You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.
This is the prologue to what has to be the most personally impacting part of the book of Leviticus. This entire chapter covers the subject of sexual holiness. Much of what passes as common sinful practice in human society is detailed here. The painfully sinful and abhorrent practices are prohibited including incest, multiple partnerships, polygamy, adultery, idol worship that included sexual activity (Molech worship included infanticide for sexual or fertility favors from the god), homosexuality, and bestiality.
The list is dark. The sad thing is that these issues still pervade human culture. Ask any pastor or counselor and we can tell you that even among Christians, the damage is often done in these sexual activities that destroy and hurt people deeply. God can forgive and grace can transform, but these are real issues. The key is to not let the culture dictate morality. In this little prologue, God reminds Israel of the spiritual impact of obedience to Him. They would be tempted to look to their past experience in Egypt to set the moral and sexual standard. That would be a wrong choice. They would also be tempted to let their future home in Canaan dictate their moral choices. That would be equally wrong. Culture does not set my moral compass. God does. And I find that most fully in the revelation of His statutes. By the Word of God, I can know what is right to do sexually (monogamous marriage for life… sex only in marriage) and I will truly live by their instruction. These days with epidemic sexual disease that may literally be true.
Current culture is becoming more and more desensitized to the very issues raised in Leviticus 18. Every sexual deviancy is now the fodder of comedy routines and sitcom snickers. Our culture has marched relentlessly downward in rejection of God’s Word and God’s will for moral standards. Porn is everywhere, even the punchline of primetime TV. The result is that sexual deviancy is now considered some kind of human right, as long as consenting adults are doing the deviancy, and sometimes even if they just can’t help it.
This chapter ends with a warning (Leviticus 18:30) and a strong admonition to keep the charge that God gives to not practice the sexual activities prohibited here. I find that principle timeless. Sexual purity strengthens our character, our commitments, our relationships, and most importantly, our relationship with God.