Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Virgins in Israel

Deuteronomy 22:13-19 (NKJV)
13 “If any man takes a wife, and goes in to her, and detests her, 14 and charges her with shameful conduct, and brings a bad name on her, and says, ‘I took this woman, and when I came to her I found she was not a virgin,’ 15 then the father and mother of the young woman shall take and bring out the evidence of the young woman’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate. 16 And the young woman’s father shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man as wife, and he detests her. 17 Now he has charged her with shameful conduct, saying, “I found your daughter was not a virgin,” and yet these are the evidences of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city. 18 Then the elders of that city shall take that man and punish him; 19 and they shall fine him one hundred shekels of silver and give them to the father of the young woman, because he has brought a bad name on a virgin of Israel. And she shall be his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days.

This morning we continue our series of lessons taught by young women. As members of the body of Christ, young women have important lessons to teach the rest of us and it is prudent for us to learn these lessons that we might honor our Lord more fully. We have seen that one of the titles by which God’s people are called is the “daughter of Zion” revealing God’s affection, protection, and provision for us.

The text today reveals another title by which young women in Israel were called, the “virgins of Israel.” A virgin, as most of you know, is a woman who has never been sexually intimate with a man. And, in ancient Israel, one of the titles by which young women were called, in addition to the title “daughters of Jerusalem” and “maidens” (which we saw last week), was the Virgins of Israel. None of this innocuous “teenager” language. When God began developing a young man or young woman, He took note of his or her respective treasures. And one of the greatest treasures that a young woman possesses, which she can give only once to one man, is her virginity.

God takes this virginity, this sexual purity, seriously and so he honors young women in Israel by protecting their good name. For example, in our text today, if a man were to marry a virgin, have intercourse with her on their wedding night, and then charge her falsely the next day with failing to be a virgin, he was to be punished by the elders of the city – likely beaten with a rod – fined an enormous sum of money that would be given to the father lest his daughter have to return home, and forbidden by law from divorcing his wife ever for any cause. Why? Notice the rationale: “Because he has brought a bad name on a virgin of Israel” and that’s something you just don’t do.

The seriousness with which God takes this sexual purity is likewise evident in the way that young women who pretended to be virgins and were not were treated. The text goes on to describe what should happen if the charge were true. If a young woman were to contract a marriage on the assumption that she was a virgin and were to deceive her parents and fiancé into thinking she was still a virgin, only to be discovered the day after the wedding night that she wasn’t a virgin, then she was to be stoned to death with stones. Why? “Because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play the harlot in her father’s house.”

Young women, God takes your virginity seriously and acts to protect it in His law. So treasure and guard it well. Beware young men who would seduce you. Beware older men who would seduce you. Beware the pressure that will be put upon you to be sexually active by our current culture. You may be told that you haven’t fully experienced life if you haven’t had sex. You may be told that you are prude, naïve, silly. You may be mocked and scorned by the Hollywood crowd. But this is where the Word of God comes to our rescue by speaking very bluntly. What is a harlot? A harlot is a whore, a prostitute, a woman who gets paid to perform sexual favors. If we despise a harlot – which the Word of God says we ought – then how much more ought we to despise a woman who gives her sexual favors away for nothing? Who spreads her legs under every green tree and only demands “love” in return? Such a woman is both a harlot and a fool.

Young women, this is your charge. You are the Virgins of Israel, so be a Virgin of Israel – pure, unsullied, glorious, beautiful. Men, particularly young men, your task is to protect the purity of the Virgins of Israel. In relation to women, there are two types of men in the world: protectors and predators. To our shame, many, if not most, are predators – looking for yet another young woman they can defile, and, when they do, chalking up another victory on their achievement board. But your job is to be their protectors. Defend them and honor them even as Your God does.

And all of us should be reminded by these things the extent to which God values purity and chastity – both outside of marriage and inside. Reminded of this, reminded that we have been impure in our thoughts and often impure in our actions, let us kneel and confess our sins to God.