Eat and Drink: H.C. Question 76 (Part 2)

What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink his poured-out blood? 

1 Corinthians 6:15-17 – Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

Ephesians 5:29-30 – After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.

1 John 4:13 – This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.

John 15:1-6 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

Ephesians 4:15-16 – Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

1 John 3:24 – The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.



Eat and Drink: H.C. Question 76 (part 1)

What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink his poured-out blood? 

John 6:35, 40, 50-58 – Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty

For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.  For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

1 Corinthians 12:13 – For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

Acts 1:9-11 – After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

1 Corinthians 11:26 – For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Colossians 3:1 – Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.



Washed: H.C. Question 70

What does it mean to be washed with Christ’s blood and Spirit?

Zechariah 13:1 – “On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.

Ephesians 1:7-8 – In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding,

Hebrews 12:24 – to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

1 Peter 1:2 – who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Revelation 1:5 – and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,

Ezekiel 36:25-27 – I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

John 3:5-8 – Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Romans 6:4 – We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

1 Corinthians 6:11 – And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Colossians 2:11-12 – In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.



Lordship: H.C. Question 34

Why do you call [Jesus] “our Lord”?

1 Peter 1:18-19 – For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Colossians 1:13-14 – For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Hebrews 2:14-15 – Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

1 Corinthians 6:20 – you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

1 Timothy 2:5-6 – For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.



Luke 22 – Take this Cup

Read Luke 22

The theme of blood, which seals covenantal promises, is one that runs throughout the whole of Old Testament Scripture and shows up here in the image of the cup.  As Jesus shares His last supper, He offers up the bread, His body, and the cup, which is the “new covenant” that is sealed in His blood.  Jesus offers this knowing what is about to come.

I have always found it interesting though that Jesus also prays in the garden, after the dinner, that God would take this cup from Him.  It is not as though Jesus was unwilling, ultimately He prays that God’s will would be done over His.  But Jesus knows the price for the sealing of any covenant: blood.  As all of the Jewish sacrificial traditions point to, the simple fact is that something must die so that another could live.

Later in the book of Romans, Paul writes that “the wages of sin is death,” and this is abundantly true.  All the way back in Genesis, God tells Adam and Eve that, should they disobey and eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would surely die.  When they did, all of humankind was destined to the same fate.

It isn’t just physical death we are talking about, but spiritual death as well; permanent separation from God, our creator.  This is not God’s desire.  In fact, Paul writes in Ephesians that, because of God’s great love for us, Jesus died for us even while we were still sinners.

God knew that we could not create our own way back to Him, so He made a way for us in Jesus Christ. We celebrate this when we “take the cup” at the Table of our Lord when we celebrate and remember together.



Day 105: 2 Kings 1-3; Elisha Succeeds Elijah

English: Ahaziah of Israel was king of Israel ...

English: Ahaziah of Israel was king of Israel and the son of Ahab and Jezebel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We open the book of 2nd Kings right where we left off in 1st Kings.  These books, as you can imagine, are completely linked.  Really, it is just the book of Kings, yet they are divided up into two volumes.  2 Kings opens just after the death of Ahab, which we read about yesterday.  Ahaziah takes the throne after his father and we read that he is apparently clumsy or something and fell through the “lattice” and probably injured himself somehow.  In any case, rather than going to God with his concern about his injury, he decides to go to one of the gods of the philistines, Baal-zebub (interestingly sounding a lot like “Beelzebub”).  Elijah meets the messengers on the road and delivers the message that God has given him.  Ahaziah will die from his injury because he did not seek the Lord.  I wonder what would have happened if he had sought the Lord…

This act and the the narrative surrounding it brings forth one of the primary issues that plagues both Israel and Judah in this book, and really during most of the time of the kings: Idolatry and a lack of spiritual center.  The people of Israel, both the Northern and the Southern Kingdoms are children of the Covenant, living with the promise that God as made.  God is very present among them and has revealed Himself in a very special way to these people.  Yet it seems that whenever there is trouble, the people of Israel go off looking to other gods for help.  Israel was meant to be the light of God to the nations.  They were THE nation through which all nations would be blessed.  Yet, instead of turning to their light in times of need, they look to the gods of the nations that surround them.  Ahaziah is a prime example of this.

