Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Pietist Meets Leviticus

What? A person is unclean because he was working in the field and accidentally touched a dead frog? A person is unclean because of certain bodily functions that are unavoidable? Yesterday's story from Leviticus 4-5 mentions guilt due to hearing someone else utter an oath. Today's story from Leviticus 5-6 mentions sinning when you're unaware of it. And the one that (years ago) really made me mad at God -- a person is unclean because of touching her husband's or child's dead body to prepare the deceased for burial.

How on earth is anybody supposed to remain clean???

Um ... yeah ... exactly the point.

I used to think "being clean" was what was most important to God. I thought what mattered to Him was whether I was a good girl. So it seemed very unfair of Him to set up rules that we just could not obey fully. When we studied Leviticus a few years ago, Pastor repeatedly emphasized two things we learn from the sacrificial system: to point to Christ's sacrifice, and to show the people that they could not obey the law and needed atonement from outside themselves.

So what I used to think was unfair is actually a good thing. It was God's way of showing that we can't do the law, no matter how hard we try, no matter how scrupulous we are. It is impossible for us. There is only One who is clean. Our cleanness is imputed to us because of Christ's blamelessness. The law's demands were never intended to be our checklist, but were given to show us our impotence. And that's good news -- even though it's plenty weird to be rejoicing in our impotence. Because Christ is our strength, our ability, our refuge, our perfection.

"The Gospel gives what the Law demands."

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