Monday, April 20, 2009

Prayer Monday: Cleanliness in Leviticus

Leviticus 15 concludes the section on clean and unclean laws, covering animals (ch11), childbirth (12) Leprosy (13-14) houses(14) and now bodily discharges.
"Thus you shall keep the people of Israel seperate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst" 15:31
One thing that is striking is the apparent everyday mundaneness of these things. We tend to think of being labelled 'unclean' as a terrible moral guilt, an insult. Yet your average Jew must have been unclean multiple, multiple times in their life. It was part of living an embodied life.
This doesn't reduce the seriousness. If they remain attached to the uncleanness, they will die. But God graciously provides a means of atonement, so that they can be both people who live in an unclean world, and have the glory of God dwell in their midst.

As the temple of God, whose Spirit dwells among us, how can this sense of careful reverence, yet embodied living, be cultivated. How can we learn to live in an unclean world, trusting in God's cleansing atonement?

Dangerous God, you gently show us how to come to you, how to be your people, how to have your consuming fire dwell amongst us. Though we play at your feet, we are in constant need of your atonement, yes from guilt, but also from simply living in an unclean world. We are pressed and imprinted by it, woven of good and bad cloth, moulded and mouldy, a rotten stench lingers on us from living in a dead world. Cleanse us, that we might live and not die from your holiness.

1 comment:

Mike Bull said...

Thought provoking.
2 thoughts on the meaning of these laws:

1 everything that comes out of us is bad. For us, this means, as you imply, keeping short accounts with God, keeping our feet washed. Leviticus is all about what it took to draw near to God.

2 Jesus reversed these things to raise a new priesthood. Then He told Peter to receive Cornelius lest he 'defile' him. So, if we are obedient, as His body we can spread the clean. But just like the old priesthood, any abuse is a desecration before God's face.