Sexual purity has long been a staple of Christian culture, and with good reason. Even as the culture around Christianity has changed and some Christians’ perspectives have changed about what is sexual purity, sexual purity remains important.
While we could go down the road of what is sexual purity, and how it interacts with general and Christian culture, the why is significantly more important.
The Law of Leviticus has ties to Genesis. Noah became drunk and was naked. His son, Ham, mocked him. Shem and Japeth (Noah’s other sons) covered their father without looking at him (see Genesis 9:18–27).
Noah’s nakedness was shameful, culturally. What had happened was not good. We know that the intimacy and mystery of the parental bed and relationship were marred.
This flows into the concept of Leviticus, where the intimacy and mystery of sex were to be protected. What makes this even more striking is that this was set in the context of tents and shared spaces. While the mechanics (and perhaps occurrences) were known, the final curtain separated the act from others, maintaining mystery and intimacy.
This flows into the concept in Leviticus, where the intimacy and mystery of sex were to be protected. While the mechanics of sex (and even when it occurred) was known in the context of tents and shared spaces, the act was still private. Whether separation was by a physical curtain or something else, the mystery and intimacy of the act between husband and wife was maintained.
While “uncovering nakedness” is often translated as “having sexual intercourse with”, the focus on sex often blinds us to the nakedness shame that is intended. Yes, sex was undeniably part of it. The nakedness is as much a part of the intimacy and mystery.
In fact, focusing on the sex may actually be helping to demystify and depurify sex itself, as nakedness is (usually) a precursor. By raising nakedness to the level that scripture brings it would certainly raise sex, too.
The raising of nakedness to an appropriate level helps us to contextualize this weird passage in Jeremiah about buried underwear. Through our contemporary lens, we just see it as underwear (i.e., functional).
As the passage in Jeremiah shows, another’s underwear is uncovering their nakedness. No, this is not a statement on doing your own laundry. This is about God’s “nakedness” being revealed by Judah.
By uncovering God’s nakedness, Judah destroyed the intimacy and mystery of their special relationship with God. When we get to Hosea, it’s even more apparent at just how intimate God viewed his original relationship with Israel.
Jeremiah wrote to Judah (post-split of Israel) as their falling away was climaxing with exile. Hosea wrote to Samaria (i.e., the Northern Kingdom) who was running away from God almost at the very beginning of the split of Israel.
Samaria was quite far gone (and this was around a century before Jeremiah). God skipped the underwear and talked about promiscuity. Samaria was sleeping with whatever flavor of god it was that day.
It is probably quite jarring to talk about God figuratively wearing underwear and having sex. That was God’s point. God viewed the relationship with Israel (and even the divided Judah and Samaria) as something as intimate as the naked and sexual relationship between husband and wife.
When intimacy with God is talked about, yes, it’s this intimate. This is why the purity of our hearts in regards to our relationship with God (and our spouse or potential spouse) is important to grasp.
My One and Only God, guide my heart, soul, mind, and ways to diligently seek intimacy with you. Amen.
1) What is your concept of sex and intimacy? (this is probably not a group question)
2) How does the culture’s concept of intimacy shape your/ours/the church?
3) How does the culture’s transactional view of sex affect or impact the views of you or the church?
4) How do you think body-shaming is different from the shame of nakedness? How does body image fit into either/both?