Clean and Unclean
Open Your Bible
Leviticus 11:1-47, Leviticus 12:1-8, Leviticus 13:1-17, Mark 7:20-23, 1 John 1:7-9
BY Yana Conner
As a kid, I always needed to know the rationale as a prerequisite for obedience. I needed to know why I couldn’t chew gum in church or date boys before I was sixteen. “Because I said so” didn’t cut it for me. The same became true when I began my newfound relationship with Christ. I was always looking for a rationale for why I should wait until marriage to have sex or why I should forgive my absentee father. It just didn’t make sense.
Over the years, I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to make sense. See, God is not a force or an idea. He’s not binoculars in the sky or a mannequin we can clothe into our image, swapping out one cultural mantra for another. No. He is an infinite Being who possesses personhood. In the pages of Scripture, He reveals what grieves Him, causes Him to burn with anger, and brings Him joy. And in today’s reading, we learn He has boundaries.
Leviticus is the story of how sinful people can be in a relationship with a holy God. Though it was a profound blessing for them to have God dwell among them, it was also dangerous. To resolve this issue, God provided Israel with instructions on how to live in His presence safely. These instructions aren’t an arbitrary list of preferences and pet peeves. They are connected to His holiness. Because God is holy, He has boundaries and requires His people to be holy, for He is holy.
Now, I can’t speak to why animals that chew their cud but don’t part the hoof were unclean. The same is true for the cleansing laws following touching a dead carcass or giving birth. Commentators have a handful of theories. And no, none provided satisfactory answers for me for why having a daughter extends a woman’s period of uncleanness. Since God does not offer a rationale for these laws, all we can do is speculate.
But as I sat before the Lord with these chapters and tussled through commentaries looking for answers, I sensed the Lord ask, “Why do you need to know? Why do I need to provide you with a rationale for my commands?” Yeah. Ouch.
Obedience isn’t about the rationale. Obedience is about the relationship. And these laws we read today were given to teach sinful people how to be in relationship with a holy God. And though Jesus makes every believer positionally holy through the cross, God still invites us to be practically holy to experience a deeper relationship with Him.