Sermon #37                                                     Leviticus Sermons


Title:            Abominable Customs

Text:            Leviticus 18:1-30

Subject:       God’s Claims, Ordinances and Worship

Date:            Sunday Morning—May 19, 2002

Tape #         X-1b

Readings:     Deuteronomy 11:26-30; 27:1-28:1-14; Joshua 8:30-35; 1 John 3:23-24, 5:3



The Lord God knew that the children of Israel, like us, were but dust, easily blown here and there, easily swayed, prone to every abominable imagination, susceptible to every form of idolatry, and quick to embrace the traditions, customs, and habits of the world around them. We all like to think of ourselves as independent, free thinking men and women, people of conviction who cannot be swayed by the opinions and approval or disapproval of others. But that is not the way things really are. We are, everyone, more easily moved by the opinions of others than dandelion seeds are scattered by the wind.


It is precisely this weakness of our depraved, sinful nature that necessitated the 18th chapter of Leviticus. In anticipation of the trials and temptations Israel would face in the wilderness and in anticipation of the trails and temptations they would face in the land of Canaan, the Lord God here instructs and commands his people not to practice or even participate in the “abominable customs” they learned in Egypt and forbids them from the same “abominable customs” that would surround them in Canaan.


The subject of Leviticus 18 is the “abominable customs” of men and women who do not know our God. Here the Lord our God teaches us that we must refuse to walk in the ways of the world, and walk in his way. We must refuse to do the doings of the world, and do his judgments and keep his ordinances.


Remember, the law of God was given to Israel alone. It was never given to the nations around them. It was given only to Israel. Even in the Old Testament, the law was not given to Gentiles, but to Jews only. You will notice that the Lord God called the ways, the doings, the customs, the statutes, and the religions of the Egyptians and the Canaanite wickedness; but he never gave his law to them. Why? The answer should be obvious.


Proposition: These statutes, even the statutes I am about to read to you in Leviticus 18, were given to point us to Christ, our Lord and Redeemer. They are statutes of divine worship given to God’s covenant people, based upon a covenant relationship, and motivated by covenant grace.


As we read through these verses, you will see that in this chapter, the Lord God deals plainly with the most personal decisions of a man’s life and with the most intimate relationships of his home and family, demanding that his will be obeyed and his honored maintained, even in these intimate areas of life.


We resent anyone’s interference in these matters. Don’t we? We do not want anyone telling us who we can marry, how we are to live our lives, what we may or may not do, especially in the privacy of our homes and bedrooms. We recent anyone’s intrusion into these matters. We all do.


Our heavenly Father silences any possible objection to his intrusion in the most tender, loving manner possible. He prefaces his instructions, his demands, by reminding us his sovereign mercy, love and grace toward us. Six times he reminds us, “I am the Lord (Jehovah) your God” (vv. 1, 4, 5, 6, 21, 30).


·        I have loved you.

·        I chose you.

·        I redeemed you.

·        I brought you up out of Egypt.

·        I destroyed your enemies.

·        I am bringing you into Canaan.

·        I have the right and I’ve earned the right to rule your life!


Let’s read these 30 verses together. I will make explanatory comments where needed. Then, I want to call your attention to five things revealed in this passage. May God the Holy Spirit be our Teacher.


(Leviticus 18:1-5)  "And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the LORD your God. 3 After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances. 4 Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God. 5 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD."


1. First, the Lord here commands us to strictly and conscientiously avoid the deeds and the ordinances of both the Egyptians and the Canaanites.—In doing so, it is obvious that our Lord is here demanding that as his people we must constantly guard against the horrid tendency of our flesh to yield to the corrupt ways (“doings”) and the corrupt religion (“ordinances”) of the world.


2. Rather, we are to observe his ordinances, his statutes and his judgments.—We are to live by the rule of his Word. Now, watch this…


3. Our God says, “which if a man do, he shall live in them.”—Does that mean that sinners can save themselves by obeying God’s law? Of course not! But does mean this.—If you and I worship God in the way he reveals in his Word, in the way of his ordinances, statutes and judgments, trusting Christ alone for all righteousness and redemption, we shall live forever in him. That is exactly the meaning of Romans 3:31, 1 John 3:23-24, and 1 John 5:2-5.


(Romans 3:31)  "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law."


(1 John 3:23-24)  "And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. 24 And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us."


(1 John 5:2-5)  "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. 4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?"


Now, beginning at verse 6, he starts to get real personal.


·        Verses 6-19 give a detailed prohibition against incest.


