Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Leviticus. Day 41, The Cleansing Ceremony For A Leper Who Has Been Healed, Part Three

In yesterday's study we talked about the guilt offering the cleansed leper was to bring. Today the sin offering and the burnt offerings are made. The Lord will make allowances for healed lepers who are poor who may not be able to afford the things that are to be brought to the tabernacle on the eighth day after presenting themselves to the priest: two male lambs, one female lamb, eleven pounds of the finest flour mixed with olive oil, and 1/3 quart of oil. (Leviticus 14:10)

After the guilt offering has been made, we are told, "Then the priest is to sacrifice the sin offering and make atonement for the one to be cleansed from their uncleanness. After that, the priest shall slaughter the burnt offering and offer it on the altar, together with the grain offering, and make atonement for them, and they will be clean." (Leviticus 14:19-20) These are offerings we've studied before in detail. They are offerings all the citizens of Israel would have made at various and proper times; they are not connected only with cases of healed leprosy.

Next we'll take a look at what the leper can bring if he can't afford the items listed in verse 10. As in any culture, not everyone in Israel is on the same economic level. The Lord is going to allow a poor person to bring more affordable offerings to the tabernacle and these cheaper alternatives will be looked upon by the Lord in exactly the same way He looks upon the offerings the more affluent citizens bring. The Lord doesn't show more favor to the rich than to the poor. Our fellow man may sometimes harbor that attitude but the Lord never does. 

"If, however, they are poor and cannot afford these, they must take one male lamb as a guilt offering to be waved to make atonement for them, together with a tenth of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with olive oil for a grain offering, a log of oil, and two doves or two young pigeons, such as they can afford, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering." (Leviticus 14:21-22) The poor don't have to bring two male lambs and one ewe lamb along with the flour and oil offerings. They can bring one male lamb and two birds. They are not required to bring as large of an amount of fine flour mixed with olive oil as the person who can easily afford a grain offering. 

The Lord looks at what is in the heart, not at what is in the wallet. A poor person may have a very strong desire to bring the Lord an abundance of offerings but he may not be financially able to do so. Likewise, some of the wealthy may be able to afford to bring lavish and excessive offerings and yet have no real interest in displaying thankfulness to God. The Lord knows the motives of anyone who brings an offering. In our times, when we no longer bring sacrifices to a tabernacle, He knows whether we do good works in His name out of a sincere love for Him and for our fellow man or whether we're doing it to receive approval and admiration, or whether we're doing it simply to fit in, or whether we're doing it because we think giving generously saves our souls even though our hearts might be far from God. This is why the Apostle Paul told the members of the Corinthian church, "If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have." (2 Corinthians 8:12) In other words, if a person genuinely loves the Lord and has a grateful heart, his offering may be small if he's poor but the Lord regards it as if it's the finest offering that could be brought. And if a person has little or no regard for the Lord but brings the best offerings money can buy, the Lord would just as soon the person had stayed home instead of putting on a false front of thankfulness and humility. We can clearly see He feels this way when many in the nation later fall away from Him in their hearts or fall into idolatry, yet they still keep going through the motions of bringing the prescribed offerings even though they don't care about the Lord. He says, "Stop bringing meaningless offerings!" (Isaiah 1:13a)

The poor person's offerings are handled by the priest in much the same way as the way the more financially stable person's offerings were handled in yesterday's passage. "On the eighth day they must bring them for their cleansing to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting, before the Lord. The priest is to take the lamb for the guilt offering, together with the log of oil, and wave them before the Lord as a wave offering. He shall slaughter the lamb for the guilt offering and take some of its blood and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on their thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot." (Leviticus 14:23-25) As we've discussed before, this ritual probably indicate the person's willingness to have his ears open to the Lord's voice and to use his hands and feet in the Lord's service.

"The priest is to pour some of the oil into his own left hand, and with his right forefinger sprinkle some of the oil from his palm seven times before the Lord. Some of the oil in his palm he is to put on the same places he put the blood of the guilt offering---on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot. The rest of the oil in his palm the priest shall put on the head of the one to be cleansed, to make atonement for them before the Lord." (Leviticus 14:26-29) Yesterday we talked about how oil usually represents the anointing of the Holy Spirit. We talked about how this mirrors what happens when a person is saved through faith in Christ. The blood of Christ atones for our guilt and then the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts to guide and direct our lives as we walk through this world as representatives of our Redeemer. 

"Then he shall sacrifice the doves or the young pigeons, such as the person can afford, one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering, together with the grain offering. In this way the priest will make atonement before the Lord on behalf of the one to be cleansed." (Leviticus 14:30-31) The atonement for the poor person is just as valid and effective as the atonement for the middle class person or for the wealthy person. 

This concludes the section we've been studying for three days. "These are the regulations for anyone who has a defiling skin disease and who cannot afford the regular offerings for their cleansing." (Leviticus 14:32)

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Leviticus. Day 40, The Cleansing Ceremony For A Leper Who Has Been Healed, Part Two

In yesterday's passage a ceremony was performed by a priest when the healed leper came to him. Today we look at what the leper must do after the priest has done his duties in verses 1-7.

"The person to be cleansed must wash their clothes, shave off all their hair and bathe with water; then they will be ceremonially clean. After this they may come into the camp, but they must stay outside their tent for seven days. On the seventh day they must shave off all their hair; their beard, their eyebrows and the rest of their hair. They must wash their clothes and bathe themselves with water, and they will be clean." (Leviticus 14:8-9) Before reentering the camp, the person washes their clothes, shaves off all their hair, and bathes with water. Then they can come into the camp but must remain outside their tent for seven days, at which point the washing of clothes, the shaving, and the bathing are repeated. Then they can rejoin their family inside the tent.

On the next day the person must bring offerings to the tabernacle. "On the eighth day they must bring two male lambs and one ewe lamb a year old, each without defect, along with three-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with olive oil for a grain offering, and one log of oil. The priest who pronounces them clean shall present both the one to be cleansed and their offerings before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting." (Leviticus 14:10-11) A "log" of oil is believed to have been a container holding about 1/3 of a quart.

"Then the priest is to take one of the male lambs and offer it as a guilt offering, along with the log of oil; he shall wave them before the Lord as a wave offering. He is to slaughter the lamb in the sanctuary area where the sin offering and the burnt offerings are slaughtered. Like the sin offering, the guilt offering belongs to the priest; it is most holy." (Leviticus 14:12-13) Aside from the special portions offered to the Lord, the priest is allowed to keep the remainder of this sacrifice as payment for his work. 

The healed leper had likely not been up to the tabernacle for some time and had not been able to make any offerings to the Lord. The first offering he makes is the guilt offering (sometimes referred to as the trespass offering). This doesn't indicate that the person had been stricken with leprosy for some specific sin he'd committed, although there will be times in the Bible when contracting leprosy is a clear judgment of God. The guilt offering acknowledges the person's inability to live a completely holy life and to perfectly keep all the laws and commandments of God. Every human being on the face of the earth is guilty of not living a completely holy life and of not perfectly keeping the laws and commandments of God. 

After this guilt offering is made, some of the blood is applied to the cleansed leper. "The priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot." (Leviticus 14:14) 

We previously saw the priests, on the day of their ordination, being anointed with blood in this manner. A person anointed in this way by the blood of a guilt offering is acknowledging his faults and failures before Almighty God but at the same time he's indicating his willingness to be cleansed by God and then used by God: to have his ears open to the voice of God and to use his hands and feet in the service of God. We are living in an age where blood is applied not to our outward bodies but directly upon our hearts, as the words of that old hymn "Down At The Cross" declare: "There to my heart was the blood applied. Glory to His name." The cleansed leper of Leviticus is living in an era before the advent of Christ and before His death and burial and resurrection. He can only have sacrificial blood applied to him from the outside while he pledges to do his best to obey God's word. But the blood of Christ cleanses us and changes us from the inside out; it starts at the heart and works its way outward, which is a far more effective method of turning us into people whose lives glorify the One who redeemed us. 

"The priest shall then take some of the log of oil, pour it in the palm of his own left hand, dip his right forefinger into the oil in his palm, and with his finger sprinkle some of it before the Lord seven times. The priest is to put some of the oil remaining in his palm on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering. The rest of the oil in his palm the priest shall put on the head of the one to be cleansed and make atonement for them before the Lord." (Leviticus 14:15-18) The priest sprinkles the oil seven times before the Lord before applying it to the person standing in front of him. The number seven has a great deal of significance in the Bible. It symbolizes perfection or completion. For example, the Lord rested from His creation work on the seventh day because the work was complete. Nothing needed to be added to it. Nothing needed to be taken away from it. It was exactly as the Lord wanted it to be. 

Oil in the Bible is typically considered to be symbolic of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer---the "anointing" of the Holy Spirit, in other words. The cleansed leper is first anointed with blood, just as the new believer in Christ has the blood of Christ's sacrifice applied to his heart and life. Then the leper is anointed with oil, just as the new believer in Christ begins immediately to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit who will guide and instruct him for the rest of his life.

The oil is applied over the blood because the blood must be applied first. Only after a person's guilt has been atoned for can he be filled with the Holy Spirit. The priest anoints the cleansed leper's ear and right thumb and right toe to indicate the person's invitation to the Holy Spirit to open his ears to the Lord's words and to guide his hands and his feet. Anointing the head with oil may represent the person devoting his thoughts to the Lord and an invitation to the Holy Spirit to guard and instruct his mind. 

