Friday, December 2, 2011
Exodus & Leviticus
These two have to rank up there with the most misused and misunderstood books of the bible. What is with all of the meticulous laws, regulations, and ceremonies?
A little background.
The children of Israel had just spent 430 years in Egypt, most of which they lived as slaves. They were many years and generations removed from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. They were Hebrews by race, but their day to day life would be lived as Egyptian salves. Their identity was what their masters told them to be. They couldn't think for themselves or practice their own religion. They were nothing more than a group of related laborers.
So as God had promised Abraham so long ago, He set about to set His people free and to make of them a great nation. He raised up Moses and Aaron to display his power before Pharaoh, and to lead them to their new home, and instruct them in their new lives.
Now think about this. God is forming a nation to be his own special people and to show forth his glory to the world. These are hopeless, scared, and confused slaves. They needed some serious work. Their only concern had been for survival, now they were to form themselves into a society of God's children, obeying his commands, and reflecting his character?
Who is this God?
When Moses was told to go to his brothers in Egypt, he asked
“If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
(Exodus 3:13-14 ESV)
These people had forgotten God, probably to the point of questioning his existence.
"Where is this God now that we suffer!"
Add the fact that they lived in the midst of a culture that celebrated, worshiped, and feared many gods, and you can begin to see their confusion.
The Father teaching his children
The Hebrews had lost most of their knowledge of God and who he is. So God sets about through Moses, Aaron, ceremonies, rules, laws, and regulations to teach them. Nothing could be left to chance. A simple "Be good, and don't be bad," wasn't going to work here. They had lost their sense of right and wrong. They had lost their unique identity. They were poor, outcast Egyptians.
God had to teach his children who he was, and who they were. This is one of the reasons these two books are filled with so many tedious and detailed rules. They needed them. They didn't know any better.
Some of the rules were of a practical nature. Things that needed to be followed for them to live and interact together.
Other rules taught them God's character and nature. They were to love justice and mercy, to care for the poor, to deal honestly, and live faithfully.
Many of them served in separating the Hebrews from the other nations and in unifying them into a distinct people. You've heard the old adage "You can take the girl out of the trailer park, but not the trailer park out of the girl." (Sorry, it's the best I could think of right now : ) They may have physically left Egypt, but in many ways they were still there. Lifestyles don't change overnight. They needed to be taught how to live on every level.
So where am I going with this?
Good question. People love to quote Exodus and Leviticus in attempts to either prove their own or disprove another's point.
"How can you say homosexuality is wrong when you eat shell fish and pork!" (Amazing logic, No?)
Let's take a closer look at this masterpiece of a sentence. Yes, their are many and specific rules concerning food given to the Hebrews.
Unlike today with McDonald's on every corner and frozen dinners for the microwave, food was a big deal in times past. Much time was spent growing, harvesting, storing, and preparing it. Having regulations on food would cut back on the Hebrews eating and interacting with those of other nations. It would also help in bringing the nation closer in working together to meet these requirements on a day to day basis. (Lev. 18)
My point being, the dietary laws had a specific purpose in the forming of this new nation.
So, can I eat bacon or not?
Jesus in the New Testament declared that all foods are now clean. The whole "That which goes into the body doesn't make one unclean, but that which comes out of the body, from the heart makes one unclean." (Mark 7:14-23)
Again, with Peter's vision of the sheet let down from Heaven also reiterates this.(Acts 10:9-16)
OK, so what about gay?
Leviticus 18 gets a little raunchy. Sexual immorality is spelled out to the "T" and nothing is taken for granted. Reading through these makes me wonder just how perverted the nations were that all these situations had to be listed. It seems nothing was off limits, hence the limits God has to put on his people. It would take some direction to bring his people back to what sexuality and marriage was intended for and to be. Verse 22 gets the most attention these days.
You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
(Leviticus 18:22 ESV)
The question always comes up. Why does this apply when the food doesn't? Well we already covered the dietary regulations, so we'll move on to the sex.
The New Testament again reiterates this view of homosexuality. Mostly it is referred to as sexual immorality or perversion, but it is included in that particular group of sins.
How do I know?
First of all, what do you think Paul is speaking of when he says to the Ephesians in chapter 5,
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.
(Ephesians 5:3 ESV)
What would be considered sexually immoral? What standard of right and wrong would guide them? I would think they would look back to Leviticus 18.
When the New Testament speaks of the Law of Moses it doesn't proceed to list each law, it is implied that the intended audience would have knowledge of these laws. The same would be expected in the case of sexual immorality.
Great volumes have been written on the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. My quick thoughts are far from exhaustive, if you have questions or doubts, don't hesitate to seek further. Please don't let my word be the final say. I know enough to know that I don't know enough!