Posts tagged ‘Cleanliness’

Contagious Cleanliness

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The prophet Haggai ministered to the nation of Israel as they were seeking to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem after it had been destroyed by the Babylonians some 70 years earlier. But it has been slow going. Israel’s sin has soiled their souls and is stymieing their success. Amid this struggle, Haggai asks the priests of Israel, as the nation’s spiritual caretakers, a couple of questions:

“If someone carries consecrated meat in the fold of their garment, and that fold touches some bread or stew, some wine, olive oil or other food, does it become consecrated?” The priests answered, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If a person defiled by contact with a dead body touches one of these things, does it become defiled?” “Yes,” the priests replied, “it becomes defiled.” Then Haggai said, “‘So it is with this people and this nation in My sight,’ declares the Lord. ‘Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled.” (Haggai 2:12-14)

Haggai notes that when someone or something is consecrated to and clean before God, its holiness is non-transferable. One cannot share his holiness with another. But when someone is soiled by sin, their sinfulness is highly contagious. Their sin can become a temptation that leads other people to stumble and fall. And this is what has happened with the nation of Israel. The sinfulness of some of its people is a virus that has infected the whole nation and is leading to its downfall.

The sad state of Israel’s affairs poses a tremendous tension. If cleanliness and holiness are non-transferable, but sinfulness is highly contagious, how do we avoid getting sacked by sin? Won’t sin, because of its virulent character, simply infect us all and take us all down? How do we stay safe? How do we get well and live well?

In Matthew 8, Jesus meets a man who has been infected by leprosy. In the first century, such an infection was nothing short of a death sentence. As the bacteria that caused leprosy grew, people would develop lesions and would lose feeling in their limbs and injure themselves. Their injuries would often become so severely infected that the affected person would die. So, when Jesus meets this leprous man, he is desperate for help. He cries out:

“Lord, if You are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” He said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. (Matthew 8:2-3)

The prophet Haggai says that consecration and cleanliness are non-transferable. But defilement and sinfulness are. But here is Jesus, reversing everything. He does what Haggai says no one can do. He transfers His holiness and cleanliness to a man who has been languishing in leprosy. He makes him clean.

What the priests of Haggai’s day could not accomplish, God’s High Priest, Jesus, did accomplish. He transferred His holiness and perfect cleanliness to a leper – and He does the same for us through the cross. Our holiness is non-transferable. But Jesus’ holiness is highly contagious. And that’s something that, by faith, anyone can catch.

August 29, 2022 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Pandemic Fatigue

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The book of Leviticus is filled with all sorts of rules and regulations, many of which address cleanliness and purification in the face of infectious diseases. Here’s a sample:

When anyone has a swelling or a rash or a shiny spot on their skin that may be a defiling skin disease, they must be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons who is a priest. The priest is to examine the sore on the skin, and if the hair in the sore has turned white and the sore appears to be more than skin deep, it is a defiling skin disease. When the priest examines that person, he shall pronounce them ceremonially unclean. If the shiny spot on the skin is white but does not appear to be more than skin deep and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest is to isolate the affected person for seven days.On the seventh day the priest is to examine them, and if he sees that the sore is unchanged and has not spread in the skin, he is to isolate them for another seven days. On the seventh day the priest is to examine them again, and if the sore has faded and has not spread in the skin, the priest shall pronounce them clean; it is only a rash. They must wash their clothes, and they will be clean. But if the rash does spread in their skin after they have shown themselves to the priest to be pronounced clean, they must appear before the priest again. The priest is to examine that person, and if the rash has spread in the skin, he shall pronounce them unclean; it is a defiling skin disease. (Leviticus 13:2-8)

This passage was the kind that used to make people roll their eyes and groan with boredom and wonder why God bothered to include such pedantic instructions concerning something as seemingly insignificant as a skin rash. Now, passages like these feel strangely relevant and current.

In these verses, we have it all: a health screening for signs of disease, a quarantine, a demand that a person test negative for that disease, and special concern with disinfecting practices. Sound familiar?

Beyond the specific instructions for addressing sicknesses, passages like these make a larger point: God cares about our health and wellbeing.

As we enter into the eleventh month of our battle with the COVID-19 pandemic, a fair amount of pandemic fatigue has set in. At least, it certainly has for me. I am looking forward to the day when the vaccine for this virus will be available for anyone who wants it. In the meantime, however, Leviticus 13 with all its regulations can serve as an encouragement to us: God sought to take care of His people by attending to their health. We can do the same as we continue to endure screenings, quarantines, testing, and disinfecting. Remember, we’re getting closer to having this pandemic under control! And for that, I rejoice and am extremely thankful.

January 18, 2021 at 5:15 am 3 comments


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