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: Somebody once said that "God didn't give us 'Ten Suggestions,' but Commandments." And though we're far from the book of Exodus which gives us a listing of the Ten Commandments in the twentieth chapter of that book, in Leviticus where we are studying—and you can turn in your Bibles to Leviticus, chapter 19—we have those commandments restated but really fleshed out in real life situations for the people of Israel to know how to apply them.
And we left off in the middle of Leviticus 19 last time. In verse 17 we continue, the Lord says, " 'You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.' " So don't keep it pent up inside and hold a grudge against someone. Go tell your neighbor the offense, and then it's done with, but don't hate him in your heart. The worst thing to do is to not say anything and passively aggressively give the cold shoulder which could lead to the most damaging emotion which is that of hatred.
" 'You shall not take vengeance,' " verse 18, " 'nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.' " The most often quoted Old Testament phrase, verse, statement, is this one and it's in Leviticus. It's the most often Old Testament verse quoted in the New Testament and it's in the book of Leviticus. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
It's the second greatest commandment. When Jesus was grilled by the leaders, "What's the greatest commandment?" He said, " 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.' But the second is like unto it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' In these two," said Jesus, "are all the Law and the Prophets."
So Leviticus 19, "You will love your neighbor as yourself." Don't miss the important principle in this chapter, and in particular in this verse. Don't begin to think that the law of God is given simply to govern your outward actions rather than your inward attitude. Here we see in Leviticus that the law is given not merely to regulate what people do, but how people think: "Don't think these thoughts in your heart. Don't hate somebody in your heart."
Before a sin is ever committed outwardly, it's committed inwardly. That's the point of the Sermon on the Mount. "You have heard that it was said in ancient times, 'You shall not murder,' but I say unto you if you hate your brother, you're guilty of murder." Lust begins in the heart; it leads to an adulterous heart. Covetousness which begins in the heart can also lead to stealing, and, and so too here murder can begin with hatred.
" 'You shall keep my statutes,' " verse 19. " 'You shall not let your livestock breed,' " or some translations say "mix with another kind." Now, here is a principle that Paul pulls out of the New Testament in 2 Corinthians 6 and highlights for believers when he says, "Don't be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. "Don't be mismated," as other translations put it, "with unbelievers." Be separate. Be devoted.
The verse continues, " 'You shall not sow your field with mixed seed. Nor shall a garment of mixed linen and wool come upon you.' " I believe that the principle here is one of separation. I don't totally understand every verse of Scripture, and there are some passages of the Bible that don't give any explanation as to why God says it. But since the basic principle of these chapters seems to be knowing the difference, making the difference, and being separate, that it's the same principle here of separation.
Don't sow mixed seed in a field. If you were to take this and press it just a little bit spiritually—you remember in Matthew 13 that Jesus said that the seed in the parable is the Word of God. That the sower goes out to sow seed in the field and, "The seed," said Jesus, "is the Word of God."
I find Christians from time to time who want to sow mixed seed. "Yeah, this Bible study thing you guys do is okay, but I'd like to explore other belief systems, and other religious systems, and other ideas under the umbrella of Christianity. So I'll sow the seed of Scripture, but seeds of other good thought, and we can all get the best pickings from world religions." That can be dangerous.
Verse 20, " 'Whoever lies carnally with a woman who is betrothed to a man as a concubine, and who has not at all been redeemed nor given her freedom, for this there shall be a scourging; but they shall not be put to death, because she was not free.' " That is, she is still an indentured servant, a slave. " 'But he shall bring his trespass offering to the Lord, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, a ram as a trespass offering.' "
So this man who has sexual relations with somebody who's an indentured servant, a slave girl, who's engaged. He is the one who has to bring the trespass offering because he's the one who committed the trespass.
" 'The priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the trespass offering before the Lord for his sin which he has committed. And the sin which he has committed shall be forgiven him.' " Instead of the death penalty in this particular case, a trespass offering was instituted which would take the place of the death penalty for either one of these. It's an act of graciousness on God's part.
Now some would dispute that and go, "This is gracious?" Because it says in verse 20 that they will both be scourged. So if it's his trespass and, again, we're not told a lot of extra explanation, I can only infer that you have somebody who has control over a slave girl and either persuades her, or strongly urges her, threatens her, to have sexual relations. So the onus, the responsibility, falls upon him and both of them are scourged.
