We saw that Leviticus 16 was a discussion on the Day of Atonement. No more than seven chapters later, God tells Israel to observe six/seven different feasts. There is not one other feast in Leviticus that is given an entire chapter to be explained. So, this seems to bring up the question, a very significant question, of why do we find the Day of Atonement in the middle of the book of Leviticus? This is already half answered. We saw that the ten days leading up to Yom Kippur are called “the days of awe”. In this bit of time, we search our hearts and lives to see if there is anything that we need to repent of, anything that we need to confess, or anything that as a nation we need to be forgiven of. Is there anything in my life that I need to let go of, people to forgive, or hurts to forget?
This would be why the five chapters before the Day of Atonement are directing us in how to discern the clean from the unclean. Once the clean and the unclean have been discerned, and we cast that which will defile the House of Israel outside of the camp, we stand before God. The Day of Atonement is much like a day of judgment. God will judge us to see if our past year, our sins, can be forgiven. When the goat gets sacrificed, it is a symbol of our sin being paid for. When the other goat – the scapegoat – gets taken away out into the wilderness to wander until it dies, it is symbolic of our sin being taken away and being utterly put to death.
The Day of Atonement is about resurrection. It is about freedom. We’re no longer defined by our past. We’re no longer under the snare and oppression of those former things. Instead, the goat is gone.
So, what happens next? If for five chapters God desires to explain to us how to discern between the clean and the unclean, and then all of our uncleanness gets atoned for and taken away, then how does God speak to us now that we’ve been changed?
The next four chapters are laws regarding how to live in daily life, and the last chapter records for us punishments for disobedience to those laws. Chapter 17 speaks of not eating blood. Chapter 18 speaks of right and wrong sexual relationships. Chapter 19 fills in the blanks with various laws. And, as already mentioned, chapter 20 then gives us the punishments for sin in civil court. It is almost as though God is saying, “Now that I’ve made you clean, don’t defile yourself again.”
Does this remind you of anything?
In Romans 6, Paul masterfully explains to us our newness of life in Christ. He explains how we have been baptized into Christ’s death, and raised by the same power of God unto newness of life, and therefore the body of sin has been done away with so that we should no longer be slaves to sin. The Day of Atonement has come. Our new life is here. We’re no longer enslaved by our past. “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” But, Paul is quick add the sentence, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires…”
Notice Colossians 3:1-5, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry.”
Do you see Paul’s progression? Every time he explains to us our freedom through the power of resurrection, only to then exhort us to holy living in the life of freedom that we’ve obtained. This isn’t a call to put to death that which has already been put to death, but to simply live according to that new nature. This is the logic of the new life. Because I am no longer a sinner, Christ has changed me into being a saint, and therefore I am going to live like it.
Yet, don’t ignore that Paul also realizes that this is indeed a struggle. This is indeed something that we need to be empowered by the Spirit to overcome temptation. However, also notice that very thing: it is no longer sin nature, but only temptation. You are no longer identified with your sin nature. That has been put to death. The life you live is hidden with Christ in God. If that is where your life is, then let your habits and sinful tendencies be put to death for good.
When we come back to Leviticus, we see this same kind of progression. Now that you have been set free, don’t return to these things that brought your enslavement in the first place. If anyone should return to these wicked practices, like a dog returning to its vomit, there are the punishments that the whole community needs to enforce upon that individual.
While Paul might be addressing individuals (it can be debated), the book of Leviticus is addressing an entire nation. With that being said, we can still extract from this very practical and true life-application for the individual. In very overall terms, we do find a pattern here. The eating of blood and the sexual immorality often goes hand-in-hand with sacrificing to idols. In the prophets (Jeremiah says this a lot), the act of idolatry was even considered prostitution or adultery. So, we see the overall big picture that the reason God would forbid the eating of blood and of sexual immorality is its linkage to demons.
What exactly were we set free from? Sin? Death? Law? The answer is yes, and also demonic stronghold. Some Charismatic believers will talk about “doors” or “portals”. A door is when you have something in your life that allows easy access for the demons to come and tempt you, oppress you, or if it is severe enough, even possess you. The open door, or open portal, can be anything from the type of music you listen to, the movies you watch, the food you eat, your habits, what you wear, what you spend your money on, or even the sinful addictions that you cleave to in hate. I would go so far as saying that the reason certain sins are so difficult to overcome are because they are open doors allowing for demons to come into our lives, minds, hearts, etc and bring oppression or temptation.
