For the week of April 16, 2011 / 12 Nisan 5771
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 16:1 - 18:30
Haftarah: Malachi 3:4-24 (English: 3:4 - 4:6)
The Feel of Clean
For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. (Vayikra / Leviticus 16:30; ESV)
Do you enjoy the feeling of clean? You know, after working or playing hard on a muggy summer day and you finally have a nice long shower. There's nothing like that feeling of being free from the stickiness of sweat and dirt.
The Torah uses the terms unclean and clean to describe our state before God. The effect of sin in our lives makes us dirty in a very real sense. While this reality is not physical, but spiritual, it is no less real. Being dirty physically isn't bad in itself, yet it can prevent us from participating in certain situations. While grease and grime may be appropriate for a car mechanic at a service garage, it wouldn't do for that same person to be covered with dirt at his wedding. In the same way spiritual uncleanness makes us unfit to enter God's presence.
Our awareness or lack of awareness of being physically dirty is no indication of how dirty we may be. Human beings are quite adaptable and can get used to all sorts of things including dirt. Getting comfortable with dirt doesn't change the fact of dirt. It's the same spiritually. How aware we are of our uncleanness may or may not be an accurate reflection of our actual spiritual state.
The Torah assumes that human beings gets dirty spiritually, and provides cleansing through the sacrifices. This is a foreign concept for most of us today. In fact, we don't tend to think of ourselves as spiritually unclean. But this is the very reason for our alienation from God. Due to sin, we are unfit to be in God's presence, which in turn undermines human existence in every way.
Yet spiritual cleansing as prescribed by the Torah was only a partial solution in that it only maintained the Old Covenant Temple ritual by allowing the people to participate in the religious affairs of the nation. It never really made the people fit to be in God's presence. It actually served as a reminder of how terribly dirty we really are.
Pesach (English: Passover) is almost upon us for another year. When Yeshua celebrated his last Pesach with his disciples, he washed their feet to demonstrate among other things the type of humble attitude we should have toward each other. As he was about to wash Peter's feet, Peter understandably reacted to the Messiah's performing the function of a common servant. Once he understood that this was essential for him to be truly part of the Messiah's life and mission, he asked that Yeshua might also wash his head and hands. To this Yeshua made a most profound pronouncement. He said to Peter "Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you" (John 15:3; ESV). While it is still necessary to deal with the uncleanness of daily living, signified by the need of foot washing, Peter was basically clean. Peter was clean but didn't know it. He didn't feel clean. He thought he was still dirty.
Do you feel dirty? Unlike physically cleansing, spiritual cleanness isn't naturally and automatically felt. But if you, like Peter, have turned to Yeshua as your Master and Messiah, then you, like Peter, are clean. Ah, the feel of clean!
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