Leviticus explores what it means for Israel to transition from dirty, to his holy people. What is it that really makes a person dirty?
Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”
After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
In the book of Exodus, God redeems the people of Israel to be his special people. He brings them out of slavery and leads them on a journey to a new land, to be a new nation living under God. The book of Leviticus starts to explore what it means for them to be “Holy” or “set apart”. It outlines what it means for them to live as God’s special people under his rule.
To me, Leviticus is a hard read. There are many long lists of specific rules and laws the people are to obey. Things like not letting diseased people inside the camp (chap 13), specific instructions to clean mouldy houses (chap 14), or eating certain animals such as bearded vultures or camels (chap 11). Doing these things ‘defiled’ the people of Israel and made them unclean. God wanted them to live differently. He wanted them to transition from unclean, to his holy, special and clean people.
While the rules and laws in Leviticus seem strange to me, they weren’t for Israel. As part of their culture they already understood these things as unclean. God was painting them a picture of moving from unclean to clean through instructions to leave what they already understood to be unclean culturally. It was a picture of what should be happening in their hearts, leaving behind worship of idols to worship the one true God.
Jesus unpacks this more in the passage from Mark 7. He explains how these external things were never what made a person ‘clean’ or ‘unclean’, but instead what comes out of a person’s heart. The ‘pictures of uncleanness’ in Leviticus were just that, pictures. The uncleanness of human hearts ruled by sin was (and still is) the real problem, and only Jesus’ death on the cross can deal with it. God’s aim in sending Jesus to die for us wasn’t to adhere us to rules, but to transform our hearts to beat for him.
Head: Can you see how the rules and regulations in Leviticus are ‘pictures of uncleanness’?
Heart: Can you recall a time recently when you’ve felt dirty? Praise God that Jesus has died for our sin!
Hands: Is there anything that jumps out at you from the list in Mark 7 that might change the way you relate with others today?
Prayer: Thankyou Jesus for dying on the cross to bring us forgiveness. Our hearts stray far from you and we feel the guilt and shame of having hurt others, ourselves and you. Thank you that you wash us clean to be your holy people, and equip us with your Spirit to help us live lives that honour you. Please help me today to relate with others in a way that shows my heart for you and reflects your love. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
A song to listen to: It’s not enough
This Grow Daily was originally posted as part of The Jesus in series in 2016. During the School Holidays we take the opportunity to look back at the best of Grow Dailys over the years.