I like to use the Bible in One Year reading program. It’s an easy way to read the whole Bible in one year.
But it also exposes me to embarrassing parts of the Bible that I wouldn’t normally read.
For example, I had to read Leviticus chapters 14-15.
It has cringe-worthy stuff on what to do with skin diseases:
The person to be cleansed must wash their clothes, shave off all their hair and bathe with water; then they will be ceremonially clean. After this they may come into the camp, but they must stay outside their tent for seven days. Leviticus 14:8
Or mouldy houses:
… the house is unclean. It must be torn down – its stones, timbers and all the plaster – and taken out of the town to an unclean place. Leviticus 14:44-45
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Or bodily discharges (eww):
Anyone the man with a discharge touches without rinsing his hands with water must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. Leviticus 15:11
I used to roll my eyes whenever I read this “clean” and “unclean” stuff.
It’s so old-fashioned and unnecessarily strict. Something a superstitious Chinese grand-auntie might make you do, but not a modern Westerner.
But during COVID, these weird Old Testament laws suddenly made sense.
They ask us to do what we’ve done during the pandemic: social distancing, isolation, and washing hands.
COVID taught us that diseases are easily transmitted. Our individual actions have consequences upon friends, family, and community.
COVID taught us that we’re all at risk. Worse, we can be carriers of disease without knowing it.
If we’re socially responsible, we will do as we’re told. Wear the mask. Keep your distance. Stay at home.
But pride stops us from wanting to do these things. There is something humiliating and stigmatising about wearing a mask in public.
These Old Testament laws function the same way. They are God’s ways of humbling us. None of us are immune to uncleanliness.
The OT laws are God’s ways of saying that it’s not just our skin, houses, and discharges that are unclean. Our hearts are desperately unclean.
And, even if we can clean up our skin, houses, and discharges, our hearts can never be clean.
And, that was the whole point of sending Jesus. To perform a deep, deep cleansing of our hearts.
During COVID, we had to wear masks, socially distance and isolate ourselves.
But because of Jesus, we can stand unmasked before God. Never distanced. And never isolated.
“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. Mark 7:18-20
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:1-4
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22
Article supplied with thanks to Espresso Theology.
About the Author: Sam is a theologian, preacher, author, evangelist, ethicist, cultural analyst and medical doctor.
Feature image: Photo by cottonbro from Pexels