Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Skip Heitzig: Father, how grateful we are that the country that we find ourselves in by birth, by heritage, is a country that allows a freedom of assembly, a freedom to worship. As wonderful as that is we realize that by and large the people that we live around and interact with throughout the week don't worship the living God and the true God. And so we have lots of opportunities where we work, where we live, people that we meet, to be able to share your truth.
We see part of tonight as equipping, just cementing concepts deep down, and through and through, and over and over. And we count it a privilege to be able to gather together as a fellowship and worship as men and women devoted to knowing what you said and seeking to discover why you said it, to whom it applies, and in what way. So we pray you'd help us, in Jesus' name, amen.
The first half of the book of Leviticus, essentially, the first half being chapters 1 through chapters 16 or 17, is all about approaching God's presence. And I look to do this; I like to look at truths from different angles; approaching God's presence. It's all about sacrifices and the priesthood and the tabernacle. It's the way people would approach God and get in touch with God; approaching God's presence.
This second half of the book is all about accepting and applying God's precepts; approaching God's presence, accepting God's precepts. Because in the second part of book it's precept after precept as the Lord through Moses and the priesthood of Aaron expands on the commandments that have already been given, His law, His precepts. So approaching God's presence, and now accepting God's precepts.
Of course, in order to do that we have to acknowledge God's person. And one of the main attributes of the person of God is that He is holy. God is holy. We've been discussing that in this book because it is very core to the meaning of the book of Leviticus. I think it's safe to say that holiness is the least attractive of God's attributes.
What I mean by that is, if you were to ask people the most important or attractive attribute that God has: "What attracts you most about God's personality?" Most people would say, "The love of God." Or some people would say, "The control of God; the sovereignty of God; that He's in charge; that I know He controls everything." We love to speak about His love. We love to speak about His control or His goodness.
And yet, though all of those are true about the Lord, the one attribute that is spoken about more in Scripture than any other attribute is that God is Holy. And in Leviticus he says, "Be holy, because I am holy." We've been discussing what that means and seeking to apply that to our lives, the "Holiness of God." That He is distinct, unique, separate, and we are to be distinct, unique, different, separate from the world, dedicated to the Lord.
It is not just an Old Testament concept by the way. I think a lot of Christians hear this concept, the "Holiness of the Lord," and they go, "Oh, well, that's mentioned so often in the Old Testament." And yet when Jesus Himself taught us to pray, He said, "When you pray, you say: 'Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed,' " or holy " 'is your name.' "One of the first acknowledgments that you should make, said Jesus, when you talk to your Father is that you realize He is Holy.
Then when we come to the third person of the Trinity, the title by which He goes is the "Holy Spirit," He's not could the loving Spirit, or the gracious Spirit, or the merciful Spirit, or the sovereign Spirit—though He is all of those. The most important attribute by which He goes is the Holy Spirit. So it stands to reason that God who is Holy taught by His Son when we communicate to Him, to acknowledge that He was Holy.
And we live in the new covenant, the dispensation or the age of the Holy Spirit that we should be all about this—unattractive to some, but very important to God—attribute of His Holiness; now, the two chapters that are in front of us, or at least the one chapter, depending on how far we get. The chapters that are before us take the Ten Commandments and apply them to specific life situations. Now we get down to the nitty gritty of morality, especially in this chapter.
And as I read through chapter 18, and you'll see why I waited until this week and didn't include it last week in communion, is because this picture paints a very graphic picture of the depravity of humanity. It shows you what we're capable of for God to even need to write commandments as such.
Verse 1, chapter 18, "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: "I am the Lord your God. According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances." ' "
Six times in chapter 18 the Lord will say, "Don't be like the pagans. Don't be like the Egyptians that you used to hang out with because you were in their land. Don't be like the Canaanites, the land in which you are going. Just because everyone is doing it in Egypt, just because everybody is doing it in Canaan is not an excuse for you to do it. Don't practice the lifestyle of the unbelieving world." Six times that is mentioned in this chapter, so it's important.