Now, it could be perfectly consensual, again, we're not told. But he has to bring the trespass offering. And again you might say, "How is this gracious if she is scourged along with him?" All I can see here beyond this is a principle, guys, that when you sin sexually, no matter how it comes out or no matter what the motivation, everybody gets hurt. It will leave in its wake painful circumstances and in this case as well.
" 'When you come into the land, and have planted all kinds of trees for food,' " that is, the Promised Land. They were in the wilderness. They had come from Egypt. They're on their way to the land of Canaan. " 'When you get into the land,' " that I promised, " 'and you've planted all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as uncircumcised.' "
NIV renders it forbidden. Don't eat it. Don't touch it. Three years it is forbidden, or uncircumcised to you. " 'It shall not be eaten. But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, a praise to the Lord." ' So three years it's forbidden, the fourth year you're also not to eat it because it's the Lord's. So for four years when you get into the land of Canaan and you plant your trees, you can't eat of it. You have to wait until the fifth year.
" 'In the fifth year you may eat its fruit, that it may yield to you its increase: I am the Lord your God.' " First of all, this would serve to remind the children of Israel that the land in which they are going into is a land that is a gift from God to them. It is God's land that he is giving to them. He is dispossessing the Canaanites, as a free gift he is giving it to them. It's a reminder that the land and its produce belong to the Lord.
But number two, from what I've been told and what I've read, when you first plant a tree the maturation doesn't really come for a few years; that is, the produce isn't mature for several years. So you have to wait for a few years before it really can kick into gear and reach its potential ultimate yield, and then it's best to eat of it then.
Now, what's true in the plant world is also true in the Christian world. The Bible says, Paul the apostle tells Timothy not to lay hands on a man, a person, for ministry suddenly, but to watch that person to see if they bear fruit. Now, they might sound fruitful: "Praise God! Hallelujah! Look at my Bible. Listen to me sing. Listen to watch my knowledge of the Bible." But give them time and watch that life to see if over a period of time it continues to be fruitful. You're to watch to see if there's genuine maturity.
" 'You shall not eat anything with the blood,' " we've already covered that, " 'you shall not practice divination or soothsaying,' " we've kind of touched on that. Don't call the psychic hotline. Don't go to Miss Cleo's website. Don't consult astrology for your future. God has your future in his hand; consult him. Father knows best.
" 'You shall not shave around the sides of your head, you shall not disfigure the edges of your beard. You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord.' " Tattooing and body piercing—not a lot really has to be said because notice the qualifying phrase in the verse: "for the dead."
It's referring to Egyptian death-cult practices whereby gashes were made on the legs, on the arms, upon the face, to appease the gods of death so that the person engaging in the tattooing and body piercing could live longer and be spared death. Impending death that has overtaken somebody in the mourning process they would often gouge themselves, tattoo themselves, cut themselves to appease that god or those gods—all based on superstitions that a person might gain strength and live long. So don't follow the Egyptian or the Canaanite death-cult practices by these things.
" 'Do not prostitute your daughter, or cause her to be a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry, and the land become full of wickedness. You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord. Give no regard to mediums,' " or smalls or large for that matter, [laughter] " 'and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God. You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord.' "
I'm growing to enjoy this verse more and more as time goes on. When I first read it years ago in my teens, late teens, I thought, "Oh, that's nice; sweet, little verse.' " But this time around as I read it, it has more weight to it. I like this practice and evidently God liked the practice of giving honor to whom honor was due.
We live in a culture virtually obsessed with youth. It's all about trends of the youth, thinking of the youth, music of the youth, ideas of the youth. Hey, I can relate, at one time I was a youth. And the church background I come out of (i.e. Calvary Chapel) was largely based around a youth movement.
But Mark Twain said something interesting. He said, "The trouble with youth is it's wasted on the young." [laughter] By the time you get life down pat, and you're content and confident, and just happy with where the Lord has you, it's over. So, what's left honor.
"'You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man." The first time I went to the south, the southern United States, especially the southeast, I was amazed. Now, I'm a Californian, so we don't even know what a manner is. And you know, it's like somebody walks in a room and it's like, "Dude, what's up?" That's about as good as it gets. "Hey."
