Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Leviticus 18Romans 12:2. The next element in the morality required of the Lord's people is non-conformity to this world. We are such imitative creatures that we are prone to do as our neighbours do, without questioning the propriety of their conduct. Whenever we adopt the ordinary standard of life, without inquiring how it is related to the Divine standard, we are conforming to the worldly spirit. The worldly conduct may be much higher in one age than in another, and in one country than in another; but the essence of worldliness is unquestioning conformity to the standard of our neighbours. In the present chapter we have a fearful picture of the morality, or rather immorality, of Canaan. It may be read in connection with Romans 1:18-32, as showing the depth to which unrestrained desire may descend. Not only do the Canaanites appear to have indulged in the most reckless licentiousness with nearest relatives, but also to have indulged in sodomy, and even to have descended to carnal intercourse with beasts. That is to say, they gave up their high vantage-ground as intellectual and moral beings, and descended to the level of brute beasts (cf. 2 Peter 2:12). We would require to go to the dark places of heathenism, which are still "full of the habitations of cruelty" (Psalm 74:20), to find an exact parallel at present for Canaan. The progress of civilization has smoothed the surface of society, however little it may have touched its heart. But what we must notice is that the principle of worldly conformity may be just as active in our boasted civilization, as in the darkest haunts of heathenism.
I. THE HIGHEST CIVILIZATION IS NO SUFFICIENT REASON FOR A CERTAIN LINE OF CONDUCT. The Israelites had been developed in Egypt, which was then at the head of civilization. It would be a very great temptation, therefore, to these liberated bondmen to walk according to the customs and ordinances of Egypt. They would be tempted to do many things on no higher ground than that they had seen them done in Egypt. No wonder, therefore, that the Lord admonishes them in these terms: "After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do" (verse 3). And yet is not this exactly the position taken up by many at this hour? They do many things "on the very highest authority." The reason of the course, its moral value, is never thought of, but simply the precedent which can be produced for it. This spirit of" simian imitation" is worldliness pure and simple. The highest civilization is not necessarily moral, much less religious: why should I conform to the demands of a capricious code of laws, which may have no valid moral principle within them at all? God surely has not given us reflection and conscience to be ignored in such a way as this.
II. PREVAILING CUSTOM IS NO SUFFICIENT REASON EITHER FOR A CERTAIN LINE OF CONDUCT. The Israelites, in coming into Canaan, would find the inhabitants the freest and easiest possible in the matter of morals. No restraint appears to have been put upon their passions. They did whatever was right in their own eyes. Their lusts were their law. Now, were the Israelites to go into the land in the "jolly-good-fellow" style, they would be popular at once. The entrance into Canaan would in such a case have been an easy and triumphal march. Conformity to prevailing custom would have made the immigration a God-send to the beastly inhabitants. It would have given novelty to their desires. Hence God warns his people in the words, "And after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances" (verse 3). The snare of popularity prevails at present as powerfully as it did when Israel was about to enter Canaan. There is a great disposition with professedly religious people, "when at Rome, not to quarrel with the pope." Conformity to prevailing custom is a popular role to play. It costs nothing, except indeed the sacrifice of principle, and it gains in the worldly sense much. But no thinking mind imagines it is a rule of human conduct which will stand a moment's consideration. Why should I yield to what may be a senseless and even an immoral custom, simply because it is a custom? I have not been endowed with reason for such an irrational result as this.
III. WHEN MEN SACRIFICE THEIR MANHOOD TO WORLDLY CONFORMITY, THEY FIND EVENTUALLY THAT THEY HAVE TAKEN A SUICIDAL COURSE. The course of the Canaanites was a suicidal one. The land was spuing them out (verse 28). The selfish, lustful lives they led, the brutalities they practiced, became their scourge, and they were fading away. The same result is found among the heathen nations. The sacrifice of manhood to bestiality must pay the penalty of eventual extinction. And though at first sight the operation of the principle may be retarded by the higher morale of civilization, there can be no doubt that the suicidal character of worldly conformity is a real experience. An individual loses mental as well as moral power, who conforms without question to the worldly customs of his time, and thus sacrifices his manhood. The easy-going, popular individual, who does this, that, and the other, for fear of being thought singular, is found to have very little strength of mind to begin with, and less every day he lives. In fact, nature is constructed upon the principle that the despised talent of manhood is forfeited when not employed, and there is a clear descent in the scale of being.