We all need the anointing of the Holy Spirit and that is why, after we accept Christ as our Savior, the Holy Spirit comes and takes up residence with us. We need Him daily making us receptive to the voice of God and helping us to understand what God is saying to us. We need Him daily guiding our hands and our feet as we make our way through this wicked fallen world where it often seems as if we're met with a trial or temptation at every turn. We need Him directing our thoughts toward the good things of God and away from the worldly things that strive to take our focus off the One who loves us and wants the best for us. Sin doesn't usually start in the hands or feet; sin begins in the mind and travels outward from there once we allow it to take up space in our heads. If we're able to quickly dismiss a sinful thought, we will probably avoid acting upon it. But if we mull that thought over and over in our minds and allow it to take up room in our heads that ought to be reserved for thinking about our Lord and about how we can honor Him, the likelihood that we'll take action grows and grows. This is why the Holy Spirit must be invited into every nook and cranny of our minds so He can clean the cobwebs out of every corner and remove everything unwholesome from behind every closed door. 

Monday, September 28, 2020

Leviticus. Day 39, The Cleansing Ceremony For A Leper Who Has Been Healed, Part One

As we move on into Chapter 14 we'll be studying the procedures that take place when a person has been healed of a skin disease that formerly made them unclean, such as leprosy. Although this disease was usually a lifelong ailment and often disfiguring or fatal, some persons experienced spontaneous remissions. These spontaneous remissions are documented even in modern times and this backs up what Chapter 14 is telling us: that sometimes people were healed of this disease despite the fact there was no medical cure for it in ancient times. 

When a person realized the Lord had miraculously healed him or that his body's robust immune system had successfully fought off the infection, there were specific regulations that had to be followed for their cleansing and reintroduction to society. These are the regulations Jesus was speaking of when He healed lepers in the New Testament, saying to them, "Go, show yourselves to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing as a testimony to them." (See Mark 1:44, Luke 5:14, Luke 17:14.)

"The Lord said to Moses, 'These are the regulations for any diseased person at the time of their ceremonial cleansing, when they are brought to the priest. The priest is to go outside the camp and examine them." (Leviticus 14:1-3a) This person cannot come back inside the camp until he is declared clean, so the priest has to go outside the camp to him. I did some background study on how leprosy is spread because I was wondering how the priests managed not to become infected. After studying the way leprosy is transmitted, I was able to come to the conclusion that the risk to the priest was very low. Leprosy isn't contagious on a level comparable with the common cold, for example. A person usually has to come in contact with large and repeated amounts of mucosal fluids from an infected person (by inhaling droplets or vapors from a sneeze or cough) and it's been proven that 95% of reasonably healthy people will not become ill from one or even several incidents of inhaling such droplets or vapors. It's actually possible sometimes to live for months and even for several years in close proximity to a leper before having enough exposure to the disease to overwhelm the immune system. Casual contact, such as the type of contact the priest will have with a leper, is unlikely to cause any problems in a person with a normally functioning immune system. In addition, we learned in Chapter 13 that the leper must wear a face covering over his nose and mouth. This will help to prevent droplets or vapors from being released into the air while the priest is examining those suspected of having leprosy and those who believe they've been cured of leprosy. In a case where a person truly has been healed of leprosy, no risk of infection even exists, so the main risk would be when a priest is examining a person with an active case of leprosy and even then the risk appears to be quite small.

If the priest determines the person truly has been healed of the disease, the rituals for the person's cleansing must follow. "If they have been healed of their defiling skin disease, the priest shall order that two clean live birds and some cedar wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop be brought for the person to be cleansed. Then the priest shall order that one of the birds be killed over fresh water in a clay pot. He is then to take the live bird and dip it, together with the cedar wood, the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, into the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. Seven times he shall sprinkle the one to be cleansed of the defiling disease, and then pronounce them clean. After that, he is to release the live bird in the open fields." (Leviticus 14:3b-7)

What is the meaning of a ritual like this that seems so strange to us in modern times? I am not sure and, based on my study of a number of commentaries, scholars don't agree with each other on the significance of the ritual and the items used in it. But I don't think there's any doubt that the redemptive death of Christ is symbolized by these items. We find one bird dying and one bird being set free, which may be a metaphor for Christ giving His life on the cross to set us free from slavery to sin. The cedar wood may symbolize the cross, although the type of wood that comprised the cross is not known. But cedar is a wood that is very resistant to decay and to infestation by vermin, so perhaps it represents the restoration of the leper's body to health---the casting out of decay and infestation. Or perhaps it represents the permanence of our redemption through Christ. 

The blood certainly must symbolize the blood Christ shed for mankind, since all the blood sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed toward a coming sacrifice that was powerful enough to cleanse forever all who would put their trust in Christ. The scarlet wool (and the color scarlet itself) is found a number of times in the Old Testament in cases where calamity passes over a person or persons and they are saved from destruction. This is because scarlet symbolizes the saving blood Christ will shed on our behalf, the blood of our Passover Lamb that allows the wrath of God to pass over us on the day of judgment. Hyssop was used for medicinal purposes to purify the body from various ailments. It was useful in cleansing the digestive system but could also be effective in clearing up congestion from respiratory ailments. It may symbolize the healing the leper has received. Also we find hyssop being used in the Bible as a symbol for cleansing from sin. 

The fresh water in the clay pot is literally "living water" in the original Hebrew. This means it had to be taken from a running stream or flowing spring, not from a pond or lake where water could be stagnant. Who is it that provides us with the living water of a fresh, new, changed life? The Lord Jesus Christ. (John 4:10-11, John 7:28, Revelation 7:17) I think this fresh water symbolizes the living water with which Christ refreshes us. Lastly, what is the meaning of the clay pot of water over which the one bird is killed? This one is difficult but I found one explanation that I favor: the clay pot represents the body of flesh the Lord Jesus took on when He came to earth to redeem us, for human bodies are made of the dust of the ground according to Genesis 2:7 and Genesis 3:19. The bird that dies represents Christ and the clay represents the earthly body in which He died. 

The Lord is giving these instructions to Moses about 1400-1500 years before God the Son will be born into the world in a human body, but we see the birth, life, and death of Christ depicted in the ceremony held for the healed leper. We see our own ugly past and our own sins symbolized in the leper healed by the grace of God, for our sins are a deadlier illness than leprosy and only by God's grace do we receive forgiveness for our sins. Only by His grace are we the bird that is set free in this ceremony. And I think also the bird that is set free and flies away may represent the resurrection of Christ and His ascension to heaven where He sits at the right hand of His father. If so, the free-flying bird may even symbolize our own future resurrection from the dead when we will be given immortal bodies like Christ's. 

What a beautiful picture has been presented to us in today's study by our first brief look at the cleansing ceremony of the former leper! We who are in Christ are like former lepers who have now been set free from bondage to sin and decay and eternal separation from the light of God. As a popular song called "Jesus, Friend Of Sinners" by Casting Crowns says, we are grateful lepers at His feet. Let's not neglect thanking Him anew today for the awesome and mighty work He has done by bringing us out of death into life!

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Leviticus. Day 38, Items Defiled By Mold And How To Handle Them

For several days now we've been in a portion of Leviticus that deals with regulations for protecting the health of the people of Israel. We've studied clean and unclean meats. We've looked at the difference between contagious and non-contagious skin ailments. Today we'll be talking about mold and what is to be done when it permeates fabrics or knitted items or leather items. Several types of mold can be hazardous to the health and in our passage today we'll discuss the conditions under which an item can be washed and made clean and the conditions under which an item must be destroyed.

"As for any fabric that is spoiled with a defiling mold---any woolen or linen clothing, any woven or knitted material of linen or wool, any leather or anything made of leather---if the affected area in the fabric, the leather, the woven or knitted material, or any leather article, is greenish or reddish, it is a defiling mold and must be shown to the priest." (Leviticus 13:47-49) Green molds can harbor Aspergillus which can cause anything from mild symptoms such as a runny nose and sneezing to more serious illnesses like bronchitis and pneumonia. People who suffer from asthma are likely going to find the presence of Aspergillus bothersome and if enough Aspergillus is present it can bring on a severe asthma attack. 

Red mold is less likely to cause a serious reaction. We've all probably seen a little bit of red or pink mold in bathroom areas. You might spot this type of mold in the corners of your shower stall or in the grout between tiles or even in your toilet bowl. I have to clean the shower stall in my small bathroom every week or else I'll see a pink spot here or there in the corners where moisture lingers the longest. I suppose there just isn't enough air circulation in that room for all the moisture in the shower stall to dry fully enough and quickly enough each day to prevent mold, so on Saturdays I clean it with a product containing bleach and I use a toothbrush to make sure I get into every nook and cranny. For a person in good health, this type of mold is usually harmless. But if you have a lot of allergies or if you have asthma or if you have a compromised immune system, you could be quite sensitive to red or pink mold and develop breathing issues or a respiratory infection.

When the person spots green or red mold on an item, he brings it to the priest and the priest quarantines the item just as he would quarantine a person with a suspected contagious disease. "The priest is to examine the affected area and isolate the article for seven days. On the seventh day he is to examine it, and if the mold has spread in the fabric, the woven or knitted material, or the leather, whatever its use, it is a persistent defiling mold; the article is unclean. He must burn the fabric, the woven or knitted material of wool or linen, or any leather article that has been spoiled; because the defiling mold is persistent, the article must be burned." (Leviticus 13:50-52) 

During quarantine the item was presumably not stored in the same environment in which it first contracted the mold. It was possible for the mold to die once it was removed from whatever environment encouraged its growth; for example, if the place where it had been stored in the home was prone to dampness. But if the mold didn't dry up but instead continued to flourish and spread, the item had to be burned because it was unfit for use. In our day we know these types of molds can be treated with products like baking soda or vinegar or bleach, but the people of ancient Israel couldn't run down to Walmart or Dollar General and purchase products that would render these molds harmless. Items harboring a spreading mold had to be burned so the mold wouldn't cause illness in the household.