The other narrative that we read about today has to do with the succession of Elisha as the Prophet of God.  There are many things that we can glean from this narrative.  Elisha is persistent and loyal, never refusing to leave his master’s side, even after being commanded three times.  I suppose there could be an interesting correlation to Peter’s Denial of Jesus here.  Elijah asks his faithful protegee what he can do for him before he leaves and Elisha’s request is bold!  “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me” he says.  What a request!  And it is granted by his seeing Elijah being taken away, or so Elijah says.  Isn’t it interesting that it takes two strikes for Elisha before the waters part for him.  I think it is important to see here that when he strikes the first time he doesn’t just give up, but he questions the Lord, asking where He is and why he hasn’t yet granted the request.  He is given no sign, no message that he had the power of the Spirit, but he strikes again in faith and the waters part.

Speaking of water, as we close for today, it was suggested the other day by a professor or mine that at any time in the Bible that we talk about water, especially when we talk about going through the water, our minds should move toward the idea of baptism.  We touched on this when we talked about Israel crossing the Red Sea and again when Israel crossed the Jordan River.  Baptism, a washing and cleansing with water, a foreshadowing of Christ’s baptism and His atoning death on the cross, a dying to the old self and rising in the new self, a fundamental re-identification of the person.  This motif, this idea of identity and baptism persists throughout the Bible.  When Israel Crosses the Red Sea they enter as a group of slaves and emerge as a chosen, rescued people of God.  When they cross the Jordan they go down as a Nomadic group of wanderers and emerge as a the nation of God.  Elijah passes through the waters and is taken away and Elisha does the same and takes on the role of his now departed master.  All these events happen though because of the power and will of God alone.  It is God’s might that holds back the sea, it is God’s will, call, and promise that makes someone His… and it will be God’s grace and love which bring Jesus to the cross as atonement for our sins and ultimately the way to be found truly in Him as members of His body.



Day 37: Leviticus 26-27; The Covenant – Rewards, Punishment, and Us

And so we come to the end of the book of Leviticus.  Israel is still at the base of Mount Sinai, receiving their instructions from the Lord.  This picture, vaguely similar to an image of the Mountain of Doom in Mordor, is somewhat reminiscent of the description of God’s presence on the Mountain in Exodus while the people were encamped around it.  (Credit to this picture goes to: BJPA.org.

sinai

In many ways this is a difficult book to read through for people in a contemporary context.  Yet for the nation of Israel this was very much a part of their spiritual life, which as I have mentioned really means their entire life.  We have talked a lot about the Covenant in relation to the nation of Israel.  I think it is important for us to know more about what this means for them and maybe for us as well.

A great deal of contemporary Theology has centered around God being a relational God.  We’ve even gone so far as to create a relational hermeneutic (way of interpreting) for the Triune nature of God.  There is a lot of talk about “the social Trinity” and how we relate to each other based on this idea.  While these ideas have merit, we really need to work towards being faithful in how God has chosen to reveal Himself through Scripture in relationship with people, and that is via a Covenantal relationship.  We saw the beginning so of this with Abraham, the vision of the smoking fire-pot, and through Isaac, Jacob, and again through Moses.  All of these have been times when God has either “established a covenant, “remembered the covenant,” or been faithful to said covenant.

The idea of the Covenant is structured around a relationship that would have been well known in the times of the Old Testament.  It is called a Suzerain/Vassal Covenant and has a very specific construct, one that, when understood, makes God’s actions in this relationship abundantly more beautiful and full of grace!!  A Suzerain/Vassal Covenant was generally made between nations or groups of people during this time.  It would always be between someone of greater power and those of lesser power.  It generally looked like this:

Suzerian/Vassal Covenant Structure

Now, if we were to look back over the last three books that we’ve read, we could see each of these things laid out, almost in progression:

1.  Prologue:  I am the Lord.  Later, I am that God of your Father(s)… you shall be My people.  This is the Covenant relationship between God and His people.

2. Stipulations: We see statements like Be holy as I am Holy.  Other statements like: You will be set a part or a kingdom of priests.  This particular section is most notably located in the second half of Exodus and generally all of Leviticus.  It will be repeated again throughout the Torah (first 5 books of the Old Testament).

3. Act of Commitment or Witness: This is first seen in the vision of the smoking firepot.  It is also seen later in the Passover Meal, and the continual sacrifices offered to God.  Generally speaking, this act of commitment or witness has some relationship to the spilling of blood as part of the oath.  We see this later in its fullness around the Table of our Lord and the “Blood of the covenant.”

