May 16, 2023
Sometimes I feel spiritually soiled, dirty, and generally unclean.
Not shameful by my actions.
All of that is also true of me and I need that sort of washing as well.
But sometimes, I am just soiled by life. I have picked up the dust and the mud of the world. I have mingled life's germs with my own chemistry.
I need to clean up.
Sometimes a hand washing will do. Sometimes it requires a full bath.
The holiness code in Leviticus answers the question of how we can approach God when we have collected all the defilement of the world. How do we pay attention to the utter holiness of Divinity and enter the sacred spaces when we are coming out of the common spaces.
For the Covenant people who were given a Tabernacle and an altar to meet God, there was an actual worship practice prescribed to answer that question. they would physically prepare to spiritually meet God.
The code of Leviticus was a constant reminder of the "Otherness" of the Holy One. It was not meant to shame the worshipper, but to lift that one and prepare that one to enter the presence of God. We have no such altars today. There is no sacrificial system at work in the Christian faith or even in Judaism as it existed in the past. We are washed by the water of the Word and prepared by the Spirit.
But the same needs and principles propel us and for that reason, Leviticus still speaks to us. Be it for sin and guilt or for ceremonial uncleanness, we still need atoning restoration and the good news we proclaim reminds us of how it comes to us, once and for all in Christ and continually as we enter God's presence.
The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the Lord and died. The Lord said to Moses:
“Tell your brother Aaron not to come just at any time into the sanctuary inside the curtain before the cover that is upon the ark, or he will die, for I appear in the cloud upon the cover. Thus shall Aaron come into the holy place: with a young bull for a purification offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He shall put on the holy linen tunic and shall have the linen undergarments next to his body, fasten the linen sash, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy vestments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on. He shall take from the congregation of the Israelites two male goats for a purification offering and one ram for a burnt offering.
“Aaron shall offer the bull as a purification offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and Aaron shall cast lots on the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and offer it as a purification offering, but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.
“Aaron shall present the bull as a purification offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house; he shall slaughter the bull as a purification offering for himself. He shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the Lord and two handfuls of crushed sweet incense, and he shall bring it inside the curtain and put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may shroud the cover that is upon the covenant, or he will die. He shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the cover, and before the cover he shall sprinkle the blood with his finger seven times.
“He shall slaughter the goat of the purification offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the curtain and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it upon the cover and before the cover. Thus he shall make atonement for the sanctuary, because of the uncleannesses of the Israelites and because of their transgressions, all their sins, and so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which remains with them in the midst of their uncleanness. No one shall be in the tent of meeting from the time he enters to make atonement in the sanctuary until he comes out and has made atonement for himself and for his house and for all the assembly of Israel. Then he shall go out to the altar that is before the Lord and make atonement on its behalf and shall take some of the blood of the bull and of the blood of the goat and put it on each of the horns of the altar. He shall sprinkle some of the blood on it with his finger seven times and cleanse it and sanctify it from the uncleannesses of the Israelites.