Forty two times from this chapter to the end of the book is the phrase "I am the Lord," or "I am the Lord your God." Now the reason I bring that up is because God says, "Don't be like the world," but then forty two times He tells us why not. He gives us the basis for it.
The basis for the commandment, it's all based upon the character of God to you, and the claim of God over you. He is the Lord your God. He is in charge. He puts a claim on your life. That's the basis for saying, "Don't to that," and "Do these things." Here's the laws; here's the precepts. "I am the Lord your God." That's important.
If you think about it, the 400—let's see, 430 years to be exact. The 430 years that the Israelites were in Egypt, the nation of Egypt was probably the most advanced culture in the world at the time. The most advanced in its scientific study, in its burial practices. Its, yes, it was superstitious, but just its calculation, it was sophisticated for that era. Very advanced, and yet very immoral.
Just because a culture is advanced, it at the same time can be very immoral. "Oh, we live in an advanced culture." So! It's interesting how those two things seem to go hand in hand. The smarter we get, the stupider we get, or the less wise we become. We become smart, but fools at the same time. You'll see what I mean.
"'You shall observe my judgments and keep my ordinances, to walk in them: I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord. None of you shall approach anyone who is near of kin,' " that is close relation to you, " 'to uncover his nakedness: I am the Lord.' "
Now, that is the New King James and the King James Version, because that is really a closer to the Hebrew translation than any of the others, "to uncover ones nakedness." The NIV, however, gives us the real sense behind this commandment. The NIV says, "You shall not have sexual relations with them." Now we're going to have twelve specific examples or incidents of who not to have sexual relations with.
I find this an interesting chapter. It shows me right off the bat before reading anything further that, that God wants to be part of the boardroom as well as the bedroom. God wants to be in every single part of your life, even your sex life. He puts His nose; He sticks His nose in every corner of your life. You know why? Because He said, "I am the Lord," that's why. A relationship with God means a relationship in all parts of your life with the Lord.
So, "'none of you shall approach anyone who is near of kin, to uncover his nakedness,' "or to have sexual relations with, "'for I am the Lord. The nakedness of your father or the nakedness of your mother you shall not uncover. She is your mother; you shall not uncover her nakedness.' "So you can't have sexual relations with parents.
"'The nakedness of your father's wife you shall not uncover; it is your father's nakedness,' " speaking about one's stepmother. So once again, the idea isn't indecent exposure; the idea here is incest is forbidden by God. Verse 9, " 'the nakedness of your sister, the daughter of your father, or the nakedness or the daughter of your mother, whether born at home or elsewhere, their nakedness you shall not uncover,' " speaking of one's sister or half sister.
A key to help you so far, because you're going, "Man, am I really reading this?" In Egypt in Egyptian culture under the pharaohs and later on under the Ptolemaic Empire, after Alexander the Great and the empire of his split into four, the Ptolemaic Empire was the Egyptian Empire. There was the intermarrying between family members, and somebody, a pharaoh or a leader marrying sisters of the same family as multiple wives.
"'the nakedness of your son's daughter or your daughter's daughter, their nakedness you shall not uncover; for theirs is your own nakedness,' "speaking of one's granddaughter." 'The nakedness of your father's wife's daughter, begotten by your father—she is your sister—you shall not uncover her nakedness,' "this would be your stepsister." 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's sister; she is near of kin to your father,' "so your paternal aunt is forbidden.
"'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother's sister, for she is near of kin to your mother," ' your maternal aunt. "'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's brother. You shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt," ' your paternal uncle's wife. "'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter in law—she is your son's wife—you shall not uncover her nakedness. You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother's wife; it is your brother's nakedness," ' so your sister in law, your brother's wife.
Okay stop here. There's an exception to this law in Deuteronomy 25 called the "law of the levirate marriage," or the "kinsmen redeemer." If a man has a brother who is married and the brother dies, so now the woman, which would be your sister in law, is left and they never had children so that tribe may not continue, or the family may not continue, or the land would be lost. There was the exception to this law upon the death of husband to allow that woman to marry the brother so that the family name would continue, and the heritage would continue with her and her progeny.
