Last week Monday we established the point that God made us messy. We asked in exasperated curiosity “Why would God, make humans naturally messy and disgusting, and then consider them unclean and unacceptable in the Mosaic Law?” As an example we cited the foot-shuffling chapter of Leviticus 15 and its unblushing legislation on various bodily discharges. I preached that chapter recently and am still recovering.
Today we want to proffer a second point: God wants us clean.
Yes, God is the one who made us to need fixing up (since the Curse of Gen 3). But God also reserves the prerogative to call our natural state unclean and unacceptable.
First, lets establish that in the Mosaic Law being “unclean” in not always linked to sin.
For example, in Leviticus 12 women are considered unclean after giving birth, even though this is not at all sinful, and in fact called a blessing and reward by God. Mary even offered the cleansing sacrifice after delivering Jesus, who was neither conceived in sin, nor contained the original sin nature. Having babies is not wrong, it’s just ceremonially sullying.
It’s like when my mother used to ask my brother and I to work in the garden. We’d get our shirtless selves all sweaty and muddy while enthusiastically pulling weeds for hours. Then, as recompense we would be called in for a lavish lunch spread and ice cold lemonade. But before we were allowed to partake in the cornucopia of cold meats and cheeses, we had to take a shower and put on a shirt. Why? It wasn’t that Mom was angry or upset with us. She was, in fact, pleased (and surprised?) by our compliance, and she was offering us a reward. But she still had unyielding standards of cleanliness. No one is allowed at table without cleaning up and putting on a shirt.
It’s the same with ceremonial uncleanness in the Pentateuch. Being unclean means that you are not allowed in the corporate gathering to worship with God’s people. God was not angry with the unclean person who had inadvertently touched a corpse, for example. But God has standards. “Be holy for I am holy.” You need to go get “cleaned up” ceremonially before being allowed into the gathering of God’s people.
So, being considered unclean for a perfectly natural emission of bodily fluid, seems at first harsh; but it’s not. It has to do with God’s picturesque standards of spiritual hygiene. Continue Reading…