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“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones…Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine. A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.” (Leviticus 20:1-27)
What is biblical separation? Is it separation from sinful people? Is it dressing different from other people? Is biblical separation not going to the movies, not watching television, not playing card games, not dancing, etc.? Is biblical separation talking different from other people, or eating different foods and drinking different beverages? Is biblical separation living in such a way that people recognize us as a holy, godly people?
Really, biblical separation is none of those things. What does this world know about holiness and godliness? But the Bible does teach us to be a separate people. In fact, the Bible declares plainly that all who are born of God, all who trust the Lord Jesus Christ, are a separate people, separated and separating themselves from all others. In Leviticus 20:26 the Lord our God declares that we who are his are his because he has separated us (severed us) from all other people. By Sovereign Election, By Particular Redemption, By Special Providence, By Effectual Calling, and By Gracious Preservation, the Lord our God severs his own from the rest of the world as his peculiar people, as a people who are distinctly his.
This section of the Book of Leviticus begins in chapter 18. In Leviticus 18-20 the Lord God commands his Israel to walk before him in the land of Canaan as a holy people, a people separated and consecrated to him. He is commanding us to walk before him in the world today as a holy people, a people separated and consecrated to him.
Throughout the Scriptures the Lord God constantly calls for us to live in this world for the honor of his name. His appeal is irresistible. His demands are most reasonable. His authority is unquestionable.
His Appeal is this. — I am the Lord your God. I have brought you out of Egypt. And I am bringing you into the land of your inheritance. He first identifies himself distinctly with us. Then he reminds us of his matchless mercy, love, and grace toward us.
His demands are truly most reasonable. — What could be more reasonable than that we should live our lives in this world in constantly renewing consecration to our great God and Savior?
Redeemed by blood and saved by grace,
I am no more my own.
My life, my love, my all I give,
Savior, to You alone!
His authority is unquestionable. — He is God. He has given his Word to us his people. And his Word is absolutely, totally authoritative in his house. It is not expected that the Egyptians and the Canaanites should live in submission to and in accordance with his Word. But his people are not only expected to do so, he sees to it that his people live by the rule of his Word.
We live in an age of such ignorance and degradation that the whole world denies that there is any such thing as authority, that there is any unchangeable, immovable standard by which we must determine what is right and what is wrong. But that is not the case for us. The Word of God is authoritative. And the Word of God alone is authoritative (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
In this 20th chapter of Leviticus the Lord God our Savior tells us precisely how we must live in this world if we would live for his honor. This chapter gives God’s own instruction to his people about separation. This is biblical separation.
A Warning to Idolaters
How thoroughly our God knows the perverse imaginations of our evil hearts, the vile thoughts of our wicked minds, and the readiness of our vile hearts to do evil! In verses 1-6 the Lord our God speaks with unmistakable clarity, as he gives a warning to idolaters. Perceiving that which his people would soon face, he forewarns them of the evil of idolatry, and does so with startling words of condemnation.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones. And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name. And if the people of the land do any ways hide their eyes from the man, when he giveth of his seed unto Molech, and kill him not: Then I will set my face against that man, and against his family, and will cut him off, and all that go a whoring after him, to commit whoredom with Molech, from among their people. And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.” (vv. 1-6)
The Lord God declares that he will use the people of the land as the executioners of his justice, though the execution of his justice is always a work over which he presides. — “They shall stone him, and I will cut him off, setting my face against him.” The sentence appears extreme, cruel, even barbaric in the minds of men who imagine that they are more compassionate and wiser than God. The idolater was to be stoned to death.
Why? What was the crime that demanded such a sentence from the Judge of all the earth who always does right? The crime that demanded such fearful punishment was idolatry. It is the worship of Molech, the fire god of the Canaanites. As is the case with all false religion, Molech worship was horribly cruel.
