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God's holiness and Numbers (3)

Israel’s purity/holiness code as it related to food, clothing, agriculture, civil matters, sexual matters, bodily functions, diseases, and dead bodies seems as strange and foreign to us as the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology. But unlike Greek mythology, which was the product of speculative ignorance, the purity code was given by God. Therefore, even though it's fashionable for those unfamiliar with Scripture to mock Israel’s inability to eat BBQ or play football (see Leviticus 11:7-8), there was nothing arbitrary or random about these regulations. They represented important realities that were ultimately connected to God Himself.

A good place to begin in unpacking these laws is to think about the purpose of the code. The holiness code was meant to promote wholeness on Israel’s part. It reminded them that every area of their life belonged to God. How they treated people, the crops they farmed, what they ate and drank—these things and more were under Yahweh’s gracious oversight. No one in Israel was excluded from these laws. This was in concert with what Yahweh told the nation at Sinai—that they were to be a kingdom of priest and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6). They were to be representative of God Himself to the surrounding nations in keeping with His creation purpose for humanity to image Him.

Another purpose of the code was to remind Israel that the holiness of God was the basis for their holiness/wholeness. We see this in the principle that the closer in proximity to the tabernacle and the presence of God a person was (i.e., the Levite, the priest, the high priest), the greater the purity/holiness requirement. As such, it (God's holiness) was foundational, and violation of it usually resulted in catastrophic consequences. Nadab and Abihu’s death, the Philistines' experience with the ark of the covenant, King Uzziah’s leprosy, and Uzzah’s death all bear witness to what happened when God’s holiness was violated at the fundamental level.

But none of this explains the rationale behind the specific laws that are found in the code that seem so arbitrary to us. Why were some animals clean and others unclean—weren’t they all created by God? Why couldn’t they breed two different kinds of animals, plant two different kinds of seed, or wear clothing made from two different kinds of material (Leviticus 19:19)? Why was a priest with a disability or physical defect forbidden from presenting a sacrifice at the altar (Leviticus 21:16-23)? Taken out of context, this all makes God appear to be incredibly arbitrary. 

Unless He had some higher purpose in mind we haven't picked up on . . . 

God's holiness and Numbers (4)

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