But I remember when I met the Graham family, the Billy Graham and Franklin Graham, and, and my wife entered the room and they stood up, and it made such an impact on me. It really made on impact on her. I said, "Boy, isn't that wonderful?" And then they said, "Ma'am." I thought, "Isn't that weird? My wife a ma'am? Lenya, ma'am?" But again it struck me the kind of manners, and again it struck her the kind of manners. She said, "You could use some of those manners." So, I've tried.
" 'If a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger,' " the foreigner, " 'who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you.' " Now, read this carefully. The person who's a foreigner living in your country, you're to treat as a believer as being under the covenant of God, " 'as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself.' " Here's the reason why, " 'For you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord.' "
How do you feel when you're around foreigners who are in your country? Don't have to answer that out loud, just think about it. Do you think thoughts like, "They should at least learn to speak our language," or, "They should go back to where they come from." That doesn't sound like loving your neighbor as yourself.
Here we have fleshed-out "loving your neighbor as yourself." And here's the reason, here's the rational: "You, the children of Israel, of all people should figure this out. You yourselves were foreigners in Egypt, and you're going into a land in which you are also going to be foreigners. So, of all people you should treat them with love and respect."
By the way, you and I are foreigners. The Bible says we're just passing through this earth. This world is not our home. Our citizenship is in heaven. This is God's earth, not yours. This is God's land, not yours. I'm not saying don't be patriotic, I'm saying share the wealth. Certainly share the love of Christ.
In Hebrews 13 it tells us that brotherly love should continue, and then something very interesting: be careful how you treat strangers for "some have entertained angels unaware." Foreigners, maybe angels. "I don't know, I think angels speak English." [laughter] "Love your neighbor as yourself."
" 'You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, in weight, or in volume.' " In other words, integrity in the workplace, integrity in the marketplace. This was one of the prophet Amos' big beefs with the children of Israel in that little Minor Prophet book of Amos. He says, "You guys are offering sacrifices, going through the rituals, but you're cheating one another in the marketplace."
" 'You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah,' " that's a dry measure of 5.9 gallons, dry weight, " 'and an honest hin,' " not hen. It's not saying keep your chickens honest, but an honest hin. That's a liquid measure of about a gallon. " 'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe all my statutes and all my judgments, and perform them: I am the Lord.' "
Let me just give a quick pitch, a quick challenge, before we get into the next chapter, of integrity in the workplace. Be the kind of a worker who watches the Lord, not the clock. Whose eye is not on the boss: "Is the boss coming around the corner?" smiling and looking busy. But you're thinking, "I'm doing this to honor the Lord."
Here's why: The workplace is the staging area of the Christian faith. It's where unbelievers get the opportunity to look, to study us. They don't get to study us at church, they don't study us at home, but at work they get to study us. And unbelievers have questions like: "How do Christians act Monday morning? What's their attitude in the workplace like when changes take place? All of those things you may not know it, but you are being studied with those ideas in mind.
In the New Testament, First Peter, chapter 2, Peter writes, "Live such good lives among pagans that though they accuse you of wrong doing, they may see your good deeds and glorify God."
Several years ago when I was in my twenties and I lived on a kibbutz in Israel, it was a volunteer program where we were going over there to work the land and we'd get free room and board. I told you a lot of those stories about living there. We lived on a kibbutz on this collective farm in the north by Lebanon, and when it got close to Passover season now our job began.
We were out in the fields at about 5:00 in the morning, 5:30, that's when work began. Got off about 2:00 in the afternoon. We were working the fields out in the cotton, and the avocados, and grapefruit, etcetera, kiwis, planting those. But around Passover time they take some of the chickens that were raised on the kibbutz and they want some of the workers to volunteer to work extra hours putting the chickens, crating the chickens, and getting them off to market for the Passover.
One of the members of my team, I remember, Randy had this bright idea. He said, "Hey, we ought to volunteer every single night during Passover season and be the workers that put those chickens into crates." And we all said, "Randy, I mean, that's a beautiful, Christian thing to do, but we get up at 5:00 in the morning, we're on the field at, you know, 5:15 to5:30, work until 2:00. (This is about every night from eleven o'clock at night to about 1:00 to 2:00 in the morning.) So we could do this a couple of days."
He goes, "No, we ought to do it every day for the whole Passover season. Because they're looking at us and they want to see why are Christians in the land of Israel, first of all. And they're going to see how hard we work and we're going to get an opportunity to share our faith with them like never before." So he talked us all into it.