Molech was an image of red-hot glowing brass. Men and women, to appease this worthless idol, laid their living children in his arms and watched as the god of fire (whose only fire was the fire they kindled and kept burning) consumed their own children! Everything was savage and demonic to the extreme. The Canaanites invented and the Jews accepted a hellish fiend of hatred in preference to the Lord of Glory. The toleration of idolatry led to the murder of children, even babies! Therefore, the idolaters were to be destroyed.
What a contrast Molech was to Jehovah! “God is love.” His everlasting arms of omnipotent mercy take up little children to bless and to save them. His heart is never satisfied until the objects of his love know his love to them. Rather than casting us into the fiery pit of hell that we so fully deserve, our great God, Jehovah-Jesus, stretched out his arms on the cross, opened his side to the spear, and took all the fire of God’s holy wrath against us into his own soul. Rather than requiring satisfaction from us, our God has made satisfaction for us.
That, in its essence, is the difference between Jehovah and Molech. Molech is nothing. Christ is everything. Molech does nothing for his worshippers without their contribution. Christ did everything for us, without any contribution from us. Molech makes his worshippers pay. Christ paid for us. Molech stands in the Book of God as a representation of all false gods. The worship of Molech stands as an obvious representation of all false religion.
Just in case you have missed my point, just in case you are wondering, “How does all this about Molech apply to anyone today?” — I lay this charge against every false, idolatrous misrepresentation of God our Father, of his Son our Lord Jesus Christ, and of God the Holy Spirit that in any way requires satisfaction from the sinner or whose work in any way depends upon man. — Such a worthless, cruel, useless god is worse than Molech. Molech could, at least, have been melted down and sold for bread!
Those who choose Molech in preference to Jehovah prove themselves to be in a state of utter enmity against God. By their pretended worship of Jehovah, they are “defiling his sanctuary!” They stand in the house of God, calling themselves the people of God, while worshipping another god! Their worship is nothing but an expression of utter contempt for God. Their choice of Molech as their god is the constant “defiling his (Jehovah’s) name!” Rather than worship God in his true character, they make a god without character of any kind, a god that is nothing, call it God, and prefer the burning tortures of Molech’s frowns that must be appeased to the sweet enjoyment of free grace, finished redemption, immaculate mercy, and immutable love revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The phrase, “whoredom with Molech,” is intended to show the utter contempt of man for God’s mercy and grace in Christ by every invention and act of idolatry, by every invention and act of freewill/works religion. God’s saving grace is compared throughout Scripture as the marriage union of his own darling Son to our souls (Jeremiah 3:14; Hosea 2:19; Ephesians 5:25-30). But the Lord God declares, “Judah…hath married the daughter of a strange god” (Malachi 2:11). In the New-Testament John calls it making God a liar!
In verse 6 the Lord God continues to condemn idolatry; but here he speaks of another form of it. Verse 6 condemns every form of wizardry, witchcraft, etc. But there is more here than going to a psychic, reading your daily horoscope, or watching “Harry Potter.” Abominable as those things are, this verse speaks of a form of idolatry more common among us than we like to acknowledge.
“And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.”
The message of this verse is clear. — We must never go to counselors other than our great God, whose very name is “Wonderful Counselor.” He has wisdom enough to direct us. His grace is sufficient to sustain us. His love revealed to us in Christ ought to be sufficient to make us perfectly content to leave that which we do not know in his hands.
How prone we are, like Saul, to run to the witch of Endor whenever we perceive things that make us uncomfortable! It is written, “He that believeth shall not make haste.” But we hastily run off to Endor’s witches, never finding peace, when peace is found for all who bow to God upon his sovereign throne of grace. When your heart is heavy and your soul is troubled, you can either go whining to a counselor or worship the Counselor. You can either go sniveling to a man or snuggle up to the Almighty. You can either pace the floor and bite your nails or bury yourself in God and his Word in submissive faith. You will never do both!
A Call to Sanctification
In verses 7 and 8, the Lord God issues a call to sanctification.
“Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God. And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the LORD which sanctify you.”
