Words from the Weary Wilderness - Lenten Journey Day 12
Day Twelve - Tuesday, March 15
The Scriptures Du Jour (of the Day)
Read: Leviticus 18:1-23, Leviticus 20:5-16
18 1The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
2 Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: I am the Lord your God. 3 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 follow their statutes. 4 My ordinances you shall observe and my statutes you shall keep, following them: I am the Lord your God. 5 You shall keep my statutes and my ordinances; by doing so one shall live: I am the Lord.
6 None of you shall approach anyone near of kin to uncover nakedness: I am the Lord. 7 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. 8 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is the nakedness of your father. 9 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether born at home or born abroad. 10 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your son’s daughter or of your daughter’s daughter, for their nakedness is your own nakedness. 11 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife’s daughter, begotten by your father, since she is your sister. 12 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s sister; she is your father’s flesh. 13 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother’s sister, for she is your mother’s flesh. 14 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s brother, that is, you shall not approach his wife; she is your aunt. 15 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law: she is your son’s wife; you shall not uncover her nakedness. 16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness. 17 You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, and you shall not take her son’s daughter or her daughter’s daughter to uncover her nakedness; they are your flesh; it is depravity. 18 And you shall not take a woman as a rival to her sister, uncovering her nakedness while her sister is still alive.
19 You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness. 20 You shall not have sexual relations with your kinsman’s wife, and defile yourself with her. 21 You shall not give any of your offspring to sacrifice them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. 23 You shall not have sexual relations with any animal and defile yourself with it, nor shall any woman give herself to an animal to have sexual relations with it: it is perversion.
5 I myself will set my face against them and against their family, and will cut them off from among their people, them and all who follow them in prostituting themselves to Molech.
6 If any turn to mediums and wizards, prostituting themselves to them, I will set my face against them, and will cut them off from the people. 7 Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am the Lord your God. 8 Keep my statutes, and observe them; I am the Lord; I sanctify you. 9 All who curse father or mother shall be put to death; having cursed father or mother, their blood is upon them.
10 If a man commits adultery with the wife of[ his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death. 11 The man who lies with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. 12 If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall be put to death; they have committed perversion, their blood is upon them. 13 If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them. 14 If a man takes a wife and her mother also, it is depravity; they shall be burned to death, both he and they, that there may be no depravity among you. 15 If a man has sexual relations with an animal, he shall be put to death; and you shall kill the animal. 16 If a woman approaches any animal and has sexual relations with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them.
Today’s Word from the Weary Wilderness: You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. (Leviticus 18:22)
Reflection: Leviticus 18 is about God wanting Israel to differentiate itself morally and sexually from the people it encountered in Egypt and along the journey. This chapter is largely about incest. We can only assume that some of the sexual practices of the people of Egypt included incest, as well as bestiality. Some are clinging today with all their hearts to Leviticus 18:22, as a word from Christ to his church. It is becoming the verse that may divide our denomination. These verses, not repeated in Numbers or Deuteronomy, have been given an extra weight of importance. The thumb is on the scale.
This not the first verse to find itself in the midst of controversial interpretation. Slavery is promoted and allowed in the Bible (how does that feel to you?), and the church divided over slavery. Women preachers are forbidden in the Bible, and we still have churches divided over this matter - even in 2022! Some churches still protest every time they “have to take a woman pastor”. In my early years of ministry, I spent hours in Bible studies defending myself every time a person referenced 1 Corinthians 14:34 (“women should keep silent in the churches.”) Frankly, I have never been inside a United Methodist Church where women are silent. Recently I am asked, “doesn’t the Bible say that homosexuality is an abomination?” Well, yes it does. But it also says plenty of other things, many of which those very same people consider antiquated. We have all been guilty of picking and choosing, throughout history.
The scripture du jour is repeated in Leviticus 20:3, but the chapter’s emphasis is placed upon breaking away from the cult of Molech (which sacrificed children in fire), cursing one's parents (which is a sin worthy of death), and prostituting oneself to wizards and mediums. We find more specific teachings about conversation about incest and bestiality. What message do you gain from looking at the context of these chapters, and to Chapter 19, which often sits unread between them? Leviticus 19 emphasizes the positive: sabbath-keeping, fair agricultural practices, and recaps many of the Ten Commandments – including fairness in the marketplace. (Getting our own thumbs off the scale, as it were.) This chapter also calls us to “rise before the aged” and “defer to the old.” Yet many people dishonor the elderly in our American society, telling others “we are just too busy to take care of them every day.”
Do we study the breadth and depth of scripture, or do we pick and choose? God is watching.
Prayer: God of the Wilderness, we are tripped up right now on this part of our journey. As tempers flare and ears close, convict us of our own propensities and passions, and of our own hard-heartedness. Speak to us a word of understanding, both of scripture and of one another, that we might consider what is most important to the mission of Christ our Lord in this age. If we set one scripture aside, might we set another one aside? Or not? Guide us in our interpretation, by your Holy Spirit. May we be found faithful, and may we do what Jesus would do. Amen.
Blessings of Peace and Health,
Rev. Beverly B. Coppley
& Chief Missional Strategist