These two chapters are the hinge of the book of Leviticus, the first half broadly sketching our duties to God (1-17) and the second half our duties to our neighbor (18-27). In this, we see the great indicative/imperative distinction that echoes through the rest of Scripture and Christian theology. We do because of what God has done. We do because of what God has made us to be. So the center of life is the blood of Christ, and everything else flows from there.
“… What man soever there be of the house of Israel, that killeth an ox, or lamb, or goat, in the camp, or that killeth it out of the camp, and bringeth it not unto the door of the tabernacle…” (Lev. 17–18).
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
God prohibits His people from offering sacrifices to other gods (Lev. 17:1-7), as well as offering sacrifices in any other place than He designates (17:8-9). God also forbids eating or drinking the blood of animals whether sacrificial animals or animals taken for food, since the life is in the blood (17:10-16). Those who disobey these commands are to be cut off or excommunicated from the covenant people (17:4, 9, 10, 14). Paganism and idolatry are always trying to trick life out of lifeless and dead things, and next to blood, sexual rites are the other common talisman of the nations. So God forbids His people from imitating the sexual confusions of the Egyptians and Canaanites (18:1-17), particularly through tribalistic marriages (18:18), or any other vile perversions (18:19-25). By these, the earth is defiled and vomits out its inhabitants (18:26-30).
THE COUNCIL OF JERUSALEM
The council of Jerusalem clearly affirmed the ongoing relevance of these chapters: “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication…” (Acts 15:28-29). While fornication often refers to sex outside of marriage, it also refers to any kind of sexual immorality, which would include all the incestuous prohibitions in our text. While it may have been tempting to dismiss these prohibitions against blood and incest as a lot of archaic oddities in previous decades, these have actually been the marks of paganism throughout history, and they are currently in the process of being mainstreamed again as we speak. The council was not prohibiting eating rare steak, but clearly we may not dismiss these prohibitions as mere ceremonial law. God’s people must always abstain from idolatry, including the bloodlust and sexual deviance that accompanies it.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD
We should never forget is that it is not whether there will be blood, but which blood, whose blood. The life is in the blood (Lev. 17:11, 14), and in this fallen world man wants to trick life out of blood apart from the God who gives and upholds all life. The fires of Molech (Lev. 18:21) and all abortion is the attempt to trick life out of blood and death. Cultures of sexual deviance are also always cultures of death and dying, and the diseases and ailments and shorter life spans that accompany them are no accident (Lev. 18:22-24). As Romans 1:27 says, they receive the consequences in their own bodies by their actions. It is simply a fact that the widespread culture of piercing and tattooing has also grown out of this bloodshed. Despite great progress in medical science, pseudo-scientific witchcraft is also on the rise. We reject the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ complete ban on blood transfusions, but we absolutely agree that the perennial scientific hubris of man must be rejected: trying to be lord of life and death, especially attempts to conjure up life from the bodies of murdered babies. But we have all this bloodshed because we have rejected the blood of Jesus. We have been embarrassed and ashamed of the blood of Jesus, and so now we have blood running in our streets. It is not whether but which.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
When one extreme rears its ugly head, you can bet that others are preparing their pitch. We live under a regime of statism (worshiping the power of the state), but right on schedule, we have some beginning to preach the power of familialism or tribalism. While statists worship the blood of the sword, another ancient demonic impulse worships the blood of kin, and incest has historically been central to that quest for power. While there are sexual deviants who pursue perversion for mere kicks, we should not be naïve to the power plays at work in the current sexual cesspool. The statists and globalists are currently using sexual deviance to grasp for power, but one reaction to that tyranny collapses into an idolatry of tribe with its own attendant sexual maladies (e.g. polygamy, incest). But we are not tribalists, we are covenantal Christians.
Human society is built on flourishing families, but families cannot flourish apart from the blessing of God, apart from the blood of Christ (and neither can nations). The blood of Christ does not obliterate natural affections for family and culture or nation, but natural affection certainly must die and rise again. Jesus said that unless we hate our father and mother, we cannot be His disciples (Lk. 14:26). The Kingdom of God is an international, global, and pentecostal mission. We believe that the nations (as nations) will bring their glories into the New Jerusalem, but those Christian nations will be united by the Spirit of God indwelling them, joint missionary work, tons of neighborly commerce, and boatloads of cousins.
Never forget that God made the world such that you become what you worship. Psalm 115 says that those who make idols and serve them become like them, and when you reject the Living God, you can only go down. You can only change the glory of the incorruptible God into images of corruptible man, birds, beasts, or creeping things (Rom. 1:23). But when you worship man divorced from His Maker, you are worshipping a man descending into beastlike vulgarity. When you worship animals you become like them.
So we are here to worship the Living God who made us, who knows what we are for, and who has come and dwelt among us, so that we might become like Him. Creation itself groans for the redemption of the sons of God because when we worship and act like animals we only harm and misuse creation and so it vomits us out. But the blood of Jesus cleanses every stain, and by His blood we have eternal life. And under that blessing, we work and marry and exercise dominion until the earth is full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.