God spoke to Moses: “Speak to the People of Israel. Tell them, I am God, your God. Don’t live like the people of Egypt where you used to live, and don’t live like the people of Canaan where I’m bringing you. Don’t do what they do. Obey my laws and live by my decrees. I am your God. Keep my decrees and laws: The person who obeys them lives by them. I am God. Leviticus 18:1-5 (MSG)
When, as parents, we make rules for our children there is generally a reason behind the rules. A young child doesn’t like, nor does he or she understand, the need to be strapped tightly into a car seat. It’s uncomfortable and confining to a little one naturally given to constant movement and squirming. Any parent can attest to the screams, tears and rebellious striving which occurs when strapping a squirmy toddler into a car seat. We as parents understand, however, that in the big picture we’re preserving and protecting life.
As I journey through Leviticus, I’m not just looking at God’s rules, but trying to discern our Heavenly Father’s motivation in making the rule in the first place. As I read through the laundry list of rules regarding sexual behavior in today’s chapter, a couple of thoughts came to mind:
- The cultures of that day were given to sexual immorality. The beginning of today’s chapter makes it clear that these rules were meant to differentiate God’s people from the people around them. Incestuous relationships in ancient Egypt are well documented by historians. God wanted His people marked by their purity, not their perversions.
- There is a constant theme in the chapter, not just about sexual acts, but the violation which takes place within the act. Sex outside the lines creates personal, relational, spiritual and societal violations. Rather than building healthy souls, relationships and a stronger society, sexual violations tear individuals and relationships apart, weakening the societal fabric. Historians have clearly linked moral decline with the demise of multiple ancient societies. It’s not rocket science.
- There is a direct connection between the sexual and the spiritual. Many of the gods and idols in ancient times were fertility gods whom cultures worshipped by committing sexual acts. Fertility gods became a kind of spiritual cover for prostitution and any number of sexual behaviors the fell outside God’s intentions. There is a particular reference to Molech (a.k.a. Moloch) in today’s chapter, who was a god worshipped by many of the cultures in the area where the Israelites wandered. People brought their children to be sacrificed (typically burned alive) to Molech. It is often argued that gods like Molech rose from sexually dysfunctional, spiritually dead cultures as they sought to justify their behavior and eliminate the unwanted consequence of their illicit sexual activities. It was a pretty preverse cycle. Give yourself over to unbridled sexual activity in the worship of a fertility god, but when the sexual act actually results in fertility you sacrifice the baby back to the fertility god.
I have to connect the dots here. Sex outside the lines creates personal and relational violations in which individuals are victimized. To perpetuate and justify the repeated violation, we must depersonalize and diminish the victim, as well as eliminate the unwanted result [read: children].
I have to dig one level deeper. I have to believe that it is not just about society as a whole with which God is concerned. Any who have struggled with pornography or sex outside the lines can attest to the truth that a microcosm of this same destructive spiritual regression can occur within the individual human soul.
God made his motivation clear in his preamble to the sexual rules in today’s chapter. The rules were intended to preserve and promote individual, spiritual, relational and societal life. God was tightly buckling his young nation of sinful people into a cultural car seat knowing that death would result on many levels for not doing so.