Friday, December 15, 2023

2023.12.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Leviticus 20

Read Leviticus 20

Questions from the Scripture text: Who speaks to whom (Leviticus 20:1)? To whom is Moses to speak (Leviticus 20:2)? What sin is he to address? What penalty must they inflict? By what method? Who else will oppose him (Leviticus 20:3)? And do what? Why? What does giving the descendants to Molech do? What might the people of the land fail to do (Leviticus 20:4)? What will the Lord do to each one who tolerates the sin (Leviticus 20:5)? For what other sin will the Lord excommunicate (Leviticus 20:6)? What general command is behind this specific command (Leviticus 20:7-8)? What sin does Leviticus 20:9 address? What penalty does it demand? What does the end of verse 9 say about this penalty (cf. ends of Leviticus 20:11Leviticus 20:12Leviticus 20:13Leviticus 20:16Leviticus 20:27)? Who else must be put to death (Leviticus 20:10)? And who else (Leviticus 20:11)? And who else (Leviticus 20:12)? And who else (Leviticus 20:13)? And who else (Leviticus 20:14)? And who else (Leviticus 20:15)? And who else (Leviticus 20:16)? Who ought to be excommunicated (Leviticus 20:17)? And who else (Leviticus 20:18)? Who renders the punishments in Leviticus 20:19-21? How do we know? What must Israel keep (Leviticus 20:22)? What will happen if they don’t? In whose statutes must they not walk (Leviticus 20:23)? What is the Lord doing to them for that? What is His attitude toward them? What has the Lord promised Israel (Leviticus 20:24)? To Whom has the Lord joined them? From whom has He separated them? How do Leviticus 20:25-26 reflect the two parts of what the priests must teach according to Leviticus 10:10? What penalty for what sin does Leviticus 20:27 add at the end?

What are the implications of God’s holiness for congregations of sinful saints? Leviticus 20 prepares us for the evening sermon on the Lord’s Day. In these twenty-seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that congregations of sinful saints must maintain church discipline, so that sin is never tolerated in the Lord’s holy church.

In this chapter, many of the same sins are dealt with as those from Leviticus 18, although here He begins with sacrificing of children to Molech (Leviticus 20:2-5, cf. Leviticus 18:21). This chapter focuses especially upon the penalties that are required for such acts, whether covenantal (“cut off from his people”) or civil/capital  (“put to death”).

The one who sins brings his own blood upon himself (Leviticus 20:9Leviticus 20:12Leviticus 20:13Leviticus 20:16Leviticus 20:27). Sometimes, we find it difficult to inflict penalties when we should. There can be many reasons for this. We might not love the sinner enough. We might not care enough about the church/society of which they are a member. We like to have others like us, and this seems to be the quickest way to suffer their dislike. We might forget that the Lord is the One Who requires it, so we feel hypocritical as sinners for punishing other sinners. We might just be too lazy to go through the effort of something difficult and messy. Worst of all, we might not love God enough to see sin as bad enough. But sin is deadly serious. The wages of sin is death (cf. Romans 6:23). And the particular sins listed in this chapter bring death into a church or a land. 

But, first, these sins bring death upon the one who commits them. This chapter makes this as plain as possible with the reminder, in five instances, that “his blood shall be upon him” (Leviticus 20:9Leviticus 20:12Leviticus 20:13Leviticus 20:16Leviticus 20:27). He has done it to himself. The blood is already upon him. Applying the penalty is not optional. The people must consecrate themselves and be holy because YHWH is their covenant God (Leviticus 20:7Leviticus 20:26). YHWH Himself sanctifies them, consecrates them as holy (Leviticus 20:8Leviticus 20:26). This is what requires them to inflict the penalties (of either excommunication or execution) throughout this chapter. 

“His blood shall be upon him” is how Leviticus 20:9 helps them even to inflict the penalty from the Book of the Covenant (cf. Exodus 21:17). There, this sin had been included with other capital crimes that destabilize a society. This is a reminder that the Lord Himself has established the order of the family, the society, and the church. Though our hearts might melt for a child who has set himself against his parents, we must remember that it is really God that the child sets Himself against. The holiness of His church must not be compromised by tolerating such rebellion. A state that is not also a church may not be under obligation to execute (or perhaps exile) resolutely rebellious children. But the church must certainly excommunicate them. They are called saints, and they must look to God for grace in Christ to become what they have been called and to live that way. If they prove irretrievable from their rebellion, though our hearts melt for them, they must be expelled from the membership and fellowship of the church. Their expulsion is upon their own heads.

A church that fails to practice discipline defiles God’s Name. Holiness is required both individually and corporately. If a church doesn’t excommunicate unrepentant sin from among it, then it itself will be excommunicated from the Lord Himself (Leviticus 20:22, cf. Revelation 2:5, Revelation 3:3), while He Himself punishes the sinners (Leviticus 20:6Leviticus 20:19-21; cf. Revelation 2:16Leviticus 20:23). 

At the beginning of the chapter, with the one who offered his offspring, the Lord Himself has set His face against that man (Leviticus 20:3). What they are commanded to do on earth in Leviticus 20:2, the Lord has already done from heaven (cf. Matthew 16:19, Matthew 18:18). And the Lord promises to excommunicate (implying eternal excommunication) the people who fail to execute him, right along with him (Leviticus 20:4-5). 

The Lord designates various, specific penalties. Among them: stoning (Leviticus 20:2), excommunication (Leviticus 20:6), general execution (Leviticus 20:10-13), burning with fire (Leviticus 20:14). By varying it, He underlines the reality that it is He Who is the Lord. It is He Who has the holiness and the authority. We must be holy because He is holy, and we must do as He says in His church, because He is the One Who says it. He doesn’t even need us to carry out punishment. For instance, the punishment of childlessness in Leviticus 20:21 is something that only He can carry out; He does it Himself. When He commands church discipline, He gives us the privilege of fellowship with Him in a work that He does in consecrating and cleansing His church. 

A nation that fails to punish criminals provokes God’s wrath. Molech (Leviticus 20:3Leviticus 20:4Leviticus 20:5) was a foreign God. The language of the land vomiting in Leviticus 20:22 is not only excommunication language with regard to His covenant people (cf. Revelation 3:16) but also the language of the Lord punishing the heathen nations whom He abhors (Leviticus 20:23, cf. Leviticus 18:25Leviticus 18:28). There is warning here for more than just Israel; it is a warning for all nations. 

What sin have you been tolerating in your own heart and life? What do you think of, or feel about, church discipline? How should such thoughts and feelings change or strengthen, based upon this chapter? What are other ways that you can promote a culture of consecration to God in your home? In your church? in your land?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us for how tolerant we have been of sin. We forget Your holiness and take it lightly, even to the point that we bristle at the discipline that You require in Your church, or the punishment that You require civil magistrates to inflict. But we thank You that You, Who love holiness so much, have also loved us with holy love that gave us Christ. For His sake, please forgive us our sin, and help us to love You. Grant that we would consecrate our life to You as holy. And grant that our churches would reform and revive and practice the discipline that You have commanded in Your Word, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP139D “O That You’d Slay the Wicked, God!” or TPH229 “Holy God, We Praise Your Name”

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