmful sexual practices have something to do with our ecological crisis. But God, in his infinite knowledge of human affairs, knows that there is a tie and he tells us faithfully and honestly, "If you go on in the way you are going, sexually, the land will become repulsed by you. You will violate it and destroy it, despite your best intentions, and it will reject you. You will no longer be able to sustain yourself upon it."
So, the impending ecological and economic disaster our nation is facing is directly traceable to the sexual permissiveness that we have indulged in, and to our creation of wrongful attitudes toward sex. It never occurs to us that there is a tie between Playboy and pollution, but it is there. God sees it and he is faithful to tell us these things.
We wouldn't understand all this if he didn't reveal it to us. And we cannot find our way out by ourselves. Nature reflects only the ravaged and ruined condition of the spirit of man. And as society falls apart in direct disobedience to what God has said -- ignoring the gracious provision of a Redeemer, of a Savior, who offers a whole way of life that is entirely different, and a different power to live by -- our nation becomes infiltrated with demonic thought, twisted satanic lies, delusions and illusions, and the land becomes increasingly defiled and sick. Ultimately, unless we have a national change of heart, it will vomit out its inhabitants.
God's word, of course, is always the same: Repent, think it over, think again -- especially the people of God -- and believe! Remember, God alone can handle life. God alone can master our sexual desires. And he is ready and graciously waiting to provide what we need, so that we might live a whole, full, abundant life. ((Part II of a sermon entitled "Blood and Sex," from http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/leviticus/0517.html)
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