4. Sanctions:  Leviticus 26 is the most notable example of this; the text that we just read today.  If the people are faithful, God will bless them.  If the people are not faithful… well… there’s a whole lot of hurt to come.  Notice though, a point that I want to articulate very well… God uses words like “discipline” and “listen to me.”  There are some pretty intense punishments that are to come if the people of Israel don’t obey this covenant.  We often associate this with the wrath of God… and that wouldn’t be entirely far from the truth.  However, the primary language here is not that of a vindictive smiting from God as much as it is God’s attempt to get their attention, to teach them a lesson that they may turn back to Him.

God’s hatred of sin has as much to do with God’s nature, His Holiness and Perfection, as it does with God’s desire for us to live in ways that are best for us.  God abhors those things that are not good for us, the poor decisions that we make that serve only to inflict harm unto ourselves.  These things that God is telling us not to do are things that, in all reality will hurt us.  That is not God’s plan for our lives.  Though He is readily willing and able to use our bad decisions to teach us things and help us grow, He also desires for us to make the right decisions that are honoring to Himself and good for us as well.

So what’s the big deal with the covenant then?  Why do we care?  Well, for one thing, this is the way that God has chosen to relate with us.  This hasn’t changed at all.  Jesus’ address in the last supper wasn’t “here drink this and the covenant is done.”  He says, “this cup is the New Covenant in My Blood.”  This extends the covenant, enhances it… but never does it do away with the Covenant.  For the Hebrews, we know that they were (spoiler alert) unfaithful to the Covenant.  However, what we don’t see is God abandoning them to their idolatry and apostasy.  What we do see is a God that is faithfully, and often painfully upholding both ends of the covenant, reminding them time and again what it means to be His people.  We see a God that is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” as the Psalmist writes.  Yes the people are punished… yes they even go into exile… but they are never forgotten and are always cared for, even when their are scattered… separated from their “center.”  God does not abandon the people and remains faithful to them, showing them grace upon grace.  This is the nature of God’s covenantal relationship with Israel, and also with us.  Through Jesus, we are made a part of this covenant, something we celebrate in baptism.  This picks up on our doctrine of election, the idea that we have been chosen by God through no merit of our own.  Through baptism we are included into Christ, through the Blood of the covenant, made a part of God’s people to whom He is eternally loving and faithful.

This idea of the Covenant, and the four movements in it is not something that only pertains to that time either.  The Church, in its tradition and worship have picked up on this and modeled our worship services after it as well.  We can see this best depicted here, in an expanded version of the earlier table.

Covenant and Worship

In worship we Gather together, God greets us and we respond in praise.  Often times this is (or rather should be) a time in which we can also reflect on where we are in our relationship with God.  Corporate worship, and times of individual worship/devotions are times when we encounter God.  In doing so we are reminded of our own sinfulness.  Whether by the Word of God or the moving of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we are convicted of those things which we have done against God (and others) and are moved to repentance.  HOWEVER… we DO NOT remain in this stage of guilt but are reminded again and again of our forgiveness, the redemption that we receive through the Blood of Jesus Christ.  Remember friends, we live on the other side of the resurrection… the other side of the Cross… Our sins are atoned for (which is why we do not offer sacrifices).

From here we move into a time of the Word (stipulations section) in which God speaks to us.  This isn’t simply a time that is relegated to the teaching of moralistic living, but has to do with the proclamation of God, glorifying Him through the reading and teaching of the Word, and being transformed by it as well.  We enter then into a time of response to the Word… here we see written “Table.”  The cerimonial meal is one of the main ways in which we respond to God’s Word, by coming to the Table and eating… communally saying “We will do everything the Lord has commanded.”  There are other reasons for this as well which we will discuss at another time… this is one relation though.

Finally we are sent out with a blessing.  This is a time of more than just some nice words to end the service.  We believe it to be an empowering time when we are charged to go into the world and live out what we have heard.  We are (or should be) sent out in the one name of God: “Father, Son, Holy Spirit” knowing that our God is not confined to the walls of our worship space, but that God goes with us empowering us each and every day, faithfully walking with us as He has always done, as we live our lives for Him.



Day 34: Leviticus 18-20; Be Holy, Love Your Neighbor (and the immigrants?)