And I'll be honest, I didn't go, "Okay, good. Great idea!" I drug my feet as well. But we did it. We'd get off work, we'd have a meal in the afternoon, go to bed really early, get up, do the chickens, go to bed, couple hours of sleep, get up, do our regular routine. We did this for like a month.
At the end of the month they came to us and said, "We want to talk to you American Christians. We want to know what makes you tick. We want to know why you volunteer for all the hard jobs. We want to know why you love us so much." Golden opportunity. You couldn't get a better opportunity than that because now they were willing to listen by seeing that kind of work ethic.
Well, after I came home back to the United States and I was reading some church history, I came across this quote from the second century AD, Justin Martyr, not Justin Marbury. Justin Martyr told of something similar that happened in the second century.
He writes: "Many who have come in contact with us [us Christians], were overcome and changed from violent and tyrannical characters, either from having watched the constancy of Christian neighbors, or from having observed the wonderful patience of Christian travelers when overcharged, or from [simply] doing business with Christians," end quote.
I've talked to people who own businesses and they go, "You know, I honestly am hesitant to hire Christians." And I go, "You got to be kidding. Why is that?" "Because I find a lot of times Christians want me to give them special favors because they know I, their boss or company owner, am a Christian. So they're not working on the job. They want to read their Bible. They want to do their own spiritual thing.
"And I say, 'Come on, get to work. Everybody else is doing your job.' And they'll want to go, 'Brother, come on, brother. This is reading the Bible, brother.' " Yeah, but you're not paid to do that. You're paid to work. The best witness you can give is to work hard. Honesty in scales; honesty in business.
Now, Leviticus 20 might shock some of you because it's all about capital punishment and the various crimes listed for capital punishment given to the children of Israel, to the state, basically. Secularists and liberals will often point their finger at Scripture, saying, "You know, the Old Testament law of Israel is not much different from the ancient codes of other cultures, other barbaric cultures who also used, carried out, capital punishment.
The big difference is looking at the codes of these other cultures versus the Mosaic code; it's very, very different. The compassion that is built into the law of Moses and the brutality that is built into other codes, and I would just submit a study on your own. I don't want to take up our time to go through the brutality versus the compassion as seen here.
Something about capital punishment you should know: it didn't come from the law of Moses. It predates the law of Moses, goes back to the book of Genesis in chapter 9. In the beginning of civilization, in Genesis 9, the Lord said, "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God he made man." So you go through the Law (Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) and capital punishment was required for murder, sexual immorality, child abduction or kidnapping, child sacrifice, witchcraft, false prophets, astrology, magic, and idolatry. It was never considered murder; it was always considered as righteously administered judicial execution. Righteously administered judicial execution, not murder.
So when the Bible says, "Thou shalt not kill," and I've heard, you've heard people say, "Well, that means you, you can't have capital punishment because, 'You shall not kill.' "That word means murder, "kill." You shall not murder. This is never seen as murder. Capital punishment is righteously administered judicial execution.
So, we're going to look through this. We're going to kind of breeze through it, and here's why: chapter 18 that we've already read, and chapter 20 which we're about to read are virtually identical in the sins they cover. Here's the difference: Chapter 18 is writing to the perpetrators, saying, "Don't do that." Chapter 20 is written to the congregation, saying, "This is how you handle that."
Verse 1, "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Again, you shall say to the children of Israel: "Whoever of the children of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who gives any of his descendants to Molech, he shall surely be put to death. The people of the land shall stone him with stones. I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from his people, because he has given some of his descendants to Molech, to defile my sanctuary and profane my holy name.
"'"And if the people of the land should say in any way or should in any way, pardon me, hide their eyes from the man, when he gives some of his descendants to Molech, and they do not kill him, then I will set my face against that man and against his family; and I will cut him off from his people, and all who prostitute themselves with him to commit harlotry." ' "
We touched on this last week and we saw that there was nothing more repulsive, more repugnant, to the God of Israel than the worship of the Ammonite god Molech that potbellied deity that was made out of iron between four and six to seven feet tall. And they'd put a fire in its belly until the arms were incandescent hot, and they burned their babies on the arms of that idol Molech; a detestable practice, a horrible practice, a practice by the neighboring land of Ammon that entered into Israeli practice throughout their history.