"But if, when the priest examines it, the mold has not spread in the fabric, the woven or knitted material, or the leather article, he shall order that the spoiled article be washed. Then he is to isolate it for another seven days." (Leviticus 13:53-54) If the mold has not spread during the week of isolation, it's possible the mold spores are dead or dying. In that case, washing would remove the spores and part of the fabric might be salvageable. The item is washed and laid out to dry and then it is reexamined in seven days.

"After the article has been washed, the priest is to examine it again, and if the mold has not changed its appearance, even though it has not spread, it is unclean. Burn it, no matter which side of the fabric has been spoiled." (Leviticus 13:55) If the garment is still stained with mold just as badly as it was at first, even though the mold hasn't spread yet, there's a likelihood that the spores are still alive and active and will continue to spread at some point. The person is not to keep using the garment even if the mold stain is only on the inner lining of a cloak, for example. Just because the stain can't be seen doesn't mean it isn't there and isn't harmful. 

"If, when the priest examines it, the mold has faded after the article has been washed, he is to tear the spoiled part out of the fabric, the leather, or the woven or knitted material." (Leviticus 13:56) The mold may have left a stain but if the stain has faded then the mold is likely not still alive and at work. The stained section is removed and the remainder of the fabric can be reused. If the mold was on a cloak, for instance, the person could patch the garment where the mold was cut out and could continue wearing the garment. If the cutting out of the moldy patch rendered an item unusable for its original purpose, the material could be cut down and repurposed. A blanket with a moldy patch cut out of the middle of it, for example, could be cut up into smaller pieces and used for washcloths or towels. People in ancient times didn't want to discard anything if they didn't have to. There were no stores or websites where they could purchase cheap, mass produced items. They had to make everything last as long as possible.

Let's say an article of clothing has had the mold stain cut out of it and the person takes the garment home and begins to wear it again. But a short time later some new moldy patches show up. The garment has to be taken back to the priest. "But if it reappears in the fabric, in the woven or knitted material, or in the leather article, it is a spreading mold; whatever has the mold must be burned." (Leviticus 13:57) Even though it previously appeared that the original mold infestation had been eradicated, the appearance of new patches is proof that the item is still harboring an infestation that wasn't visible when the priest last checked the item. But a fresh outbreak of mold renders the item useless. The item is useless even if it's something that wasn't ever used inside a person's home, like a leather donkey saddle or a leather tent covering or a horse blanket. Mold spores are easily transferable by touch and they can also be sent airborne. A person might put a saddle on his donkey and get spores on his hands or on his clothing and then go back into his house later and transfer spores to things inside his house. Or he might rub his mouth or nose or eyes after getting mold spores on his hands. Or he might inhale spores that rise up when he throws a blanket over his horse's back before saddling the horse. Just because he can't see the spores doesn't mean they aren't there. 

The Lord is trying to prevent the people from contracting serious illnesses that have no cure in ancient times. They are living thousands of years before the invention of antibiotics and respiratory inhalers and antihistamines and decongestants. It wasn't all that long ago that we still couldn't effectively treat serious respiratory illnesses. My mother's oldest sibling and only brother died as a toddler in the early 1920s of double pneumonia only a few years before the discovery of penicillin in 1928. He might have survived if penicillin had been available to him. 

When the mold fades after the first washing and the stained area has been cut out, the item is to be washed again and then it is pronounced clean. "Any fabric, woven or knitted material, or any leather article that has been washed and is rid of the mold, must be washed again. Then it will be clean." (Leviticus 13:58) This second washing removes any dead and dying spores that have transferred to other areas of the item. Even though the spores are dead they can be irritating to a person who has allergies or asthma and it's best to wash the dead spores away. 

"These are the regulations concerning defiling molds in woolen or linen clothing, woven or knitted material, or any leather article, for pronouncing them clean or unclean." (Leviticus 13:59) Illnesses contracted from molds wouldn't be contagious from person to person. But mold infestations in a household could easily make everyone in the household sick. An entire family could become seriously ill or even die. Families were large in those times and multiple generations often lived together in the same dwelling. A household might be comprised of a husband and wife, the parents of both the husband and wife, possibly the grandparents and great-grandparents of the husband and wife, plus a number of children. Imagine if all these people in the household became severely sick from mold or even died from it. Not only is this a huge loss to the whole community but it could also mean the loss of that particular branch of the family tree. The Lord wants all twelve tribes of Israel to grow and prosper and endure through all generations.

As I said earlier in our study of the health regulations in the book of Leviticus, I think these regulations are intended to be taken literally. The Lord is giving sound medical advice that needs to be followed for the best health of everyone involved. I mentioned that some Bible commentators completely spiritualized the entire health section of Leviticus and didn't discuss any of its practical applications. But there's one thing of a spiritual nature I want to say about what we've studied today and it has to do with verse 55 which says a defiling mold renders an item useless no matter which side of the item the mold is on. Hidden mold is still mold, just as hidden sin is still sin. A cloak with mold on its lining might look fine and dandy on the outside, but on the inside it harbors a dangerous and spreading darkness. That's how hidden sin affects us. I'm not saying we need to confess sins publicly. I'm saying we need to get them out in the open before the Lord. A person with mold on his cloak didn't hang it on his clothesline for all the world to see; he took it to the priest. The matter of the mold was between him and a religious figure whose job it was to make intercession between the people and the Lord. When we become aware we've been living in a manner that violates the word of God, we don't need to stand up in church and announce our sin in front of everybody. We aren't to take out an ad in the paper and let the whole community know what we've done. We are to face the truth of where we've gone wrong, just as the person who found mold on his cloak faced the truth that something was wrong, and we're to go to the Lord Jesus Christ who is our high priest and the One who makes intercession for us with God, and we are to show Him our sin. Just as the priest of Israel washed the infested garment and removed the stained portion, the Lord Jesus Christ is able to wash us clean from our guilt and remove the stain of sin from our lives.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Leviticus. Day 37, Regulations About Potentially Contagious Skin Diseases, Part Four: Face Coverings

Today we'll be concluding the section of Leviticus 13 that deals with the diagnosis and containment of contagious skin diseases. Leprosy was the primary disease that needed to be diagnosed and quarantined early and the regulations of our chapter are very detailed so the priests won't mistake a harmless skin condition for leprosy and so the priests won't misdiagnose leprosy as a harmless rash. We will learn today that the person with a definite diagnosis of leprosy had to wear a face covering to protect others.

All throughout this chapter we've been seeing the similarities between the medical advice given to the ancient Israelites by the Lord and the medical advice we're being given today during the Covid-19 pandemic. We've been told many times by the infectious disease experts and by community health experts that the mask protects those around us more than it protects us. If we are carrying Covid-19, then wearing a mask helps us to avoid releasing infectious droplets or vapors into the air when we talk or if we do any mouth-breathing or if we should happen to cough. The other people's masks provide the same type of protection for us. This is the same reason the person diagnosed with leprosy had to wear a face covering in Leviticus 13. He didn't wear it to protect himself; he already had the illness. He wore it to protect others.

As we begin our study today we learn the procedures that were to be followed if a skin condition broke out where hair grows thickly, such as on the head or on the chin under a beard. "If a man or a woman has a sore on their head or chin, the priest is to examine the sore, and if it appears to be more than skin deep and the hair in it is yellow and thin, the priest shall pronounce them unclean; it is a defiling disease on the head or chin. But if, when the priest examines the sore, it does not seem to be more than skin deep and there is no black hair in it, then the priest is to isolate the affected person for seven days." (Leviticus 13:29-31) There are harmless bumps that might come up on the scalp, such as a sore red bump from an ingrown hair or a clogged oil gland. A priest can't tell for certain whether a sore is infectious if it's only on the surface of the skin and if the hair has fallen out of the irritated spot. He will have the person isolate for seven days at which time he will perform a recheck.

"On the seventh day the priest is to examine the sore, and if it has not spread and there is no yellow hair in it and it does not appear to be more than skin deep, then the man or woman must shave themselves, except for the affected area, and the priest is to keep them isolated for another seven days." (Leviticus 13:32-33) The sore hasn't healed in a week but it hasn't gotten any worse. The priest isn't sure yet what's going on so he orders another seven days of quarantine. I'm not sure what is the purpose of the shaving unless it helps the priest to be certain, during the next recheck, that new spots aren't about to break out somewhere.

"On the seventh day the priest is to examine the sore, and if it has not spread in the skin and appears to be no more than skin deep, the priest shall pronounce them clean. They must wash their clothes, and they will be clean." (Leviticus 13:34) The rash hasn't spread and the hair is growing back. This likely wouldn't be the case for leprosy and at this point the priest knows the person is probably okay. They are to wash their clothes and then will be able to mingle in society and visit the tabernacle.

"But if the sore does spread after they have been pronounced clean, the priest is to examine them, and if he finds that the sore has spread in the skin, he does not need to look for yellow hair; they are unclean. If, however, the sore is unchanged as far as the priest can see, and if black hair has grown in it, the affected person is healed. They are clean, and the priest shall pronounce them clean." (Leviticus 13:35-37) A single boil or ingrown hair or clogged oil gland or acne lesion will usually not spread across the skin. Even if the sore is still present, if it's not worse and hair is growing back, the priest pronounces them clean. It's not a contagious rash.

"When a man or woman has white spots on the skin, the priest is to examine them, and if the spots are dull white, it is a harmless rash that has broken out on the skin; they are clean." (Leviticus 13:38-39) Leprosy scales would be white and shiny. When the priest sees that the spots are not shiny he knows he's not looking at leprosy.

