Leviticus 15:31 (HCSB)
31 “You must keep the Israelites from their uncleanness, so that they do not die by defiling My tabernacle that is among them.
Well, I’ve avoided writing on the pericope for a while now. I’ve read it a number of times, and each time I just sit and stare at the screen instead of writing something. I’ve read a few commentaries about it, some much more in depth than others, and still have not written. But, today I finally am going to tackle it.
This pericope is, on first glance, concerned with bodily emissions and discharges, specifically from the genitals: semen from men, menstruation for women, as well as other discharges from both. But, after reading this so many times, I think the real crux of the pericope is in the final verses, specifically Leviticus 15:31: keeping the tabernacle clean and holy.
There is certainly a difference in the treatment of these conditions as opposed to many of the previous actions and conditions. For instance, here, a normal discharge, of semen or menstruation, seems to simply require time and cleansing to be clean again. And even in the event of an apparent abnormal discharge, the additional sin and burnt offerings are relatively meager, consisting of a bird each. Also, it is worth noting that contact is required for others to become unclean. And inanimate things underneath the person are generally what becomes unclean in the case of a menstruating woman, or touch, which result s in the need for washing in the case of a man with an emission. So it is that even during the periods of uncleanliness, men and women can still apparently perform their daily routines, but with a mind towards the few limitations and ramifications and need for cleanliness. This suggests again that these conditions are not as “serious” as some others.
Considering this, it seems to me that the focus then is not really on the uncleanliness, or sin, of the person, but on the requirement to keep the tabernacle holy and clean. After all, the tabernacle, as we know, is where God dwells among His people, so it should be holy and clean. It is where everyone comes to be cleansed, so if the tabernacle is defiled, it would make sense that it might be “less effective” in serving that role. So ultimately we are pulled away from focusing on ourselves, and reoriented on God and His holiness, which is where our focus should be all the time.
Lord, thank You for being so gracious! Even when it comes to natural bodily functions, even those that would defile and make us unclean, You have a plan, and You lead us back to You and righteousness. Help us not to keep our focus on ourselves, and not to over react to certain things that may be uncomfortable or misconstrued, but to orient our focus on You. Amen.