Slideshow image

Year 1, Week 14, Day 1

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Leviticus 14.

Today’s reading continues exploring the matter of skin diseases, while also discussing house infestations. Leviticus 13 provided the process in which skin diseases could be diagnosed as well as the immediate actions that were to be taken based on the contagious nature of the skin issue. The person with a skin disease would need to go outside the camp. Leviticus 14 provides the process of ritual purification that a person would need to go through after they were healed from the skin disease. The process of being restored to a ritually cleansed condition involved a three stage process before the purification was complete. The process of restoration was needed for full reintegration into the community to be granted.

What struck me from today’s reading is the LORD’s intention to restore His unclean people to Himself so that they could rejoin the camp where the LORD’s presence dwelt: “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:2,7). While to be unclean was not necessarily due to sin, the condition of uncleanness was a matter of ritual impurity, which prevented the one unclean from safely coming into the presence of the LORD. The ritual impurity was therefore a means to illustrate an even greater requirement for coming into the presence of the LORD: moral purity. Thus, the LORD provided a means by which the one unclean can be made clean and once again come into the LORD’s presence.

The process of being restored had three stages, which indicated degrees of being made pure. The first stage would allow the person healed of a skin disease the right to re-enter the camp: “This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall look. Then, if the case of leprous disease is healed in the leprous person, the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two live clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop.” (Leviticus 14:2-4). When this first stage of cleansing was completed, provisional re-entrance into the camp was granted: “And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean. And after that he may come into the camp, but live outside his tent seven days.” (Leviticus 14:8). The second stage would grant the person healed from a skin disease full admittance into the camp: “And on the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair from his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. He shall shave off all his hair, and then he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean.” (Leviticus 14:9).

The third stage of restoration from ritual impurity due to a skin disease granted a person full reintegration into the community. Whereas the first two stages primarily depicted cleansing, the third stage pictured forgiveness and entailed three sacrifices. First was a guilt offering: “And the priest shall take one of the male lambs and offer it for a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, and wave them for a wave offering before the LORD. And he shall kill the lamb in the place where they kill the sin offering and the burnt offering, in the place of the sanctuary…Then the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD.” (Leviticus 14:12,18b). Second was the sin offering: “The priest shall offer the sin offering, to make atonement for him who is to be cleansed from his uncleanness.” (Leviticus 14:19a). The final sacrifices were the burnt and grain offerings: “And afterward he shall kill the burnt offering. And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be clean.” (Leviticus 14:19b-20). Now cleansed and pardoned, there was complete reintegration. 

The atoning work of Jesus provides a full pardon and complete cleansing: "For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:13-14). The cleansing and pardon that Jesus provides should be lived out with at least two acknowledgements. First, cleaning and pardon, while complete, are not static, but dynamic: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). While we do obtain more forgiveness than already provided in Jesus, the experience of our relationship with Jesus is restored through confession of our sins. Second, cleansing and pardon, while unearned, should prompt gratitude: “On the way to Jerusalem…as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks.” (Luke 17:11-16).

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe