In my attempt to read the Bible all the way through, cover to cover, I've read over 105 chapters in a month—50 chapters in Genesis, 40 Chapters in Exodus, and now 15 chapters in Leviticus. This is where I usually quit. It gets very difficult to read all of the laws given in litigious detail to Moses and Aaron. Chapter after Chapter God gives, in painstaking detail, his requirements for purifying his people.
10 “If his gift for a burnt offering is from the flock, from the sheep or goats, he shall bring a male without blemish, 11 and he shall kill it on the north side of the altar before the Lord, and Aaron's sons the priests shall throw its blood against the sides of the altar. 12 And he shall cut it into pieces, with its head and its fat, and the priest shall arrange them on the wood that is on the fire on the altar, 13 but the entrails and the legs he shall wash with water. And the priest shall offer all of it and burn it on the altar; it is a burnt offering, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. - Leviticus 1:10-13
14 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 15 “If anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of the Lord, he shall bring to the Lord as his compensation, a ram without blemish out of the flock, valued in silver shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, for a guilt offering. 16 He shall also make restitution for what he has done amiss in the holy thing and shall add a fifth to it and give it to the priest. And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven. - Leviticus 5:14-16
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, ‘If a woman conceives and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days. As at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. 3 And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 Then she shall continue for thirty-three days in the blood of her purifying. She shall not touch anything holy, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed. 5 But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her menstruation. And she shall continue in the blood of her purifying for sixty-six days.
6 “‘And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, 7 and he shall offer it before the Lord and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female. 8 And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.’” - Leviticus 12: 1-8
Sorry, that was a bit lengthy. But I believe you get the general idea. Pretty much every aspect of daily life—having sex, having a baby, having a period, making legal agreements, having a skin infection or dandruff, or even suffering from diharea or constipation—made the isrealites unclean. Furthermore, often God mandated that even the clothing they wore, the chairs they sat on, the beds that they slept in, and any person or item with which they came into contact while they were unclean also became unclean. In other words, since sin entered the world, mankind by his very nature / biology was sinful and dirty.
If you're at all like me, this will be the moment when that part of you that doesn't like thinking about yourself as innately evil will start protesting loudly. I think, "WAIT A SECOND! You're saying that my period, something completely out of my control and completely part of my most basic biology is innately "dirty" or irreverent? How can that be possible? Surely if God made me with a period he shouldn't punish me for having one! Besides, isn't that incredibly unfair?
I guess that means that there needs to be a distinction here about the kinds of dirty I believe Leviticus is dealing with:
Type One: Dirtiness that is out of place in the throne room of God -- I think this is the kind of stuff, to keep the metaphor consistent, that one would "clean up" before you met with the president of the Us or some other big someone X 1 billion. For instance, I wouldn't meet Obama in sweat pants and a tank top and flip flops. That would be disrespectful of his station as president and irreverent of my station as lowly US citizen. It's not that there is necessarily anything wrongwith sweat pants and flip flops; they are just so extraordinarily out of place under such special circumstances. The same goes for your wedding day, hence the atrocious TV shows devoted entirely to finding out the "perfect" wedding dress.
So bodily functions, and women in labor, and dandruff, though part of all of our lives, still should be "cleaned up" before meeting with God (Naturally, since Christ's death and resurrection, this laborious ritual has been ended, or more accurately ultimately completed, for us. Jesus satisfied all of the requirements of the law, fulfilling its purpose, and giving us credit for his perfection just as he took on our dirtiness and imperfection).
"he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit," - Titus 3:5
Type 2: This would be the traditional sin category. Yes, by nature I am, in fact, innately evil. I forget this all the time and have to keep pounding it into my stupid, stubborn head: "You are NOT GOOD. You never have been. You deserve death. Anything else is only a sign of the unimaginable grace and mercy of God."
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?" - Jeremiah 17:9
"For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen." - Romans 1:19 - 24
In other words, I am dirty; not just dirty, but guilty. I do the same sins every day, regardless of the obvious stuff (pride, quarreling, rebellion, anger, selfishness), I'm still guilty for continually, habitually, unthinkingly stealing God's glory for my own. I keep taking the delicious coffee he's given me out of love to show me his love for me and demonstrate his power and glory in making delicious coffee and I think, "Mm, good coffee!" (Notice the glaring lack of thankfulness to God for his gift. I don't even seem to notice that it is a gift. My twisted brain keeps thinking coffee is a fundamental human right.) So when I think all those things while reading Leviticus, such as "This is so UNFAIR," I'm actually right. It's unfair that God should want to talk to us at all, much less have community with us after how we've treated him, treat him, and will treat him until we finally return the breath that he gave us. It's crazy, actually, to think of this Holy, powerful, beautiful God, the creator of everything, the inventor of human thought and creativity and love, that he would want to have anything to do with us in our filth.
We're sitting around, throwing mud pies at each other, mud and filth dried in layers—a strata of our sin and self-egrandizement. But, like pigs, we're completely oblivious to our dirtiness. Our outrage at God's holiness, at his requirements to help us, for even a few short moments, attain cleanness before him, is similar to being confused about why everyone's getting upset after you throw tons of mud on the bride's wedding dress.
I don't "get" God's holiness in equal measure to how much I don't "get" my own sinfulness. The gulf between me and him seems vast, believe me, but it's obviously not looking vast enough if I think I deserve anything at all. Doesn't God have a right to keep himself holy? Isn't that a good and nobel thing for him to do?
So I'm left with this: I am so incurably proud. I forget so easily. I give him so little glory and love and thanks. In other words, I feel incredibly humbled and incredibly thankful that God would reveal to me my sin rather than just kill me and get it over with. What a great and loving God he is!