45“Those who suffer from a serious skin disease must tear their clothing and leave their hair uncombed.13:45 Or and uncover their heads. They must cover their mouth and call out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ 46As long as the serious disease lasts, they will be ceremonially unclean. They must live in isolation in their place outside the camp.”
Isolation. One of the worst things that we humans could have happen to us. The last two years have made me feel more isolated than ever, as I am sure it has many of you. However, how would you like to be like the above person? Tear your clothes, look disheveled, and with covered mouth, shout “Unclean! Unclean!”
I shudder to think of it.
Maybe we have all felt this way to a certain degree (or more) in our lives. For many it was high school. For some, college. Maybe a work situation for others. Maybe even with our own family. Maybe outwardly, you were keeping it all together, but inwardly, the above described how you felt – you kept feeling unclean. I have felt that way a few times in my life, where I not only didn’t feel like I “fit in” (which is almost always, honestly, as I have never really “fit in,” whatever that even means), but that I was almost unclean to those around me. It is a terrible feeling and you just start to crave being around someone who cares, who will give you a loving smile, a hug, let you cry on their shoulder either literally or figuratively, or just even talk with you.
So many people are going through this today. I think we must continue to stay mindful of this – that many people we run across feel isolated, alone, and unclean. Maybe they can hide it better behind their masks (literal or figurative), but you can see it in their body language or their expressions. How many times have I walked past someone like that where a smile or a kind word might have made a difference in their life? I try my best to look for people who feel this way and give them some kind of encouragement, but I am often in my own world, rushing about, on my own mission and not God’s mission. I need to be better.
Before reading the rest of the text I was assigned, I kept wondering “so, how does this person get clean again?” However, it took me a while to get past the above passage. It just smacked me in the face for some reason.
So, now for the rest of the story…
So, it is pretty complex to get ceremonially clean. Once the person’s sores have gone away, the Levite priest first has to perform a ceremony with two live birds that are ceremonially clean, a stick of cedar, a hyssop branch, and some water in a clay pot. Then, the person must wash their clothes, shave off all of their hair. Then, they can come back to camp, but stay outside their tents for 7 days (what if it is freezing cold and windy? snowing? torrentially raining? scorching heat? I digress). Then, they must wash their clothes again, shave again and bathe themselves in water. Then they would be ceremonially clean. Then, 8 days later, there is another sacrificial ceremony involving two male lambs, olive oil, and flour. If the person is too poor, then they have to bring two birds instead of lambs.
Quite intricate, isn’t it? Thankfully, we don’t have to go through all of these rituals to be “ceremonially clean” anymore and rejoin society if we have a skin ailment. That had to have been awful. First, having to live away from everyone and declaring yourself unclean and then having to go through all of that just to get back into normal society. No thanks!
I also kept wondering – well what if the person’s sores never went away? What a fate that would be!
This whole picture also makes me think of how we are “unclean” because of sin. Imagine if we had to do elaborate rituals instead of just sitting at Jesus’s feet, confessing our sin and our need for him daily, weekly, hourly, or even minute by minute? How many of us would continue to try to get ceremonially clean over and over again? I think most, if not all of us, would have just given up and said to ourselves “It is hopeless! I will just stay unclean!”
Thankfully, we don’t have these rituals anymore, yet we still have these stories of them to keep us thankful for the times we are living in, as challenging as they are. Jesus has paid the price. He was the final sacrifice, the pure and unblemished lamb for all of us to become clean again.
Lord Jesus, we are all “unclean” as we are all sinners. Thank you for stepping out of the comforts of heaven to come live as we do, yet without sin. Thank you for being that final sacrifice for all of us. Thank you for loving us so much that you endured the pain and the shame of the cross to cleanse us. We are forever thankful and we all love you so much! Amen.