I can’t be the only person who inspects a bench, table, or chair before I sit at it – can I? Am I the only one who can’t lean casually against a surface that has crumbs or drink stains on it? Am I the only one that gazes warily at the trash and stains left behind by the people who went before me? Sometimes it feels as if I am. I remember showering in the bathroom of someone I was staying with. I couldn’t stop looking at their soap holder. There was mold underneath it; I could tell. I tried to convince myself I was wrong, that it was something else, because who in their right mind would let their bathroom get so dirty? Yet mold it was. And it still haunts me.
Maybe I was being extreme, but according to Leviticus 13, I’m in good company. The instructions God gave the Israelites about protecting against disease, mold, and mildew were very serious. Just about every spot, stain, or growth was inspected by the Levite priests, a task I do not envy them for. There were strict rules about how long to keep inspecting something to determine whether or not it was harmful, including quarantining people with suspicious spots or sores for entire weeks, and washing and rewashing offending fabrics. If, after inspection, the person or material did not show symptoms of a serious disease or mold, everything was gravy. Otherwise, the diseased person needed to live outside of the camp, proclaiming their uncleanness, and the spoiled material had to be burned. A bit extreme? Maybe the Israelites thought so. But it was the law.
The Treasures Within:
For ancient times, these rules are pretty solid. Just like the rules about quarantining women after childbirth, and not eating animals found along the side of the road, God’s laws for His people had as much to do with their health as their heart. With no soap, no doctors, and no antibiotics, following God’s words was literally the difference between an isolated incident and a widespread epidemic, between life and death.
In a way it reminds me of children. Once I saw a child heading toward an unprotected socket. She toddled happily toward it, fingers outstretched, not a care in the world. All of a sudden, her father swooped in and jerked her away from the socket. She was so shocked by the sudden movement that she started bawling. Even though the little girl might have been mad that her dad had so sharply ended her fun, the father had done exactly the right thing. She could have died, but, as a toddler, she was too stupid to know it. God’s methods for protecting His children, even the law that a diseased person had to shout “Unclean, unclean!” (verse 45), may have seemed extreme, but He put them in place because He knew the disastrous consequences of contagious disease. It’s better to be safe than stupid.
Never A Day Off
Still, it sure was a lot to keep track of. This chapter has 59 verses, all about disease and mold. It’s almost like, why is this in the Bible and not in an almanac somewhere? But despite the seeming banality of these policies and procedures, it kinda seems like there’s a lesson in the midst of it all. The repeated washing, the isolation, the double- and triple-checking. You couldn’t be lazy about this stuff. You couldn’t forget or lose track of time. Rooting out disease and bacteria was a priority. It was an area of life that could not be overlooked. Are we like that today?
I’m not just talking about mold and disease. After all, I think most people don’t live with mold growing in their showers (please, please tell me that’s not you). But are we this vigilant about the sin in our lives?
Sometimes it creeps up. We turn around and realize that there’s something unclean in us, in our hearts. Or perhaps it’s something we’ve lived with for a while, like a vice, an addiction we’ve struggled with for years. What do we do about it? Do we cover it up, fixing our hair so that it falls over the spot? Do we kick the problem under our beds? Or do we jump into action? Do we examine the issue and determine why it’s there and why it needs to go away? Do we wash and rewash ourselves? Do we rip the problem out of our lives? Do we burn everything that allowed the sin to grow and fester? And most importantly, do we go to the High Priest? Do we ask His opinion? Do we show Him the problem, and follow His instructions to get rid of it?
It sounds like a lot, and it is. But it’s literally the difference between an isolated incident and a widespread epidemic, between life and death. We cannot afford to be lazy and casual when it comes to the sins and the evil that are growing in our hearts, our relationships, our lives. We can’t let mold grow in our shower. It’s disgusting. But there’s Someone who can help.
God’s Message To Us:
“This world is dangerous.” We’re too stupid to know this at first. We get ankles deep in fun memes, exciting adventures, and unlimited entertainment and we think our lives are all that and a bag of chips. We think we never want to leave this earth. We snuggle deeper into our filth. Yet all the while we are in danger. Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual traps linger all around us, set by the enemy of our souls. Try as we might, careful as we can be, we can’t avoid making mistakes, falling into sin, and harming ourselves and the people around us. Some say that’s what life is, but when you’re in it, you know there has to be something better than this. But what is it? How do we protect ourselves? How do we navigate it all? There’s only one Person in the universe who can reliably guide us, and never steer us wrong. He loves you. And He’s been waiting for the opportunity to protect us from ourselves. Do we want to take our chances on our own? Or will we walk by the side of our heavenly Doctor, our High Priest, our Protector?
What do you think? Do you think you would feel safe living under the rules that the Israelites had? What message did God want you to get from this chapter of the Bible?
There Are Always Questions:
- The people who did have diseases had to be quarantined outside of the Israelite camp. But they weren’t just quarantined. They had to wear torn clothes and their hair had to stay undone. Why did they have to look like that? Couldn’t they at least live decently while they waited to get better?
- In verse 13, the Bible says that if a skin disease covers a person’s entire body, then the priest can pronounce them clean. What kind of disease is that?