"'You shall not uncover the nakedness' " verse 17, " 'of a woman and her daughter, nor shall you take her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness. They are near of kin to her. It is wickedness,' " so your stepdaughter or your step granddaughter." 'Nor shall you take a woman as rival to her sister, to uncover her nakedness while the other is alive,' "your wife's sister.
What God is doing is amplifying the seventh commandment which is, "You shall not commit adultery." And essentially God is putting a fence of protection, a hedge of protection around the family by specifying and then amplifying the seventh commandment, "You shall not commit adultery." Why? Because the family is the core unit of any culture of any nation.
If the family gets compromised, if the family becomes weakened, then the nation becomes weakened, which is exactly what we have happening in our nation. The reason our nation has become so weak is because the cells of the larger body (i.e., the families) have become weakened because of some of the variations of some of the sins that are mentioned in this chapter, the destruction of the family.
We're dealing with sexual sin which is interesting because on one hand it's fashionable socially, while at the same time it is fatal relationally. Oh, it's fashionable.
I read a Time magazine article that got my attention because they were looking at "religious America." And it said, "Among those who claim to be very religious," in this Time magazine article it was 31 percent of those they looked at and polled, "31 percent had or were currently having some sort of sexual affair." And some of them, "Many of them," said the article "saw nothing morally wrong with it." They claimed to be very religious.
Back in the sixties this became very fashionable. It was called the "love generation," the "sexual revolution." And back then, you know I was a kid going through that, but it was, it was so amazing that that generation thought it was, like, brand new, their concepts were brand new. "Sexual revolution! Be free! This is brand new. We're breaking taboo."
Now, they didn't know their history. They only knew their recent history, their parent's history. Yeah, it wasn't fashionable with their parents and grandparents and great grandparents, because there was a semblance of godliness at one time in this nation that kept things pretty straight and moral. But if they were to just go back far enough to Canaanite history, Egyptian history; it's as old as the hills and twice as dusty. It just became fashionable again.
And so I remember that Stephen Stills song. In fact, Richie Furay, a friend of mine who is now a pastor, played in that band and had trouble with that one he said. But the words of the song were: "If you can't be with the one you love, then love the one your with." Remember that song? Love the one your with. And people thought, "Oh, that's so cool, man. It's so edgy. It's so modern." It's so old! Are you kidding?
Sexual revolution has been around, well, since Old Testament times. It's fashionable socially, but it is fatal relationally. It hurts people. You say, "Well, who does it hurt?" First of all, it will hurt you. Proverbs, chapter 6, says it can, says it can destroy your life. Adultery can destroy the person who commits it. One of the ways it can destroy you is physically: sexually transmitted diseases, the AIDS virus, chlamydia, syphilis, a whole host of sexually transmitted diseases.
It can destroy you emotionally. It can certainly hurt you spiritually. It hurts you. It also hurts your family. It breaks the oneness bond with your spouse. It causes your children to question, and not trust, and have bonding problems later on in their life. It hurts people around you. The whole church is destroyed. Every disobedient Christian weakens the church; every obedient Christian strengthens the church. "If one member;" said Paul, "of the body suffers we all suffer."
And along those lines, it keeps unbelievers from coming to Christ. They see you practicing the same things that unbelievers practice with the sexual revolution and the affairs that the world is having. They see no difference between the church and the world. They, "Why should I come to Christ? There's, there's no standard. There's no difference." So it hurts you, it hurts your family; it hurts others around you, including believer and nonbeliever.
And first and foremost, it hurts the Lord. When David sinned with Bathsheba and he wrote two psalms, the one I'm thinking of is Psalm 51 where he confesses it before the Lord. He says something interesting. Though he has hurt himself, Bathsheba, her family, Uriah by killing him, the people around, David writes, "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned and committed this wickedness in your sight."
Typically God is the last person that people consider when they have an affair. He ought to be the first one they consider. It's called the "fear of the Lord." You go through some of the lists of these things and you go, "Why would God have to write this? Why would he have to have this spelled out?" Obviously he knew the propensities and proclivities of His own people, because of what they had seen in Egypt and what they would see in the land of Canaan; it would rub off.