The losing of one's hair doesn't necessarily indicate a plague is breaking out. As we know, many men lose their hair as they grow older. Some men become completely bald; some men only become partially bald; some men's hair just grows generally thinner at the front of his head. These forms of baldness are not to be confused with an outbreak of leprosy. "A man who has lost his hair and is bald is clean. If he has lost his hair from the front of his scalp and has a bald forehead, he is clean." (Leviticus 13:40-41)

If a man's hair starts falling out due to a rash on his head, this is something that must be brought to the notice of a priest right away. "But if he has a reddish-white sore on his bald head or forehead, it is a defiling disease breaking out on his head or forehead. The priest is to examine him, and if the swollen sore on his head or forehead is reddish-white like a defiling skin disease, the man is diseased and is unclean. The priest shall pronounce him unclean because of the sore on his head." (Leviticus 13:42-44)

The fate of a leper was dreadful. Not only did he almost certainly have a fatal illness, but he also had to isolate himself from everyone in society who was not infected with leprosy. He had to look a certain way so that no healthy person would accidentally get too close to him. "Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, 'Unclean! Unclean!' As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp." (Leviticus 13:45-46) This intense isolation is why leper colonies were formed. All the people diagnosed with leprosy were forced to live outside the camp and they banded together because human beings need the company of other human beings. Since they were all already infected, there was no additional danger to them in forming a small sad society of their own.

Leprosy was far worse than the current plague that we're dealing with because even though Covid-19 has no cure at this time, it's not a death sentence for most of the people who contract it. Unlike those stricken with leprosy in ancient times, we are not perpetually unclean if we've had Covid-19. The virus will run its course and those of us who survive will no longer be contagious in a couple of weeks. But the same principle applies regarding the wearing of a face covering. The leper wore it to protect those around him, not to protect himself. Wearing a mask probably provides us with some protection from others, but the guidelines state that the primary reason for wearing them is to protect our fellow man from us, not to protect us from our fellow man. Wearing a mask doesn't mean we're sick and it doesn't mean we're "living in fear" as so many are accusing us of doing. It means we care about our fellow man. It means this virus is so new and so poorly understood that we don't know for sure how easily it's transmitted. If we're going to err, it's better to err on the side of caution. Is a mask too much of a precaution? Is it not enough of a precaution? We aren't sure and I don't even think that's the point. The point is that the Lord, based on the four days we've spent studying contagious diseases in Leviticus 13, expects us to care about the wellbeing of those around us. That care is demonstrated by doing our part to keep those around us safe. 

We may feel we have a strong immune system but that doesn't mean everyone around us does. The cashier at the grocery store may have an immune system disorder. The person standing in line behind us at the pharmacy may be going through cancer treatments. The person who waits on us in the bank may have a child at home with a health condition that makes them extremely vulnerable to catching and even dying with Covid-19. The least we can do to protect the vulnerable in our society is to wear a face covering when we interact with them, for what does the Bible say about those who are concerned for the vulnerable? "Blessed are those who have regard for the weak; the Lord delivers them in times of trouble." (Psalm 41:1) Some people have strong immune systems. Some have weaker immune systems for various reasons. The Bible makes us a beautiful promise when we care about the wellbeing of others. The Lord promises to bless us for our concern and He promises to remember our concern on the day trouble comes to our own door. Because we showed concern for others, He will deliver us from our own troubles. I want to be blessed by the Lord, don't you? So let's spend more time loving our neighbor and being concerned for their wellbeing. Let's not make the virus or the health regulations into a political matter. Let's not spend our time worrying about whether this or that health advice violates our rights somehow. Let's concentrate on what the word of God says: that we have a duty to care about and protect the health of our fellow man. 


Friday, September 25, 2020

Leviticus. Day 36, Regulations About Potentially Contagious Skin Diseases, Part Three: Secondary Infections

We've been studying the symptoms of various skin ailments and how they were to be dealt with in ancient Israel. One of the jobs of the priests was to determine whether an ailment was contagious or not. Today we look at skin rashes and injuries that become capable of infecting others after they occur. The description of some of these skin issues may sound a bit icky to us but the Lord had to describe these things thoroughly so that an outbreak of serious disease could quickly be recognized and contained. 

"When someone has a boil on their skin and it heals, and in the place where the boil was, a white swelling or reddish-white spot appears, they must present themselves to the priest. The priest is to examine it, and if it appears to be more than skin deep and the hair in it has turned white, the priest shall pronounce that person unclean; it is a defiling skin disease that has broken out where the boil was." (Leviticus 13:18-20) Boils themselves are not necessarily contagious. For example, person might have a large acne bump or an ingrown hair that turns into a painful red boil before it finally heals. Some boils, however, harbor staphylococcus bacteria which can be spread to other persons. But mainly the priest is always to be looking out for signs of leprosy. Skin that is already irritated or that already has a break in it is more susceptible to harmful bacteria like that of leprosy. If a person comes to the priest with a boil that appears to have contracted a secondary infection, the person must socially distance themselves until the condition clears up, which means if they had leprosy they would never be able to rejoin society. 

In some cases the priest can't tell at first glance whether or not the boil presents no danger to others, so to be certain he will have the person isolate for seven days. "But if, when the priest examines it, there is no white hair in it and it is not more than skin deep and has faded, then the priest is to isolate them for seven days. If it is spreading in the skin, the priest shall pronounce them clean; it is a defiling disease. But if the spot is unchanged and has not spread, it is only a scar from the boil, and the priest shall pronounce them clean." (Leviticus 13:21-23) If the priest thinks the boil is not likely anything serious but it's too soon to tell for sure, he'll tell the person, "Come back to me in a week and I'll check it again." If the condition worsens then most likely the disease itself is contagious or else a secondary infection has taken up residence in the broken skin and the secondary infection may be capable of spreading to others.

This next section has to do with skin burns. People in ancient Israel used fire on a daily basis. It was used for cooking meals and to provide warmth. Candles or lampstands or lanterns had to be lit to illuminate the interiors of structures at night. People handled fire so much that getting a burn on one's finger or hand was probably a very common occurrence. Accidents likely happened as well where a person might suffer a serious burn by stumbling into a cooking fire or turning a lit lantern over on themselves. A burn that doesn't blister and break the skin open would probably heal without complications but if the skin is broken an infection might occur or a disease like leprosy might take the opportunity to invade the vulnerable skin. "When someone has a burn on their skin and a reddish-white or white spot appears in the raw flesh of the burn, and if the hair in it has turned white, and it appears to be more than skin deep, it is a defiling disease that has broken out in the burn. The priest shall pronounce them unclean; it is a defiling disease." (Leviticus 13:24-25) Leprosy usually began as light colored lesions on the skin. The hair in the lesions would often turn lighter as well. This is why the priest is to be concerned with white patches and with hair that used to be dark but has turned white. 

"But if the priest examines it and there is no white hair in the spot and if it is not more than skin deep and has faded, then the priest is to isolate them for seven days. On the seventh day the priest is to examine that person, and if it is spreading in the skin, the priest shall pronounce them unclean; it is a defiling skin disease. If, however, the spot is unchanged and has not spread in the skin but has faded, it is a swelling from the burn, and the priest shall pronounce them clean; it is only a scar from the burn." (Leviticus 13:26-28) The person has gone to the priest as soon as they noticed a white spot appeared in the burn. It's at such an early stage that the priest can't tell whether it's just blistering or peeling from the burn or whether something else is going on, so he tells the person to quarantine themselves for seven days and come back. If the condition has improved or at least has not worsened, it is not leprosy. A burn wound doesn't spread, so if the affected area has grown larger or if other areas of skin have become affected, this ailment is not merely the result of a burn.

A lot of the background materials I studied for this chapter seemed to completely spiritualize it by using these skin diseases as a metaphor for sin. In my opinion the main purpose for our current chapter is for the Lord to provide practical medical advice for handling potentially life-threatening contagious diseases. There was no cure for leprosy in ancient times. There were no antibiotics to treat that disease and many other serious bacterial infections. If a person's immune system couldn't fight off the infection, death eventually ensued. Diagnosing these cases early and quarantining them helped to protect the community as a whole.

But since so many Bible commentators have compared our chapter of Leviticus to sin, we'll close by talking about how important it is to recognize our wrong attitudes and wrong behaviors as soon as they begin to crop up in our lives. The sooner we acknowledge we're straying from the path, the sooner we can repent and get going in the right direction again. And sin, like communicable diseases, unfortunately has a way of spreading. If a person in the congregation is openly living in a sinful manner without feeling any guilt whatsoever and without any obvious consequences having yet befallen them, this can encourage others to give in to the same temptations. This is why the Apostle Paul, for example, suggested excommunication for such persons. But his heart's desire for that person (and the Lord's will for their life too) was not that the person be permanently excommunicated from the church but that this consequence would show them the error of their ways so they could repent and return. If the person did not repent and return, at least the contagion of their public sinful behavior was removed from the church. In that sense it had been quarantined in much the same manner as a disease outbreak was to be quarantined. Nipping bad situations in the bud allowed the church to remain as healthy as possible, in the same way that getting a handle on a disease outbreak helped the entire community to remain as healthy as possible. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Leviticus. Day 35, Regulations About Potentially Contagious Skin Diseases, Part Two: The Needs Of The Many

We are studying Chapter 13, a chapter that deals with outbreaks on the skin. The priests were to serve as public health officials in these cases and this means they were the ones to take a look at the skin issue and decide whether or not it appears to be a contagious ailment. As we learned yesterday, if the priest can't tell for certain during his first examination, he has the person quarantine themselves for seven days and then come back for a recheck. If the area improved during seven days then it was just a common rash and the person was free to go about his business. If the area had not improved, but also had not worsened, the person quarantined themselves for another seven days. If there was improvement he could reenter regular society. If the rash worsened he was considered contagious unless and until he condition cleared up.

Today we'll look at some more examples of what the priests would consider a clean or unclean skin condition. We must keep in mind that the section of Leviticus we're studying has to do with health regulations that the Lord is putting in place for the wellbeing of the community as a whole so that no virulent illness breaks out among them and infects the entire population.

