This picture comes from the fact that when God said to go circumcise themselves, the men, with no medical/anesthetizing capabilities whatsoever, suddenly picked up whatever qualified as their “knives” back in those days and started cutting on themselves and their sons. Or as in the case of a very angry Zipporah, the mom’s got that job. Let me tell you, there isn’t any way on earth I’d find the inner chutzpah to do that.
But they did it. And the Bible is incredibly short on verses that leave a person trying to pump themselves up to do what God asked. Take for example Moses’ conversation with God. God says drop the rod in your hand and Moses does. The rod becomes a snake and the Bible says Moses “fled from it”. Then God says “go pick it up” and the Bible simply says Moses did.
What’s missing is the 19 times Moses kinda stepped towards the snake saying “Ok… I’m just gonna grab the NOOO!” and runs back.
Bearing some of those stories in mind, I tend to classify OT people different from regular people. As though they somehow don’t have feelings, or get scared, or notice/care that people are staring – things like that. But… and I never thought I’d say these words in my entire life, something about the book of Leviticus really opened my eyes to the idea that I might have something in common with these people.
I think our common ground may just be an inner screaming of our hearts that cries out “I WANT TO BE CLEAN!”.
As I listened to verse after verse after verse after verse in Leviticus talking about what they did in order to be pronounced clean… my God, I feel inadequate in my own desire. What was there that they would not have been willing to do?
And the priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass offering, and the priest shall put it upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed,and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot: And the priest shall take some of the log of oil, and pour it into the palm of his own left hand: And the priest shall dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand, and shall sprinkle of the oil with his finger seven times before the LORD: And of the rest of the oil that is in his hand shall the priest put upon the tip of the right ear of him that is to be cleansed, and upon the thumb of his right hand, and upon the great toe of his right foot, upon the blood of the trespass offering: Leviticus 14:14-17
Let me tell you, from the book of Leviticus there is a lot of blood sprinkling, a lot of blood pouring around, a lot of people putting their heads on animals and then killing it. And you didn’t just do it like WE repent today, they did this constantly. Oh, you touched a dead animal – bring something in for your offering. Oh, you “went in and lay with” your wife, bring down that offering. Oh, you think your house has mold!!! Bring in that offering.
All these things were done in a desperate attempt to just be clean. And it’s the one thing that I finally grabbed onto in Leviticus and said “YES! That’s me!” It’s the one thing that I’m missing in our churches today – that overwhelming, willing to do anything if they can just be clean. Our churches are so painfully clean, that my oblation over my own filthy state of my heart doesn’t have a place and that hurts. I’ve been made clean by the sacrifice of a perfect lamb, but oh… oh, all too often my heart and my mind, my selfishness and laziness and idolatry of things that I put above God those things overwhelm me – especially as I sit in His presence – and my heart is broken and I find myself crying out to God to make me clean again! please! Only to find myself in a congregation that has already moved on.
I’m sure it’s not everyone, there are others out there who, like me, find themselves broken and trembling in hatred of their own wickedness in the presence of a fearsome and awesome God. But the majority today seems to be running through their program. Leaders that are afraid to stop the service, or let the service run until 2pm if necessary in their desire that people not only find the altar and experience the presence of God, but recognize their need to humble themselves before it.
And I want to catch myself before I simply complain about our churches today because my simple truth today is about me. I can try and apply it to anyone else that I want to but, God spoke to me today in those verses. Those people were willing to do anything God said in order to be clean. They’ll slaughter God only knows how many animals, they’ll let some priest rub the animals blood on them, they’ll let the priest dump oil on their head, they’ll sit outside the camp away from everyone for 7 days yelling "UNCLEAN", they’d put their hands into a jar of animal blood and sprinkle it around an altar, rub it on things, pour it on things… all the while saying blood is unclean: don’t touch it.
And I struggle with simply staying at the altar while everyone chats it up on their way out the doors.
Oh God, - there is a burning in my heart to be clean. To be free, completely and constantly free from the wickedness of my own heart that torments me. Torments me. But until I become as these Old Testament children of Israel, I believe I will only know it in part. Until I put everything else aside and am willing to make a fool of myself, to shove my sin to the forefront of my life rather than bury it beneath platitudes and churchy words, I will only enjoy sips of the deep fountains of purity that God could avail to my heart.
Oh let me be like them.