I remember my mom sometimes justifying her rules saying “Cause I’m the Mom, that’s why!”  That carries a lot of weight with children; or at least it did with me.  As we continue to read these laws, we come to phrases where God ends the though by saying “I AM the LORD.”  I’m sure there are other reasons why God does this, but I have to think that one of them simply is saying, “Cause I AM God, that’s why.”  Surely there are many reasons, but that has to stand at the top.

Later we read that the reasons for many of these statues come because God, again, wants Israel to be set apart from the other nations.  Leviticus 18:24-28 reads, “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean,  and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.  But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you  (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean),  lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.”

Clearly, God is setting up a way of life for them that is glorifying to Him and wholly different from the world around them.  Again, they were to be holy as God is Holy.  They were to be a “kingdom of priests,” being the mediators between the nations of the world and God.  This is the reason for all the laws… because this is the way God would have them live, which is contrary to the nations around them that were clearly doing all these things.

Interesting in this section is Leviticus 19:18, which impacts earlier the verses on foreigners in your land… The English version reads “you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”  In Hebrew, the connotations of this are a bit more… impactful.  “Love your neighbor” which Jesus points out is actually everyone, “as yourself” or what could be translated as being “who is like you are.”  Our neighbors, all those people around us and in our lives, are like us.  How you say?  We are all humans, sinners, created by God, and made in the image of God.  Our neighbors may not dress the same, eat the same, believe the same, or even look the same… but they are like us and they bear the image of God just as we do.

Earlier, in Chapter 19, God lays the groundwork for (or expands on) this talking by saying, “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong.  You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord, your God.”  It is interesting to see this all in the context of the current political debates that are going on…  Love the stranger (foreigner) who is in your land, treat him (or her) as one of your own.  Why?  Because he or she is like you, a neighbor… and we are commanded to love our neighbor… There are no exceptions to this rule.  No loopholes.  God doesn’t say “except when…”  You shall love your neighbor who is like you.  Jesus expands on this later in Matthew 25:31-46 saying, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”



Day 33: Leviticus 15-17; The day of Atonement (at-one-ment)

Mmmm… yes… reading about discharges.  Leviticus is an interesting book to read at times.  Chapter 15 is one of the more interesting ones in there.  We’ve talked about some of this, reading it in the “holiness codes” from the last two days.  Adding to those codes I did notice somethings today that I didn’t the last couple days, some more symbols that don’t necessarily pop right out at us.

First, there are several mentions to the numbers 7 and 8.  Seven is the number of completion and perfection.  It is a number that comes up time and time again.  It took seven days for God to complete creation.  So, it takes a complete amount of time for someone to become clean again once they are unclean.  8 is also a number of perfection, it is the day beyond days… the day which someone then can come before God and make atonement for their uncleanness and be reconciled with God.  Consequently, if you remember some details from the book of revelation, the number for the “anti-Christ” is 666… a number that actually symbolizes imperfection and unholiness.

Another thing that is just interesting to note here is that people are unclean until evening.  Just to clear something up… this actually means that they are unclean until the day ends.  The day, for Hebrews, starts in the evening.  There is a whole lot of imagery and reasoning for this, but it is drawn from Genesis 1, when there “is evening and there is morning”… in that order.

The Day of Atonement, or at-one-ment as we could call it, is one of the most important days in the Hebrew Calendar.  While it is true that throughout the year people are making sacrifices for their sins, making peace with God through offerings and the like, the Day of Atonement is the day in which the High Priest intercedes for all of Israel, for the sin and uncleanness of the entire nation.  There are special sacrifices that happen, and it is the one day out of the year in which the High Priest gets to go into the Holy of Holies, into direct communion with God.  For the Israelite people this meant that the High Priest crossed over the barrier between Heaven and Earth, a point at which any one else would have died instantly.  Exodus 28 points out that this is one of the reasons for the bells on the High Priest’s robe, lest he die in this encounter… or perhaps it was to make sure that the people knew he was still alive?  One interesting fact, the vision of Isaiah in Isaiah 6 is thought to have happened on the Day of Atonement when Isaiah (who is thought to have been the High Priest) entered into the Holy of Holies.

