“You must keep the Israelites separate from things that make them unclean, so they will not die in their uncleanness for defiling my dwelling place, which is among them.” Leviticus 15:31
I always explained sin separating us from God as God being holy and so He couldn’t be around sin. The reason for Jesus purifying us from our sin was to bridge the gap between us and God since our sin made it impossible to be near Him. Now this verse paints a different picture. And I wonder if it is a different approach to the Gospel, or if it applies to us after we become Jesus followers. Honestly, because of who the Israelites are, and what is going on, to me it seems to apply more to believers. Either way, there are a couple of significant differences to how I thought about it. For starters, the Israelites could defile where God dwelled. Meaning it was possible to be near Him while being unclean. Second, the reason God made ceremonies to clean them was so they would not die. Not because they were unclean, but they would die because they defiled God’s dwelling place. As much as I would like to say that this is the Old Testament God and so I don’t have to worry about it, the Bible makes it clear that God doesn’t change. So defiling His dwelling place is still a very serious offense.
First in this comes the idea that we are capable of defiling God’s dwelling place. In my original explanation of the Gospel, God (and the area around Him) is unable to be defiled because sin can’t get close to Him. Now it isn’t clear in this verse if death was immediate if you tried to enter the tabernacle while being unclean. But either way, the consequence was for defiling God’s dwelling place, which means it was possible to defile.
Secondly, the reason for God to help the Israelites remain clean was to keep them from the consequence of defiling God’s dwelling place. It was about the Israelites, but it wasn’t making them clean just for the purpose of them being clean. It was to save them from the consequence of defiling God’s dwelling place.
Now, one of the things that is challenging for me in this verse is that I was never really aware of defiling God’s dwelling place as a sin, let alone such a serious one. But this is the Old Testament, does it matter to me? I think so yes. I think the first thing that is of great importance is that God takes the defilement of the things associated with Him very seriously, specifically where He dwells. So I need to be aware of it as a possibility. But if there is no longer the tabernacle, can I defile God’s dwelling place? Well, to answer that we have to ask another question, where is God’s dwelling place now? As believers, we are. Which is different in one big way- there is not just one location I have to be careful around. If we as believers are God’s dwelling place than I can defile His dwelling place in me, but I can also defile His dwelling place in you. There are two different things I see defiling God’s dwelling place in me or you does. First, it lessensthe quality of the dwelling place for that person and second it lessens the impact of that person.
When we have been defiled, either by our own choices or be someone else’s, the quality of our communion with God is diminished. I hope you haven’t, but I have experienced both. And they both do the same thing, they put a hinderance between me and God. Sometimes it’s sin, sometimes it’s forgiveness. But that uncleanness blocks the quality of my interaction.
The second thing it does is lessen that person’s impact. If I have some kind of defilement in my life, it changes my witness. God’s dwelling place looks dirty, and it reflects on Him. If I don’t take out the trash and let it pile up- or let other people dump their trash in my house- people that see my house would question the quality of my impact as a mother.
I wonder what trash I’m walking around with….
Tomorrow’s Reading: Leviticus 16-18