Our evaluation of right and wrong is often different from God’s. For God, these are matters of obedience, honour, and recognition of his place as the Lord in our lives. That probably didn’t sit well with Israel, and we can’t blame them. We go our own way too…
1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. 3 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. 4 You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. 5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.
God’s commands in Leviticus 18 include sexual relations and child sacrifice. Strange mix. Not sure how that makes sense… The context of the commands is God saying that Israel should not follow in the ways of the Egyptians or the Canaanites. In other words, the practices of the people from which they came and the practices where they were going were off-limits.
God desired for his people to be holy as he is holy and to obey his commands. At the principle level, this is about obedience, recognition of God as the Lord, and honour of each other. Several of the commands point out that to ignore the command is dishonouring to other people.
There is something for everyone here – the list of prohibitions is extensive. Incest, sex with extended family, inlaws, sex with more than one member of the same family (even if it isn’t your own), sex during menstruation, adultery with a neighbour, homosexuality, and beastiality – these are all off-side of God’s commands here.
And these activities must have all been commonplace enough that laws were given relating to these practices. We don’t read that the people were shocked that God would mention these things. No one said, ‘who would do that?’ They either knew someone who did or heard of those who did these things.
These practices were, by implication, acceptable in other societies of the time. These are the practices of the Egyptians and the Canaanites. Okay by societal standards there, yet for God’s people, not okay. God expected his people to be different. God expected his people to obey him.
These practices are connected to the defilement of these other nations (vs 24). In fact, God said that if Israel acted in these ways, the land would become defiled again and would spit them out.
By including the reference to sacrificing children to Molek, a foreign god of the time, I see God drawing a comparison, as if to say that these practices are at the level of child sacrifice. That’s how off-side they are to God. Most of us wouldn’t equate adultery with the neighbour with offering your children by fire to a idol-god. Our evaluation of right and wrong is often different from God’s.
For God, these things were matters of obedience, honour, and recognition of God’s place as the Lord…