Verse 19, "'Also you shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness as long as she is in her customary impurity,' " this is the menstruation cycle. The monthly cycle of the woman where her estrogen's at the lowest level and she's also in a very low emotional state.
And so God is saying, "Men, don't approach her," [laughter] be I don't, I don't mean don't, you know don't hang out with her, go to, go to Starbucks for three days and come home. [Laughter] But don't make physical, sexual, demands on upon her. Give her, her space, man. Control yourself. Give her her space. Also because blood is considered sacred, this probably has something to do with this command.
"'Moreover you shall not lie carnally with your neighbor's wife, to defile yourself with her.' "The ancient peoples in the Middle East used to call adultery, sort of by large with many of these cultures, the "great sin," and it was certainly regarded as such among God's people; a lot of Old Testament Scripture to that.
"'And you shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire to Molech nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.' "You say, "Who is this Molech guy?" Molech was a pagan deity that was worshiped by a group of people to the east of the people of Israel once they settled in the land of Canaan. A group known as the Ammonites and the Ammonites worshiped the deity called Molech, the God of pleasure.
Molech was an iron statue, cast iron typically, between four to six feet tall. It had a hollowed out belly area. It was portrayed as being fat. But it was simply—think of a chimenea. Do you know what a chimenea is? You know, you got that big pot on the bottom where you put your wood, and then smoke comes up through the hole. It was sort of like a cast iron idol chimenea.
And the idea is that you would light the fire in the belly of this cast iron image of Molech. And you would stoke the fire and the fire would get the metal really hot.
And when the arms on the image of Molech became incandescent and glowing, people in those days—the Ammonite people, and some of the children of Israel according to a couple of verses in the Old Testament—placed their babies on the red hot incandescent arms of the god Molech, and offered them to the god, burning them to death; burning them on the fires of the god of pleasure.
You should also know—you go, "How could they do that?" Well, there was the idea amongst some of these ancient pagan peoples that babies weren't really humans, weren't fully human, so they were expendable. And in order to get blessed and to have pleasure, the babies were burned. It's an interesting corollary, I know it's an ancient practice, but there's a modern practice that is acceptable in this country called abortion.
Now, babies aren't burned upon the red hot arms of Molech, but they're burned with saline in the womb of their mothers to the god of pleasure: "It's going to cramp my lifestyle. I'm not ready yet. I don't think I can afford it. And besides, it's not fully human." Expendable. Names have changed, practices have changed, but the effect is largely the same where this country has on its conscience the blood of millions of infants who have been slaughtered.
If you think that's controversial, read the next verse. "'You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.' "It says it's "an abomination", it doesn't say it's "an alternative lifestyle." "'You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination.' "
This is one of the Old Testament passages speaking about homosexuality; something that is hotly debated even now. We're in the midst of it. Now, many people will say that homosexuality should not be considered a sin and it should not be considered unnatural, and there are many within so called churches that will say that. They'll say it's not unnatural; it's only unnatural for you if you are heterosexual. But for those with propensities toward it, it's perfectly natural.
And they will cite loving, meaningful relationships between same sex couples. And they'll point to heterosexual couples and say, "Look at the divorce rate. How can you point to us and say what we're doing is an abomination when, when in the heterosexual community there is abuse and relationships that aren't as loving and aren't as meaningful as what we see in our community?"
Here's when you ought to know, because it is talked about and it will be talked about. And this will not be a popular—it is not, not will be. It is not a popular thing to talk about, for preachers to talk about. And one day it may become outlawed, they're talking about that, for me to even say what I've just said.
Now, can I just give a quick disclaimer? If that ever happens, and I'm not allowed to preach what I believe the Bible says to preach, no matter what it is, I'm going to preach a God of love and that God can forgive heterosexuals as well as homosexuals, because sin is sin. But if that becomes the law of the land where I'm not allowed to say what the Bible says about anything, then I'll just say that God has called me into a prison ministry. [applause]
I've raised a family. I've had a good life. I think I've adequately passed on the truths to the next generation. So, Paul the apostle had a very, very fruitful prison ministry, maybe some of us will as well.