IV. GOD HAS GIVEN US SUFFICIENTLY PLAIN STATUTES AND LAWS TO BE-INFORCE US IN OUR COMBAT WITH THE WORLD. "Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God. Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments; which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord "(verses 4, 5). "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2). Transformation, "transfiguration" (μεταμορφοῦσθε; cf. Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2) as we might call it, that is, a bringing of ourselves into conformity to a Divine ideal; this is what unworldliness consists in. We do not cease to be worldly when we surrender half a dozen suspicious pleasures. We cease to be "worldly" only when we refuse to accept of the prevailing worldly standard as our law of life, and seek earnestly to know "what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God." And to help us to this God has not only given us a book so plain and practical upon matters of daily life that he that runs may read; but he has also embodied his ideal in the perfect manhood of his Son. We have simply to ask the question, "What would Christ, were he in our circumstances, do?" and instantly we are enabled to decide on an appropriate and an unworldly course of action. It is this manly rule of life to which we are called. To bow down to the customs of even the best society or the highest civilization without inquiring how these customs stand towards the Divine Law, is to sacrifice our birthright of manliness for a mess of the rudest pottage. - R.M.E.
I. THAT THEY ARE FORBIDDEN BY GOD. This is the highest reason, for:
1. He is the supreme Arbiter of men (verses 5, 6, 24): "I am the Lord."
(1) He is our Creator. His power over the work of his hands is absolute. It is our wisdom to confess this without gainsaying.
(2) He is our Governor. He has not abandoned his creation to mechanical laws. The providence of his intelligence is everywhere and ever active. This his people saw in the miracles of the Exodus.
(3) Moral beings are morally responsible to a God of holiness and truth. His will is law. It is truth. It is purity.
2. He is the covenant Friend of his people (verses 1, 4, 30): "I am the Lord your God."
(1) The covenant relationship is set forth in this declaration. It therefore suggests all the promises:, Blessings pertaining to this life; also to that which is to come. What glorious blessings!
(2) Gratitude is appealed to here. Love should constrain us. The obedience of love is the purest. It is most acceptable to God. It is most perfect; for the whole being is in it.
II. THAT THE HEATHEN HAVE PRACTISED THEM.
1. They were the doings of the Egyptians (verse 3).
(1) The corrupt state of heart which prompted them, and which was aggravated by their repetition, was that from which the children of Israel suffered cruel and relentless persecutions and oppressions. The bitter experience they had of these abominations should lead them scrupulously to avoid them.
(2) If they had learnt to follow their vices, it is time to unlearn them, now that they have been delivered from Egypt. Providence furnishes men with opportunities favourable to repentance and reformation. We are answerable for these.
2. They were the doings of the Canaanites.
(1) Customs common to the heathen should be viewed with suspicion by the people of God. The practices of custom come to be called "ordinances" (see verse 3). Ordinances of man must not be confounded with ordinances of God.
(2) We need admonition here. It is easy to flow with the stream; difficult to stem the torrent. We must brace ourselves to this. We should look to God to nerve our resolution.
III. THAT THE MATTER IS VITAL.
1. God leads his people into temptation.
(2) Yet is not God the Author of moral evil. Physical may exist apart from moral evil. Witness the afflictions of Job (see also John 9:1-3).
(3) God leads men into temptation, not that they may fall into it, but that they may learn to resist it, and so form a strong moral character.
2. There is life in the Law to those who can keep it.
3. Ruin is denounced upon the transgressor.
(2) For his sake the land is cursed (verse 25). So defiled may it become as to be unfit for the tabernacle of God. The curse upon the ground for man's sake came in the form of a deluge of water; it will yet come in a flood of fire (Genesis 3:17; Genesis 5:29; 2 Peter 3:7).
