Leviticus 14-15; Psalm 34
So far in Leviticus, we've explored the intricate rituals and rules that define the Israelites' relationship with God. The book begins with detailed instructions on ritual sacrifices. Each served a unique purpose in affirming their commitment to God.
These include the Burnt Offering, Grain Offering, Peace Offering, and Sin Offering. The latter was exclusively for unintentional sins.
We then read through the ordination of priests, their preparation for service. This was followed by Aaron's two sons deviating from the script and doing things their own way, leading to their death. This event served as a reminder of the seriousness of choosing God's way over our own.
The focus then shifts to ritual purity, starting with dietary laws. Certain animals, considered ritually unclean, were forbidden. This wasn't due to health concerns but because of their symbolic impurity. This theme of purity then extended to the rules around childbirth.
A birth takes a lot out of a woman, so they were forced to withdraw from society for a period of time. This was seen as a recovery period. A time to regain wholeness before re-entering God's presence.
We read as skin diseases are also addressed. They served as a metaphor. They show the spread and impact of sin and the need for purification. Being whole and pure had nothing to do with character or moral standing. Living in a fallen world meant at times God's people were contaminated or lacking. The important part is that God made a way to address these so that we could enjoy his presence. This is where we pick up today.
Carrying on from yesterday’s reading, we get the instructions for what to do once someone is clear of a skin disease.
Next is a very similar process for what to do if someone has a disease, a mould or fungus, growing in their house. Just like leprosy, this is another clear metaphor for how sin works.
Again, just like sin, mould will contaminate a space and then spread uncontrollably unless dealt with. God really wants to drill down into his people to do everything you can to deal with a disease so it doesn’t spread. In the same way, we are to do everything we can to deal with sin so it doesn’t spread.
We can actually see the Bible make the link between the two even clearer. In both the case of the skin disease and the house disease, the key part is mentioned in the cleaning ritual.
In both cases they are to be cleansed by hyssop, basically a small branch (Leviticus 14:6-7, 51). Later on in the Bible we get Psalm 51. This is a famous Psalm of Repentance, apologising for and turning away from your sin.
The story behind it is King David has slept with another man’s wife, got her pregnant, then killed the man and married the woman to cover up his mistake. Having realised what he’s done, he comes to God and repents. He then says this line, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalms 51:7).
David could see how his sin had contaminated him, just as much as a skin disease or as mould would. And so he asks for the only thing he knows that can cleanse a contamination hyssop dipped in animal blood.
Fortunately we don’t need hyssop dipped in animal blood, because we have Jesus’ blood shed on the cross. But the point still applies to us. Just like when we have a disease, or cancer, we recognise we need to deal with it so it doesn’t spread, that’s how we need to view our sin.
Finally, we get rules for men and women with discharges of bodily fluid. Again, this is just to reinforce the idea of being spiritually clean if we want to enter God’s presence. God didn’t want to mix sex with worship with him.
We’ve mentioned before how the other nations would come to worship and give sacrifices and then have sex because they thought it pleased their gods. That is not the case with the God of Israel. There were also times when an unexpected discharge was caused by disease or illness, so again that needed to be dealt with before they could come before God.
In short, the last seven chapters have all been about making clear the point God wants you to be clean and pure before him. In the Old Testament, that was achieved through animal sacrifice. In the New Testament that is achieved by Jesus’ death and resurrection and our continual submission to him.
This psalm fits into the category of thanksgiving psalm. It is attributed to king David and to a specific occasion, though there’s some debate over what it means.
In 1 Samuel 21:10-15 we have a story of David escaping Israel on the run from Saul. Upon entering the land of Gath, some people point out that David is an important leader from Israel and could be useful to them.
Realising the danger he might be in, David pretends to be mad, and the king, Achish, wants nothing to do with him. The problem with this is that Psalm 34 specifically mentions that David did this before ‘Abimelech’, the name of his son.
It may be that David pulled this same trick with his son, or that the Achish went by two names. Either way, 1 Samuel 21:10-15 gives us an idea of the kind of context this psalm has come from.
The psalm is structured in an acrostic, where each verse begins with a different letter of the alphabet.
Psalm 34:1-3 - I will bless the Lord
Psalm 34:4-7- The Lord rescues those who call out to him
Psalm 34:8-10 - Seek the Lord, taste and see that he is good
Psalm 34:11-14 - Advice to pursue good and avoid evil
Psalm 34:15-18 - The Lord is toward the righteous and against the wicked
Psalm 34:19-22 - The Lord will redeem the righteous and condemn the wicked
The psalm opens with a call to praise God with the psalmist. They shall praise him continuously, at all times.
We then find out why the psalmist wants to praise God, because they sought the Lord and he answered. Blessed are those who seek God, because he will rescue and deliver them.
The psalmist then encourages others to seek God. Taste and see that he is good. Seek him with appropriate fear. They offer guidance and wisdom. This is a logical progression as in Hebrew thinking “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). The wisdom the psalmist offers is to avoid evil and pursue good.
The reason for this is that God is for those who are righteous, but he is against those who do evil. When the righteous cry out for help, he hears and delivers them. He cares for those who are broken hearted.
The psalmist then ends with and encouragement. Though it may feel like your struggles, your affliction are many, God will deliver you from them all. In fact, the wicked that oppress you will one day get what they deserve, but God will redeem you.
From this psalm we are reminded of the fact we are to seek God and pursue righteousness. When we do these things, God will redeem and rescue us.
Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.