What I think these various laws recorded in Leviticus 17-19 are all about are somehow expressing to us these open doors that we might have. Don’t eat blood, because the life is in the blood, and often the eating of blood goes with sacrifices to demons. Don’t give the devil a stronghold. Don’t allow yourself the possibility of sexual impurity, because even the slightest crack will be enough to allow all sorts of demonic adversity to come upon you. Often, when we have open doors allowing the demons right in, we won’t have the authority to overcome.
Imagine someone who gives their house key to a neighbor. This man is now allowed to come over whenever he wants, and he takes advantage of that. You come home to find the place a mess, the phone bill is racked up because of the calls he is making, the food is always gone because he takes it back to his house for himself, the energy bill is skyrocketing because they ran a plug from their house to your house – sucking all of the juice and energy from you – and to top it off, he even showers at your place so that he doesn’t have to pay a water bill!
Can you simply tell this man not to do that anymore? What do you have to do to ensure that he can’t? You have to change the locks, unplug the electrical chords, close up the house so that he can’t get in through the windows, etc. Even if you get a restraining order, or you go to the police somehow, that won’t be able to stop him from coming over and taking from you.
This is what it is like with open doors to the demons. You can’t simply say, “Go away in Jesus’ name!” You’ve invited them right in! Rather, if the demons are still inside, you have to find someone who has the authority to kick them out do it for you, then you need to prayerfully figure out what is allowing them access into your life for temptation (or worse), then you have to close those doors. How do you close the doors? Burn everything that might be an open door. If you have certain apps on your phone, delete them and restrict them (if possible). If you have a tendency of being tempted while online, then go dark for a few months. If that isn’t possible because of your job or schooling, then only use the Internet at the library or some public place. If you’re addiction is cigarettes or alcohol, then find local stores to shop at, or a way to avoid any section at the store that might bring that kind of temptation.
This isn’t the end of it. You don’t teach yourself to avoid these things simply because you want to break the addiction. Rather, you want to close the door and keep it closed. I used to have a problem with alcohol. When I would drink, I had to get drunk. It wasn’t until I close that door – which mean leaving a lot of friends who I would regularly drink with – and being set free for the period of a couple years that my wife and I began to have casual drinks together on our dates, or for celebrations. There is no longer the temptation to even get drunk. Likewise, when you’ve been set free from cigarettes, or gambling, or pornography – whatever it might be – when the temptation comes, it isn’t even temptation. Rather, you find yourself both repulsed at the idea, and broken for anyone who is struggling in it (whether in the business or addicted by the business).
This is what the laws in Leviticus 17-19 are about. And, this would also explain why the punishment for disobedience to many of these laws would be death. You don’t allow someone to bring in their demonic baggage to affect and afflict the whole community. If someone comes into your community, and they are sleeping around with other people, you confront them on it. If they are given every opportunity to change, you pray for them, you rebuke the devil and show them how to be free and close the doors in their life, and yet they continue in their sin, then you kick them out. Have nothing to do with them. Treat them like a pagan.
But, if you yourself don’t have the authority to overcome these demonic attacks, then what good is it to try and convince them to overcome? This will infect your whole community. There are actually wolves in the so-called Body of Christ that just want to infect congregations and communities. That’s all they do. They bring their spirits of lust, doubt, fear, greed, anger, loneliness, or whatever it might be, and they just start breeding it with anyone and everyone that they can find to listen.
Leviticus 17-20 is about zero tolerance for demonic strongholds. You show them no mercy, for they will not show you any. This is why Paul tells us to put to death anything that has to do with the carnal nature. That has already been put to death, and we are already living in life and life abundant. Therefore, live it. Close the door to anything that might hinder you from living it. If that means getting rid of thousands of dollars of movies, so be it. If that means finding something else to do rather than playing World of Warcraft, then do it. Find something else to do, some other way of spending your time and energy, something else to spend your money on (like buying shoes for the homeless and delivering them to the homeless in your neighborhood), something else to use your mind on, etc. Find something else to touch with your hands than your private parts. Whatever you have to do, do it in order to be free. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself continuing in the same sin, wondering why you don’t have the victorious life. It is all about the open doors that we allow to remain open.