(3) The transgressor is cut off from among his people (verse 29; comp. 1 Corinthians 3:17). The abomination in which he is held is vigorously set forth under the figure of the land vomiting and spuing out its inhabitants (verses 25, 28). So were the Egyptians ejected. So were the ancient Canaanites (see Genesis 15:16; Revelation 3:16). So in turn were the Israelites (Ezekiel 20:11, 13, 21). We should not be highminded, but fear (Romans 11:19-21; Hebrews 4:11). "Lay the car of your faith to the gates of the bottomless pit, and hear the doleful shrieks and outcries of damned sinners, whom earth hath spewed out, and hell has swallowed, and tremble lest this be your portion at the last" (M. Henry). - J.A.M.
I. ITS UGLY ASPECT AS SEEN IN HUMAN ILLUSTRATIONS. The children of Israel were warned to separate themselves in every way from "the doings of the land of Egypt" and from "the doings of the land of Canaan" (verse 3). These were to be a beacon to them; they were things to be hated and shunned. To those who had not been brought down themselves to the same low moral level, these doings would appear the shameful things they were - base, corrupt, vile. It is well for us to glance at, though not to dwell upon, sin in its last and worst developments, in its final issues; to see and understand what it leads to and ends in. Look at intemperance, dishonesty, cruelty, cupidity, profanity, impurity, as these sins are seen in their full development and complete outworking; see how utterly vile and hideous they appear to those in whom any purity is left. You would not resemble these; you start and shrink at the very thought of it; then do not move one inch down the smooth decline, do not take one step along "the primrose path of dalliance" with temptation. If we would keep well away from the beginnings of evil, we shall find a strong inducement to purity and honour by one thought of "the doings of the land" of impurity and shame.
II. ITS EVIL ASPECT AS GATHERED FROM THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD. "I am the Lord your God... Ye shall not do... Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the Lord your God." These solemn and weighty words introduce the prohibition of various evil lusts; these unholy passions were not only to be loathed and shunned because of the shamefulness of them in themselves and because of the evil consequences they would entail, but also and chiefly because they were imperatively disallowed by God. "I am the Lord... ye shall not do these things," etc. God's decisive disapproval is enough for us; it is final; it should be all-prevailing. For:
1. His sovereignty suffices, without further thought. He is "the Lord our God." Surely our Divine Creator, he from whom we came, in whom we live, without the continual exercise of whose power we should cease to be, to whom we owe all that we are and have, has sovereign right to decide concerning us, what things we may do and what things we shall shun. It is enough, it is more than enough, that the Lord our God says, concerning anything, "Ye shall not do it."
2. Nevertheless, there is the further thought that God knows best what is good and evil. He who made us, who "knows what is in man," who sees the end from the beginning, and knows what are the tendencies and issues of all things, can surely decide better than we can what are the desirable relations we should hold with our fellows; how near we may approach them; what may be our alliances and intimacies with them, etc.; which is the right and true path in which to walk.
3. And there is this additional thought that his Divine interest in us is equal to his Divine knowledge of us. We are sure that God will not deny us any really desirable thing; that he seeks our happiness and well-being; that if he limits our liberty or narrows our delights, it is purely because he is working out our true and lasting good. Therefore, if we would not "condemn ourselves in those things which we allow" (Romans 14:22), we must not only shrink from those evils which show themselves in the "doings of the land" of ungodly men, but also consult the commandment of the Lord. We must ask ourselves what those actions and relations are which he has forbidden. We must remind ourselves of his sovereignty over us, his knowledge of us, and his good pleasure toward us; we must. also sedulously banish from our mind as well as put away from our life the evil thing to which we may be tempted. - C.
Leviticus 18:1-30Leviticus 18:1-30. Verse 5, "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord."
I. THE TRUE MORALITY IS BASED UPON THE TRUE RELIGION.
1. Special need of insisting on this in times when men seek to make light of religious obligation.
2. Historical confirmation: Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, - all corrupt because degenerate. No protection, as luxury, increases, from relaxation of manners save in religious safeguards.
