Leviticus 15:1-16:28; Mark 7:1-23; Psalm 40:11-17; Proverbs 10:13-14
I was raised by Mae Fenska, and I know a thing or two about cleanliness. My mother liked to do the laundry and hung our sheets outside even in the cold winters in Round Lake, Illinois. I can remember her bringing them in, stiff as a board from the freezing temperatures. She taught me to wash the sheets every week and to vacuum and dust often. As an adult, I love folded clothes in the drawer and floors that are clean enough to eat off of, more or less.
Today’s reading has a lot in it about laundry. An enormous amount. It makes me wonder how in a primitive culture they could possibly do all that laundry! Not only must the man with the discharge have his bedding washed, but anyone who touches his bed must wash his or her clothes and bathe (Lev. 15:5-7). According to The Bible Knowledge Commentary, however, the “purpose of the cleanliness codes was not primarily hygienic but religious and theological” (pg. 195).
And Leviticus16 enlarges upon that idea. Aaron, as the high priest, offers a sacrifice for his own sins (vs. 11) and then for the sins of the people (vs. 15), washing himself before and after the required sacrifices (vs. 4, 24).
That a lot of hauling of water, scrubbing of clothes, drying them on rocks or primitive drying stands. That a lot of soap to make and fabric to squeeze dry.
All for the sake of cleanliness.
And, yet, in Mark we learn that true cleanliness really doesn’t come about by all that washing. Because it is not what we discharge from our bodies, or put into our bodies, or touch or sit on, that make us unclean. Our uncleanness comes from the inside where we harbor sin and resentfulness, arrogance and folly, and selfishness. The kind of cleaning we need for that comes only from God (Mk. 7:21-23).
We see the ugliness in our own hearts and know we need cleaning. And thank you, Lord, you provided a way for that through your death and resurrection.
“Be pleased, O Lord, to save me; O Lord, come quickly to help me… I am poor and needy; may the Lord think of me. You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay” (Ps. 40:13, 17).
- Nell Sunukjian
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