Thursday, 13 February 2014

(45) February 14: Leviticus 18-19 & Matthew 27:32-66

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider why God requires these things.

To ponder:
We commonly hear that Christians pick and choose from the OT law. Why affirm the laws on homosexuality but not food? Chapter 18 gives a response. It begins and ends with an affirmation that its commands are not specific to Israel in that time, but were wrong for the wider world before Israel even existed. Indeed, these things were so wrong that they polluted the land, bringing down God’s judgement and so the loss of the land to its previous inhabitants. This alludes to the tight relationship between humanity and the creation. Serious and persistent sin, even by unbelievers, may bring a judgement that impacts their enjoyment of their portion of the creation.
This also explains God’s affirmation that those who obey his laws “will live by them” (18v5). Obedience not only means wholeness in living rightly. Without it, God will bring the nations against Israel, who will then loose the land themselves. The primary motivation however is the repeated “I am the LORD.” They should obey because of the special covenant relationship God lovingly brought them into by redeeming them from Egypt. We obey because we have this in Christ.
            The essence of v6-18 is that a man may not have sex with close relatives or any who have become close relative through a previous marriage to one of the man’s close relatives. This probably reflects the fact that in making the couple one-flesh, those marrying close relatives essentially become close relatives themselves. So sex with a female relative dishonours her husband, father or grandfather (18v14, 17, 10), because she and they are one-flesh. It is striking that Abraham broke v11 and Jacob v18. They were not as culpable without these laws, but v24-28 suggests their actions were wrong.
            All these sins warrant being “cut off.” This might be to be put to death by the people, or perhaps directly by God (18v29). However, specific sins are marked out, perhaps emphasizing seriousness: Sex with a woman and her daughter is “wicked.” Adultery “defiles,” ie. pollutes the adulterer. Sacrificing children to the god Molech “profanes” God’s name, ie. portrays him as unholy. (As the chapter is about forbidden sex, v21 may include a sexual element). Homosexuality is “detestable,” ie. hateful to God (v22, 26, 29, 30). Beastiality “defiles” and is a “perversion,” in contravening God’s distinction between creatures.
The call of chapter 19 is to “be holy” as God is holy. These instructions reflect his character, setting the nation apart not just in universal morality (as chapter 18), but in ways unique to Israel. The principles of the Ten Commandments are reaffirmed, but also rules regarding the fellowship offering. Concern for the poor is affirmed in leaving part of the harvest for them, honesty in prompt payment of wages and the use of standards and scales in business, uprightness in not taking advantage of those who can’t defend themselves (19v14), respect in rising for the elderly, and justice in not showing partiality. In short, Israel are to love their neighbours as themselves (19v18, 34). So they mustn’t endanger others’ lives, nor hate them, or bear a grudge against them, but be prepared to turn them from doing wrong (19v16-18).
19v19 affirms again the need of a greater perfection and order because of God’s presence, and 19v23-25 may be intended to stress reliance on God for provision, echoing his purpose in creation (Gen 1v29). The theme of pure worship in 19v26-31 suggests the prohibitions on cutting hair, bodies and tattoos affirm the need to be set-apart from the practices of false religion. 19v29 probably therefore refers to the cult-prostitution that marked Canaanite religion.

Praying it home:
Praise God for his concern with the love in the details of life. Pray home the qualities highlighted within these chapters.

Thinking further:
None today.

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