Speeding right along. Fifteen chapters in four days. That’s a record for this blog. This section goes into great detail about something that was very important to the Israelites: the concept of clean and unclean.
The key verse to this whole section is chapter 11 verse 45 where God said, “I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.”
In other words the Israelites were to be pure as God is pure. Thus the idea of clean and unclean. In verse 47, he goes on to say, “You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean…”
Why did God give all these rules on clean and unclean. I’m not going to pretend to understand all of them, because I don’t. In general, however, they were for health and sanitary reasons (food, mildew, skin diseases). God, I suppose could’ve given them detailed scientific reasons for these laws, but they probably would’ve gone over the Israelites’ heads, so he just said, “These are clean, and these are not.”
But there are a couple of points to be made about all of this clean and unclean business. First, there were things that made the Israelites ceremonially unclean. And God said in Leviticus 15:31, “You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.”
In other words, the people needed to be pure in order to have a relationship with God. It’s the same with us. But nowadays, God isn’t concerned with us being ceremonially unclean. He’s concerned with what truly makes us unclean. What makes us unclean? Jesus gives the answer. He said,
“What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’” (Mark 7:20-23)
In other words, the sin that comes out of our lives makes us unclean before God. And if we want to have a close relationship with God, we need to keep these things far from us.
Second, sin is like mildew, or an infectious disease, and it will spread in our lives if we let it. Sin often spreads to others and causes them to become unclean too. Children, for example, often pick up on the sins of their parents and start doing the same sins their parents commit. But sin also spreads in that it hurts the people it touches. How often do we hurt people by our actions? And so sin needs to be radically dealt with just as mildew and infectious diseases were. With the mildew, sometimes, parts of the wall had to be taken out. If that didn’t work, the whole house had to be destroyed. In the case of disease, the infected person had to be completely separated from the community.
In the same way, we need to radically deal with sin. Jesus said that if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. (Matthew 5:29-30). Jesus, of course, doesn’t mean this literally. But the idea is that we are to do everything necessary to keep ourselves from sin.
Again the key idea in this whole passage is holiness. Are we holy before God? God said we are to be holy as he is holy. He sent his Son to die on the cross for our sins so that we could be holy in his sight. He has forgiven us, and he gives us the power to be holy. In 2 Peter 1:3, it says, ” His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” That’s the good news. We don’t have to try to be holy in our own strength. He gives us the power to be holy. So let’s live that way.
Lord, let me be holy as you are holy. You’ve given me the power to do so. Let sin not spread in my life, nor let it spread out into the lives of the people around me. I thank you for your Son who died that I might be made holy in your sight. In Jesus name, amen.