(Leviticus 18:6-19)  "None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD. 7 The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. 8 The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father's nakedness. 9 The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover. 10 The nakedness of thy son's daughter, or of thy daughter's daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness. 11 The nakedness of thy father's wife's daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. 12 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's sister: she is thy father's near kinswoman. 13 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother's sister; for she is thy mother's near kinswoman. 14 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father's brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt. 15 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son's wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness. 16 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother's wife: it is thy brother's nakedness. 17 Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son's daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness. 18 Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time. 19 Also thou shalt not approach unto a woman to uncover her nakedness, as long as she is put apart for her uncleanness."


o       In these verses the Lord expressly forbids the incestuous unions (in marriage or not) parents and children—step-parents and step children—siblings—step-siblings—aunts/uncles with nephews/nieces—cousins—even step cousins, or in-laws.

o       Though polygamy was tolerated (because of the hardness of men’s hearts – Matt. 19:8), a man was forbidden to marry sisters, lest they vex one another as Leah did Rachel.

o       Temporary considerations were allowed prior to this.[1] But by this law the Lord established a family order of the greatest possible stability and peace.

o       God calls the practice of these evils “horrid wickedness.”

o       In verse 19 “the Lord put a check even on lawful intercourse. There were times when the wife was not to be approached by her own husband. And in Ezek. 22:10, the transgression of this law is reckoned one of the marks of Israel’s great corruptions. Every sensual feeling must be subordinated to the Lord's will; and men must live as the Lord appoints. Their happiness consists in letting their soul flow out in the channel of the Lord's will.” (Andrew Bonar)


·        Verse 20 forbids adultery.


(Leviticus 18:20)  "Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her."


·        Verse 21 prohibits idolatry—The root and cause of all moral corruption in society.


(Leviticus 18:21)  "And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD."


·        In verse 22 the Lord God stamps his “X” upon homosexuality.


(Leviticus 18:22)  "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."


·        In verse 23 he expands his denouncement to that which is the child of homosexuality—Bestiality!


(Leviticus 18:23)  "Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion."


·        These acts of horrid wickedness are both the result of divine judgment and the cause of it (vv. 24-28.


(Leviticus 18:24-28)  "Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: 25 And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants. 26 Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you: 27 (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;) 28 That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you."


o       In divine judgment God leaves men to their own lusts (Rom. 1).

o       Then, he casts them into hell, spewing them out of the earth they have defiled!


·        If you and I follow the way of the wicked, the earth will soon spew us out into hell as well (vv. 29-30).


(Leviticus 18:29-30)  "For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people. 30 Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God."




What does God the Holy Spirit intend for us to learn from this chapter? What is its purpose? Why was it written? Let me give you five things, and I will send you home, I hope, to walk with God and honor him in the totality of your being.


I. First, learn this—The Lord God almighty is God indeed.


Because he is God, he has the absolute right as God to rule you and me, to control our thoughts and our deeds. Is it not lawful for him to do with his own what he will?


Because he is God, he and he alone determines and declares both the evil and the good (Isa. 45:7).


(Isaiah 45:7)  "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things."


II. Second, ThE Word of God alone is our rule of Life.


This Book, and this Book alone is and must be authoritative in the church and kingdom of God.


(2 Timothy 3:16-17)  "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works."


III. I want us each to take home with us this third horrible, humbling lesson—The heart of man is a thoroughly corrupt cesspool of iniquity.


The horrible, shameful crimes against God and man described in this chapter are so basic to our nature that God speaks of them here as the defilement of the nations.


Such is vileness of the human heart that all these forms of depravity were anticipated by the Lord God who knows the heart. He knows the hell that is in that poisoned spring. Men see another commit some atrocity and say, “I cannot understand how a person can do that.” But the Lord God, looking on the hearts even of his own people Israel knew that they, like us, would be incessantly tempted to the most abominable evils imaginable—Tempted (by the pressures of the society around them) because of their own corrupt hearts’ lusts to incorporate into the worship and service of God the sacrifice of their children for their own sins and the approval of the basest of deeds in the name of moral freedom and religious tolerance!


Andrew Bonar wrote—“How awful is the Lord's judgment of the human heart! He believes that an Israelite, though surrounded as an Israelite of course was, with everything that could fence in his morality, might nevertheless have a heart so foul as to burst all bounds, and transgress all limits, and overflow all banks. 'The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it? I the Lord search the heart; I try the reins’ (Jer. 17:9-10).”


IV. How I pray that God will show us the wonder of this fourth great lesson!—This Holy Lord God Declares Himself to be our God because of his redeeming mercy, love and grace!—He begins and ends the chapter like this—“I am the Lord (Jehovah!) your God” (vv. 2, 30).


Because he is the Lord our God by his great grace, by his blood atonement,—because he loved us, because he chose us, because he redeemed us, because he saved us he has the right to possess us and rule us totally.—And be his name, we want him to do so!


(1 Corinthians 6:9-11)  "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God."


(1 Corinthians 6:19-20)  "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."


V. One more thing.—The Lord God demands that we take his side!


Illustration: Ebal and Gerizzim

Deuteronomy 11:26-30; 27:1-28:1-14; Joshua 8:30-35


·        There is a way that seems right to man; but it is the way of cursing, everlasting cursing!

·        There is a way despised by men; but it is the way of blessing, everlasting blessing.


(Deuteronomy 11:26-29)  "Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; 27 A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: 28 And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known. 29 And it shall come to pass, when the LORD thy God hath brought thee in unto the land whither thou goest to possess it, that thou shalt put the blessing upon mount Gerizim, and the curse upon mount Ebal."


(Joshua 24:14-15)  "Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. 15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."

[1] Obviously, Cain and Abel had no such law as this. They married their sisters.—Noah’s grandchildren were not under such a law. They married either siblings or cousins.—Abraham had no such law. He married Sarah, his half sister.