Our God is pristine—totally pure. Nothing unholy can even exist in His presence. For that reason, Moses spent a long time in the book of Leviticus telling His covenant people how to make themselves pure before they came into the Lord’s presence for worship.
For example: Leviticus 1-11 gives us “the laws of clean and unclean animals.”
Leviticus 12–15 tells about “the laws of clean and unclean humans.”
Think, for a moment, how filthy we are in the sight of God. In the Old Testament, apparently, human uncleanness began even before birth:
• A child, for example, was conceived in ritual impurity (Lev.15: 18).
• Then, Leviticus.12:2 says, when that baby was born, he contaminated his mother,
• Then, because she was impure, she contaminated everything she touched.
But why should a common, human process like having a baby render a woman unclean? Because the baby was of born into a cursed and unclean world. As the child grew up, he came into regular contact with things unclean.
• When he married and engaged in sexual relations, he created uncleanness.
• When he died, he became a primary source of uncleanness.
o The house he died in became unclean.
o Mourners who enter the house became unclean.
o Those who wash and prepare their dead friend for burial became unclean.
o Those who bury him became unclean.
From birth to death, he seemed to be impure. Since we are mortal, our bodies contract disease and infection. From the moment of birth, our fleshly
existence is one headlong tumble toward the grave and decay.
To our Western minds, however, the idea of “clean and unclean” are completely foreign. They seem to have nothing at all to do with us
They are simply leftovers of some ancient superstitions and taboos, embedded in the Old Testament.
As we read the Law of Moses, we begin to see that those laws of ritual purity are just a matter of “Us being us”—normal and commonplace —the ”basic stuff of human life and death.” Being “ceremonially unclean” is a completely normal part of the human condition from the cradle to the grave.
Don’t misunderstand: “uncleanness” is not sin; it is part of life. So why is it a problem? Actually, it poses no problem until we attempt to come into contact with the sparkling purity of God. It becomes trouble only when man and God want to have fellowship and communion. How can a holy God and an impure human co-exist? Man has always had to “purify himself” to come before Jehovah. In the Old Testament, “Purity” was so important that the priests spent half their time making their worship place (the tabernacle) pure enough that God would come and dwell there.
Almost every law of the Sanctuary was given to cause us to stay away from all forms of decay and corruption.
• For example, why was “fragrant cedar” used in building the tabernacle? Because that kind of wood resisted rot and decay.
• Why did the priests make their weekly bread offerings “unleavened”? To avoid corruption and spoiling.
• Why did they burn the leftover sacrificial meats with fire? Because all leftover meat, (unburned,) would putrefy.
The Priests went through detailed rituals—to purify—to prepare themselves for entering the holy Sanctuary.
If a person carried uncleanness into the Tabernacle, he might accidentally defile the altar or the Sanctuary. In the process, he would defile the holy place. If that happened, the entire sanctuary would be unfit for God’s habitation. Israel could not worship because everything was defiled in the sight of God. Today, it is still true: before an impure man can enter heaven, some sort of
purification is necessary. That is why the blood of Jesus (blood shed on the cross) is so vital for us. What that blood does is this: it takes impure, defiled sinners like you and me, and it purifies us. Thus, being made holy, we can boldly enter the presence of that pure God. That is called “being redeemed.”