Friday, February 6, 2009

Nothing but the blood...

I have to confess that when I skimmed the headings of each section of Leviticus 14-15, my first reaction was, "ew," followed by "hmm...". What to say about the subjects of cleansing from skin diseases, treatment of contaminated houses, and bodily discharges that will not gross out or offend the weak of stomach is today's challenge.

My first instinct was to google the idiom that instantly came to mind upon reading God's instructions on these various serious issues. You've heard it before, "cleanliness is next to godliness". I got 240,000 results in .24 seconds, so there must be something to it, right?

Apparently, the first time the phrase was recorded occurs in a sermon given by John Wesley, but it is not attributed to him originally, he was simply repeating a phrase that was commonly used and expounding upon it. I didn't read his sermon, but it would be interesting to know what his conclusions about the subject were because from what I saw there are many people who think it is actually a verse of scripture--a cautionary reminder to check, recheck, and then check again when someone claims to be quoting "the Word".

In these chapters, God's directions serve as not only a means of preventing the spread of serious diseases, but also as a potential deterrent to the rampant spread of bacteria and germs. Keep in mind that these people had no microscopes and had never taken a biology course--they didn't have even a basic understanding of the transmission of germs from one source to another, so these guidelines and instructions were useful for their physical protection.

I think I'd be missing one of the very important aspects of these passages, however, if I didn't mention that while some of the regulations dealt with the physical nature of sickness and disease, there are also implications related to the existence of what was considered to be spiritually unclean here as well.

In Mark 7: 1-9, Jesus reprimanded the Pharisees (teachers of the law) because they were emphasizing ceremonial cleanliness to the exclusion of the need for being internally cleaned up. As a result, I think that these particular Levitical laws did involve spiritual, as well as hygienic applications, but they were never intended to be a means for "getting right" with God.

As I've already said, Jesus alone makes us right with God--and in him, we are as cleaned up as it's possible to be. There is no amount of scrubbing, cleansing, or even antibiotic/antiseptic application that we can do to clean ourselves enough to be God-worthy. We have to be washed by the cleansing blood that is the only thing strong enough to wash away the stain of our sin.

"Oh precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow. No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus."

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