But here's what you ought to know: there's four biblical passages that speak negatively about homosexuality. They are, in order: Genesis, chapter 19, the Sodom and Gomorrah passage. Closely related to that and kind of lumped into that is Judges, chapter 19, about the incident that happened with the Benjamite at Gibeah, very, very similar in its details—so those two passages.
The second set of passages are the Levitical passages, chapter 18, the one we just read, and another one in chapter 20 of Leviticus. The third set are the list of sins in Romans 1 as Paul outlines the perversions of the unbelieving world around him at that time, the Greco Roman culture and its predecessors. And then two lists, the fourth Scripture are two lists given by Paul in the New Testament: Second Corinthians 6; First Timothy, chapter 1.
A list of sins that God frowns upon and homosexuality is one of them. It's not the only one by the way; there's a lot of others. In fact, go look at those lists, not now, but later. And you'll, you might blush at some of them, because a lot of, a lot of Christians want to make a big deal out of homosexuality, but they don't do any house cleaning about their own stuff that's listed on those things. But those are the four passages.
Now what you ought to know is those four passages are the passages that are being reinterpreted or reconstructed and dealt with very directly by the gay and lesbian lobby as well as their homosexual churches. Like the Metropolitan Community Church that boasts of 270 congregations in 37 countries, over 25,000 to 30,000 members, some say more.
Because they want to have a church experience and believe its okay, they have to deal with those four passages. And I've read what they say about them and how they reconstruct, deconstruct, and misinterpret them. So, instead of trying to deal with all that, if you want to know how God feels about it negatively, you need to first see what he says about marriage positively; that's where we begin.
We don't begin with the negative passages. We begin with the Genesis 2 passage where God created man on the earth and looked at man and said, "It is not good that man should be alone. I'm going to make a helper that is suitable to him." And I hold you when we went through Keep Calm Marry On, suitable means "like opposite him." "I'm going to make a helper like opposite him."
So it says that all the birds, all the animals were created before Adam, and there was not found a suitable helper. So God had to make a special creation. And God made a woman and brought the woman to the man. And he got all stoked and said, "This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She will be called woman, because she was taken out of man." That's his way of going, Wow!
And then God said, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife, and the two will become one flesh." So, it's God's original design; that's the positive. You should also note that Jesus endorsed what happened at creation when he used creation and he said, "Have you not read in the beginning that God made them male and female. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."
So rather than dealing with just the negative, you first start with the positive and see God's original design and intention. Heterosexual gender was God's divine creation. Heterosexual marriage was God's divine institution. Heterosexual fidelity, one man, one woman, one lifetime, is God's divine intention.
So with that in mind, those people in reading this wouldn't scratch their head and go, "Now, what does he exactly mean by 'You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination'?" They didn't have to deconstruct, reconstruct, or figure out, because the plain meaning of the text is the plain meaning of the text.
"'Nor shall you mate with any animal, to defile yourself with it. Nor shall any woman stand before an animal to mate with it. It is perversion. Do not defile yourself with any of these things; for by all these things the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants,' "interesting phrase.
"'You shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you.' "In other words, God is saying, "This shall be your law. You will legislate righteous behavior."
You know this whole idea, "Well, you can't legislate righteousness." It's legislated every day. Every time a judge says, "That's wrong. That's right." He's legislating some standard of behavior, or he's legislating unrighteousness, but it every society legislates a standard of behavior, righteousness or unrighteousness. God says, "It's going to be written in the Law, children of Israel, whether you're a native born Israelite or people come and join your country from afar."
" '(For all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled), lest' " there it is again, " 'the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you.' "History shows that when cultures that advocate these behaviors, when they go on, that these cultures eventually do collapse.
I could have a lot to say if I had more time to get into Romans, but I know a lot of people are saying—I'll just, I'll just share this with you and I'll move on. Because I don't want to depress you tonight. [laughter] But if you wanted to ask my opinion: "Do you think God is going to judge America?" I think it's too late. We're, we're, we're in it.
