Remember the commercial where a couple at the movies trip over each other and end up mixing their snacks? One of them says, “Hey, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter.” Then the other one says, “Hey, you got your peanut butter on my chocolate.” And items that at one time would have been considered strange bedfellows were suddenly finding themselves mixed together in the form of a peanut butter cup.
The phrase “strange bedfellows” has been in use since the 1400s as a reference to unlikely or peculiar alliances or combinations. For example, in nature, if we see a friendship between animals that normally would be enemies, it strikes us as odd. There are some things that we know just don’t go together, like cats and birds. But strange bedfellows usually refer to things that might seem odd together but actually work, like pickle and peanut-butter sandwiches. (But you do have to toast the bread and used thin sliced dill pickle if you really want it to taste right. 🙂 )
In today’s reading from Leviticus 20:8 through Leviticus 20:22, God again teaches Israel what He considers to be “strange bedfellows.” The difference here, however, is that if God says we should not be in a bed together, He means it. It’s not a matter of figuring out that something unlikely might actually work together because if it goes against God’s perfect will and design, it goes into the arena of disobedience to God and irreverence of God’s holy word.
The reading begins with a reminder that a man should not curse his father and mother or he would face death. From there, it jumps right into a long list of what God considers to be sexual sin. Obviously, these things are important to God because this is the second such list in the book of Leviticus. This list has a little more detail in that instead of just calling people who commit the sexual sins unclean, God goes a bit further and speaks of those that should be put to death.
The first sin listed is that of a man committing adultery with another man’s wife. This says that both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. Next it says that a man who sleeps with his father’s wife disgraces his father, and both of them should be put to death. If a man sleeps with his daughter-in-law, both of them are to be put to death. And if a man goes to bed with a man as he does with a woman, both men are to be put to death.
God goes on to say that if a man sleeps with a woman and her mother, all of them are to be put to death by fire, so that no depravity will exist in the community. If a man or woman has sex with an animal, both the human and animal are to be put to death. If a man sleeps with his sister (or half-sister), God says it is shameful and they are to be cut off from the people and will bear the consequences, but this does not appear to include death. And, finally, it goes into men who sleep with their mother’s sister, their father’s sister, or their uncle’s wife. The consequence for a man who sleeps with his aunt, even if she is only related by marriage, is that the two of them will be childless.
Going back to the first command about killing both the adulterer and the adulteress, I wonder if Yeshua wrote this Scripture in the dirt when the men of Israel were about to stone the woman caught in adultery. At that moment, it wasn’t as much about His having mercy on the woman as it was about His showing the hypocrisy in the men. Why weren’t they casting stones at the man who was with the woman? If they were so holy and so apt to keep the letter of the law, the woman was not the only one who should have been facing a death sentence.
This story, in John 8:1-11, does not end with the men facing their hypocrisy and dropping their stones. It’s one of the places where the mercy of Yeshua shines brightly. He physically demonstrates the grace and mercy He has for all of us when He tells the woman that He finds no fault in her and that she is free to stop her sinning. He didn’t tell her that she was free from that one sin, or for one day only, but he set her free to stop sinning for the rest of her life. No more strange bedfellows for her because she who the Son sets free is free indeed.
Death is still the price for adultery (and all the sins listed in today’s portion), but just as Yeshua protected the woman from the price of her crimes, His blood will set us free from every sin listed in His word–Old or New Testament–because He has paid that price of death for us. He set the woman free from the bondage to her sin with the words “Go and sin no more.” He sets us free in the same way. May we let go of our excuses for sin, and instead may we climb out of the bed we have made with our weaknesses and walk in the mercy and grace that sets and keeps us free. Amen!
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