Finding Grace in Leviticus 

Chapters 18 - The Laws of Sexual Morality

Leviticus 18 - the big points

1) God's people are called to act differently. We are set apart and should behave that way by adhering to a higher standard.

2) A lot of the prohibitions that are in this chapter are played out in other parts of the Bible and we see their effects. In fact we see them played out today where it has been proven that only bad things can come from it. First, homosexuality was legalized; then gay marriages. Now it's okay to have sexual relations with an animal in Canada as long as there's no penetration.

3) The laws of sexual morality are there for our protection.

4) A lot of the things that God prohibited were practiced by pagan nations to their detriment. God wanted to protect us from ourselves because he knew that opening the door to sin leads to even greater sin.

Leviticus 18 provided guidelines for sexual behavior. It is a very detailed list. God did not leave anything to the imagination – he made sure that every possible combination was considered. This served to show his people his heart. By detailing all the things that should not be done, they knew exactly what to do to please him. Yet in all of this, can we find grace?

Up to this point the Israelites were allowed to marry their close relatives, but now God was putting the brakes on that practice. A lot of the things that were now prohibited had been done with devastating results. Let’s look at a few examples:

The nakedness of your father’s wife you shall not uncover; it is your father’s nakedness (Leviticus 19:8).

This is the story of Reuben and Bilhah, Jacob’s concubine (Genesis 35:22). Rueben slept with his father’s concubine and lost the benefits of a firstborn as a result (Genesis 49:3-4).

The nakedness of your sister, the daughter of your father, or the daughter of your mother, whether born at home or elsewhere, their nakedness you shall not uncover (Leviticus 19:9)

This is the story of Abraham and Sarah. They had the same father but different mothers. There are two recorded incidents in Genesis where Abraham highlighted the sibling connection while denying the marriage. In both cases the result was that Sarah was taken and almost married to another man.

Had God not intervened in both cases, these two men would have been led to commit adultery without their knowledge. Sarah would also have been an adulterer. (The stories are found in Genesis 12:1-20 and Genesis 20.)

Grace is encouraging sexual purity.

You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law—she is your son’s wife—you shall not uncover her nakedness (Leviticus 19:15). 

Judah and Tamar. Does that sound familiar? She was married to three of Judah’s sons who all died or were killed without having children. Pursuant to their law she was promised to the youngest son. When that did not happen, Tamar dressed as a harlot and had sex with her father-in-law.

While it’s true that Judah was unaware at the time that she was his daughter-in-law but the rule still stands that this union took place. That relationship almost resulted in Tamar’s death. (Read more in Genesis 38.)

These stories all had deep, long-lasting impact on the families in which they happened. Some of that negativity would spiral further than the participants could ever dream. What’s more, sexual immorality is one of those things that separate us from our holy God. We cannot stand before him if we are immoral.

Can we find grace in Leviticus 18? Sure we can. God was saving his people from those practices that left deep scars in the fabric of a family. Adultery hurts. Incest hurts. Sexual sins hurt. The impact that they have on an individual can last for decades, even centuries and that’s what our loving father was trying to save us from.


Abba Father, thank you for looking through the fabric of time and identifying those things which have a lingering, paralyzing effect and prohibiting them. Help us to remain pure in your sight. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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