I’m now into the book of Leviticus. Reading all the laws set forth therein can be prodigious. There are a lot of laws. It can seem a bit overwhelming to read of all the things God wanted His people to observe in order to be called “to be a people for His own possession” (Deut, 4:20). Who could keep from failing in some fashion to remain obedient to every one of them?
But there was a reason for this as God explained many times. Leviticus 20:22 – 24 “You are therefore to keep all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them, so that the land to which I am bringing you to live will not spew you out. Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I will drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them. Hence I have said to you, ‘You are to possess their land, and I Myself will give it to you to possess it, a land flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples.”
So one of the main reasons God as giving the land of Canaan to Israel was as a judgement of the nations who currently inhabited that area. Their judgement now being full (see Genesis 15:16), they were going to pay the price for their rampant immorality. Reading all the proscriptions in these laws were judgments against current evil practices of the Canaanites.
Despicable things like offering one’s children in sacrifice to demons, cursing one’s parents, harlotry, incest, homosexuality, bestiality, being a spiritism or medium. All these things were reprehensible to God and those nations were to be exterminated for these practices. And Israel was not to imitate them. They were to be “holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.” Lev. 20:26
None of these practices seem to have gone out of favor even now about 4 thousand years later, except perhaps passing one’s children through the fire – you don’t hear much of that. But the rest continue as perversions in current societies. Some even have been deemed as honorable behaviors, and worthy of legal protections, such as homosexuality. But these passages in Leviticus make it clear that these evils were not condemned merely because the Law had proscribed them, and thus are now antiquated because the Jewish law is antiquated. But the practices preceded the Law and incurred God’s condemnation before there was a Law. Thus they are practices still validly condemned by God as abominations. And laws that protect these practices as socially acceptable behaviors are also immoral and reprehensible.
The primary concept God wanted His people to understand upon giving them the Law was simple: “I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” as He repeatedly told Israel (see Lev. 11:44 and 45; 19:2;d 20:7 and 26; 21:8; 22:2 and 3 and 16 and 32).
True, it was impossible to follow the Law perfectly, without failing in some fashion. That is why He gave them the opportunities in the Law to atone for their sins through sacrifices and offerings. That was pretty gracious of Him. Even though it was stated plainly, that “you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them.” Lev 18:5. Yes, if there was any individual who was able to be completely obedient to the Law in every way, shape, and form, he would be able to live before God. But there was no such person. That is not until Jesus was born. And His sinlessness allowed Him to be the perfect and ultimate sacrifice for sin. Not just of Israel, but for the entire world.
The graciousness of God is awesome!
[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]