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Sunday, February 21, 2016

The In-between People of God

“You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices” (Leviticus 18:3). Moses spends the following twenty verses unpacking “their practices” by addressing sexual relationships. He completes his message with an explanation, “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled” (Lev. 18:23).

Israel is like the creamy filling in the middle of a cookie, with Egypt in her past and Canaan in her future. Moses warns her not to follow the ways of either people. Then he commences to explain what he means by talking about the defilement of both people. Eighteen sexual prohibitions in one single chapter! Sexual sin defiles people personally and communally. 
What do these prohibitions reveal about sexual sin, community, and defilement? 
Since the Fall men struggle with self-control in the area of sexual appetite.
  • Men lacking in self-control will abuse even the relationships most near to them. 
  • Men will struggle to view women as complementary and covenant partners. 
  • Men completely given over to their sexual appetites slake that appetite in the most dishonoring and unnatural ways. 
  • What a man does personally always affects the community; therefore, one man’s sexual sin always impacts the lives of others (other men’s wives, daughters, nieces, granddaughters, as well as other women’s sisters, daughters, nieces, mothers, etc.).
Since the Fall women struggle with identity in the area of sexuality. 
  • Women want to be wanted and valued. They often use sexual attraction to dull the separation from God that sin has caused. 
  • Victims of sexual abuse may experience the love of Christ and the wholeness He brings into the relationship.
  • Sexual sin and sexual abuse defiles women. Women are more than objects to be desired sexually.  
These prohibitions teach both men and women the value of covenant and the value of sex within marriage. God isn’t against sex. He is against any sex that hurts others―and sex outside of the bounds of His plan always hurts others. 
Christ-followers in every generation are in-between people. We live in a fallen world where relationships are based on consumerism (where people are used like products to make us feel better and lessen our pain of separation from God) instead of covenant (where both lay down their lives for the good of the other). Such “in-between” people build covenantal communities to create safe places in which everyone may thrive. 

Older Post
"He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites--all their sins--and put them on the goat's head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert." (Leviticus 16:21-22)
Leviticus highlights three celebratory days for the people of God:
  • Passover
  • Feast of Tabernacles
  • Day of Atonement
Of these three the Day of Atonement is by far the most significant. Passover remembers deliverance from Egypt, the Feast of Tabernacles remembers the traveling in the wilderness, and the Day of Atonement addresses sin. On every other day of the year the high priest dons the ephod and the breastplate, enters into the Holy Place, and performs the sacrifices associated with his calling.

On this day, however, he puts on only the simple white tunic, takes a bull, incense, and two goats. On this day alone he enters into the Holy of Holies twice. The first time he enters he enters with the blood of a bull for his own sin. The second time he enters with the blood of one of the goats for the sins of the people. This blood of this goat he sprinkles on the mercy seat, where Holy God promises to meet with sinful man.

What does the blood say? The blood testifies to the death of the guilty for the broken law. Beneath the mercy seat rests the Law which has been broken by humanity. The blood on the mercy seat says that the price for sin--death--has been fully met. Sin is atoned by blood as Israel identifies with the goat and the goat becomes Israel's substitute. The day is not over. The priest now confesses the sins of the people over the live goat and sends it away signifying that the sin has been removed from the sinner and borne away.

The Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur pictures the wonderful promise of full redemption. While the blood of bulls or goats could never take away sin, the Father, in mercy, provided atonement through the spotless Lamb, Jesus Christ.
  • In His death He becomes our substitute, bearing our sin.
  • In His burial He becomes our scapegoat to take away our sin.
  • In His resurrection He becomes our victor, granting not only forgiveness but life.
And whereas the high priest had to enter every year on behalf of the people the Lord Jesus entered once for all so that He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25).

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Leviticus 16:1-18:30
  • Read Hebrews 4:16; 10:22 and describe the believers entry into the Holies of Holies.
  • Why does the Lord makes such a big deal about eating meat with the blood?
  • What does sexual sin do to the children of Israel?
  • Why does God gives instructions about sexual sin after He gives the regulations regarding the Day of Atonement?
Turning truth into prayer
Thank the Lord that Christians have boldness to enter into the very presence of God through faith in Jesus Christ.