Our God calls for us to sanctify ourselves and be holy. This holiness and sanctification, as we shall see in the following verses, is not a work by which we make ourselves holy before God. Rather, it is the separation of ourselves from the worship and ways of the world around us. The motive is the fact that he who is God is the Lord our God! He has made us his own and has made himself ours. The way we are to sanctify ourselves, set ourselves apart from the world around us, is by obeying his Word. Then, the Lord our God assures us that it is he who sanctifies us, who sets us apart from the world.
A Display of Depravity
In verse 9 a dark, dark scene of dismal corruption begins, by which the Lord God sets before us a display of depravity that is as chilling as it is true. It is a scene of blackness that continues through verse 21.
“For everyone that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.”
Here is a people who have lost all “natural affection” (Romans 1:31). When the strongest tie of respect, friendship, and responsibility is broken, all are broken. When the first and most important representation of divine authority is despised, all authority is despised. And when authority is gone, when affection turns only to self, chaos and corruption run rampant.
These words more perfectly describe Adam’s fallen race than anyone imagines. — “He hath cursed his father!” They mark the crime as eminently heinous. They describe the utter renunciation of all ties to God our Father, who has nourished and brought up children. The son has become a prodigal. The son has gone to a far country. The son wishes to erase the very memory of his father’s home. — “Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be very desolate” (Jeremiah 2:12).
Who can read verses 10-21 and not be embarrassed, if not shocked? Are these things so? Do men and women actually perform such evils as these, these things of which it is a shame even to speak? Surely, God’s Israel needs not be warned against these things. Horrible as it is to face this fact, we need the warning just like all other men and women. These things were not written to the Canaanites, but to God’s covenant people.
Amazing, truly amazing is the grace of our God! Our great God has chosen for the fellowship of his bosom throughout eternity people whose nature he knows to be capable of the foulest, filthiest, darkest profligacy imaginable! What depth of meaning there is in the fact that the Son of God “saves his people from their sins,” in the fact that God, for Christ’s sake, “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness!” — Read the black catalog of our corruption in verses 10-21.
“And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. And the man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them. If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you. And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast. And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. And if a man shall take his sister, his father’s daughter, or his mother’s daughter, and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness; it is a wicked thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of their people: he hath uncovered his sister’s nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity. And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people. And thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother’s sister, nor of thy father’s sister: for he uncovereth his near kin: they shall bear their iniquity. And if a man shall lie with his uncle’s wife, he hath uncovered his uncle’s nakedness: they shall bear their sin; they shall die childless. And if a man shall take his brother’s wife, it is an unclean thing: he hath uncovered his brother’s nakedness; they shall be childless.”
What sins these are! What wrath! — “Put them to death!” — “TheirŠblood shall be upon them!” — “Burn them with fire!” — “Cut them off in the sight of their people” that all may see and fear! — “Cut them off from among the people!” — Drive them out of holy fellowship (Revelation 18:10). — “They shall die childless,” standing as living monuments of wrath to be seen by all, like a leafless, fruitless tree which the lightning of God has blasted. Many are the arrows in his quiver, shot forth even now on earth upon transgressors. What, then, shall the fulness of his wrath be when his “bow is made quite naked?”
What horrid sins are here described, sins corrupting the whole earth, causing the earth itself to cry up to heaven. — Children cursing their parents! Neighbors and relatives living in adultery with each other! The son dishonors the bed of his step-mother, the father-in-law that of his daughter-in-law! Men burn in unnatural lust (Romans 1:27)! The same man takes mother and daughter as his wives! Men and women go to the very beasts to gratify their lusts! Brothers despise and defile their own sisters and step-sisters to gratify their lusts! Fornication, adultery, incest, sodomy, bestiality, the murder of one’s own babies! All these evils are here set before us as evils arising directly from idolatry (Romans 1:18-32), evils arising directly from man worshipping himself as God (2 Thessalonians 2:4), evils arising directly from will worship (Colossians 2:23). In a word, everything on earth, including the dearest relationships of men are used only as fuel for the raging lusts of depraved hearts when men and women are taught to worship at the altar of their own free will!
