After talking about how animals can make the people of Israel unclean, Leviticus goes on to talk about how their bodies can make them unclean.
Separating the Unclean
This section is greatly concerned with the need to separate those who are unclean from the camp of Israel and from the tent of God.
The reason for this is given clearly in the conclusion of this section: “You shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst” (15:31).
If someone is clean they can be near God’s holiness in the town and at the tabernacle. But if someone is unclean they must be put out of both because the unclean cannot be near God’s holiness without being destroyed.
Separating those who are unclean is not about shaming the person, calling them evil, or punishing them for sin. After all, nothing described in this section that can make you unclean is the result of sin, and most of them you can’t even control.
Examples of those who are considered unclean and must be kept separate are women who have just given birth, people with skin inflammation, or those with some kind of persistent bleeding. They are unclean and must be separated.
This separation is not about judgement, but protection. Protection for the unclean individual from getting close to God’s holiness and being judged and protection for the rest of the clean camp and tabernacle from becoming unclean.
Uncleanliness: Status not Symptom
The two main types of bodily uncleanliness covered in this section are discharges of blood and skin diseases, often called leprosy.
These are classified as unclean, not because of something wrong the person did, but because they make the person less than whole, or less than physically perfect.
Blood leaving the body is the opposite of life, which is blood staying in the body. Unclean skin diseases are those that come from a deeper disease, something inside the body which may be deathly serious.
If the people are to be holy as God is holy, then any kind of imperfection, even physical, makes it so they must be separated from God and be called unclean.
So how uncleanliness fixed? Through the sacrificial system of Leviticus.
We must not forget, these rituals do not heal the person. The priests are not doctors. They are more like city inspectors, calling things what they are. The clean are declared clean, the unclean are not.
The rituals, then, are not for taking a person from unhealthy to healthy, but from unclean to clean. It is about the person’s status, not their symptoms.
After a person is made clean through the blood of sacrifice, both problems brought about by uncleanliness are solved. The uncleanliness won’t spread and the individual can, once again, be close to God and his people.
Where is Jesus?
Understanding all of this makes Jesus’s ministry all the more wondrous.
Jesus Goes to the Separated
Because of sin, all people are separated from God. It is as if our lives have been spent outside of God’s camp, unable to get in because of our uncleanliness.
But the amazing thing about Jesus is that he did not keep himself separated from those who were supposed to stay away from the tabernacle. Instead, he left the actual temple of God in heaven and came straight up to the unclean. He did this to show us that no one is outside of his reach.
Jesus Cleans Both Status and Symptom
Unlike the priests in Leviticus who had to wait for an ailment to clear up before they could call anyone clean, Jesus instantly healed discharges of blood and people with unclean skin diseases. And when he did, as in the case with a leper in Matthew 8, he also declared them clean.
Jesus has the power to change our symptoms and our status. He has the authority to heal our sickness and our standing.
What gives him this right? The perfect sacrifice he would make on the cross. What Leviticus could only perform as a ritual, he performed as a reality. His blood is not like that of a bird, that could only name a healthy person clean. His blood can take the most vile, most sick, most evil, most ailed person and heal them inside and out.
What’s more, we don’t have to wait until our uncleanliness clears us to approach Jesus. We can’t spread our disease to him. In fact, the opposite is true. He comes out to us while we are still in our disease and spreads his holiness to us.
See For Yourself
I pray that the Holy Spirit would give you eyes to see the God who is so pure and perfect that only the clean can come near him. And that you would see Jesus as the pure and perfect God who came near to the unclean at the cost of his own blood to make us holy like himself.