3. The life of faith is life in commandments. The Lord is both the Object of faith and the Ruler of life. The commandments do not give faith or dispense, with it, but reveal, test, and approve it.
II. THE WORLD WITHOUT GOD IS A WORLD OF ABOMINATIONS AND DEATH. All God's laws contribute to health and happiness. His judgments on the nations were the clearing away of moral filth and disorder. The state of the heathen is an indisputable evidence of man's natural depravity and ruin. Intellect, physical prowess, wealth, learning, - all were rendered useless, and worse than useless, by moral weakness.
III. JUDGMENT AND MERCY WENT HAND IN HAND IN THE DIVINE DISPENSATION. The offender was excommunicated that he might have opportunity for repentance - which made a warning to all. The land was to be kept from defilement that it might be the land of God's people. The sanctity of the bodily life, of personal purity, of domestic relationship, of the family, and so of the nation, are all made to depend on the sanctity of the first and deepest of all relations - that between man and God. "I am the Lord." The land is mine first, then yours. The Law is your safety and peace. - R.
I. A REMINDER THAT IN EVERY PLACE THERE ARE EVIL PRACTICES TO BE SHUNNED. The present position of every individual is an isthmus connecting the continent of the past and the future. Israel in the wilderness journeying from Egypt to Canaan was but like many between youth and manhood, school and business, activity and retirement. Such a transition state may be profitably used as a time of thought and resolution. In no position must we expect freedom from temptation. The conduct of the Egyptians and of the Canaanites must alike be avoided (verse 3). And those who defer religious decision until a season of immunity from danger arrives, may tarry in vain. The wilderness has its lawless manners as well as the settled country. How necessary to be upon our guard lest we be corrupted by the customs of our neighbours! Happy the college, the mart, the home, that is less likely to contaminate than to purify!
II. COMPLIANCE WITH THE LAWS OF GOD IS THE BEST PRESERVATIVE AGAINST IMITATING SINFUL CUSTOMS. He runs quickest away from evil who pursues the good in front of him. Simply to retreat from danger, backing from it, is a slow and insecure method. We want more than negative righteousness, we need positive fulfillment of holy commands to ensure us against adopting odious habits. It is not safe to take men as our patterns of behaviour. "Be ye imitators of God as beloved children," Egyptians and Canaanites were equally unfit to be followed. The Apostle Paul did not set up his own life as a model except in so far as he also imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Obedience is here described in three ways, as doing the judgments of God, keeping his ordinances, and walking therein (verse 4). Great is the privilege that moderns enjoy in having so many copies of God's Word multiplied as to be easily accessible to all. Surely we ought to meditate therein day and night, that we may order our steps thereby.
III. OBEDIENCE MAY BE STIMULATED BY REFLECTION.
1. Upon the right of God to issue commands. "I am Jehovah" is his claim to attention as the Fount of law, and a claim which no thoughtful mind should reject. The ever-living Almighty Holy One possesses in himself every attribute that demands our homage. To withhold it is to violate congruity, to act in a manner out of harmony with what fitness requires.
2. Upon our acceptance of his lordship over us. "I am the Lord your God." We have entered into covenant relationship with him, and we break the terms of agreement if we fail to keep his statutes. The plural form of "God" may, without forcing, be taken here to indicate that the Israelites had deliberately bound themselves to the one Jehovah as their "Gods," instead of the idols of the nations round. God is our Father, how shall we be disobedient children? our King, how can we act as rebellious subjects? our Lawgiver, how can we dare to transgress his commandments?
3. Upon the blessedness attained by observance of God's statutes. "Which if a man do, he shall live in them." Man thought to increase his power by tasting forbidden fruit, but he lost his life, and only regained it in proportion as he returned to obedience. It is true that the impossibility of perfectly keeping the Law foreshadowed the necessity of another way of salvation, but according as the Israelites adhered to the Law in letter and spirit, so they experienced happiness and the favour of God, which is life indeed. We rejoice in the gospel plan of faith in Christ, not as making the Law inoperative, but as enabling us to fulfill its aim, to accomplish its real design - sanctification of life; and therein delivered from thraldom, we enter upon the life eternal that comprehends all blessing. We listen to the Law now, not as if it were the stern prescription of a hard Taskmaster, but as the instruction of a loving, all-wise Friend, which the more closely we follow, the more prosperous our career will be. "Freely we serve, because we freely love." - S.R.A.