In fact, did you know that King Solomon raised up an idol in the valley around Jerusalem, the Valley of Gehenna, Hinnom, to Molech? And the children of Israel, according to Scripture, would sometimes get into that practice and they would have loud beating of the drums in Jerusalem down in the Valley of Gehenna, also called Tophet, if you have read that in your Old Testament.
The beating of the drum, whenever you heard a beating of the drum, the beating of the drum was part of the worship to Molech in order to drown out the cries and screams of the babies. So you hear that boom, boom, boom, boom, drum down in the valley, you know that's what they were practicing. And it entered into the practice of the children of Israel during the period of the Chronicles and the Kings in the Old Testament.
Child sacrifice was quite common in ancient civilizations, ancient cultures. In Carthage which is modern day Tunis, Tunisia, North Africa, in some of the archaeological digs they've discovered gardens. And in doing the digs of the gardens the corpses, the bones, of thousands of children from infancy to age four sacrificed to different deities, and they were called different things by different cultures around them whether it was Molech by the Ammonites, or named something else by a different culture.
The idea is that I will get wealth or prosperity or pleasure by sacrificing my child to these gods. And we touched last time on how abortion mirrors in our modern culture the ancient worship of Molech. We don't burn babies in the fire; we burn them in the womb with saline. Because "I can't afford this child now," or, "It's just inconvenient for me right now. I want to have a life, I want to have pleasure, and then later on maybe we'll have children."
We live in a culture, in a country, in which if you were to tamper with the egg of a bald eagle, a preborn eagle, a preborn bald eagle, to tamper with an egg is a five-thousand-dollar fine and a minimum one year in prison. In Maryland it's illegal to transport pregnant lobsters to market. It carries with it a fine. See where I'm going with this? If you are a preborn animal you would fare better in the American court system than a preborn child.
The Lord says, "You're going into a culture that has these practices. You've come from a culture that had these practices. I'm the Lord. I'm the covenant God. Don't be like them. Be holy for I am holy. Be separate for I am the Lord."
Verse 6, " 'The person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set my face against that person and cut him off from his people. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. And you shall keep my statutes, and perform them: I am the Lord who sanctifies you.' "
Do you remember last time I told you the word in Hebrew for "sanctify "or "holy" is the word qadosh or qodesh: qadosh/qodesh— holy. Ruach haqqodes is the Spirit the holy, or the Holy Spirit. It means separate, it means distinct, it means unique, it means different—it means all of those things.
Now there is an interesting tension going on in this whole section, but you see it in this verse. On one hand the Lord says, "You, be holy," in the previous chapters he said, "You, sanctify yourself: I am the Lord." That's a commandment for you and for me. "Be holy. Sanctify yourself: for I am the Lord."
He says it here again, " 'Consecrate yourselves, and be holy,' " verse 7. And then notice verse 8, " 'I am the Lord who sanctifies you.' " Question: Which is it? Do you sanctify yourself, or does the Lord sanctify you? Both. That's exactly right.
In the New Testament same principle calls you to "come out from among them and be separate. I am the Lord." And yet when Paul writes to the Corinthian church he says, "You have been sanctified," or, "You were sanctified." Wait a minute, to the Corinthian church? Have you read the book of 1 Corinthians? Those people were a mess. They had problem after problem, after problem, and he says they're sanctified?
You need to see the difference between positional sanctification and practical sanctification. Every believer from the moment of salvation has been set apart by the Lord. Positionally you're clean and pure and holy before God because of what Jesus did for you; that's positional sanctification. You still may have some of the old crud, some of the old habits hanging on, some of the old ways of thinking hanging on that you and I are called to repent of, to turn from, to sanctify ourselves in—so it's both.
There has been a theological divider among these lines for some years. There is a teaching—I remember being told by somebody when I first encountered this teaching that I could be sinlessly perfect. They said, "Skip, you can attain sinless perfection." I thought, "You don't really know me, do you?" He said, "No, it's possible for any Christian to become sinlessly perfect; that is, you can get to a place where you're so dedicated, so consecrated, so devoted to the Lord that you stop sinning; total sanctification."
The one who first came up with this idea in its nascent form was Wesley, John Wesley. And he believed there was a method to doing this, and if you follow the method (it became known as Methodism), you could become practically, perfectly, holy, sinless on this earth. The truth is you won't be perfect until you get to heaven, but God looks at you through the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ, as being perfect, sinless, holy, whole, complete.
