A Call To Holiness


Jerry A. Collins

Leviticus 18

The sex drive may be the biggest example in all of the world of misery caused by pleasure. It may be true that Godís directive to be fruitful and multiply is the only command we have ever kept! And have we ever kept it. But we have also done some others things too. Sex does not just fill the earth with children of married couples. Sex causes gossip, arguments, divorce, depression, suicide, murder, and rape. It causes unwanted pregnancies, unwanted affairs, and unwanted social situations which lead to bitterness, hatred, malice and revenge. If sex is not the most destructive force on the planet, it is close to it.

God has placed boundaries around this incredible force in our lives to keep it from running rampant and to ensure the proper purpose for it. What are those boundaries and why must we keep them? How can we do that in a culture that has created itís own boundaries? This is the message of Leviticus 18.


In vs 6 we read the phrase UNCOVER NAKEDNESS. 24 times in vss 6-19 the prohibition against uncovering nakedness is mentioned. This section deals with the principles of not having sexual relations with any close relative other than your spouse. The primary thrust here is to forbid illicit marriages within the community of Israel. The Lord identifies these illicit sexual practices, diversions and perversions with the Canaanite peoples who live in the territory he is going to bring His people into (vs 3). The covenant community God is creating must be distinct from the surrounding cultures in itís sexual practices. This means they must not uncover the nakedness of each other by practicing illicit sexual unions as the pagan Canaanites and Egyptians do. In other words, they must not assimilate the sexual practices of these cultures because they would destroy Israel by inviting Godís judgment upon them. We can trace the illicit sexual practices of these Canaanites all the way back to their father, Ham in Genesis 9.


In Genesis 9:18-29 is the reference to the nature and destiny of the Canaanites, Israelsí antagonists. Vs 18 identifies those who came out of the ark with a special note that Ham was the father of Canaan. The basic question concerns what Ham, Noahís youngest son did (9:22, 24) and why Noah cursed Hamís son Canaan (vss 25-27).

A number of suggestions have been proposed. for instance, rabbis said Ham castrated Noah explaining why Noah did not have more sons. Another explanation was that Ham slept with his mother thus uncovering his fathers nakedness and that Canaan was the offspring of that union. Others claim that Ham was involved in a homosexual attack on his father. In Vs 22 when nit says Ham saw his fathers nakedness it was not referring to a sexual nature because it would have then said he uncovered his fathers nakedness. Instead Noah had already uncovered himself (vs 22) and Ham saw him that way. Even seeing his father naked was a breach of family ethic. It would make a mockery of his fathers strength in the family and destroy the sanctity of the family. Ham apparently stumbled on this accidentally but went out and triumphantly told his two brothers (vs 22) as if he had gained an advantage over his father. The response of the two brothers is opposite as they try to preserve their fathers honor in vs 23 by covering his nakedness. What seems like a trivial incident turns out to be a major event. Noahís prophetic announcement concerns Ham and his legacy (vs 25-27).

The announcement is about Hams descendants. They will be cursed. It is the nation of Canaan that would come from Ham that is cursed. In other words, Hams disposition toward moral abandon will bear fruit in the immoral acts of his descendants, the Canaanites. His high-handedness would have repercussions. This moral abandon would then bring Gods judgment upon these peoples through the conquest of Joshua and the Israelites. Since this was a curse upon the race, any individual could still become a faithful worshipper of God in spite of his/her nationality as a Canaanite. The Canaanites were wicked even when Abram entered the land. they were depraved the worst in Sodom and Gomorrah. The judgment these Cannanite cities received provided a warning about such immoral practices.


Leviticus 18 provides a catalog of the types of vice predominant in the land off Canaan. The constant referencing of nakedness and uncovering and seeing in this chapter designate the people of Canaan as a people enslaved sexually and clearly reminds of the liberty that was taken by their father, Ham. So the trivial deed of Ham comes to full fruition here. In this passage the idiom to uncover the nakedness of is speaking of sexual intercourse. All the passages here warn of sexual intercourse with close relatives and family members. the warning not only was a practical one concerning the mental, social and physical; stability of the children from such unions, it destroyed the sanctity of the home and the privacy of nakedness. Nakedness in the unfallen state was the symbol of integrity and sinlessness. In the past-fallen state it was the sign of susceptibility to exploitation, captivity, abuse and shame. The instinct of Adam and Eve to cover themselves in their nakedness was right. Fallen man is ill at ease in such a state. the Canaanites had made a cult out of this nakedness along with homosexuality, bestiality, temple prostitution, and child sacrifice. So the warnings in Leviticus 18 include warnings against incest, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, prostitution and child sacrifice in the community.

Vss 24-30 warn the israelites to avoid these practices or they will bring the same judgment on themselves. Of course we know that Israel failed to repell the Canaanite bthreat from the outset. They corrupted the nation from within and the same vices that caused swift judgment to fall on that wiciked people came on israel.


(1) God warns his people not to get caught up in illicit sexual practices. These practices will destroy the fabric of family life and introduce the death-dealing consequences of sin into homes, marriages, families and society. Our loyalty to God as a Christ-follower means remaining pure, holy and undefiled by a filthy, sex-crazed society. What examples of sexuality do you let into your minds, your home, your conversations or your reading? Your attitudes will be affected by what you are exposed too. For instance, Ally Mcbeal had women kissing on her show last week. Illicit sexuality is a constant theme on both day-time and night-time TV. Exposure at this constant level can break down and wear down our discernement about these issues for our personal lives. All of these themes and practices violate Godís ideal for us in a godless society.

(2) This is not just about loose living.

It is a message of judgment on sin and a warning to those who claim to follow Christ to not become defiled by all of the sexaul messages out there. It is one thing to fall into sexual sin but quite another to embrace these illicit practices as a way of life. God warns his people to remian pure to him in loyal obedience. Righteousness then, flows from obedience of faith not by trying to keep a set of rules. Where are your affections in this matter? Are they with God and His will? What are your values about sexuality? Are they Gods or have they been shaped by the world around you?

(3) Our worlds thinking can attract us.

Since we are prone to be allured by illicit sexuality, the scriptures constantly warn us to be on guard against such allurements. For instance, several times we are warned about the lusts of the flesh. We are to lay aside the old selof which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit (Epehsians 4:22). 2 Timothy 2:22 warns us to flee youthful lusts. James says what is the source of your quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have so you commit murder (1-2). We even want our prayers answered so that you may spend it on your pleasures (vs 3). This could be like asking God to give me that other person I want instead of the husdand or wife I already have. God says he is not going to do that. We are urged as aliens and strangers (in this world) to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against bthe soul (1 Peter 2:11). Our calling is not to live the rest of the time (here on earth) in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men but for the will of God ( 1 Peter 4:2). Avoid being attracted by this worlds allurements to illicit sexual activity. It is a losing battle with our flesh.