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AM Bible Study Archives
"Holiness in Kinship Relations"
Wednesday AM Bible Study
November 8, 2006
Theme: This chapter calls God's people to walk in holiness in kinship relations.
Chapters 18-20 give God's specific commands for holiness in every day life. It's interesting to note that this section begins (18:6-24) and ends (20:10-21) with a lengthy outline of the types of kinship relations that are forbidden; and it begins (18:25-30) and ends (20:22-24) with the warning that these forbidden relations were what caused the former inhabitants of the land to be 'vomited out' of it.
Why this repetition of commands and consequences? One assertion can certainly be made: God values our sexual purity (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). In this area of life, He particularly calls His people to live differently from the pagan peoples around them (Ephesians 4:17-19). It's very instructive, then, that God begins and ends this section on holiness in everyday life with a warning of how we are to conduct our kinship relations. He brings the matter of sexual purity, in practical application, to the most fundamental relationships in our lives. As Dr. Seiss wrote, “Like every other impulse or susceptibility, natural affection may be perverted and become the occasion of great sin and degradation. Our hearts must therefore be watched. We may love; but we must love virtuously.” Even in the area of family relations, we must remember the fundamental call of God: “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (19:2). As sexual sins become more culturally accepted, the value of family is diminished; and as family is devalued, culture itself is destroyed.
I. GENERAL CALL: DO NOT WALK ACCORDING TO PAGAN CUSTOMS (vv. 1-5).
A. The basis of all of God's commands in this section is that He is “the LORD your God”. That is the reason given for these commands throughout this chapter (vv. 2, 4, 5, 6, 21, 30). Supportive of this is the affirmation that people will “live” by these commands (v. 5); and because the sins they forbid constitute “wickedness” (v. 17), and a defilement (v. 20, 24), and profaning of the name of God (v. 21), and “an abomination” (v. 22), and “perversion” (v. 23). Clearly, God calls us to not live in accordance with our own wishes and whims, or to conform to the sinful patterns of culture; but rather to be a holy people who live distinct lives that are in His pleasure and according to His will.
B. The sins that are forbidden in this chapter characterized the people groups of Egypt from which they came, and the Canaanites who were ejected from the land before them. The people were not to walk in accordance with these pagan “doings” or “ordinances”; but were to observe His “judgments” and keep His “ordinances” and “statutes” (Romans 12:1-2).
C. He gives these commands to His people for good reason: they will result in life. “You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them.” God's good laws are not to restrict our lives, but rather to protect and advance them. And that makes these particular prohibitions crucial, because they protect and advance the family—and thus protect and advance a culture.
II. SPECIFIC APPLICATION: DO NOT SIN WITH RESPECT TO KINSHIP RELATIONS (vv. 6-24).
A. These prohibitions have their basis in the fifth commandment: “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). The family is to be honored.
B. The specific prohibitions:
1. Against sexual relations with relatives (vv. 6-18). These commands limit the permissible marriage relationships with respect to kin. They constitute what the early apostles referred to as “sexual immorality” (New King James Version) in the limited prohibitions given to believing Gentiles out of respect to Jewish believers (Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25). The repeated phrase “You shall not uncover the nakedness of . . .” is a euphemism for sexual relations (see 1 Corinthians 5:1). Even though such relations were necessary at the beginning of man's history (because the sons of Adam and Eve had to marry their sisters), those relations are no longer permitted. The sanctity of family relations is to be protected and not brought into confusion by human lust.
2. Against sexual perversions (vv. 19-23). A woman was not to be approached during her time of “uncleanness” (v. 19), nor was a man permitted to lie with his neighbor's wife (v. 20). The prohibition against passing children through the fire to Molech (a practice in which a child was placed in the arms of an idol heated red hot with fire— an unspeakable and torturous act) was probably motivated by a desire to rid one's self of the consequences of sexual actions (i.e., unwanted children; v. 21). Homosexuality is also forbidden (v. 22) as well as bestiality (v. 23).
III. PRACTICAL REASON: THESE SINS CAUSED THE LAND TO 'VOMIT OUT' THE FORMER INHABITANTS (vv. 25-30).
A. These gross sins were common in the lands of Egypt as well as in Canaan. No wonder the land was said to have “vomited them out”! God actually says that the land is defiled because of those who commit these acts; and it is because of these acts that His judgment was visited upon them. It's sobering to realize that these same sins are being practiced (and even celebrated) in our own land today in an ever-increasing way!
B. God does not change. Therefore, He calls His people to keep distinct from such sins— nor to allow any stranger who lives among them to practice them. He warns that if they commit them, the land would vomit them out as well. This, of course, happened history; and it resulted in the Jewish people being in exile from their land for seventy years. God favors the sins of no people group—not even those of His chosen people.