Romans 10:5), and in that to the Churches of Galatia (Galatians 3:12), brings this passage to prove that salvation under the Law was by obedience rather than by faith. We may approach the main thought of the text by two preliminary remarks on the relation of these two principles of life, showing the consistency of the Law and the gospel We maintain -
I. THAT, UNDER THE LAW, MERE CONFORMITY OF CONDUCT WITHOUT FAITH WAS UNACCEPTABLE TO GOD. it is a mistake to suppose that God's requirements of his ancient people were satisfied with a purely mechanical obedience. They were not only to "walk in his ways," but they were also to "fear the Lord their God, and to love him and to serve him with all their heart and with all their soul" (Deuteronomy 10:12; see also Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 11:13; Deuteronomy 30:16, 20). They were not only to act righteously toward their neighbour, but to love him (Leviticus 19:18). They were to "afflict their souls" on the Day of Atonement and Reconciliation (Leviticus 16:29). There can be little doubt that it was the duty of the priests and Levites to instruct the Hebrew worshippers to present their sacrifice unto the Lord, believing and feeling that he was there to receive their offering and to accept their penitence and their faith.
II. THAT, UNDER THE GOSPEL, A LIVING FAITH IS CONSTANTLY ASSOCIATED WITH ACTIVE OBEDIENCE. We are not saved by works, but by faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:28; Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8, etc.). Yet the faith which saves is a "faith which worketh by love" (Galatians 5:6; James 2:18, 20, 22, etc.). But the primary truth which is taught in this passage is rather this -
III. THAT SPIRITUAL OBEDIENCE IS THE SECRET AND THE SOURCE OF TRUE HUMAN LIFE.
1. It is the secret of all real life. What is human life? In what does it actually consist? The life of the brute consists in the performance of its animal functions, in its outward, sensible existence. But the life of a man consists in something higher. We live when our souls live, when we live before God and unto him; if a man will do God's will and keep his statutes and his judgments, "he shall live in them;" he will find his true life in the doing and the keeping of these; "this is life eternal, to know thee," etc. (John 17:3). To know God, to know him as he is revealed to us in Christ Jesus, to worship him, to rejoice in him, to love and to please him, to be gratefully and cheerfully obedient to his will in all things, - this is human life; all else is immeasurably below it. There is nothing worth calling life apart from the holy and happy service of God; a spiritual not a servile obedience is the secret of life on earth.
2. It is also the source of the higher human life which is beyond. The Jew who kept God's statutes not only found a true life in his obedience, but he also guided a true life through his obedience. God bestowed on him his Divine favour, conferred on him all those outward blessings which were then regarded as the highest token of the favour of the Eternal; he lived in the smile and the benediction of Jehovah. Our hope is brighter and more far-reaching than his. He had some glimmering of the blessedness beyond, but it was faint and feeble. We know that if our faith in a Divine Redeemer is manifested in a lasting spiritual obedience, we "shall live" a life of which the Jew had little thought, and of which we ourselves can only form some struggling anticipation. We know that if "we are faithful unto death," we shall have "a crown of life." The obedience of faith, continued to the end, will introduce us to the life which is
(1) one of celestial fullness;
(2) free from present care, sorrow, sin;
(3) everlasting. - C.
I. THE FEARFUL LENGTH TO WHICH IMPURITY MAY PASS. God made man male and female that, related to one another thus, they might be happy in one another's fellowship; that husband, wife, and child might complete the harmony of human life. But for the confusing and disturbing element of sin, there would have been nothing but holy conjugal affection and happy human homes. How dark and sad a contrast to this does society present! How melancholy the thought that impurity should Dot only have tainted so many souls, but should have taken so may forms! that not only have the natural relations of the sexes been too unlimited, too unrestrained, but that sin of this description has taken unnatural, shocking, and abominable forms! that its dark and shameful manifestations are such as we hardly like to Dame, and do not dare to think of (verses 22, 23)! Only a holy compulsion will induce us even to make passing reference to such things. So low, to such dark depths, into such a "far country" of vileness does the sin of impurity extend.