The gavel has been dropped. You're, you're feeling and seeing the judgment of God upon this nation already happening before your eyes. May there be a reprieve? Yeah, there could be. But our nation has said what it wants. I'm going to stop there.
"'For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people.' "'Proverbs says, "Righteousness exalts a nation, sin is a reproach to any people." " 'Therefore you shall keep my ordinance, so that you do not commit any of these abominable customs which were committed before you and that you do not defile yourselves by them,' " here it is again, " 'I am the Lord your God.' "
Chapter 19 you will see the Ten Commandments. Not in order, but revisited, repeated, and applied to different life situations from offerings that are given, Sabbaths that are taken, our relationship to the poor, even, get this, get this, even gossip, gossip. So, it's very, very modern.
"And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy." '" Push the pause button for a minute. Do you remember—and I'm going to jog your memory because you will remember, cuz you're a great, intelligent group.
When we went through the book of Exodus, the last chapter of that book talks about the implements in the tabernacle: the ark of the covenant, the curtains, the altar of incense, the table of showbread, the candelabra, the basin for washing out in the outer courtyard, the altar of sacrifice—and God says all of those items are to be holy. All of those items, even the garments of priest are holy.
Now that does not mean that when God pronounced them holy that their intrinsic worth was changed at all. The brass altar was the brass altar, it was just wood covered with brass, and there was wood covered with gold, and pure gold, and cloth, and just nothing changed with the intrinsic value. To say they were holy simply means: "You can't use the ark; you can't use the basin for anything else except my worship. It is to be set apart just for that."
So you couldn't put your espresso cup on the Ark of the Covenant because it was a nice little coffee table. You couldn't lay your sandwich down on the altar of incense. It was specifically set apart for specific use; that's what the word holy means.
In our kitchen we have a teapot. We don't put coffee in it. We don't put just water in it. We don't put anything but tea. In its truest sense of the word, it is a holy teapot. It is designated for one special purpose and one special purpose only. And even the manufacturer says don't wash it with soap and ruin the whole tea vibe, you know. [Laughter] Let the natural flavor sort of steep into the plastic. [Laughter] So, it's holy.
What does it mean for you to be holy? You're set apart. If your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, what happens in the temple? Worship happens in the temple. Your life, your body, is for the purpose of God. Go figure out the best way that can be done given your talents and callings. That's what your life as a holy life is.
Now, that will help you understand the meaning of repentance. That's such a Bible word, isn't it? Repent! A lot of people know what that means. It means to turn from, but it also means to turn to. See, a lot of people say, "Well, I'm going to give up this, and I'm going to give up that; that's repentance." No, that's half of repentance. That's just "pent." [Laughter] A re pent is you turn from and you turn to. You turn from that, but you turn to the Lord for his purpose. Not for those purposes, for his purposes. That's a holy life. That's a repentant lifestyle. That's the idea of being set apart.
" 'Every one of you,' " verse 3, " 'shall revere his mother and his father,' " remember that's the fifth commandment, " 'and keep my Sabbaths,' " that's the fourth commandment. " 'I am the Lord your God. Do not turn to idols,' " that's the first commandment, " 'nor make for yourselves molded gods: I am the Lord your God,' "that's the second commandment.
The first and second commandments—follow me here. The first commandment is, "You shall worship the true God." The second commandment is, "You shall worship the true God in the true way." The first commandment is about whom you shall worship. The second commandment is about how you shall worship. The first commandment forbids worshiping false gods; the second commandment forbids worshiping the true God in a false way.
What's a false way? Any other way than what He said. So any time a person goes, "Well, I think its okay to do this." Honestly, nobody really cares what you or I think. Certainly God doesn't care about how you or I think about how He says He is to be worshiped. With all due respect, I'm not saying don't be a thinking person, a reasonable person. We should discuss and think and "work out", like Paul said, "Our own salvation" in that regard.
