It Started With a Dare...

There are times when I’m up for a good challenge.  You know -those moments where you make a choice, knowing that it will be a difficult road, but you’ll be better for it in the end?  For most of the last year, I’ve spent my personal study time in the Book of Leviticus.  In college – my fascination started with a dare.  One of the students in the youth group at the church I served, challenged me in an off handed comment I made during Bible study – talking about the red thread that runs throughout Scripture being Jesus.  He was sure that the whole story couldn’t be pointing to God’s grace and Good News.  To that challenge?  We found a passage in Leviticus and so my journey began.  And I have to say – this last year, I have never been more amazed by the grace of God and the depth of how my relationship has changed and grown.

Not to bore you too much, but to give you a glimpse, today’s portion was Leviticus 14:33-57.  Verse 34 sets the stage for the rest of what I learned where we read, “when you come into the land of Canaan, which I will give you for possession…”. God’s people are not even to the Promised Land yet.  God is setting the stage.  Sharing the promise.  Helping point their vision forward.  The Hebrew word that is used here is a technical term for an invaluable piece of land that is received as a perpetual grant from a King, as a permanent possession. It would be easy to get lost in the rest of this section and write off ideas of mold and fungus as just being about cleanliness.  But in so doing, we miss the bigger picture of what God is doing.  

What we have to understand is that this land belongs to God.  It’s permanent and given to Israel.  They are his tenants living in a royal estate. There is no separation in their culture between spiritual life and every day life, and so everything is connected.  God dwells amongst his own people, in his home in the sanctuary (and later the temple). God’s home was closely connected to the Israelite’s home.  Every day life in an Israelite home mirrors this in all of the rituals and daily events that happen at the sanctuary (and the temple).  Their homes are connected to the temple.   {Random Aside - Or at least what I spent three months studying as an overview of the Book of Leviticus, and the last 13 chapters.  It’s incredible!  When you begin to catch a glimpse of what’s happening in Leviticus, you understand the Book of Hebrews!} Therefore, since they are living together with God, their homes need to be ritually clean because God is holy.  

All of that to say, the purpose of this section of Leviticus is not simply about mold, it is about God caring for the people declared his own.  When they enter the promised land, God will have cast out the Canaanites and the pollution and sin that came with it.  John Kleinig shares that, “just as a person’s clothing was an extension of the body, a house is an extension of the family.”  What happened in a house?  It affects the people.

It’s critical to understand at the time, various groups believed that fungus and mold had huge religious significance.  The Hittites, Hurrians, and Babylonians all believed that this infection was a manifestation of demons, evil, and a sign that the deities were displeased with you.  If mold showed up in your home, it was an omen that death or disaster was eminent. So when God is bringing his people to the promised land, he understood their fears.  God didn’t say that this topic was unimportant.  Nor did God give way to the superstitions of the day.  But rather set out to deal appropriately with the need.    Because you couldn’t bring your home to the sanctuary or temple for the rite of atonement, God created a way to deal with things that mirrored the last thirteen chapters, making sure that the pollution that was in the home, couldn’t rest upon those who resided in it.  The way God set out to deal with these impurities made sure to deal with the problem, but didn’t give way to the superstitions or other religions of the day. He wanted his children to know this wasn’t a punishment or bad luck.  

Seeing the grace of God in action and being amazed at the lengths God would go to to care for his people, we could still take a step back and say this doesn’t have significance for us today.  But in doing so, we would miss out.  Kleinig shared that this legislation “connects homes of God’s people with the temple.”  And the connection is matched in the New Testament.  We see time and time again as Jesus enters people’s homes.  Not just those who are righteous or clean.  But he enters the sinners, the tax collectors and the outsider’s home.  Jesus purifies and blesses them with his presence – ultimately his death on the cross as the atoning sacrifice for their- and our- sin.  And once again, life in the home (in the oikos) mirrors what happens in the congregation.  Not just for the early church, but our homes, as well.  He steps in to deal with our fears, our culture, that which is around us, that would pollute us with sin.  And he enters in – not leaving us to deal with it ourselves, but choosing to take up residence within us.  Truly the place where heaven meets earth by his spirit.  We are declared clean.  And holy. And righteous.  And his own.  Then, we are given the gift to live into this abundant life in our homes, in our families and with him.  God truly dwelling among us. 


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