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March 3rd - Contagions and Cleanliness

Contagions and Cleanliness

(Leviticus 13:1-59; 14:33-37; 15:1-12, 16-27, 31-33)
(Numbers 5:1-4)
(Deuteronomy 24:8-9)

Priest Exiling Leper from Community
Gustave Dore (Illustrert Bibelleksikon)

Health and Holiness

Throughout much of the Old Testament, we find many instances in which health and holiness are linked, as well as sickness and sin. Although these references are not likely intended to cast blame or guilt upon those who are ill, we can certainly find practical and symbolic parallels between sickness and sin.

Certainly, the Lord loves us, and He ultimately wants to free His people from all of our infections, illnesses, infirmities and iniquities.

Today’s Bible readings focus in depth upon the Mosaic regulations for health and personal hygiene. For the ancient Israelites, the priests served as health inspectors, examining those who became sick with dangerous diseases and removing contagious individuals from the camp until they might become healed for safe return to the community.

Sickness and sin are destructive.

Have any among us never suffered physical illness or infirmities? We can all understand the simple truth that disease can easily render us helpless, physically and perhaps emotionally. When we face physical suffering or limitations, we are quick to seek medical attention. We earnestly plead with the Lord for His help and healing.

Do we respond with the same urgency when we realize that we are sick with sin at all? Have we grown sick and tired of living with guilt and shame? Are we willing to cry out to the Lord for His cleansing grace?

Sickness and sin are contagious.

The Old Testament priests were clearly instructed to send lepers and other contagious individuals away from the rest of the people. If these individuals became well, they were ceremonially cleaned and allowed to reintegrate. Although this may sound harsh, these measures prevented dangerous epidemics from decimating the people of God.

Do we recognize the perils of unconfessed and unaddressed sin within the community of faith? Certainly, we desire to love and accept one another, even as the Lord does. At the same time, however, are we willing to overlook and ignore sin within our midst?

Perhaps we would do well to practice a bit of holy hygiene within our fellowships. This process can be painful, and we may be reluctant to engage. However, it may also be the only means to health for those who are suffering from the raging sickness of sin. (And who among us is not, until the mercy of the Lord heals us?)

Lovingly and prayerfully, we may need to offer some tender and direct communication to confront the truth, so that God’s grace may lead individuals to repentance and restoration.

Certainly, we may have to do this in our own lives. Where might we be hiding a germ of guilt, doubt, faithlessness or other sin? Isn’t it time to cast out the contagion, before it spreads?

The Lord desires to heal His people from all sickness and sin.

Our mighty God and Creator is the Great Physician. He longs to heal us from all that ails us in the physical and spiritual realms. Restoring us to Himself and to one another has always been His revealed purpose.

To what contagions might we be clinging? Where might we need the Lord to heal us today? What behaviors or attitudes ought we to banish from our lives, so that He can cover us with His blessed balm to restore and refresh our lives in Him?

"Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise His holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all His benefits -
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.”

(Psalm 103:1-5, NIV, emphasis added)

Will you pray with me?

Merciful Maker,
How blessed we are
To belong to You.
Stir our spirits,
And show us any secret sins
Or guilty germs
We may be hiding
Within our hearts.
Exile our ills,
And make us whole again.
Restore us to Your fellowship
And to fellowship with one another
For Your honor.

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