This special day is full of imagery and foreshadowing for us.  There are, of course, the sacrifices and the blood, which we read in chapter 17 that blood is a symbol of life, and the many rituals that need to take place for the people’s sins to be forgiven.  But what this day is really about is the at-one-ment, or what we call reconciliation.  It is about the restoration of the relationship between God and His people.  God being Holy cannot be with a sinful people, hence the sacrificial system, yet even that isn’t enough and once a year the sins of the people are atoned for by the High Priest.  We read too that they are laid on a goat (a scapegoat if you like to know where words come from) and that goat is sent out of the camp never to return.  This is a symbol of the people’s sins being laid on an innocent and that innocent taking them away forever.  Fast-forward about 1,500 years and we see that even this, the Day of Atonement is not enough to save us.  God must send His Son to be the spotless lamb.  Jesus serves in two roles, taking on all of our sins and being the sacrifice for them.  In this, the sins of the world are forgiven, and true reconciliation is once again possible between God and humanity.  Atonement, Redemption, Reconciliation, Restoration… none are possible without the saving blood of Jesus Christ on would could be known as the very last Day of Atonement, when the curtain was torn and the relationship restored.

Thanks be to God.



Day 32: Leviticus 12-14; Holiness Codes (Part 2)

This is day two of what I would consider to be the “Holiness Codes.”  As I started the post yesterday, The last verses of Leviticus 11 really sum up where we are going with the Holiness codes.  They read, “For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground.  For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”

So what’s with all these codes anyway?  Some of them seem like common sense, others seem a bit ridiculous, all are ordained by God.  If that is the case, then there must be some meaning here, for them and for us.  Again, I think that the key here is God’s statement, “You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”

Israel was to be a light to the nations, a kingdom of priests as we talked about on January 25.  They were to be set apart as a testament to the glory of God.  To do this, they needed to be different than the nations that surrounded them.  It is suggested that these were all animals that other peoples would have no problem eating or touching.  (It is relatively ironic that I am eating shrimp as I write this… which are considered detestable to the Israelites).

Another thing that could be said about this is that many of these animals, like those that have skin diseases, carried disease infectious agents that could harm the people.  This could be another reason why certain animals, people, and even things like mold and mildew were considered unclean.  The laws for the uncleanness of a woman after childbirth or menstruation, though cruel by our standards, are actually somewhat healthy and not necessarily odd if you think about them.  A woman’s body needs time to recover after Childbirth.  It is unhealthy for a woman to become pregnant right away after the birth of a child.  Some of you may also know that the best time for conceiving a child is in the second week after a woman’s period (aka after the 7 days of uncleanness)… This could be seen as a form of  natural family planning if you will, or contraception I guess. 

If you’re interested in the break down of this, I recommend reading a blog from The Sent One.  There is a great breakdown of what is clean and unclean here.  The image below also belongs to the writer of this blog.

uncleanness

Finally, though, getting back to the main reasoning of this section, the whole purpose is holiness.  A state of being in which the people of God are set apart from the world, living lives to glorify God.  We’ve read in the past that the dead are unclean.  Many of the animals that are considered unclean would eat other dead animals, meat that had not been sacrificed to God.  This would make them unclean, thus passing their uncleanness to the one that ate them.  Others of these animals, insects included, would eat dung which is also considered to be unclean.  Again, this would pass the uncleanness to its eater.  Disease and destruction  are also unclean… thus people with them or around them are unclean… why?  Because it is contrary to the nature of God, the nature of the world as it was created, and thus contrary to God’s holiness.

If we think back to Genesis 1, the world was created perfect, with all creatures living in harmony towards one another.  The Hebrew word for this is “Shalom” or a state of peaceful, perfect existence.  In the Garden of Eden there was no death, no destruction, no disease.  Adam and Eve’s diet?  Plants.  Genesis 2 tells us that God said, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden…”  We actually don’t have an account of animals dying until God makes coverings for them later in Genesis 3.  In fact, we don’t see that humans are given permission by God to eat animals until after Noah gets off the Ark later in Genesis 9.

So this is how God created the world, without death, disease, and destruction.  Therefore we must assume that these things are contrary to the purpose of creation and the nature of God.  Engaging in this brokenness of creation would thus make one unclean… separated from the holiness of God.  For the people of Israel, there were things they would then have to do to make themselves clean.  Sometimes wash… sometimes sacrifice… sometimes wait until evening…

We too are sinful… unclean… and by our very nature cut off from relationship with God.  For us though, something was done to restore this relationship.  Thanks be to God that He sent His Son Jesus as an atoning sacrifice for our sins!!  In Christ, all things unclean are made clean.  We see this in Peter’s vision in Acts 10.  All we need do is believe in Jesus Christ and we too will be made clean in the eyes of God, washed and cleansed in His blood.  Amen.  Praise the Lord!