But we don't have the right to mold God into some image. You see, J. I. Packer, said a very profound thing, he said, "Metal images are simply the result and consequence of mental images." I fashion a God out of metal because I picture God as being this or I picture God as being that.
And so: "Well, I've always believed God was this big bundle of love up in the sky with a smiley face. And just kind of patted little children and let anybody in, whoever is nice and good enough and sincere." Okay, that's a false god, and that's the mental image you have constructed. The only difference is back then they made a metal image of the mental image. God said, "Don't do that." He revealed who he was.
Verse 5, " 'And if you offer a sacrifice of a peace offering' " it's my favorite offering of the five Levitical offerings, " 'you shall offer it of your own free will. It shall be eaten the same day you offer it, and on the next day. And if any remains until the third day, it shall be burned in the fire. And if it is eaten at all on the third day, it is an abomination. It shall not be accepted." '
So, you, you eat no leftovers except for a couple days. Now, I love leftovers, so I'm good with, with day two and day three. Except day three I can't do it, I have to burn it, because otherwise it's an abomination. "It has not be accepted." So I'm going to do that when I get home to the leftovers that I, I have in the—no I'm just kidding. [Laughter]
"'Therefore, therefore everyone who eats it shall bear his iniquity, because he has profaned the hallowed offering of the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from his people." '
The reason I love the peace offering, it's unique, it's voluntarily. And it's basically an offering where I bring an animal to the priest and say, "Hey, kill this animal. And, Mr. Priest, you take a portion for yourself and your family, because that's what God said, and part of it you burn on the fire. And this is just—I just come here because I just love God, and I'm so thankful for what God has done in my life. And I want to celebrate at home with my family and throw a big party with my friends. So the meat that I'm taking home, we're just going to, you know, have a big celebratory feast to the Lord." I love that, love that!
Why did God say eat it, and then eat it again, and then burn it? Well, it could be for health reasons; they didn't have a good way of keeping it. But because it was really enjoying the fellowship with the Lord, God is saying, "Dig in. When, when you're going to worship me and fellowship with me in this peace offering, enjoy it to the max." Don't just, like, nibble before the Lord, dig in, have a big feast, celebrate, thank the Lord, and then you're done. "Don't snack in my presence, feast in my presence."
"'When you reap the harvest of your land' " this is one of my favorite sections of this book." 'When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the Lord your God.' "
What's beautiful about this is this is the way God instructed his people to take care of those who were less fortunate among them. Some people lost jobs. Some people did not produce well in their own plot of land. So there was a way to fix that. The welfare system of children of Israel was beautiful.
The rabbinical writers tell us that this amounted to about between 10 to 20 percent of the crop. Or let's say about 15 percent of, of, of the land was left with the grapes still on vine, the produce, the grain still left on, on, on the plant itself, so that after all the reaping is done, the poor people can come in and freely gather the edges of the fields and take it home for nothing.
Now, what's interesting is that it wasn't boxed and bagged and given to them. They had to roll up their sleeves, go out and work for it. So it preserved the dignity of hard work, but then it was given to them without charge. So it wasn't just a hand out. It wasn't just a food stamp. It was, no, you gotta work for it; but you can have it; you don't have to pay for it. It was God's beautiful way of regarding the poor.
The book of Ruth is the best example of this when Ruth and Naomi come from the land east of the Dead Sea, and they come back into Bethlehem. And they go to field of Boaz, and Ruth asks the head reapers, "Let me go after you reap and gather what's leftover." And Boaz said, "Man, let her just have free reign. Don't with don't withhold anything from her."
Also, Jesus takes advantage of this. Do you remember in Matthew, chapter 12? On the Sabbath day Jesus and his disciples start cruising through the grain fields on the Sabbath plucking heads of grain and eating them. Why? Because they were poor. They were traveling from place to place. They didn't carry food with them. So, there's a field, just go eat.
