Leviticus 14:32 (HCSB)
32 This is the law for someone who has a skin disease and cannot afford the cost of his cleansing.”
This pericope deals with the cleansing of a person who has been infected with a skin disease. Where the previous section on skin disease was focused on the identification, and pronouncement, of the disease, we now see the detailed steps taken to be cleansed of it.
As a whole, the text seems to combine elements of a few of the previously described offerings. There is the symbolic bird that is released, presumably representative of the sin, or ailment, flying away. There are burnt and restitution offerings. And there is the dabbing of blood, and oil, on the ear, thumb, and toe of the one being cleansed. And of course there are again time limits when things occur, just as when the disease is first determined.
But among all this, I find two things that stand out:
- God provides an alternate set of procedures for anyone who “is poor”. This may not seem like a big deal, but I think it is. To me, it seems to shift the focus off of the sin of man a bit, and move it to the mercy of God. It takes it from a ritual performance where some specific set of steps must be done in order to satisfy the whim of a god, to God moving the bar closer to our ability so that we might be cleansed and made right with Him. It flies in the face of the image of an angry, exacting god somewhere, happy to pour misery on us for some fleeting pleasure of his own. Instead, we see a God that, despite our sin and failures, is willing to meet us closer to where we are, so that He can make us right and pull us up. To be sure, there is still a cost, but God expects what we are able, through Him, to do.
- Leviticus 14:32 has this specific phrasing in many of the English translations: “cannot afford”. That word “cannot” screams at me. My first thought goes to Christ, and the fact that I am unable to pay the price for my sin, and it required Him coming to earth, living a sinless life, and dying on the cross, to do so. Perhaps I am reading into it, and the true meaning behind the verse is much more benign and just refers to the financial means of someone afflicted. But the truth is that none of us are equipped and able to pay the cost of our cleansing. Even for the one who can afford the normal sacrifice, Leviticus 14:20 says, “The priest will make atonement for him.” The priest is God’s appointed person to mediate… in a way like Jesus is the final mediator and sacrifice for all.
Lord, thank You for meeting us where we are, and providing a path to atonement and right standing with You. I pray that we would always strive to meet You, doing all in our power, provided by You, to come to You. And ultimately, we know that Jesus is the One who restores us, and we will always fall short on our own. Amen.