In our last study about the History of Worship (Exodus 21), we saw how God dealt with the issue of violence and the part it played in worship. Now we’ll see what God taught Moses and Israel about moral precepts in their service (worship) to Him.
“If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins. ‘You shall not permit a sorceress to live. ‘Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death. ‘He who sacrifices to any god, except to the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed. ‘You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. ‘You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless. ‘If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest. If you ever take your neighbor’s garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious. ‘You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people. ‘You shall not delay to offer the first of your ripe produce and your juices. The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me. Likewise you shall do with your oxen and your sheep. It shall be with its mother seven days; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me. ‘And you shall be holy men to Me: you shall not eat meat torn by beasts in the field; you shall throw it to the dogs.” Exodus 22:16-31
Notice that God began His lesson about moral precepts with one of the most fundamental aspects of morality: sexual virginity. The virginity of a young woman was something very precious to her and her family. I grew up during a time in our country’s history when virginity was still held in high esteem. Girls knew it was precious and so did their fathers. A boy who took or tried to take a girl’s virginity from her would often have to deal with the wrath of an angry father. When asked decades ago most men said they wanted to marry a virgin – even though those same men would have said they expected guys not to be virgins on their wedding night. Ask men today and they expect their brides to be sexually educated and active – usually with them months or years before they get married. Ask women today at what age they lost their virginity and most answer during their teen years (some pre-teen). Even Christian girls and boys are having sex as teenagers and their parents and church leaders often don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. Social mores have changed dramatically during the last 50 years, but does that make the new morality right? We need to return to the highest written authority, Scripture, for the answer.
“If a man entices a virgin who is not betrothed, and lies with her, he shall surely pay the bride-price for her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money according to the bride-price of virgins.”
This moral precept (law) which God introduced to Israel also dealt with one of the worst sins of our planet – men taking sexual advantage of girls and women. Men have a physical advantage over many women – they are often stronger and more aggressive. The moral wickedness of men has led to many forced sexual advances which have done great harm to girls and women. God’s Law made it clear that men in Israel would pay a price for their sin. In the case of a man forcing sex on a woman who was not engaged to be married to another man, the enticing man would have to marry the girl and pay a bride-price (Hebrew – mohar) for her. If the girl’s father refused to allow the man to marry his daughter, the man would still have to pay the father the bride-price of virgins. There were consequences in Israel for sexually violating a virgin.
So, why is sexual virginity so important to the worship of God? God created male and female with the intent that they would worship Him forever. The sexual relationship between a husband and wife was an integral part of expressing the full image of God. It is also tied directly to the process of having “dominion” over every living thing that moves on the earth.
“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Genesis 1:27-28
God built into every child – male and female – a special sexuality that is best experienced within the boundaries of His creative purpose. God knows that sexual emotion/passion leads to sexual expression that builds sexual experiences/memories. Those experiences play a powerful role in determining how we view ourselves, our spouse (or sexual partner), and members of the opposite sex (or same sex), which opens or closes our minds/hearts to pure worship/service to God.
It’s important to remember that the Bible’s definition of religion includes “to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). Why? In the words of Jesus Christ: “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” God is looking for purity in worship and sexual purity is at the top of His list.
We will look at other aspects of moral service (worship) in the next part of our study.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”