"When anyone has a defiling skin disease, they must be brought to the priest. The priest is to examine them, and if there is a white swelling in the skin that has turned the hair white and if there is raw flesh in the swelling, it is a chronic skin disease and the priest shall pronounce them unclean. He is not to isolate them, because they are already unclean." (Leviticus 13:9-11) Leprosy is the main disease the priest is to be on the alert for when he's checking out these rashes. When a person comes to the priest with white swelling (scales) of the skin and raw areas of flesh, the priest doesn't need to have the person quarantined for seven days to perform a recheck a week later. In this case he can already tell that it's a more serious type of skin condition and he can go ahead and pronounce the person unclean.

A person with an unclean skin condition could not function normally in society. It was a very isolating way to live. You've probably heard of the leper colonies formed by those who were outcasts due to their contagious skin ailments. Banned from normal society, they formed a society of their own because human beings need other human beings. Isolating those with a contagious, incurable, eventually fatal disease like leprosy was the only effective method of protecting the community at large in ancient times. We may be feeling pretty isolated due to our social distancing practices during the Covid-19 pandemic, but I can assure you that what we're going through doesn't begin to compare with what a person diagnosed with an unclean skin condition experienced in ancient times. 

"If the disease breaks out all over their skin and, so far as the priest can see, it covers all the skin of the affected person from head to foot, and if the disease has covered their whole body, he shall pronounce them clean. Since it has all turned white, they are clean." (Leviticus 13:12-13) These two verses are puzzling because you'd expect a head to toe rash to be considered quite alarming, but from what little I was able to find out about this, leprosy wouldn't affect the entire surface of the skin at once and, even if it did, it wouldn't all be white at the same time. It would have fresh new areas of red infection as it ate deeper into the skin. Apparently being covered all over in white scales or white flaking skin meant the immune system had done its job and the outbreak was healing and would eventually disappear. 

I'm reminded of the time my father-in-law had an allergic reaction to a prescription medication. It broke him out in a red itchy rash from head to toe but, as he recovered from the reaction and his skin began to heal, the redness was replaced by white peeling skin similar to the type of peeling skin that occurs after a blistering sunburn. If my father-in-law had lived in Moses' day, at the point when his rash turned white all over and began to peel he would have been pronounced clean by the priests. His skin condition was not contagious.

But if new areas of redness begin to break out after a person has reached the point of white peeling skin, the situation has to be reevaluated. "But whenever raw flesh appears on them, they will be unclean. When the priest sees the raw flesh, he shall pronounce them unclean. The raw flesh is unclean; they have a defiling skin disease. If the raw flesh changes and turns white, they must go to the priest. The priest is to examine them, and if the sores have turned white, the priest shall pronounce the affected person clean; then they will be clean." (Leviticus 13:14-17) 

In some cases maybe the immune system hasn't quite fully gotten a handle on the skin issue and new redness will appear. This has to be evaluated by the priest and the person must self-isolate until the newly affected areas turn white like the previous areas did. At that point the priest decides they are clean. They may have a chronic, lifelong skin condition like eczema or psoriasis which can be unsightly but is no danger to anyone around them. My husband and several members of his mother's side of the family are afflicted with psoriasis, although thankfully my husband's issues with it are very mild and he only gets a small spot of it from time to time on his scalp where no one can see it. It first appears as a round, red, itchy spot and eventually turns white and flaky.

But one of my husband's family members is not so lucky. His psoriasis tends to break out in large patches up and down his arms and legs. This makes the rash very visible to others. When he was a child he was sometimes ostracized by other kids when they saw the rashes. He was chased out of a public pool once by some kids who thought he was swimming in the pool with a contagious skin disease. Can you imagine how embarrassing and psychologically damaging it must have been for a young child to be treated as if he were unclean? This is why in our current chapter of Leviticus the person whose skin condition is not contagious is to be pronounced clean by someone of high authority---for his own sake and for the sake of everyone in the community. This person needs to hear the priest say the words, "You are clean." This person needs to know that the community is aware the priest has pronounced him clean so he won't be shunned by his friends and neighbors. 

As we discussed yesterday, Leviticus 13 makes it quite clear that the main concern with any outbreak of disease is that the community as a whole be protected. The welfare of the whole community is considered more important than the rights of just one person. I'm reminded of a quote from one of my favorite TV series, Star Trek, in which Spock says to Captain Kirk, "Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." Captain Kirk agrees and replies, "Or the one." In our current chapter the Lord reveals to us that the needs of the many (the community at large) outweigh the personal liberties of the few or the one. I believe this lines up quite well with the mask mandates we have around our nation right now. My personal liberty does not outweigh the needs of my fellow man to be protected. I'm the type of person who could easily be a carrier of Covid-19 without knowing it since I typically go years at a time without catching any virus going around and since I've never even had the flu as far as I know. Obviously I've had to have been exposed time and time again to all the viruses around me but my immune system manages to fight off illness most of the time. But this also means I could be an asymptomatic carrier and that means I could be putting others at risk. So at work today I'm going to wear my mask whenever I deal with customers because even though my immune system seems to be strong, maybe theirs isn't. Or maybe they have a family member at home who has a serious health issue that could make contracting Covid-19 fatal. I already know three people who have died from it. I know two middle aged and formerly healthy people whose lungs have been permanently affected by it. I've lost count of how many people I know who have been sick with it and who currently have it. I personally feel that doing what we can to protect our fellow man is obeying the Lord's command to love our neighbor as ourselves. 

In my community we have a lot of people asking, "Why am I responsible for those around me? Why is their health my concern?" Well, we can see from our study of Leviticus 13 that the Lord expects it to be our concern. The New Testament also proves to us that the Lord expects the wellbeing of others to be our concern. "Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor." (1 Corinthians 10:24) "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:4) "For the entire law is fulfilled in this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Galatians 5:14) 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Leviticus. Day 34, Regulations About Potentially Contagious Skin Diseases, Part One: Quarantine

In some translations of the Bible you'll find the skin ailments in Chapter 13 referred to as "leprosy". But since the word "leprosy" was used for a variety of skin conditions, the more modern translations simply refer to any potentially infectious skin ailment as a "skin disease". We'll be studying how the priests acted as public health officials on behalf of Israel and how people of that time with skin diseases or suspected skin diseases had to socially distance themselves from the remainder of the community to help prevent the spread of these types of illnesses.

"The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 'When anyone has a swelling or a rash or a shiny spot on their skin that may be a defiling skin disease, they must be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons who is a priest.'" (Leviticus 13:1-2) As we said yesterday, we are in the middle of a section of Scripture that involves matters of health, and particularly the health of the community as a whole. The regulations regarding these health matters have more to do with concern for the entire nation of Israel than for anyone's own personal liberties. Sound familiar? We are going through a time in our nation and in our world where each citizen is being asked to consider the health and safety of their neighbor and of their community at large by following health guidelines (such as wearing masks and social distancing) that help to protect those around us. Many people, at least in the United States, appear to be far more concerned right now with what they consider their "personal liberties" than they are with the safety of those around them. I don't feel this is a Biblical attitude to harbor, and today's passage of Leviticus helps to show us that even in the most ancient times the Lord expected people to care about the health and wellbeing of their neighbors, even if it inconvenienced them to care about their neighbors.

The person who has an outbreak of a skin condition that could be potentially contagious and serious must go to one of the priests for medical evaluation. "The priest is to examine the sore on the skin, and if the hair in the sore has turned white and the sore appears to be more than skin deep, it is a defiling skin disease. When the priest examines that person, he shall pronounce him ceremonially unclean." (Leviticus 13:3) There was no cure for leprosy in those times. Any suspected case of leprosy had to be taken seriously to prevent an outbreak in the community. If the priest suspects leprosy he must pronounce the person ceremonially unclean which means the person cannot be a part of religious activities at the tabernacle and cannot visit the homes of others and cannot mingle in public unless and until the condition clears up.

In some cases the priest will see signs of the condition not being something like leprosy but it will be too early to say for certain. In those cases a temporary quarantine of seven days is enforced and then the person's skin condition will be reevaluated. "If the shiny spot on the skin is white but does not appear to be more than skin deep and the hair in it has not turned white, the priest is to isolate the affected person for seven days." (Leviticus 13:4)

Seven days is enough for very minor skin issues to resolve or to be on their way to resolving. The priest will recheck the area after seven days. "On the seventh day the priest is to examine them again, and if he sees that the sore has faded and has not spread in the skin, he is to isolate them for another seven days." (Leviticus 13:5) If the sore looks pretty much as it did during the first examination, the person must isolate for another seven days to give it a further chance to heal. It's a good sign if the affected area has not grown larger but the fact that it has not appeared to heal any is concerning, so the person must not come in close contact with others for another seven days when he will be rechecked by the priest.

"On the seventh day the priest is to examine them again, and if the sore has faded and has not spread in the skin, the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only a rash. They must wash their clothes, and they will be clean." (Leviticus 13:6) There are all sorts of rashes and bumps a person might get on their skin that are not contagious to others and that only inconvenience the person who has them. (For example, things like eczema, psoriasis, acne, an irritated area from an ingrown hair, rashes contracted from coming in contact with something like poison ivy, and so on.) After a week or two of close observation it will become clear whether a skin ailment is something that affects only the person who has it or whether the community at large must be protected.

"But if the rash does spread in their skin after they have shown themselves to the priest to be pronounced clean, they must appear before the priest again. The priest is to examine that person, and if the rash has spread in the skin, he shall pronounce them unclean; it is a defiling skin disease." (Leviticus 13:7-8) If the skin condition continues to worsen during the period of quarantine then further steps must be taken, as we'll study in tomorrow's passage.

