OT: Lev. 15:1-16:28
Oh, for goodness sake! I try and I try to make this stuff make sense. I try to reason and to be logical. I theorize, for example, that all this "clean" and "unclean" is really about hygiene, and that God didn't mean it as a statement on morality. I try to make these commands seem reasonable for a populace to follow.
And yet, I am thwarted. Today's text just beat me soundly and threw all my logic back in my face. My theory on the sin and guilt sacrifices being for all the sins the people committed while they were "unclean"? Nope, they are for the uncleanness itself. According to 15:30, "The priest is to sacrifice one [dove] for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. In this way he will make atonement for her before the Lord for the uncleanness of her discharge." First of all, there goes my theory. And secondly, gross! Do I really want to discuss emissions of all kinds with you today? NO. It is inappropriate. As my friend, Molly, would say, "This is not okay." And yet, apparently, God thought all this stuff should be everyone's business! I mean, it is going to be obvious to the world who just had sex and who is on their period, b/c, for all practical purposes, they are going to be useless to society! They will either spend all their time washing stuff and breaking jars...or they will have to leave the camp. Seriously, how do these people get anything done? These laws are beyond impractical to me. I think at this rate, a woman might spend most of her life outside of society, between...the two things (I'm just going to stop saying them. So not appropriate.)
Ugh. Moving on. Let's just leave all that knowing that I am 100% confused about what all these commands say about God and how they were able to be practically carried out.
It seems that God is trying to show the people just how unholy they are as humans. He really seems to be lowering them. The same holds true for the priests. In chapter 16, Moses tells Aaron that he can't just go into the Most Holy Place any time he wants (2). And Aaron and the priests are given another long list of things they have to do (and kill) to enter God's presence. At this point, it is seeming like the bulk of most Israelites' lives are spent doing things that are completely impractical.
And yet, they aren't impractical b/c the goal of these things is to connect people with God, which honestly, is our only purpose in life. I guess I am just frustrated b/c I don't understand, and I really hate not understanding. Okay, time to mentally repeat Proverbs 3:5-6 and move on.
NT: Mark 7:1-23
Alright, well I haven't moved on quite yet. More and more, after reading the strict Law these days, I can sympathize with the Pharisees. They take uncleanness very seriously, and after reading the Law, I can understand why! Of course, they are criticizing Jesus and his disciples for not ceremonially washing their hands before they eat, and that is apparently not in the Law. It is just a tradition. And while I can understand putting the "hedge around Torah," are they really going to add to the "clean" and "unclean" laws?? I mean, seriously! Those are already crazy hard!
I also thought it was interesting how Jesus says that it's not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what comes out of a man. That, um, struck me differently today, after reading our OT passage. Yet, Jesus is talking about the sinfulness of men's hearts. Hmmm...there are things connecting in my brain about the two passages, one about physical uncleanness, and one about spiritual. Perhaps those regulations in the Law that we read today were symbolic of a deeper truth about human nature, one that Jesus came to reveal? Like, that we are all unclean b/c of the sinfulness of our human nature? Maybe the OT was painting us a picture, like a metaphor. I don't know. It's still not making a ton of sense. But thinking about the connections between the two passages make me feel like I am looking "through a glass darkly" instead of staring at a blank wall.
I also both love and am confused by Jesus' words in verses 9-13. He criticizes the Pharisees here for using "service to God" as an excuse for not showing proper respect and care for their parents. It is very "family values" of Jesus. And yet, He is the one who tells people to "hate" their father and mother and to leave their families. He is the one who says that He has come to bring division between families. So it's weird that He is criticizing the Pharisees for putting their duty to God before their duty to their parents. It seems like Jesus calls His disciples to do just that.
Psalm 40: 11-17
More great verses. My favorites are 11-12: "Do not withhold your mercy from me, O Lord; may your love and your truth always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me." I love verse 11 because of the beautiful image of God's love and truth protecting us. And I love verse 12 (strangely) b/c it gives such a relatable picture of David. It's nice to know that this great man felt overwhelmed by life and by his own sins sometimes. I know that he has felt that way a lot thus far, but these verses in particular really resonated with me today.
Proverbs 10: 13-14
My childhood preacher once gave a sermon about raising children. He said the trick was to get them to internalize their morality, and not just to do what was right in order to avoid punishment. That internalization is the difference between wise people and fools, according to verse 13-14. Wise people "store up knowledge," and it is thus found on their lips. It comes from within them. Fools, on the other hand, have to have external punishments to keep them "in line."