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Leviticus 20


Book of Leviticus Chapter Twenty
Commentary by Pastor Ron Beckham

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The Sentence Of Death

Note, as this chapter unfolds, that the Lord is repeating a familiar message, seen also in places like Chapter 18. You may find it in your own life—the same lessons are repeated over and over. That's because, just like ancient Israel, we are self-centered children, slow to listen and slow to understand. Our lessons come to us more than once. Some of the practices here may seem worse than others, but sin of any kind is a terminal disease, ending in death. We must die to the practices of this world and we can't do it alone. Jesus died in our place and through faith in Him, we die to sin, but are fully alive.

Verses 1-5 reveal a practice common in that place and time. Innocent babies were horribly murdered to appease a false "god" called "Molech" ("king"), in a vain attempt to make life better for other family members. We might think, "I would never do such a thing," but we should look at our own sacrifices in life. Have we sacrificed time with our children, spent excessively at some kind of "work" to make life financially better? Did we abort one child so things are easier for the others, for ourselves? What is my real motive in what I do? Verses 1-5: "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 'You shall also say to the sons of Israel: ‘Any man from the sons of Israel or from the aliens sojourning in Israel who gives any of his offspring to Molech, shall surely be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones. 3 I will also set My face against that man and will cut him off from among his people, because he has given some of his offspring to Molech, so as to defile My sanctuary and to profane My holy name. 4 If the people of the land, however, should ever disregard that man when he gives any of his offspring to Molech, so as not to put him to death, 5 then I Myself will set My face against that man and against his family, and I will cut off from among their people both him and all those who play the harlot after him, by playing the harlot after Molech." Notice carefully that God is against those who sacrifice children and against the ones who encourage them to do it.

Verses 6-8 are extremely important and we should all heed these words: "As for the person who turns to mediums and to spiritists, to play the harlot after them, I will also set My face against that person and will cut him off from among his people. 7 You shall consecrate yourselves therefore and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. 8 You shall keep My statutes and practice them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you." Turning to "mediums and to spiritists" is extremely dangerous. The supernatural beings you might encounter are not who you think and they're not your friends. Worst of all, you will find that Almighty God is against you when you seek them. Simply devote yourself to the Lord and have faith in Him, a decision that leads to holiness and friendship with God. And He is the One who makes it happen. As He put it, "I am the Lord who sanctifies you."

As you read these verses, observe that the Lord is rescuing us from ego-centricity and leading us to love. The bottom line to these commands is simply to treat others as you want to be treated. Good parents provide for their children, physically and emotionally and it is reasonable that the children will be grateful and respectful in return, as in Verse 9: "If there is anyone who curses his father or his mother, he shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother, his bloodguiltiness is upon him." It's a good idea to read anew the words of Romans 6:23—"The wages of sin is death..." God, our Creator, has just one standard, summed up in "unselfish love"—words we might say but not understand. We have all sinned, but blessedly, Romans 6:23 continues—"but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Out of God's love He has done what we are unable and unwilling to do. Our part is to receive God's "gift" through faith in the Risen Lord.

The sentence of death upon humanity appears over and over in this chapter, as in Verse 10: "If there is a man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, one who commits adultery with his friend’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death." Worse than just the death of our physical bodies, awful though that may be, is spiritual death, which is separation from God. Psalm 22 is an X-ray, a look into the future from that time to the cross, when the Lord would die on our behalf. Our sins were upon Him, separating Him from the Presence of the Father, causing Him to cry out in horror at that awful moment—"My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me" (Psalm 22:1). He died in our place, bearing our sins, so you and I, adulterers in thought, word and deed, might live through faith in the Lord.

Fornication and adultery are crimes against your own body, the person or persons you are with, and most of all, they are sins against God. Such acts result in contagious diseases of the soul. If you do it and get away with it, at some point others will be tempted and think, "If they can do it and get away with it, so can I." You place yourself and others in danger by what you do, as in Verses 11-12: "If there is a man who lies with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death, their bloodguiltiness is upon them. 12 If there is a man who lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have committed incest, their bloodguiltiness is upon them." Notice with care that such acts are deserving of death in the sight of God, and His viewpoint is the only one that really matters.

We all tend to compare ourselves with others as a measure of the kind of people we are. The true comparison is God Himself. He is holy, just and pure. We are not, except that the Lord's character is imputed to us through His death and resurrection. We need to see that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Our perspective is bad and life is more than our opinions about "rights" we may think we have. With that in mind, read Verse 13: "If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them."