But for now I want us to think about personal liberties and the safety of the community as a whole. I'm not looking at this subject in a political manner but in a religious manner. What does the Bible tell us we should do if we come down with something that might be contagious to those around us? It's clear that we are expected to take appropriate steps to keep from transmitting our illness to others, especially when that illness is one that is fatal to many who contract it. Leprosy was usually a death sentence in the ancient world. Death didn't necessarily come swiftly, but since there was no treatment this meant leprosy was a progressive, incurable disease. Covid-19 has been fatal to hundreds of thousands of people. My own church will be holding a service tonight for one of our members who died of Covid-19 on Monday. This is the second church member who has died so far and we have several more who are ill and quarantined with the virus right now, including three of my own family members. Observing the recommended health guidelines is not going to prevent everyone from contracting a viral illness because due to the nature of a virus it is difficult to completely contain it. But observing the guidelines very well may keep some of our family members and friends and fellow church members from falling ill or dying or being left with lifelong complications as a result of contracting Covid-19.

I understand people's concern over personal liberties but I also feel that loving our neighbor as ourselves and keeping the spirit of what we've read in our passage today involves doing what we can to try to keep those around us safe. What did Jesus do while He walked the earth? Was He concerned with His personal liberties? Or was He primarily concerned with helping others? If we ask ourselves, "What would Jesus do?" I don't think we can help coming to the conclusion that Jesus would have shown more concern for those around Him that He would have shown for Himself. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Leviticus. Day 33, Purification Regulations After Childbirth (And Why Chapter 12 Doesn't Mean The Lord Is Prejudiced Toward Women)

Chapter 12 contains information that's difficult for us to understand in our day. It contains information that some have taken as "proof" that God considers the woman less important than the man or that God considers the birth of a female child inferior to the birth of a male child. Although in our times the purification regulations of Chapter 12 may not fully make sense to us, I believe we can be reassured that it is not the case that the Lord favors male human beings over female human beings.

We're in a section of Leviticus that has to do primarily with health regulations. Our preceding chapter contained a list of foods that were and were not to be eaten, plus there was a spiritual element involved in being obedient to the dietary laws. In our next chapter we'll be studying the health regulations regarding various contagious skin ailments. So we must conclude that the information in our current chapter regards either the spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical health of the persons involved.

"The Lord said to Moses, 'Say to the Israelites: 'A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised.'" (Leviticus 12:1-3) As far as I know, all of us who are studying Leviticus together are adults and we don't need any explanation for what the Lord is talking about in these verses. For seven days after giving birth the woman is ceremonially unclean which is a condition, as we've already learned, that is not a sinful type of ceremonial uncleanness. Ceremonial uncleanness can occur for a variety of reasons but in many cases it is unintentional or unavoidable. It is not the same as a deliberate or accidental sin and we are not to conclude there is anything sinful or wrong about a married woman conceiving or giving birth to a child. 

In a time when drugstores didn't exist and when factory-made sanitary products weren't available, people had to be very careful about exposing anyone else to blood since many illnesses can be transmitted by blood. We can only assume that the regulation found in verse 1 is a health regulation to prevent the transmission of bloodborne pathogens should a person be harboring an illness of this type. Regarding circumcision, it is known now that to perform the procedure before the baby boy is eight days old is to take a greater chance of excessive bleeding. It is on the eighth day after birth when the amount of Vitamin K in the child's blood spikes fairly high and this aids in the quick clotting of blood. 

The new mom isn't to go up to the sanctuary again for thirty-three more days after giving birth to a male child. The length of time in which she is ceremonially unclean, and the length of time in which she must observe the purification regulations, is double if she has given birth to a female child. "Then the woman must wait thirty-three days to be purified from her bleeding. She must not touch anything sacred or go to the sanctuary until the days of her purification are over. If she gives birth to a daughter, for two weeks the woman will be unclean, as during her period. Then she must wait sixty-six days to be purified from her bleeding." (Leviticus 12:4-5) These are the verses that have led some to erroneously assume that the Lord cares less about females than males or that the Lord is prejudiced against females. I don't believe that's what is going on here, after studying a number of commentaries and medical articles on the subject of childbirth in ancient times.

The health of the child is being protected by these regulations, for what is a woman doing during the days of her purification? She's staying at home with the newborn baby. While she is ceremonially unclean she can't even visit other people's houses. While she's observing the additional days of purification she can't join the crowds at the tabernacle and mingle with members of the community. This isolation from the public protects the child from communicable illnesses during the time the child's immune system is at its weakest. Even up until the most modern times it was recommended that an infant not be taken in public for anywhere from six weeks to three months except for doctor visits. Nowadays we find them being taken around to all the relatives' houses and taken out into crowds in public almost from birth but it's still not a safe practice. It's especially not a safe practice in 2020 while we have a pandemic going on and yet lately I've seen several people in public with newborns that don't look over a couple of weeks old. 

In the Bible days childbirth was a dangerous business. Mortality rates were high for both the mothers and the babies. Births were unmedicated and if complications occurred the options were limited as to what could be done to remedy the situation. We can understand why a new baby would be safest at home for a while and we can understand why the new mother would need time to recover, but why was the isolation period longer after the birth of a female child than after the birth of a male child? Many Bible scholars and people with medical backgrounds think it's because the birth weight of females is typically a bit smaller than the birth weight of males. This led people of ancient times to believe female infants were more likely to perish than males. In ancient times it was believed that females were physically weaker than males in every way. We know now that females are actually more likely to survive illnesses (at any age) than males, but in ancient patriarchal societies where sons were highly prized, it was thought that female babies needed more protection and were more likely to perish if they became ill. This would explain why people thought a female newborn should stay home longer than a male newborn, but why does God think this is beneficial? 

I found a couple of commentaries in which it was suggested that it helped families bond strongly with female infants. In a patriarchal society, fathers sometimes showed less interest in the birth of a female baby. Fathers might spend less time with female infants and might not be as encouraging or as understanding about their wives lavishing tons of attention on a female infant, especially if there were already male children in the household. Having the female infant and the wife home 24/7 for so long meant the father himself was around the baby perhaps more than he would have been around a new male baby. It also meant that the other members of the household (extended families tended to live together in those days, so a household could include the parents, the children, the grandparents, and even the great-grandparents) spent an enormous amount of time around the new female infant and fell in love with her and bonded deeply with her. They would bond just as deeply with her as with a male infant and would care just as much about her welfare as the welfare of the male members of the family. If this is the case, then we see that the Lord not only cares as much about females as He cares about males, but that He wants everyone else to have the same attitude.

"When the days of her purification for a son or daughter are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young dove or a pigeon for a sin offering." (Leviticus 12:6) This is further proof that the Lord considers the birth of a female child as important as the birth of a male child: the offering is the same for either sex.

When the woman brings these offerings to the priest, "He shall offer them before the Lord to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood." (Leviticus 12:7a) The woman can now go back to a normal daily routine in the community and she can start going back to the tabernacle. She has recovered sufficiently from the birth for her immune system to have regained most or all of its strength and the child's immune system is strong enough for her to take it in public when she goes out into the community. 

"These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy or a girl. But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean." (Leviticus 12:7b-8) Mary the mother of Jesus could not afford a lamb. We learn in Luke 2 that she obeyed the regulations we're reading about in Leviticus 12 and that she had to bring two turtledoves to the temple following the birth of her son. If it were not for Leviticus 12 we wouldn't know that Mary was a devout young woman who loved the Lord and who believed in obeying the regulations He provided. If it were not for Leviticus 12 we wouldn't know that Mary and Joseph were a lower income family who could only bring a smaller offering on the day she fulfilled the regulations we've read about in our study today. Everything in the Bible has a purpose, and if we take nothing else away from today's study, let's take away these two facts:

1. The Lord values women just as much as He values men.

2. The Lord Jesus, who loves us all equally, became poor for our sake so that someday we can share in the inheritance His father gives to Him.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Leviticus. Day 32, Clean And Unclean Foods, Part Three

We conclude Chapter 11 today with the regulations regarding what types of insects and things on the ground can and cannot be eaten.

"All flying insects that walk on all fours are to be regarded as unclean by you. There are, however, some flying insects that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. But all other flying insects that have four legs you are to regard as unclean." (Leviticus 11:20-23) Almost all insects are forbidden. As with other forbidden foods, a person was to avoid touching them if at all possible. "You will make yourselves unclean by these; whoever touches their carcasses will be unclean till evening. Whoever picks up one of their carcasses must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean until evening." (Leviticus 11:24-25)

The Lord repeats His instructions regarding animals that have divided hooves and that chew the cud, but He adds the extra information that no animal having paws may be eaten. "Every animal that does not have a divided hoof or that does not chew the cud is unclean for you; whoever touches the carcass of any of them will be unclean. Of all the animals that walk on all fours, those that walk on their paws are unclean for you; whoever touches their carcasses will be unclean till evening. Anyone who picks up their carcasses must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening. These animals are unclean for you." (Leviticus 11:26-28)

Creeping creatures are also unclean for consumption. "Of all the animals that move along the ground, these are unclean for you: the weasel, the rat, any kind of great lizard, the gecko, the monitor lizard, the wall lizard, the skink and the chameleon. Of all those that move along the ground, these are unclean for you. Whoever touches them when they are dead will be unclean till evening." (Leviticus 11:29-31) Rats (and mice) harbor diseases that are communicable to humans, including two that you've almost certainly heard of such as Hantavirus and the Black Plague. Lizards can also transmit a number of unpleasant and even deadly viruses and infections to humans, with one of the most common illnesses being salmonella. Every year there are many people who contract salmonella by having lizards as pets. Just handling them is capable of transmitting this illness; you don't have to eat them to get sick. 