II. THAT GUILTY INDULGENCE IS THE ONLY EXPLANATION OF THIS EVIL PROGRESS. How can such things be? is the simple question of the pure heart. How by any possibility can human nature sink into such a gulf of depravity? How can we account for it that the soul which once knew the innocency of childhood finds an awful pleasure in such shameful deeds? The answer is undoubtedly here. The very possibility of it is a part of the penalty of the sins which have been committed. Sins of impurity leave a stain upon the soul; the seducer has not only to suffer the rebuke of God, the reproaches of the one he has wronged and ruined, and the stings of his own conscience - some day to be awakened, but he has to "bear his iniquity" in a depraved taste, in a stained and injured nature, in a lowered and baser appetite. In this, as in other matters, perhaps more fearfully than in most, "he that sinneth against God wrongeth his own soul" (Proverbs 8:36). Let the man who gives way to impurity remember that he is traveling on a downward course that ends in saddest depravation of soul, and that will leave him open to those more vile temptations which would disgrace and even disgust him now.
III. THE TRUE TREATMENT OF THIS DESTROYING SIN. Trace the evil back from its worst developments to its mildest form; from its fullest crime to its source in the soul. Incest, adultery, fornication, seduction, indecency, indelicate conversation, the impure thought. This last is the source of all. It is that which must be assailed, which must be expelled. In this matter of the relation of the sexes, there are three main truths.
1. God gives to most of us the joy of conjugal love, and this is to be sanctified by being accepted as his gift (James 1:17). Where it is denied we must be well satisfied with other mercies so freely given.
2. Its lasting happiness is only assured to the pure of heart. With all others its excellency will soon fade and die.
3. Therefore let us, by all possible means, guard our purity:
(1) by avoidance of temptation (evil company, wrong literature);
(2) by energetic expulsion of unworthy thoughts;
(3) by realization of the presence of the heart-searching Holy One;
(4) by earnest prayer; let us "keep our heart beyond all keeping," etc. (Proverbs 4:23). - C.
I. THAT BY SIN WE CORRUPT OURSELVES. "Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things" (verse 24); "that ye defile not yourselves therein" (verse 30). Our Lord tells us that "out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications," etc., and that "these things defile a man" (Matthew 7:19, 20). And Paul tells us that we "are the temple of God," and that "if any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy" (1 Corinthians 3:16, 17). Those sins which a man commits against his own spirit or his own body - those wrongs which a man does himself - end in positive and serious injury. They enfeeble, they degrade, they brutalize, they bring down a man's tastes and appetites to the meanest levels, they lay and leave his nature open to the worst temptations. In the practice of vice a man sinks down daily until he becomes thoroughly corrupt, averse to all that is holy, prone to everything impure.
II. THAT BY SIN WE CONTAMINATE SOCIETY. "In all these the nations are defiled" (verse 24); "and the land is defiled" (verses 25, 27). Societies as well as individuals become corrupt. Even one Achan defiled the whole camp of Israel and paralyzed its power. One incestuous member of the Corinthian Church infected and stained that Christian society. How much more will many evil-doers corrupt the community! It may not take a large number of unholy, impure, unrighteous souls to make a Church or society "defiled" in the sight of the Holy One, no longer a fit dwelling-place for his Holy Spirit, a community to be abandoned to itself.
III. THAT BY SIN WE INCUR THE HIGH DISPLEASURE OF ALMIGHTY GOD. "Ye shall not commit any of these abominations" (verses 26, 27, 29), "of these abominable customs" (verse 30). The Holy One, in his righteous indignation, threatens that "the land shall spue them out" if they indulge in such iniquities. No stronger language could be employed to indicate the uttermost conceivable detestation and abhorrence which God has of such sins as these described. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31); and it is a fearful thing to have done or to have become that which God regards with Divine abomination, to be the object of his awful resentment and indignation; to have to feel that he, the Divine Father and the righteous Judge, cannot look on us without terrible aversion.