But there still is that work that needs to be done and it takes a cooperation: his work and our work. "Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling." It doesn't mean work for your own salvation; you work it out. You're already saved, now apply the truth, be sanctified, be holy, turn from things, turn toward the Lord—it's both. You can't do it without God; God won't do it without you.
Verse 9, " 'For everyone who curses his father or mother shall surely be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother. His blood shall be upon him.' " I don't believe this verse is primarily referring to cussing your parents out at a moment of extreme duress. I don't believe it's referring to the fourteen-year-old who gets really angry and says a bad word against his mom: "Okay, that's it. You're never going to be saved. You're going straight to hell."
I believe in the context of this chapter it's referring to attempting to harm your parents by the use of supernatural or occult, magical means. Cursing father or mother. Scripture says in the last days there will become people who are lovers of themselves, lovers of pleasure, abusive, disobedient to their parents, just hardened, recalcitrant against parents.
In the United States of America every year more than eight million serious assaults are made by children on their parents. I remember twenty-five years ago getting a call from a local mortuary. It said, "Skip, we have a very high-profile funeral. Somebody on the west side, a young boy, bludgeoned his parents with sledgehammers, buried them in the backyard of the house in a shallow grave for a few days, and then invited friends over to their home to party." And they asked me to come in and do this funeral. Heartbreaking.
As they uncovered and discovered some of this young man's background, they discovered his involvement in the occult, occult practices. He opened himself up to the dark side, to spiritualism, to spiritism, and dark powers. So I think that is the idea implied in the context of this chapter.
Now, verses 10 through 21, a list of things that we've already discussed: incest, homosexuality, bestiality, adultery with your brother's wife. So that's verses 10 through 21; we've already uncovered it and discovered it in chapter 18.
So look at verse 22, " 'You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my judgments, and perform them, that the land where I am bringing you to dwell may not vomit you out. And you shall not walk in the statutes of the nation which I am casting out before you; for they commit all these things, therefore I abhor them. But I have said to you, "You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey."
" 'I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples. You shall therefore distinguish between clean animals and unclean, between unclean birds and clean, and you shall not make yourselves abominable by beast or bird, or any living thing that creeps on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean,' " all the dietary restrictions we already covered.
" 'And you shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from all the peoples, that you should be mine. A man or a woman who is a medium who has a familiar spirit, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.' "
I just want to close this chapter by saying that capital punishment is a hotly debated topic even among Christians, even among godly Christians, even among Christian leaders, so I'm not going to solve that riddle tonight. I'm not going to solve that problem tonight.
I do believe that we should love all people and that people should be reached out to and rehabilitated, and that there's hope for anyone who's done anything ever. And our main goal should be to seek out that person's restoration and salvation.
I also believe in justice and I believe that the focus after crimes like this are committed shouldn't rest with the person who's committed them as much as the victims upon whom they have been committed. And we talk about the violation of rights, those people had their rights violated who were taken advantage of or killed by those people who did it.
So, I'll let you debate it among yourselves, but let me just throw something in the mix for you. One wonders, "Maybe this is just an Old Testament thing. The New Testament surely would not stand for capital punishment." Well, let's listen to the words of a man who was possibly being sentenced to die a capital-punishment death and what he said about it. In fact, his name was Paul the apostle.
Now, listen carefully. Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, right? Taken to Caesarea, right? Two years. The council of Jerusalem follows him to Caesarea, they call this court, Festus is there, the governor of Rome for Judea, and they're trying to rig this thing and bring Paul back to Jerusalem. So that on the road, since they didn't get to do it the first time, the second time they can create a ruckus, jump him, and kill him.
So they say, "Let's move the trial back to Jerusalem." So Festus says to Paul, "Are you willing to go to Jerusalem and stand trial for these charges?" And then Paul knew that it was just a kangaroo court, so he goes, "Look, you, governor, know perfectly that these are trumped-up charges, that I haven't done anything wrong, and you know that perfectly well. However, if I have committed anything worthy of the death penalty, I don't object to dying."
So there's Paul staring with his own eyes into a possible death penalty. He goes, "I don't object to the death penalty; even if it means you kill me. If I've done something worthy of death, but I haven't done anything worthy of death." So I just want to throw that in the mix as you're going to afterward have coffee and argue capital punishment. I thought that would be a lot of fun for you to throw in the mix.