Not only must a person refrain from eating the creatures listed in verses 29-30, but if any of these creatures contaminate clothing or household objects there are certain hygiene rules that must be observed. "When one of them dies and falls on something, that article, whatever its use, will be unclean, whether it is made of wood, cloth, hide or sackcloth. Put it in water; it will be unclean till evening, and then it will be clean. If one of them falls into a clay pot, everything in it will be unclean, and you must break the pot. Any food you are allowed to eat that has come into contact with water from any such pot is unclean, and any liquid that is drunk from such a pot is unclean. Anything that one of their carcasses falls on becomes unclean; an oven or cooking pot must be broken up. They are unclean, and you are to regard them as unclean. A spring, however, or a cistern for collecting water remains clean, but anyone who touches one of these carcasses is unclean. If a carcass falls on any seeds that are to be planted, they remain clean. But if water has been put on the seed and a carcass falls on it, it is unclean to you." (Leviticus 11:32-38)

Vermin will get into houses from time to time. If a person got his clay cooking pot out and found a dead rat lying in it, the cooking pot could no longer be used. It had to be broken to prevent anyone from accidentally using it again. Because vermin sometimes get into the house, a person might be required to remove rats or mice or lizards from the premises, but after doing so he must wash and self-isolate until evening. The Lord is providing these rules to help prevent the outbreak and spread of diseases in households and in the community.

When a kosher animal dies of natural causes or by predator attack, the person who disposes of the carcass must observe the washing and the self-isolation practices. "If an animal that you are allowed to eat dies, anyone who touches its carcass will be unclean till evening. Anyone who eats some of its carcass must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening. Anyone who picks up the carcass must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening." (Leviticus 11:39-40) The carcasses of animals brought as offerings to the Lord are excluded from being considered unclean. Verses 39-40 have to do, for example, with a farmer finding that one of his cows or sheep or goats has perished or has been attacked and killed by a wild animal. He has to dispose of the carcass, but because of the risk of contamination when handling dead and decaying things, he has to observe good hygiene after dealing with the remains of the animal.

Worms and snakes and all other creepy crawlies that slither along the ground and almost all insects are unclean. "Every creature that moves along the ground is to be regarded as unclean; it is not to be eaten. You are not to eat any creature that moves along the ground, whether it moves on its belly or walks on all fours or on many feet; it is unclean. Do not defile yourselves by any of these creatures. Do not make yourselves unclean by means of them or be made unclean by them." (Leviticus 11:41-43) If you'd like to do an internet search of all the diseases carried by bugs and creeping things and slithering things, the list is long. It's easy to see why the Lord doesn't want these creatures being eaten by humans. 

If the people disobey the Lord in these dietary rules, they are putting their physical health in jeopardy and they are putting their spiritual health in jeopardy. People usually don't start off disobeying the Lord in very large matters. Disobedience tends to begin in smaller matters. If a person is unwilling to follow these simple and practical and beneficial dietary rules, he will gradually begin to feel more and more at liberty to break larger rules, and the breaking of these rules will negatively impact his own life, the lives of those close to him, and in some cases the community as a whole. This is why the Lord issues the following warning: "I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground. I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy." (Leviticus 11:44-45) The dietary rules aren't an arbitrary list made up according to someone's opinion. These rules are provided by the God who created all things. He knows what is good for our health and what is detrimental for our health. He knows what is good for our spiritual condition and what is detrimental for our spiritual condition. We are to honor Him with holy living because He is holy, and we cannot honor the Lord if we deliberately break His laws and commandments. 

"These are the regulations concerning animals, birds, every living thing that moves about in the water and every creature that moves along the ground. You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten." (Leviticus 11:46-47) The Lord provides us with laws and commandments so we can recognize the good and the bad. It's important to practice godly living in every aspect of our lives, for if we fail to consider the importance of obeying the Lord in the small details, we'll certainly fail to obey Him in the bigger matters that have far-reaching and long-lasting consequences.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Leviticus. Day 31, Clean And Unclean Foods, Part Two

In Saturday's study we looked at some domesticated farm animals that are and are not to be eaten by the Israelites. The animal must have a divided hoof and chew cud to be considered clean for consumption. We talked about how the cow, the sheep, and the goat could be eaten but not the horse. Wild animals like deer and antelope and gazelles were edible. Many more animals meet the criteria to be clean and if you'd like you may want to Google a list to see them for yourselves. The list is a bit lengthy and some of the animals are a bit obscure to anyone living in our part of the world so I'm not including a comprehensive list here. 

Next we find out which water creatures can and cannot be eaten. "Of all the creatures living in the water of the seas and the streams you may eat any that have fins and scales." (Leviticus 11:9) Most fish are kosher. An exception would be the catfish because it lacks scales.

"But all creatures in the seas or streams that do not have fins and scales---whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water---you are to regard as unclean." (Leviticus 11:10) This verse renders shellfish unclean. The Israelites were not to eat things like oysters, clams, shrimp, lobsters, crabs, and things of that nature. These are non-kosher foods and those of us who are Gentiles would probably do well to exclude these items from our diets because shellfish are "filter feeders", scavengers that feed off of waste products in the water. You can catch several types of foodborne illnesses from undercooked shellfish and you can also contract a strain of hepatitis from shellfish (from raw oysters in particular). In addition, if a person is going to be allergic to any type of food from the rivers or the oceans, it's most likely going to be shellfish. The Lord is trying to prevent the people from contracting food poisoning and diseases. He's also helping them to avoid allergic reactions when He tells them to refrain from eating shellfish. 

"And since you are to regard them as unclean, you must not eat their meat; you must regard their carcasses as unclean. Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be regarded as unclean by you." (Leviticus 11:11-12) In yesterday's study we found the Lord prohibiting the people even to touch the carcass of an unclean animal if it's at all possible to avoid touching it. We learned earlier in Leviticus that if a person came in contact with an unclean animal he must bathe and wash his clothes and remain ceremonially unclean until evening. He could not go up to the tabernacle and could not attend any type of religious feast until his time of uncleanness was up. I don't believe he could attend a meal at anyone else's home either, for later in the Bible we'll find King Saul musing that perhaps the reason David doesn't show up for dinner at his house is because he somehow became ceremonially unclean that day. (On the contrary, David didn't show up because he knew Saul was plotting to take his life.) 

But we see that occasions might come up when a person would have to remove an unclean carcass from the roadway or from his property and in that case there was a procedure he could follow to be clean again. A fisherman might come in contact with unclean water creatures if some of them got caught in his net along with the clean creatures. He would have to discard them by throwing them back into the water or rinsing them out of his nets. I assume he'd try not to make physical contact with them while doing so but there must have been times when this was unavoidable. In that case he had a procedure to follow to be ceremonially clean again by evening. The bathing and the washing of clothes and the self-isolating for several hours helped to protect the community from communicable illnesses that are carried by unclean animals. In a time long before antibiotics were invented, it was of the utmost importance to be as sanitary as possible with food, for if a person became violently ill from an unclean food there was little that could be done for him. His body would either fight off the illness or it wouldn't. 

Now we move on into the subject of which types of fowl are considered unclean. "These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not to eat because they are unclean: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, the red kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat." (Leviticus 11:13-19) The Lord only provides a list of unclean birds and it is generally accepted that if a bird is not on this list then it is alright to eat. We'll note that the birds that are prohibited are scavenger types. We find bats on this list even though they are not of the bird family, but people in ancient times believed they were birds without feathers. They thought anything that was warm-blooded and had wings and could fly was a bird, so we find the Lord grouping bats in with birds here. Bats can be carriers of a number of serious and even deadly diseases. We're most familiar with rabies, of course, but they can also transmit Ebola and SARS. In verses 13 through 19 we find the Lord prohibiting the consumption of scavenger birds (birds who feed off of carcasses or other types of waste) and the consumption of bats because they always have been and still are some of the most prevalent carriers of many serious and even fatal zoonotic diseases (diseases that spread from animals to people). 

We are living in a time when a plague that is believed to be zoonotic in nature has broken out among the world's population. If Covid-19 did indeed originate from people consuming animals that would definitely be on the Lord's "unclean" list, then we can certainly see why the Lord felt it so important to include lists of clean and unclean foods in the Holy Bible. He put these lists here for our protection. The Lord doesn't want plagues to break out. He wants us to observe sanitary food practices and to eat foods that provide the things our bodies need so we can be healthy and strong. If you're my age or older then you'll remember a phrase that was popular when computer use was beginning to become common: "Garbage In, Garbage Out." This meant if the programming was bad, the computer couldn't perform the work the program was designed to produce. In Leviticus 11 the Lord issues the same warning about what we put in our bodies: "Garbage In, Garbage Out." Our bodies are designed to run their best on certain types of fuel. Putting the wrong fuel into our bodies causes health issues like clogged arteries and high blood pressure and obesity. Putting the wrong fuel into our bodies can give us food poisoning or an allergic reaction. And putting the wrong fuel into our bodies can transmit to us a serious or even fatal disease. The Lord wants the best for us and His best includes treating our bodies like the temples they are and bringing into these temples only what He has said is good.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Leviticus. Day 30, Clean And Unclean Foods, Part Ome

We move on into Chapter 11 today and begin our study of the food regulations the Lord provided for the Israelites. This is not the first time the Lord has given instructions regarding which animals can and cannot be eaten, for when Noah built the ark the Lord told him, "Take with you seven pairs of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and one kind of every pair of unclean animal, a male and its mate." (Genesis 7:2) 

Noah apparently knew the difference between what the Lord considered "clean" and "unclean". But perhaps somewhere along the way the people forgot or began to disregard these dietary rules. I wouldn't be surprised if living in Egypt for several centuries caused them to relax their standards in this matter. As they observed the Egyptians eating anything and everything, they may have come to consider all food the same and, on top of that, I think it's possible that the daily rations supplied to them by the Egyptian slavemasters contained all sorts of ingredients that the Lord would consider "unclean".

