Stay Clean, Don’t Move, Touch, Taste, Or Handle Anything!

Clean or unclean sounds like something from a laundry commercial or a floor cleaning product demonstration. Clean means repeated effort. My unclean car results from my limited determination to keep it clean consistently.

Both Ed and I had mothers who felt cleanliness was next to godliness. Ed feels the phrase is from the Bible, but I assured him that the phrase is not there, but the concept is expressed in the Bible. For Hebrew people in the Old Testament, cleanliness was part of their faith life. The standards concerning cleanliness touched every aspect of their lives.

According to Old Testament Law, animals were either clean or unclean based on their suitability for sacrifice and eating. Places, things, and people could be ceremonially clean or unclean. A person could become unclean for numerous reasons. Those who became ceremonially unclean were separated from worship at God’s temple. Any person or thing that they touched was made unclean as well.

God set his chosen people, Israel, apart from all other nations. The Lord said to Aaron, “Among those who approach me I will show myself holy.” (Leviticus 10:3) Also, the Lord told Aaron, “This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean.” (Leviticus 10:10) Distinguishing between animals, practices, and clean and unclean conditions was an essential part of maintaining Israel’s relationship with a Holy, sinless, God.

The Jewish emphases on clean and unclean distinguished them from other nations and was a reminder of their sin and God’s holiness. Ceremonial uncleanness was resolved by cleansing and purification. They understood that God is holy, and He requires cleanliness in those who approach Him in worship at His temple.

In the New Testament, the Pharisees were scrupulous in making distinctions between clean and unclean. In Mark chapter 7, the Pharisees questioned Jesus because they saw some of his disciples eating food with unclean hands, meaning that they had not given their hands a ceremonial washing. Jesus accused the Pharisees of honoring God with their lips, but their hearts were far from God. They were worried about outward appearances. Jesus made it clear that people were not defiled by the food they put in their mouths but by what comes out of their mouths.  What is in their hearts is shown by what comes out of their mouths. Food eaten goes into a person’s stomach and then is eliminated out of the body.

Jesus said, “Nothing outside a man can make him unclean, by going into him. Rather, what comes out of a man makes him unclean.” (Mark 7:15) The Pharisees could make sure they avoided ceremonial uncleanness by the ceremonial washing of their hands before eating.  However, that did not mean their hearts were wiped clean of evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly. These evils come from inside a person to make them unclean. (Reference: Mark 7:20-23)

Jesus was on earth to overcome our innate sinfulness/uncleanness. His purity was greater than our impurity. Jesus loved us and washed us from our sins in his blood. (Revelation 1:5) We have been made holy through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)

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