What did it feel like to be banned from public worship, banned from your family and the camp? People declared unclean suffered the humiliation of being declared unclean, resulting in isolation from God’s presence and association with their families and the people. Their dwellings and their clothing were also declared unclean and had to be purified or destroyed, washed with water or burned with fire, broken, torn down and demolished. In order to be declared clean again, the individual had to wash and wait, offer atonement for cleansing (a blood sacrifice), endure the cleansing ritual with string, cedar and birds. The Hebrew word for cleansed is Taher which means to be physically, ceremonially and morally cleansed to be purified and uncontaminated.
If you read the list of unclean conditions contained in the chapters prior to today’s reading and the chapters after, you will understand that in the majority of cases, the person was not responsible for the declared offense. It is difficult to understand why God would punish and humiliate people for something they had no control or responsibility for. That is what makes reading portions of Leviticus difficult!
Oh, but sit back and think about the big picture – try to read between the lines. What is God trying to get the Israelites and modern day Christians to see? These people were suffering for something they didn’t cause. Why did they have to offer atonement for a sin, when no specific sin was committed by the one making the offering?
In Psalm 51 the Psalmist is repenting of his “specific sins” and his “sin nature” stating he was born into it; he inherited it from his ancestor Adam. Could God be using the laws of uncleanness as tools of instruction to teach the Israelites and us about the fundamental truths of our faith? Why should I be declared unclean for a condition I did not cause? The law could pronounce a person unclean, but it made no provision for making him clean. There was no cure for the condition which produced the uncleanness. Only the coming of Christ and the New Covenant would effect a cure!
In Leviticus 14:14, we see that the formula for the cleansing of the unclean declared clean by the priest was to be some of the blood of his trespass offering applied to his right ear, right hand and right foot. It’s interesting to note that in Chapter 8:23-24 the formula for anointing the priest for service was the exact identical formula. The application of blood to the same points on his body. Both priest and leper were marked by blood for holiness in what they heard, their actions, and their walk.
The religious system of Jesus’ day declared him unclean. He touched lepers, ate with publicans and sinners. They totally failed to see Him as the One who came to make the unclean clean! The unclean could never enter the presence of a holy God, but the atoning death of Jesus broke down the barrier. He was crucified “outside the camp” like a common criminal.
Who do we consider unclean; sinners, homeless, street people, drug addicts, criminals? Those who dwell “outside our camp”? Those who live on the outskirts of our society? Those who bear the signs on their body of spiritual failure? Jesus touched them! In Mark 8:22-24 Jesus healed a blind man, but just prior he made a very interesting statement “beware of the yeast of the Pharisees”. The Pharisees were self-righteous and exuded spiritual arrogance which made them judgmental and ultimately unholy.
Lord, cleanse us from what we hear, what we do, how we walk and anoint these areas of our lives so that we can walk clean before You. Fill us with compassion so we can bring healing and restoration to the hopeless of our society. Keep us from self righteousness and from being judgmental. Fill us with unconditional love and humility that will attract the lost. Show us Lord how to cleanse our homes and what we clothe ourselves with so that it reflects You to the world around us. Help us to deal with sin in our lives immediately and thoroughly so that we can be saved from its power over us. Help us to address human hopelessness in this life as the beginning of spiritual hope. When all human hope is gone, we have your promises backed up by Your power and Your character and we can find that You are All-Sufficient!