The following instructions are for those seeking ceremonial purification from a skin disease… [The priest] will perform a purification ceremony, using two live birds that are ceremonially clean… The priest will order that one bird be slaughtered over a clay pot filled with fresh water… When the priest has purified the person, he will release the live bird in the open field to fly away. (Leviticus 14:2-7)
Relate: Yay! We get to read about ceremonial cleansing. Nothing is more interesting than ceremonial cleansing. Sigh. Infectious skin diseases and moldy houses, I am just so… yawn… excited to get to read and now to write about such life changing and personally relevant material. Please excuse the sarcasm dripping from my lips.
Is anybody there with me? How many times have I read my way through Leviticus and Numbers with an attitude of, “Just bite down and endure it.” I’ve got a through the Bible in a year program I must get through, and by golly, I’m gonna do it no matter how droopy my eyelids get for chapters on end. Please, please, somebody tell me I am not alone in this. The thing is, if only I were to slow down and listen, I can see how even in the middle of a segment on rashes and mold, God is providing a blueprint for my freedom. Just look at it: The man comes to the priest. That priest takes two birds. The first one he kills and then he sprinkles its blood on the other bird and on the man before him. The second bird is set free. The man shaves everything and bathes. He is once again a part of the community but he cannot return home for a week. After a week, he returns to the priest, shaves again, washes again, and now is able to return home.
React: Two birds. One dies and the other is set free. The death of one purchases the freedom of the other, and the man. In the same way, Christ’s death purchased my freedom. He/we have officially been made clean. Normally in evangelical circles, that is where the story stops. Being born again should not be the end, but rather the beginning of the story. God has told us to go and make disciples, but we get so caught up in making converts that we drop the ball and so many of these newborn babies are slipping through the cracks.
After he has been covered in the blood, the man must shave everything and go wash in the river. The shaving is symbolic of removing everything from our past and getting a fresh start while the river… that’s baptism. When a Nazarite would begin their vows, they would shave their head before letting their hair grow long. (Yes, Sampson was supposed to be a Nazarite) In the same way, a person becomes free through the blood of Christ but they still have a responsibility to personally (shave) and publically (wash) commit to this new life.
When this has been done, the ceremonially cleansed individual would be allowed once again to participate in the life of the community. The two Greek words used for the early church literally mean community (ekklesia) and participation in fellowship (koinonia). When a person enters into a relationship with Christ, they also enter into a relationship with His church. The former is not possible without the latter. I have always hated the cliche’ “personal relationship” because it simply is not possible. We cannot have a growing relationship with God if we are not a part of the community of the church.
After spending a period of time in the community, the individual must then return to the priest to be examined one more time. He must demonstrate that his healing, that his cleansing, has “stuck”. Then and only then may he return home. In a way this is what I was talking about yesterday in Returning Home Different. So there you have it. Right here in the middle of rashes and moldy homes, God has provided a blueprint for us on how we can get free and stay free. His concern, His love for us is so overwhelming.
Through Your shed blood, I can fly free. God, I am so thankful. No words are adequate to express my gratitude. Help me to live in the freedom You have purchased for me. Help me to participate in the community You have established for me. For us. I am a part of the fellowship of the redeemed, let that fellowship, that community… that love shine through in all of us.