Now, chapter 21—and I'm glad we'll be able to end somewhere in chapter 21, because chapter 21 and 22 are all about the priests. So we'll be able to get it and finish it before we get into the feasts of chapter 23—is the standards the requirements for those who are privileged to serve in the priesthood of Israel.
But let me tell you something: the priesthood of Israel was not God's original intention. Did you know that? God's original intention is that the whole nation have a relationship of intimacy with him whereby the whole nation would be priests. In the book of Exodus, chapter 19, the Lord said to his people, "If you will obey me, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be a special treasure above all peoples. You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation."
That was God's original intention. What happened? Idolatry happened; the golden calf happened. It was such an affront to God that after that one tribe was selected, Levi; one family out of the family of Levi was selected, Aaron; and a group of people in that family, Aaron, Kohath, Gershon, and Merari that formed the priesthood, the high priesthood. So now you have a staged representation before God of the people, the priesthood.
But God's original intention was just that direct access, but idolatry fumbled that and foiled it. Now, here's what we discover in this chapter: the standards that God has for the priests are higher than standards that God has for the people. Why? Because the priest is the link, the go-between, the mediator between the people and between God, so the responsibility, the standards are higher.
It's like the two men that were arrested for committing a crime by robbing a store. One was a college or a high school dropout and the other was a lawyer. The judge sentenced the lawyer to ten years, the dropout to two years, saying the lawyer is more responsible to have known and applied the law than the dropout. So the standard is raised.
When we get to the New Testament the good news is that you and I are a holy priesthood. The book of First Peter, chapter 2, says, "You're a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation." So we don't in the New Testament need a priest to offer some kind of sacrifice or sacerdotal ritual whereby I can approach God if I go to a priest. You can go directly to God. You are a priest.
I was raised a Catholic and I was one of four boys, the last of four boys. My mom wanted a girl and she had three boys. I was the last hope of being the girl and I failed in that respect. So since I was a boy, she hoped that I would become a priest. Now, I just want you to picture me right now as a priest, just have a little fun with that. Some of you aren't having any fun with that, but that's okay. [laughter]
They wanted my two older brothers to become priests, and both of them went to the seminary and were almost ordained as Catholic priests. But last minute they said, "No, we don't want to do it." Then the other brother Bob he was just, he was a Hells Angel. He was hopeless. He's not going to become a priest. So I was the last hope that I would be the priest of the family.
They wanted a priest in the family so they pushed me toward the priesthood. I took a different turn, obviously, became a born-again believer. But imagine the shock the day I walked up to my mom and I said, "Mom, you have your wish. I'm a priest." She was shocked. I said, "I knew you'd be shocked, but I want you to just listen to this Scripture." And I read First Peter 2, "You are a priesthood." I said, "Mom, the good news is that any one of us can have direct access to God through Jesus Christ. We don't have to go through a human. We don't need that kind of a priesthood, we have the priesthood of Christ which mitigates against that and cancels out the need for it; thus, we can go directly to God."
"And the Lord said to Moses," verse 1, " 'Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, say to them: "None shall defile himself for the dead among his people, except for his relatives who are nearest to him: his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother, also his virgin sister who is near to him, who has no husband, for her he may defile himself. Otherwise he shall not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself." ' "
A stricter separation for the priest. If somebody in your neighborhood dies, you don't enter the house to defile yourself, you don't touch the dead body, because you're in the priesthood. Unless it's a close next of kin, you as a priest cannot defile yourself. Higher, stricter responsibility than those of the people of Israel.
" 'They shall not make any bald place on their heads, they shall not shave the edges of their beards nor make any cuttings in their flesh.' " Again, this is part of the Egyptian death cults God didn't want them to practice. " 'They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God for they offer the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and the bread of their God,' " that holy showbread, they had to handle that, " 'therefore they shall be holy.' "
Just as there was a stricter category for priests in Israel, there is a similar more stringent set of requirements for those in the ministry in the New Testament. First Timothy, chapter 3, gives a list. "If any man desires the office of a bishop," an overseer, "he desires a good work." It is a good work but then he gives a list of qualifications. It's a good work, but it's a dangerous work. And that's why James says, the teachers "will receive the stricter judgment." So be careful.
