We’ve Been Made Clean!
Many yearly Bible reading resolutions have met an early death lost forever in the pages of Leviticus! Despite several well-meaning Bible teachers, who work tirelessly to show the relevance of Leviticus to modern-day believers, it has not changed my or many others’ opinions that it is an incredibly difficult book to read.
I don’t read the Bible cover-to-cover every year, but we are doing it as a church family this year. And I’m happy to report, I have reemerged from the depths of Leviticus before it drowned me! All kidding aside, I find Leviticus even more difficult to read as a person with chronic illness. The book is full of references to skin diseases, disabilities, and deformities that render a person unclean. If any of these conditions are irreversible, as chronic conditions tend to be, then so was your uncleanness.
This was not a matter of private reflection. Those with incurable skin diseases had to live outside the camp, away from their families, and declare themselves “unclean” to anyone who came near. “Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’” (Lev. 13:45, NIV).
Some translations qualify it by adding “infectious” before “skin disease,” but that is a modern description. “Infectious” is not in the text. It is clear in Leviticus that though distinctions were made between skin diseases, if you did not get better, you remained unclean indefinitely.
Psoriatic arthritis is one of my diagnoses. It is a less certain one than my diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis, but I do have occasional skin issues. I don’t like the idea that something I cannot help could render me unclean before God. Such people could never come near the Tabernacle, the greatest manifestation of God’s presence.
The series “The Chosen” features the woman in Luke 8 who had bleeding for twelve years. According to Leviticus 14, she would remain constantly defiled and socially isolated for something she could not help. It seems she needed God’s pity and receives his censure instead.
I will interject that “uncleanness” did not necessarily mean sin, but this is a distinction without a practical difference. You could not come into God’s presence if you were unclean, whatever caused it. By the Levitical law, many of us would be considered blemished and unclean before God. At best, we would have been banned from the assembly and tabernacle worship. At worst, we could find ourselves isolated from everyone we love.
I don’t know exactly why it had to be this way. I know that the intention of the law was to teach us how serious the holiness of God is. There’s a reason why none of these diseases and physical blemishes will be in the new heaven and the new earth. They couldn’t be. Meaning if we could not be rid of them, then we couldn’t be either.
Gentile Christians often miss the full significance of the cleansing Jesus gives us. We usually just think about having our “sins washed away.” But Jesus’ cleansing means much more than that. Ask the woman who had chronic bleeding. That’s why I brought up that “Chosen” episode. They did such a powerful job of conveying her pain and what Jesus freed her from when he healed her.
Why is it said The Servant “bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains…and we are healed by His wounds“? Because Jesus doesn’t only cleanse us of our sins; he cleanses us completely.
Full healing will not come until the resurrection (even healthy people are dying), but Jesus makes us clean now! No longer are you excluded from the assembly or from approaching the presence of God because of your sicknesses or blemishes. Jesus teaches a deeper truth. It is what comes from a man’s heart (and exits his mouth as speech) that makes him clean or unclean (Matt. 15:10-11). The uncleanness of physical maladies was meant to teach the seriousness of spiritual uncleanness.
Remember that when someone suggests that there is something spiritually inferior about you or your faith because of your illness or malady. The person judging you is actually showing themselves to have an unclean heart while hypocritically accusing you of being unclean.
I don’t fully understand why the Levitical laws were so harsh, other than the people had to be taught to respect God’s holiness. But God was never going to let his holiness and our uncleanness keep us apart. His plan was always to come into our world himself to make us clean. He always planned to say over those cleansed by the blood of Jesus, “They will be my people, and I will be their God” (Rev. 21:3). If you have been cleansed by Jesus, you are clean. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
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