Torah Portion for week 28: Leviticus 14 – 15
Metzora (Infected One)
Read Leviticus 14 – 15Is life without God a living hell? The early chapters of Genesis tell us that we were created to live life as worshipers in God’s presence. Adam’s service in the Garden (Gen 2:15), a place where God walked in the midst of the cherubim, became the template for the priestly service in the tabernacle. Sin, however, resulted in defilement. Adam was banished to live life outside the Garden, away from God’s special presence. Life became a living death!
God’s choice of Israel was intended to remedy this separation. That is why God instructed Moses to build a tabernacle where he would once again walk with his people in the midst of the cherubim. However, God’s holy presence in the tabernacle required that Israel be a holy and a clean people, a kingdom of priests. Thus God chose the priests to guard the tabernacle’s purity by keeping the profane and the unclean as far away from the tabernacle as possible (Lev 15:31). Chapters 11 – 15 of Leviticus are known as the Laws of Purity, special instructions for the priests to distinguish between the clean and the unclean (Lev 10:10). After a careful reading of these chapters, we can honestly say that Leviticus 11 – 15 is one of the nastiest places in the whole Bible. The word “unclean” appears 64 times. The word “leprosy” appears 29 times. Here we see up close the deadly consequences of Adam’s fall – uncleanness in all its oozing nastiness.
What happens when someone or something is declared unclean? This week’s Torah portion, Metzora, makes it abundantly clear. They or it must be excluded from the community of worshipers, away from God’s presence. Thus we find the repetition of the words “out” or “outside” over and over again (Lev 13:46; 14:3, 8, 40-41, 45, 53). Consider a passage from last week’s Torah portion that really expresses the heart of what it means to be unclean: “The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean.’ He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp” (Lev 13:45-46).
The text says that the person who was declared unclean was to tear his clothes, let his hair loose, and cover his face. Why? Leviticus 10:6 and Ezekiel 24:15-18 imply that this was the custom for grieving for the dead. Being unclean meant life outside the worshiping community, life away from God’s presence. The unclean person was a living dead man, experiencing hell on earth. In this light we can truly say that Adam and Eve did die on the day they were banished from the Garden-Temple, unclean and excluded from God’s glorious presence!
But wait a minute. The Scriptures also declare that all of us are unclean! “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isa 64:6). Because of our sin, all of us are spiritual lepers. We read in Revelation 21:22-27 that unclean people will be doomed to eternal death outside the New Jerusalem. We all deserve to be banished to the Eternal Spiritual Leper Colony called hell!
Is there any hope? Praise God there is! Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:21, writes: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Hallelujah! Yeshua is still willing to make the unclean clean. He still touches lepers. Through faith in Yeshua, God sprinkles clean water on us, and cleanses us from all our uncleanness. And as he promised through the prophets Ezekiel and Zechariah, in the future he will do the same for Israel as well (Ezek 36:25), when they look upon him whom they have pierced (Zech 12:10)!