And then it says the Pharisees said to them, "Why are you doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?" My first question is: What are the Pharisees doing in the grain fields on the Sabbath? It's like here's Jesus hanging out in the country and then all of a sudden [pop] little Pharisees pop out of the grain fields. It's, ahh! Children of the Corn. [Laughter] Obviously they had been spying on Jesus, and probably following them along, suspecting that he would, in their opinion, break the Sabbath. He didn't break the Sabbath. It was their twisting of the Sabbath that caused that.
"'You shall not steal,'" verse 11, that's the eighth commandment " ' nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another,' " that's ninth commandment. "'You shall not swear by my name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning.' "These were unsalaried day laborers who depended on, on the food and sustenance on a daily basis, so at the end of the day you pay them.
"'You shall not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind.' "Oh, you got to be really cruel to deserve God even writing this commandment. You would think, "God had to write that?" "'You shall fear the Lord your God: I am the Lord.' "Now as cruel as that sounds, we all know human nature.
And you either know personally or you have heard stories of children in schools who bully other children to the extent that it becomes detrimental, even life threatening. That's human nature. It has happened in every generation. It happened when I was in school. It happened when you were in school. It still happens, and so this law: "Don't curse the deaf. Don't put a stumbling block before the blind."
Sort of fascinating that among some animals in the animal kingdom, those that are lame, those that are weak, are often destroyed by other animals. I say that's interesting because modern education will tell you that you are nothing more than an animal, a highly evolved human species, a fortuitous occurrence of accidental circumstance. Over multitudes, millions, billions of years, here you are—a marvelous, wonderful freak of nature, an accident, evolved.
You're nothing more than a mechanistic animal. So why should that society that tells us that we're nothing more than animals be surprised when we as a culture start acting like animals. What God says is that, "You're not an animal. You're my crowning creation. You are different from animals. You shouldn't act like animals act. Don't do these things. Act like you're God's people. Have that respect."
"'You shall do no injustice in judgment,' " verse 15." 'You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people.' "Now for some of you, you're getting it right between the eyes by the Holy Spirit." 'Nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord." '
A talebearer, a gossip; there's a huge different between a talebearer and a "concerned friend." It's the difference between a butcher and a surgeon; both cut meat, but for different reasons. Some people just want the meaty, juicy details, but it's couched in: "I'm just concerned and I thought you would also want to be concerned, and tell forty five of your closest most concerned friends about this concern because I thought people should pray about it."
You can tell the difference between news and gossip. Do you raise your voice or lower your voice when you say it. With news you raise your voice. With gossip, "Hey, come here. Close the door."
You shall, I love this, this gets; this is so good. You want to see how good this is? Want to see how, how New Testament this Old Testament book is? "'You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.' "
Now that is so monumental a text, and we'll wait till next week to uncover why. It's because I love you. I love my neighbor as myself, and I want give the full attention to be able to treat that passage the way it needs to be treated.
So, Father, we thank you that we've been able to gather together as a family in this "living room" of ours, simply sitting, simply studying the Bible line upon line, and precept upon precept. Some of these ancient practices, Lord, have modern corollaries and thus, very up to date and contemporary application.
I pray, Lord, as we go and even in our private reading recap some of these things and prepare for next time. I pray your Spirit would continue this teaching ministry is us and work these things deeply within our hearts. Thank you for those who hunger and thirst after truth, who carve out their Wednesday night, and feel the importance of the church gathering together over the same portion of the Bible week by week, in growing together, so that as the week marches on, we know we're all dealing with the same general section of text.
May your Spirit work in us individually, but corporately as a body that we would be those who encourage and uplift, and not tear down, and acknowledge and care for those who are poor, and we would respect parents, that we would worship you only, and that your commandments out of a heart of love would be upheld.
We love your law, and we love it, Lord, because the law of God reveals the love of God. You love people. You get nosey into every little part of their lives, our lives. You want total access. Nothing is off limits in our lives before a holy and righteous God. That's the way you want it and, Lord, that's the way we want it.
We want this relationship to be total and real and authentic. So, Father, as we close the night in worship, we pour burdens over to you, and we receive your grace. This last song is not a formality. It's a way that we get in touch with you and offer ourselves totally to you, in Jesus' name. And everyone said . . . amen. Let's all stand.