Growup: Day 31

Leviticus 11-13

For me (once again) the initial challenge in reading this passage is simply to overcome the impression that God is more than a little bit strange! I mean, what’s wrong with a hoopoe (Lev 11:19)? OK, so I don’t even know what a hoopoe is… but the question remains: what are these chapters really about?!

Let’s start with what’s plain from the text: eating or even touching certain animals will make you unclean. It’s bad to be unclean. having an infectious skin disease makes you unclean. In most cases, when something unclean touches something else that thing becomes unclean too. In many cases, nightfall is able to undo uncleaness. Childbirth makes a woman unclean. Giving birth to a daughter makes a woman unclean for twice as long as giving birth to a son. As well as butchering skills, priests were required to know a good deal about dermatological conditions. Mildew makes stuff unclean.

So what could it all mean? One thing is clear, God’s people must be “clean” and so avoid anything that is “unclean”. Uncleanness is easily transferred from one object or person to another and so any unclean object must be avoided or destroyed and any unclean person must be removed from the camp. It seems likely that all these laws served a dual purpose. Firstly, it was a way of maintaining the health of God’s people. However the far bigger issue is that God is holy and his people must also be holy (Lev. 11:44-45). In order to be holy, they have to be “clean”, hence all the regulations.

Whatever we don’t understand about these chapters, I find Jesus’ words in Mark 7:15-23 comforting…

Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.'” After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”) He went on: “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.'”

I find this comforting because it clearly means that the regulations in Leviticus don’t apply anymore. But they’re challenging words too. Because they remind me that what comes out of me – out of my heart – is what God really cares about.

Praise God that in Christ, my heart has been washed clean – permanently. Evil still comes out, and I need to repent of it, but I am in Christ and so his righteousness has been reckoned to my account.

If you wanna investigate this sort of stuff further, check out Acts 10 and Hebrews 9 & 10…

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One comment on “Growup: Day 31
  1. Daniel Phelps says:

    Hi, I’m from Casino and have been listening to your SCPC sermons for a couple of years now… I’ve started your grow up series a bit late (obviously) but have taken up the challenge no less (& am loving it 🙂 I’m currently on holiday and came across this in some online reading which has helped to put this part of Leviticus into perspective even more so. I couldn’t help but share…

    “Interestingly, evolutionists seem quite happy to accept death as an integral part of the natural selection process, and yet often accuse the so-called “God of the Old Testament” of being cruel for requiring animals’, and then Jesus’ blood to be spilled on our behalf. The reality is, though, that the author and creator of all life—according to the Bible—has the “right” (using modern terminology) to remove that life. When someone finally does what God has done and creates life from nothing, only then can they moralise over who is entitled to dictate the rules as to what happens to that new life form!

    In fact, the first recorded (or implied) death in the Bible was when God killed an animal (a lamb?) to provide skins for Adam and Eve to cover themselves. By this act, God initiated the sacrificial system that required the spilling of blood to cover sin, a system that is then explicitly mentioned in the Cain and Abel narrative in Genesis 4. Furthermore, the first allusion to Christ crushing Satan is in Genesis 3:15. So, by Genesis 4, there is a linking of sin, death and the sacrificial system plus a reference to Christ coming and, linked with the sacrificial system, the need for Him to die.

    Now most evangelicals would agree that Jesus Christ had to die and also had to be: a) human; b) divine; c) male; d) first-born; and e) perfect without blemish. But why? Where do we establish these criteria? Standard evangelical theological works will readily provide verses to show Jesus’ humanity and deity, but the latter three requirements are all part of the sacrificial system.

    If the straight reading of Genesis 1–4 is removed, then not only is there no explanation, or justification for the sacrificial system … but there is also no valid, biblical explanation for Jesus to die.

    Although the sacrificial system was present from “the beginning”, it is not until Moses that we find any codification and, with that, the “CV” that Jesus had to fulfil to be able to die for us, which provided a unique list of requirements. However, if the straight reading of Genesis 1–4 is removed, then not only is there no explanation, or justification for the sacrificial system (which, like many biblical topics up to and including the Flood is virtually universal), but there is also no valid, biblical explanation for why Jesus had to die.”

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