People say, "Oh, I want to get into the ministry. You only have to work one day a week." [laughter] First of all, you don't know ministry. And anybody who works on the campus of this church can talk to you about what busyness is. But it's also stricter and more stringent on a number of other levels. You become a dedicated target of the enemy.
And I've told you before that this latest statistic is that sixteen hundred ministers per month quit, and here's why: Ninety-four percent say they feel the pressure to have a perfect family because everybody is looking at them making comments about their kids and their grandkids, and, "Why do they do this?" and, "Why don't they do that?" So they feel this tremendous pressure to have a perfect, ideal family and being in the fishbowl, they quit.
Eighty-four percent feel discouraged by other people. Eighty-five to 86 percent say that they're tired of dealing with complaints, whether it's from elder boards, or deacon committees, or disgruntle people, or assistant pastors, or whatever, just that load weighs on them. But what a staggering statistic: sixteen hundred ministers a month.
You get into a very interesting category in pastoral ministry. You're in a stringent set of responsibilities and character traits, you're being observed, and under the microscope and the fishbowl by people, and you're a target of the enemy.
So that's why when somebody comes up, and he goes, "I want to be a pastor," I tell them what Charles Spurgeon and what my pastor told me: "If you can be happy doing anything else, do it." It's only if you can't be happy, can't be satisfied, you are driven and compelled by God to do it, then do it. But, "If you can at all be happy doing anything else," they both said, "please do it."
In fact, my pastor Chuck Smith would often discourage young men from the ministry. And we'd ask him, "How come you just discouraged that young guy?" He'd smile and go, "If I can discourage him, he shouldn't be in the ministry. He's going to get a lot worse discouragement than that later on. That's just the first test."
" 'They shall not take a wife who is a harlot or a defiled woman,' " verse 7, " 'nor shall they take a woman who is divorced from her husband; for the priest is holy to his God. Therefore you shall consecrate him, for he offers the bread of your God. He shall be holy to you, for I the Lord, who sanctifies you, I am holy.' " They have to be careful, watch who they marry.
" 'The daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by playing the harlot, she profanes her father. She shall be burned with fire. He who is the high priest among his brethren, on whose head the anointing oil was poured and who is consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes; nor shall he go near any dead body, nor defile himself for his father or his mother; nor shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his God; for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is upon him: I am the Lord.' "
To tear the clothes was a sign of grief. When Joshua and Caleb and the other ten spies went from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, remember the story, Numbers 14? And they came back and they had this discussion, Joshua and Caleb said, "Come on, let's just take the land. God gave it to us; let's go for it." And the other ten said, "Oh, I don't think we should go for it. There's really big dudes hanging out there, big giants. And you know, they're going to eat us for lunch." It says that Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes in disgust because they were so bummed out at the statement that brought unbelief to sweep over the children of Israel.
As for chapter 9, after the return of the captives back to Jerusalem from the Babylonian captivity, in chapter 9 when Ezra found out that some of the people and even some of the priests were marrying, intermarrying from pagan cultures, it says he tore his garments, he tore his robe, he plucked out hair from his head and from his beard—that's radical—in disgust.
The high priest was not to show violence. Just like the New Testament, he's not to be an angry man or a violent man, a minister not given to violence or outbursts of anger. So to tear the clothes of the high priest, people would see that as a sign of he's really angry. So the high priest in that representation could not do that.
Now, there's somebody who violated this. Who was he? Caiaphas in the New Testament. When Jesus said he was God's Son, the high priest ripped his garment to show disgust and call it blasphemy. Let's pray. Time's up.
Father, we thank you for your Word. We thank you, Lord, for the ability to gather together as a family, as a flock, being joined by people in Santa Fe, on the Internet, as well as just our neighbors, our friends, our spiritual family gathered here in this room. Thank you for your love for us. Thank you that the Law of God reveals the heart and love of a God who is concerned about all details of our life.
Father, we do pray for pastors, for ministers, not only in this church, but including this church and throughout this community. Father, that you'd strengthen them, that you'd bless them and the work that is done at their hands, all of their staffs, all of their assistants. All of the churches, Father, in this town, in this state, that are preaching the Word. Pour out your hand of affirmation upon them and strengthen them because we're all on the same team to glorify you, in Jesus' name, amen.