Canaan was a land of enormous guilt. Its people were rooted out. The only wonder is that the Lord God put up with it for so long. Should he not blot it out from his creation? He did so to Sodom and Gomorrah.
But here is grace, amazing, abounding grace! — Instead of destroying it, he purged it, and peopled it with a new race. Thereby the God of all grace gave a token of his purpose for his creation. He will not utterly annihilate it. Instead, he will cause the earth to be purged with fire, create it new, and people it with a holy people to stand forever as monuments to his goodness, wisdom, and grace. Soon our great Joshua, the Lord Jesus Christ, shall appear in flaming fire. Then shall there shall be “a new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness!”
So it shall be with every sinner saved by the grace of God! — O sinner, O polluted soul, hear the Word of God! Though every hideous sin, vile vice, lurid lust, and perverse passion has ruled you all your life, though you may have hidden what you are from all around you, yet the Lord God, instead of destroying you, can cleanse and save you! He has promised such salvation to all who call upon him. When Christ our God and Savior, the Priest on his throne, comes into your soul, you are washed, you are clean, you are righteous, you are justified, you are sanctified. — You are holy! Thanks be unto God for blood atonement by his dear Son! Thanks be unto God for free forgiveness, for free salvation by his free grace in Christ Jesus!
A Separated People
In verses 22-26 the Lord God declares that his elect are and must be a separated people. He declares that we are a separated people and calls for us to separate ourselves unto him. This is a call to holiness, a call to separate ourselves from the people of the land, to separate ourselves from the religion of this world. This is what Paul refers to when he speaks of us “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Sinai’s thunder could never cause fallen men to come to God. It only drives them from him. But free grace, unconditional grace causes redeemed sinners to trust, love, worship, and walk with God. — “The love of Christ constraineth us!”
“Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out. And ye shall not walk in the manners of the nation, which I cast out before you: for they committed all these things, and therefore I abhorred them. But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people.” (vv. 22-24)
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)
“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4)
God’s people are a severed people. Therefore, we must sever ourselves from the world around us, not from the people of the world, but from the religion and ways of the world. — This is biblical separation.
“Ye shall therefore put difference between clean beasts and unclean, and between unclean fowls and clean: and ye shall not make your souls abominable by beast, or by fowl, or by any manner of living thing that creepeth on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine.” (vv. 25-26)
A Deserved Reverence
In verse 27 our great and gracious God demands of us a deserved reverence.
“A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them.”
This is not a mere repetition of verse 6. Here the Lord speaks of the wizards themselves, not of those who go to consult them. When found, witches and wizards, and all of that class were to be put to death. Israel was required to remove the stumbling-blocks of religious superstition and expunge from their borders all such wickedness. This law in Canaan is to be applied spiritually in the church of God today as fully as it was in Israel of old. — None but God shall be honored in God’s house (1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 John 1:9-11)
God’s Israel must live in open and avowed enmity with the serpent and the seed of the serpent. There can to be no compromise. Such devotion to our God and the gospel of his free grace in Christ throws us entirely upon him for help and strength. We are to wage war with Satan, to storm the very gates of hell, to crush the adder and dragon in their den, refusing to offer peace to any who refuse to worship God our Savior, and refusing any terms of peace for ourselves with the enemies of our God.
Hell assaulted no portion of earth so intensely as Canaan in the days of believing Israel. Yet, no region on earth was so secure as that land where God was worshipped as God. The strength of heaven was Israel’s strength. The breadth of heaven was her shield. The edge of heaven’s keen sword was her safety. — “The Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him” (Deuteronomy 32:12). — “Happy art thou, O Israel! O people saved by the Lord” (Deuteronomy 33:29).
“Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” (Ephesians 5:11-14)
God the Holy Ghost tells us to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.” If any doctrine looks Arminian, smells like free will, or tastes like works, run from it as fast as you can, and as far as you can! “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) That is biblical separation. See that you practice it always “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”