My now-husband, Trevor, and I were still dating when I learned of a quirk of his.
He likes things clean.
Well, not "things" so much as me.
He likes me clean.
While we were dating, I did an hour-on-a-train, eight-hours-on-a-bus, two-hours-in-a-car routine every time I visited him (thanks, long-distance dating!). Sometimes the bus schedule would align perfectly and I'd get to his apartment at seven in the evening. Wonderful.
And sometimes, I'd get there at two in the morning.
I have memories of the first time the 2 AM arrival happened. Blurry and sleep-deprived memories, but memories all the same.
We got out of his tiny red Geo Metro and ascended the stairs to the dorm-like housing at the Bible Camp where he lived. I almost tripped up the stairs a couple of times. You know that dream-like state of exhaustion where everything is a little like you’re watching it in slow motion? That was it.
He showed me the room where he'd prepared a bed for me for the weekend. I set my backpack down on the worn-out, brown carpeted floor. I was just done. Ready for bed, thank you. Wasn't even gonna brush my teeth.
"Aren't you going to take a shower?" Trevor asked.
"Um, no. I'll take one in the morning. Goodnight…” was my groggy reply.
"But, well, you have... bus germs."
Trevor likes me clean. It's a fact that hasn't changed in the... what... ten years? that I've known him. It doesn't matter if I've been just sitting in my office all day. I could just as well have been standing in a pit of pinkeye. He wants me to take a shower before bed every night.
For this morning shower-er, that was a change. And I'm a little embarrassed to say it, but that small thing was a conflict in our marriage for a while.
The fact remains- my husband is man who does not like germs.
The Israelites had a different term for that- instead of "germs," they would have used the word, "unclean."
When I say that- "unclean"- does it remind you of Leviticus? Does it feel “Old Testament-y?” It does for me.
Being unclean is a condition that is addressed throughout Leviticus. We see God’s requirements for Israelite purity, what to avoid, how long it would take to become clean again; all with spectacular detail that makes me real glad to be a Gentile.
Today's offering addresses just that.
Go ahead and open your Bible to Leviticus 4. We'll start at verse 1, and keep going until Leviticus 5:11. (Or, go ahead and read it online.)
Okay, this offering, in my NIV Bible, is called a Sin Offering. Not a terrible description, but it’s kind of confusing when we try to compare it to the next offering we’ll talk about… which also is about sin.
One thing that really helped me to understand the difference is the way that sin is presented in each offering. The Sin Offering is also sometimes called the Purification Offering, and it addresses sin as impurity. Think: germs.
Our God demands purity from us- we are to be holy as He is holy. Clean like He is clean. I do a terrible job of that.
Living a daily life, in this sinful world, means that most of the time, my hands are sin-dirty before breakfast. A few hours of dealing with other human beings, and I’ve lied, used language to tear someone down, gossiped… I’m in filth up to my knees.
I’m not living a holy, pure, sterile or yuck-free life.
The Israelites weren’t, either.
So, the Israelites have the Purification Offering- a way of being cleansed of specific sins (not general humanity-wide sinfulness, like the Burnt Offering).
Interestingly, here in Leviticus, we see that different levels of responsibility have different requirements for this offering. The people with the most influence- like leaders and priests- make decisions that affect entire communities. Their influence is greater.
There’s a saying- “When the teacher sneezes, the whole class gets sick.” And it’s true! The great influence of the teacher means that her cold spreads the fastest. She impacts every little life in that classroom, and so do her germs.
We are all connected to one another, and a sin that I commit against God, my husband, my neighbor affects my community. It’s contagious. I’ve exposed my very environment to that sin. Sneezed all over them, really.
And sometimes, I don’t even know I’ve done it. I’ve picked up these germs unintentionally.
Our sins are often things that we don’t even recognize as sin at the time. I don’t always notice that little white lie that slips out of my mouth until later, if at all. Even the sins that we don’t directly commit make us impure. Staying silent in the face of evil, for instance, is sin.
The remedy for the germy, sinful hearts of the Israelites? An offering. A sacrifice of blood to cover dirty hands, provided by a God who wants to be with us.
But the trouble is, the blood of an animal can’t wash away those sins. An animal isn’t a good substitute for a human life (we’ve talked about that).
It’s a little like wiping dirty hands on your pants. Yes, some of the dirt may get wiped off, the palms may look cleaner, but the germs are still there.
God Provides a Fresh Start
The Israelites were walking around mopping up their messy hearts with dirty cloths. Wiping their noses on their sleeves. Smearing around the filth, never really being wholly pure.
To come before a holy God, the Purification Offering had to be made every time they wanted community with Him.
They’d pump on the hand sanitizer before church, and then after church, they’d go lick the handrail in subway station. Germy, infectious, and just plain gross. Living in a sinful world makes it unavoidable.
God had a better plan.
By sending His Son to be the ultimate Purification Offering, God provided a way for us to have a fresh start. A way to be truly, fully, once-and-for-all clean.
Christ came not only to mop up the mess, but to make our mess to vanish all together.
The blood of an animal provided a temporary covering for sin, but the Blood of the Lamb washed the sin away completely.
Not only are we showered up on the outside, but Christ’s sacrifice sanctifies us to the depths of our souls.
We are fresh, new, pure, because of the love of our Savior God who cleansed us with himself.
He hung on the cross, taking upon himself all the junk and germs, the pus and infection of my very dirty soul. This sinless, perfect man took my imperfections upon himself, to make me clean.
This sin-black, germy, infected sinner is recreated into something new.
By the Blood of Christ, I am made white as snow.
Other Posts in this Series:
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