Unclean! Unclean!

My daily reading plan has me in the middle of the book of Leviticus right now, which is always a challenge.  I am constantly amazed at the amount of sacrifice, the blood required to atone for the sins of the people, the sacrifices given in praise, prayer, and petition to God. The ceremonial regulations are abundant and exhaustive.  When our culture seems so casual in its approach to the Holy God, the book of Leviticus seems very foreign and difficult to accept.

Today’s reading was Leviticus chapter 13, the laws regarding leprosy and a variety of skin diseases. “When a person has on the skin of his body a swelling or an eruption or a spot, and it turns into a case of leprous disease on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests, and the priest shall examine the diseased area on the skin of his body. And if the hair in the diseased area has turned white and the disease appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is a case of leprous disease. When the priest has examined him, he shall pronounce him unclean” (Lev 13:2-4).

If you read through the rest of the chapter, you’ll find calls for quarantining those who were symptomatic, to determine if it was leprosy or some other condition.  There are regulations about leprosy on the skin, beard, and in the clothes. If the priest determined it was leprosy, you were declared unclean, and thereby unable to come into the presence of the Temple for sacrifice and worship.

I can’t tell you how hard it was a a pimply teenager to read these passages and wonder if God would even hear my prayers in my current condition, or if I was too unclean to come before Him.

These regulations were in place for the sake of the community. In Biblical times, there was no cure for leprosy, but they knew it spread easily and quickly through a community.  If you were showing symptoms, you were required to let others know, and keep distance from the rest of the community.

I think we all know a little about this now. With the state imposed quarantines and calls for social-distancing over the Coronavirus, we see the cases come to our community and cry, “Unclean! Unclean!” There is a palpable fear of the spread of this virus, of the infection spreading like wild-fire.  The worst part of this, unlike leprosy, Covid 19 may spread from those who are asymptomatic.  You could be carrying the virus and show now signs, but still pass it along to others.

So we stay home, out of love and concern for those around us.  We are, to some extent, embodying the practices of Leviticus 13.

But only to a certain extent.

It is equally important to remember that these practices were not just regulations for the community, they were regulations for the worshipping community. Leviticus was written primarily as instruction about how a sinful people were to approach a Holy God. If one were to come into the presence of God, still stained and burdened by sin, God, who is holy and just, would pour down unmitigated judgment upon the sinner. This is why there is so much blood sacrifice in Leviticus – the people were making atonement for their sins so that they could stand justified before a holy God.

Psalm 15, another reading of the day, asks and answers the question, “O Lord, who shall dwell on your holy hill?”  The answer given is this, “He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks the truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against he innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.” This is the one who may come before the Lord.

Leprosy, a disease of the skin, was symbolic of the disease of the heart – sin. Easily spread, entirely destructive.  Left untreated, it will bring about our destruction, and leave us separated from God.

What a wonder then to know that in Jesus Christ we have been washed and made clean (Hebrews 9:14; 10:13).  We, who were once stained with the sins of this world, are now declared clean, sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ (1 Cor 6:11). The punishment for your sins has been placed upon Christ, and has been paid for in full. The veil which separated us from God has been torn open, and we have access to the Father through Jesus Christ our mediator.

What a blessing it is to know that, while we must be separated from one another for this time, nothing can separate us from the love of God the Father through Jesus Chris the Son (Rom 8:38-39).

SDG

Maintaining a Vibrant Worship Lifestyle

I’ve recently finished rereading A.W. Tozer’s book, The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship, a short but excellent book on worship, both public and private, as the goal of the Christian’s life.  Though Tozer died in 1963, his writing is still relevant for the church today.  Today, I’d like just to give a “Reader’s Digest” presentation of Tozer’s final chapter, Maintaining a Vibrant Worship Lifestyle. I find this both refreshing and challenging, and pray that his writing may inspire and encourage you in your life of worship before our Lord.


… Worship is not an event but a lifestyle. The more we treat worship as an event, the more it becomes a caricature of God’s intention, and is unacceptable to Him.  To maintain a lifestyle of worship, we must attend to it on a daily basis. If you regulate worship to a once-a-week event, you really do not understand it, and it will take a low priority in your life.

By nature, worship is not some performance we do, but a Presence we experience.  Unless in our worship we have experienced the Presence of God, it cannot rightly be called Christian worship… It is my contention that once we experience the actual presence of God, we will lose all interest in cheap Christianity with all its bells and whistles vainly trying to compete with the world.

For worship to be a vital part of everyday life, it must be systematically and carefully nurtured.  These are a few things that have helped me in my journey along the way with God.

Quiet: I firmly believe it is important to get still and wait on God. Noise is the enemy of the soul… Cultivating quietness is a missing discipline in today’s Christian church. There seems to be a wretched conspiracy in many churches to rob the saints of the quietness necessary to nature their inner life, which is hind in Christ in God.

Scripture:  All worship should begin with the Bible. This divine roadmap leads us to God. Put the Bible in a prominent place in your daily life and allow nothing to interfere with reading it and meditating on it. Our reading here should not be a marathon, but a slow, deliberate soaking in of its message. Bible reading calendars are no help here.  Often we regiment ourselves to a daily Bible reading schedule and hurry on in our reading to keep up. The importance of reading the Bible is not reading but fellowship with the Author.

Prayer: In your prayer life, quickly move beyond the idea of “getting things” from God. Prayer is not a monologue where we tell God what we think or want. Rather, it is a dialogue between two friends; an intimate fellowship that more often than not surpasses words.

Hymns: Let any new Christian spend a year prayerfully meditating on the hymns of Watts and Wesley alone, and he will become a fine theologian. It has been a successful ploy of the enemy to separate us from those lofty souls who reveled in the rarified atmosphere of God’s presence. I suggest you find a hymnbook and learn how to use it.

Devotional Reading: The devotional works of bygone saints can help us on our way. I am not thinking of those daily devotionals popular today. They have value for those just beginning their spiritual pilgrimage, but the growing Christian needs strong meat.

Simplify Your Life: The average Christian’s life is cluttered with all sorts of activities.  Too many things in our life just suck the life out of us and are not essential to wholesome living. We find ourselves rushing through the devotional aspects of our life to give predominance to mere activities.

Friendships: It is easy for our friends to distract us from our walk with Christ and from maintaining a vibrant life of worship. Cultivate friendships with this who have made He who is the Friend of sinners their constant companion.

Adapted from: Tozer, A. W. The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship. (Bethany House; Bloomington, MN. 2009) pages 177-185.

Readings from the Pastor’s Desk – Here are a few of the interesting articles I’ve come upon this week:

3 Things Not to Say at the Start of Worship: This one caught me short – do I say any of these things when we come together for worship?  Sometimes, as a worship leader, it’s difficult to know what to say, and you don’t wan to fall into a routine of saying the same thing every time you come together.  Just some food for thought.

Who is Richard Rohr?  I was recently asked this, and while I had heard the name, and was leery of his teachings, I wasn’t sure why?  Here is an article looking into the teachings of Richard Rohr that may be helpful.

What is the Emerging Church?  This is another question I was asked this week, and I wasn’t really prepared to answer.  While the Emerging/Emergent Church Movement was all the talk more than 10 years ago, you don’t read much of it today, though it still has left lasting effects on the church.