The Israelites will soon move into and begin taking over the promised land from the idolatrous tribes currently living in that region. These tribes eat all sorts of filth and engage in all sorts of rituals with organ meats and fat and blood. The Lord doesn't want the Israelites to pick up any of these bad habits and right now is a good time to give them a refresher course on what He considers fit to eat and what He considers unhealthy to eat.

"The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 'Say to the Israelites: 'Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat. You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and chews the cud.'" (Leviticus 11:1-3) Among common animals this would include things like cows, goats, and sheep. It would not include horses. Among wild game this list would include things like deer and antelopes and gazelles. 

The Lord provides several examples to make His point. "There are some that chew only the cud or only have a divided hoof, but you must not eat them. The camel, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is ceremonially unclean for you. The hyrax, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you. The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you. And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you." (Leviticus 11:4-8)

Most of us reading this study of Leviticus together are probably Gentiles but most Gentiles are aware that observant Jews do not eat pork. We are probably less familiar with the other dietary regulations, but among the forbidden animals mentioned in verses 4 through 8 it's probably the pig that presents the most danger to the eater. Pork meat harbors bacterias such as enterocolitica, salmonella, enterococcus, listeria, staph, and trichonosis. If not thoroughly cooked, a person could become quite ill or even die from consuming pork. They could also become quite ill or even die from not being able to refrigerate pork that had already been cooked, for the bacteria in pork tends to multiply very swiftly if it's not handled properly and kept at the proper temperatures. 

Tapeworms were prevalent in pigs back in the days before antiparasitic drugs were invented for use in domestic animals. A person eating pork, especially if they ate organ meats such as the stomach and intestines, risked contracting a severe case of tapeworms. Worms contracted from eating pork is considered a potential cause of death for Herod Agrippa I in the book of Acts. The Bible tells us he was "eaten by worms and died". The ancient historian Josephus tells us that Herod was struck with severe pains in his belly and lay in intense agony for five days before he perished. Both Josephus and the Bible indicate that his affliction was a judgment of God for his many blasphemous ways of living. Herod wasn't struck down for his dietary indiscretions alone, but they certainly played a part in his early demise. 

In our study today we find the Lord not only forbidding the eating of certain mammals but also forbidding the people to touch the carcasses. I think this prohibition serves two purposes. First, an animal that is unclean for food due to the bacteria and parasites it harbors may become even more dangerous after its death when it is decaying and when the bacteria is multiplying rapidly. Cross contamination could occur if a person moves the carcass of an unclean animal and then doesn't have access to soap and water immediately afterward. He might end up touching his face or his food and transferring the bacteria into his mouth. Second, human beings experience a heightened sense of temptation when they touch the object of their desire, whether that object is a person they have lustful thoughts about, or whether it's an object they want to purchase but shouldn't, or whether it's food that isn't good for them. 

Some years back I read about a scientific experiment that had been conducted which indicated that people who touch merchandise in a store are more likely to purchase the merchandise. Touching brings us one step closer to giving in to temptation, so the Lord cautions the people not to even touch the carcass of an unclean animal. A person might come across an unclean animal that was just killed by a predator. Most predators will flee when they see a human being approaching and in that case the meat would be very fresh when the person happens upon it. The person might feel tempted to take home this meal that just conveniently ended up in his path, but as long as he doesn't actually touch the animal he's going to have a better chance of resisting the temptation. 

Join us tomorrow as we study which types of seafood and which types of fowl are allowed and not allowed. In the meantime I think we should keep in mind that the Lord prohibits things for our good. If the Lord tells us something is to be strictly avoided, it's because He only wants the best for us. He knows having that thing will do us some sort of harm, either immediately or in the long run. We all face temptations in life and the Lord knows we will be in a better position to say "no" to these temptations if we have His laws written in our hearts before we find ourselves faced with temptation. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Leviticus. Day 29, Aaron Too Grief-Stricken To Eat/A Theory About The Sin Of His Sons

This week we've been studying the sin of two of Aaron's sons who offered incense to the Lord in a manner that was wrong. Their actions were so disrespectful to the Lord that they died. Aaron and his other two sons were forbidden to carry out the typical public days of mourning for the two dead men but today we learn that Aaron is so burdened with grief that he cannot eat the priest's portion of the sin offering presented at the tabernacle. We also take a look at what some scholars think led Nadab and Abihu to improperly offer incense to the Lord.

Right in the middle of Chapter 10 the Lord issues a warning to Aaron and his two remaining sons never to come to the tabernacle while under the influence of alcohol. "Then the Lord said to Aaron, 'You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, so that you can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean; and so you can teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses.'" (Leviticus 10:8-11) In Leviticus and Exodus when the Lord was giving instructions for how to carry out religious services in the tabernacle, He made no mention of the need for the priests to refrain from imbibing alcohol before performing their duties. Such a prohibition should have gone without saying; anyone with any respect for the Lord would know better than to show up intoxicated at His house. But suddenly, in the middle of the passage regarding the deaths of Nadab and Abihu, we find this very serious warning and this has led a number of scholars to believe that Nadab and Abihu were intoxicated when they lit the incense in their censors with fire from the wrong source. 

If this is the case, then their drunkenness is what made them incapable of distinguishing "between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean". These two men set a bad example not only for their fellow priests but also for the entire congregation of Israel. If they didn't respect the Lord enough to soberly and reverently serve Him in His house,  how could they possibly "teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them"? A person has to have a good understanding of the Lord's laws, and must respect and follow the Lord's laws, in order to effectively teach His laws to others in a manner that encourages them to honor and obey the Lord. 

Next our passage discusses the priests' portion of the offerings that were brought to the tabernacle and we learn that certain portions were only shared by the male members of the priests' families while other portions were shared by their whole families. "Moses said to Aaron and his remaining sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, 'Take the grain offering left over from the food offerings prepared without yeast and presented to the Lord and eat it beside the altar, for it is most holy. Eat it in the sanctuary area, because it is your share and your son's share of the food offerings presented to the Lord; for so I have commanded. But you and your sons and your daughters may eat the breast that was waved and the thigh that was presented. Eat them in a ceremonially clean place; they have been given to you and your children as your share of the Israelites' fellowship offerings. The thigh that was presented and the breast that was waved must be brought with the fat portions of the food offerings, to be waved before the Lord as a wave offering. This will be the perpetual share for you and your children, as the Lord commanded.'" (Leviticus 10:12-15)

Moses notices that the priests' portion of the sin offering has not been eaten. "When Moses inquired about the goat of the sin offering and found that it had been burned up, he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron's remaining sons, and asked, 'Why didn't you eat the sin offering in the sanctuary area? It is most holy; it was given to you to take away the guilt of the community by making atonement for them before the Lord. Since its blood was not taken into the Holy Place, you should have eaten the goat in the sanctuary area, as I commanded.'" (Leviticus 10:16-18) 

This is the goat that was offered for the sins of all the Israelites. Because it is not the annual Day of Atonement, and because its blood was not taken behind the veil and sprinkled onto the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant, a portion of it belonged to the priests. But instead Moses realizes that instead of retaining the portions that aren't offered to the Lord, they burned everything up that wasn't offered to the Lord. He is angry because these men haven't eaten these portions together and, in a symbolic way, haven't "eaten the sins" of the people. They haven't identified themselves with the people by partaking in the share of the sin offering that was theirs. The portion given to the Lord was, in a symbolic way, eaten by Him. The priests were to eat the portions that were theirs. In this way everyone (the priests, the community, and the Lord) communed with each other in the acknowledgment that the humans involved in this transaction were all sinners but that the Lord was willing to forgive their sins and have fellowship with them. So naturally Moses is upset that Aaron's two sons have failed to carry out this important part of their service at the tabernacle. But it appears they were commiserating with their father in his grief, for as we close today we learn that Aaron was not able to eat due to the terrible things that have happened on this day.

"Aaron replied to Moses, 'Today they sacrificed their sin offering and their burnt offering before the Lord, but such things as this have happened to me. Would the Lord have been pleased if I had eaten the sin offering today?' When Moses heard this, he was satisfied.'" (Leviticus 10:19-20) I think Aaron is saying something like this, "My sons are not refusing to identify themselves as sinners or to identify themselves with the people, who are also sinners. They brought the required offerings today to signify their need for forgiveness from their own sins and to symbolize their desire to submit themselves to the Lord. But because of the things that happened today, I couldn't partake in the meal. It would be unseemly to feast in an attitude of joy and thankfulness while two of my sons lie dead. It would not have honored the Lord if I behaved as if nothing has happened and as if my heart is not broken over my sons' sins and subsequent death. I am their father and I feel some responsibility over their wrongdoing even though they were grown men capable of making their own choices. Because of my sorrow I was unable to eat and my two remaining sons showed me their support and sympathy by not eating their portion of the sin offering either." Aaron's explanation makes practical sense to Moses and he is satisfied with his brother's words. The Lord is also satisfied; we know this because He imposes no penalty upon Aaron or Eleazar or Ithamar for failing to partake in their portion of the offering.

If any of you has ever lost a child or if you know anyone who has lost a child, you can understand a father not being able to eat on the day he loses two of his sons. The Lord can sympathize with Aaron's grief, for He is a father too and He knows that a day is coming in which He will witness the death of His own Son who will die not for sins of His own but for the sins of the world. God the Father doesn't have to eat food in order to survive as human beings do, but if He did He would not be able to swallow even one bite on the day His precious Son gives His life on the cross. With this in mind, the Lord has no words of chastisement for Aaron. I think the Lord's heart goes out to Aaron just as His heart goes out to anyone who mourns, for the Bible tells us in Psalm 34:18, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted."