When you set up your own home for first time, things can be a bit bewildering. Suddenly there is a whole new world to get to grips with. If you are used to someone else looking after everything there are many mysteries – How to read an electricity meter, safe ways to cook, best ways to clean… It’s really helpful if someone gives you some guidelines. I remember being given a book called ‘Tips and Wrinkles‘, one of those books that told you all the things you never knew you never knew.
In Leviticus, we have a nation who were used to wandering in desert, never staying anywhere long, living only on manna – provided for them. They are not used to keeping house, or having any choice of food to eat.
So ,Leviticus chapters 11-15 appears as a kind of Mrs Beaton’s Book of Household Management.Amongst all the instructions for holiness, the commands on what is clean and unclean, is some good common sense advice. They give a good basis for principles of hygiene and diet to a people who had never had to think of these things before in their nomadic life with little choices.
- Which foods are good to eat and which are not. The foods that are forbidden are the ones that might carry disease(11:1-20)
- After touching something “unclean” or a dead body, something we would recognise as contaminated, wash your hands and anything that has come into contact it (11:24-28)
- the risks of cross-contamination (11:39, 40) – and it is perfectly obvious to us not to eat anything that has died. Who knows what has struck it down, that may be passed on to anyone who eats it
- sensible suggestions for a woman after childbirth – even if we might not use the word “unclean”!! , we would recognise as giving a woman space and consideration after the birth of a child (Chapter 12)
- care of those with skin diseases (chapter 13). Many skin diseases are highly contagious, and could easily spread rapidly throughout the community. The Priest is charged with deciding what is what, as a doctor would today. To be pronounced ritually unclean seems harsh to us – to them it would have stopped the spread of disease. Not being in contact with other people was an easy way to stop that, and probably similar advice that would be given with any communicable disease today. It was not permanent exclusion, just until the ailment had healed.
- Advice on Mildew (13:47-59) fascinating stuff! Telling the difference between different types of mildew – which are serious and which don’t matter. Getting the Priest to make a judgement, burning where it is spreading to stop it spreading throughout the household or community and washing what can be saved to get rid of it.
- “Unclean bodily discharges” (chapter 15) – again wise advice to stop diseases spreading and basic bodily hygiene
The thing that probably puts us off all this stuff is the constant use of the word “unclean”, but we have to see that in their cultural understanding. They didn’t have bleach or antibiotics, so had to deal with these things in a way that made sense to them, and kept them safe from illness and threats to their health as a community.
So, far from being boring rules, Leviticus actually show God’s knowledge of what was best – long before we think we discovered things by science, and his love and care for them. There is lots of common sense for their community.
This is a God who cares – a God of the ordinary stuff.
- So what is God saying to the community of online people, a discovering community as we settle down? What housekeeping rules does he have for us?
- If the basis of all the rules is to preserve and maintain holiness, how are we to live that out as digital people?
- Are we challenged to discern between what is good and helpful, and what isn’t? What to partake of and what to leave alone? Learning to discern what is best in God’s love and care?
- What are the helpful tips we need to learn?