IV. THAT BY SIN WE ARE DETERMINING OUR DOOM. (Verse 29.) Whether by being "cut off from among the people" we understand excommunication and exile or death, the penalty is severe. It is certain that verse 28 points to stern rejection and utter destruction.
1. It is certain that by open sin we expose ourselves to exile from the Christian Church, and even to banishment from all decent and honourable society. The Church, the family, and the social circle must exclude the wanton offender for the sake of their pure and innocent members.
2. Also that by continuance in deliberate sin, whether open or secret, whether of the body or of the soul, we shall be rejected from the city of God. "There shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination" (Revelation 21:27). - C.
I. THE DENUNCIATIONS AND THREATENINGS EVINCE GOD'S HATRED OF ABOMINABLE CONDUCT. "That the land spue not you out also." "The souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people." Strong is the language applied to sinful practices - they are "wickedness" (verse 17), "abomination" (verse 22), "confusion" (verse 23). The Law will have no compromise, admits of no alternative amongst God's people, the command is, "Thou shalt not." Wickedness is not to be tolerated even in the stranger (verse 26); he is not obliged to conform to all the ceremonies, but he must rigidly abstain from every moral offense. The New Testament relaxes not one jot in condemnation of all that is impure and filthy in conduct and even language (see Romans 1:18, 32; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Ephesians 5:3-5; Revelation 21:8).
II. THE DELAY BETWEEN SIN AND PUNISHMENT IS A MARK OF THE KINDNESS AND LONG-SUFFERING OF GOD. (See Peter's argument in 2 Peter 3:9.) In Genesis 15:16 it was expressly declared, "the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." They were allowed four hundred years to repent, or to fill up the cup of their iniquity, and they chose the latter. This is the clearest answer to any who would impugn the justice of God's dealing with the Canaanites in exterminating them with fire and sword. Oh, the folly of men who abuse precious time by laughing at solemn announcements of coming woe, instead of employing it in making their peace with God! By every moment that intervenes between the sinner and death God urges him to seek pardon and amendment.
III. THE INSTANCES RECORDED SHOW THE CERTAIN VISITATION OF SIN WITH GOD'S DISPLEASURE. Delay is no guarantee of final immunity from punishment. The heathen were at last driven out of the land, and likewise the Israelites who succeeded felt the wrath of God on account of the shameful customs in which they indulged. God is impartial, and does not spare sin in his people or his enemies. As the denunciation shows God in principle and language, so the fulfillment of his threat demonstrates him in act, and is a further vivid evidence of his dislike of all wickedness. Nathan was God's messenger to rebuke and threaten David, as afterwards John the Baptist denounced Herod for taking his brother's wife. Just retribution foretells a day of judgment, when inequalities of punishment shall be righted and God's equity triumphantly vindicated. Here we see sufficient to establish the fact of the existence of a moral government (Ecclesiastes 8:11-13).
IV. THE CLIMAX OF SIN IS REACHED WHEN NATURE HERSELF SEEMS TO ABHOR THE SINNER. Graphic is the picture of the land loathing its burden and vomiting forth its inhabitants. As a leprosy infected walls and garments, so the abominations of the heathen defiled the land itself that it stank. The results of immorality upon the state of society and of individuals have been appalling. Eventually everything has sunk into ruin, disintegration and corruption have prevailed. The population decreases by sickness and barrenness and murder. The arts and sciences decay, literature is blighted, philanthropy unknown. The text reminds us that a closer connection exists between man and inanimate nature than we sometimes think (see this also suggested in Romans 8:20 and Genesis 3:17).
CONCLUSION. If the subject is painful, the lesson may be salutary. Sin is widespread. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." We may be glad of the healthful influence of Christianity, rightly directing public opinion, and erecting it into a safeguard against evil. "Having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." - S.R.A.