It isn't merely the KIND of sin that is most important—one sin is like another, in our thoughts as well as what we do. We like to think one sin is worse, but any immorality is sin worthy of death in the sight of God. Verse 14: "If there is a man who marries a woman and her mother, it is immorality; both he and they shall be burned with fire, so that there will be no immorality in your midst." These verses are not talking about the innocent victim of an attacker, by the way. They speak of willing participants who should know better.

Verses 15-16 condemn beastiality: "If there is a man who lies with an animal, he shall surely be put to death; you shall also kill the animal. 16 If there is a woman who approaches any animal to mate with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them." Most would decide that such acts are worse than other sins, but God's judgment is like other types of immorality: "They shall surely be put to death."

Verses 17-21 continue to describe selfish behavior that is counter to God's will, and yet, if the lights were fully turned on and we could see what is truly going on in the world, most would be sickened by how common all sin is: "If there is a man who takes his sister, his father’s daughter or his mother’s daughter, so that he sees her nakedness and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace; and they shall be cut off in the sight of the sons of their people. He has uncovered his sister’s nakedness; he bears his guilt. 18 If there is a man who lies with a menstruous woman and uncovers her nakedness, he has laid bare her flow, and she has exposed the flow of her blood; thus both of them shall be cut off from among their people. 19 You shall also not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister or of your father’s sister, for such a one has made naked his blood relative; they will bear their guilt. 20 If there is a man who lies with his uncle’s wife he has uncovered his uncle’s nakedness; they will bear their sin. They will die childless. 21 If there is a man who takes his brother’s wife, it is abhorrent; he has uncovered his brother’s nakedness. They will be childless." God intends to save us and heal us from sin, shame, venereal diseases that are signposts warning others of danger, and especially He saves us from eternal alienation from God.

The "promised land" mentioned in the next verse was the real place called "Canaan," but it is also a parable of more. Verse 22: "You are therefore to keep all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them, so that the land to which I am bringing you to live will not spew you out." Outside of space and time as we know it, often referred to as "heaven" or the "place of God," is the real promised land. The Lord brings us to a sinless, joyful environment, containing no death or negativity of any kind, and best of all, you will be with Him who loves you. And that heavenly land will never "spew you out." We enter that land by the grace of God through faith in the Lord, and as Paul the Apostle would later say, "I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39). You might ask: "Well, can't I separate MYSELF from Him?" No you can't! You are one of the "created things" mentioned by Paul, and can't separate yourself. Your sins may wreck lives here on earth, but Jesus died for you, and when you trust in Him, you become His, sins done away—forever. Give yourself to Him. He will keep you safe—from yourself.

Most want to be like other people. We dress in a certain way, use words popular at the time, and copy others far more than we know. We are in the habit of mimicing people, adopting their opinions about right and wrong. We are to become different in good ways, which is to say—God's way. Verses 23-26: "Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I will drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them. 24 Hence I have said to you, 'You are to possess their land, and I Myself will give it to you to possess it, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am the Lord your God, who has separated you from the peoples. 25 You are therefore to make a distinction between the clean animal and the unclean, and between the unclean bird and the clean; and you shall not make yourselves detestable by animal or by bird or by anything that creeps on the ground, which I have separated for you as unclean. 26 Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine." All this about birds and creeping things was actually a form of training for the people of Israel. They, like us, were to discover faith in the Lord, which is a deep, spiritual awakening, initiating a process of sanctification that can be facilitated by obedience in outward things. Each in our own way, we are being trained in little ways to find that which is much greater.

And don't be fooled by false religion, idolatry, mere human philosophies and other pitfalls, as in Verse 27: "Now a man or a woman who is a medium or a spiritist shall surely be put to death. They shall be stoned with stones, their bloodguiltiness is upon them." The Lord is our God, Creator, Savior, King, Protector, Healer and Friend. We are to avoid the so-called "medium or a spiritist." When tempted to read a horoscope—don't. And if you can't resist the temptation, go to the Lord and He will help you. Place your faith in Him, looking to Him and Him only—in everything.

Lord, there is a sentence of death on humanity, and I am all too human. I have sinned, Lord, and am worthy of death. My only hope is You, Lord, the One who died for me. I confess my sin and place my faith in You. I am Yours. Thank You for saving and helping me. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
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"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

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