Purity: An OT perspective

You’re probably looking at the title and saying to yourself: “OT perspective?”  It doesn’t stand for “Old Timers” .  I’m going for the edgy and hip and to grab attention.  Is it working?  Probably not.  Oh, well.  Let me explain:  It’s an Old Testament perspective.   For me, I feel if I’m going to study what Purity is, I need to go back to the beginning, and that’s what we did last week by looking at what GOD’s idea of purity is/was at the birth of everything.   Today, I’m going to focus on Four individuals: Cain, Noah, Abraham, and Joseph.  It won’t be an exhaustive, in-depth study, but just snippets, moments in their lives in which, I believe, we can learn something about GOD’s ideal about purity.  We’ll also look at how Purity and integrity are inter-related, because to me, you can’t have one without the other and we’ll see that in the lives of the early Jewish Patriarchs.    Now, let me go on a brief rabbit trail for a moment and say, if you’ve never done a study on the patriarchs (i.e. Abraham, Noah, Isaac, etc, ya know the old testament heroes of the faith) I would highly suggest it.  It’s great drama, and a great example of men screwing up but GOD giving them grace.  If you want soap opera drama, man, you can find it in the book of Genesis.  It’s incredible.  BANG!!  Ok, rabbits dead, let’s move on and look at our first example: Cain.

Cain:

Cain was Adam and Eve’s first-born, and as most people know the story, he was also the first murderer.  In a jealous fit of rage, he killed his brother Abel.   It’s a pretty simple story to be honest, they both built alters to GOD, Cain brought fruit, because he was a farmer, Abel brought one of the best lambs from his flock and they both presented them as a sacrifice to GOD, however, in Genesis 4 it says that GOD accepted Abel’s sacrifice but didn’t really think too much of Cain’s offering, which made Cain Angry.  What’s interesting to me is the conversation Can Had with GOD, well, let’s look at it (NOTE:  This is from the Common Jewish Bible found on Biblegateway.com, I think it has an interesting perspective):

In the course of time Kayin brought an offering to Adonai from the produce of the soil; and Hevel too brought from the firstborn of his sheep, including their fat. Adonai accepted Hevel and his offering 5 but did not accept Kayin and his offering. Kayin was very angry, and his face fell. Adonai said to Kayin, “Why are you angry? Why so downcast? If you are doing what is good, shouldn’t you hold your head high? And if you don’t do what is good, sin is crouching at the door — it wants you, but you can rule over it.” Kayin had words with Hevel his brother; then one time, when they were in the field, Kayin turned on Hevel his brother and killed him.

Did you catch that in verse’s 6 & 7?  I placed in bold and underlined it just in case.  GOD said “If you don’t do what is good, sin is crouching at the door It wants you. Buy you can rule over it”   Sin is crouching at our doors.  It wants us.  It want’s to rule over us, it want’s to chain us to a past that we can’t get away from, and often, it wins because we give in to the “feels” and let it distort our perspective.  In Cain’s case, it won.  He became a killer and a fugitive.  When you read through Genesis 4, you’ll see that Cain repeats his parents sin by trying to be evasive with GOD.  In vs 9, GOD asked Cain where Abel was (GOD knew where Abel was, HE KNEW what had just happened, but HE wanted to see what Cain’s reaction and explanation was) and what was Cains reaction:  Am I my brothers keep?   He compounded his sin by trying to lie to GOD.  How often do we do this?  I know I have.  We try to justify or even ignore sin in our lives and when GOD confronts us with the consequences we’re like; “What, it’s not my fault” or “I don’t/didn’t Know”  or my favorite “but they did…..”.  With sin, it’s just best to be honest with GOD.  GOD knows our hearts, GOD knows…..period.  Confess it and own up to it, otherwise we won’t be able to move forward.   In Cain’s instance, his punishment was banishment and cursed to a lifetime of wandering and separation from GOD.  

Noah

It’s roughly 11 generations from Adam to Noah.  That’s roughly a couple thousand years if go back and look at Genesis 5, you’ll see that the average life span was between 700 and 900 years.   That blows my mind whether that’s true or some type of literary license, I’m not sure, but that just blows my mind.   Noah’s life and the account of the flood begins in Genesis 6, but we’re going to only look at a couple of verses that I think are really relevant to our study.  The first one is Genesis 6:5-12

The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

This is the account of Noah and his family.  Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.

1Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.

That’s pretty bad.  Every Inclination of the thoughts of the human heart were evil.    In the generations that followed, humans had gotten so far from the creator that HE regretted HIS creation of them.   That’s sad.  That’s heart breaking really.   Human beings, not just man, but Humans in general were so corrupted that GOD regretted making them/us and felt he had to start over.   However there was one man, Noah, who still walked faithfully, and by extension (i think this may be a generalization), we can assume that his sons followed the same path as their father.   What made Noah different from others?  The account states that he walked faithfully with GOD.  He acknowledged GOD and maintained a relationship with the creator, he didn’t try to deny or even try to replace the creator but he had a relationship with HIM.   I don’t know how corrupt the people of this time period were, but I would think this period of time is getting pretty close to the same parameters as that of the pre flood days.   So, what does this have to do with purity you may be asking?   There’s nothing that states or even mentions purity in this account.  It’s simple anything not pure is what?  CORRUPT.  It’s IMPURE.  The thoughts of their heart were evil, they were corrupt and full of violence.   That was so far removed from GOD’s concept of purity that GOD felt HE had to start over.   So, HE did, HE found one family worthy, and started over.  Were’ they perfect?  Nope, if you look further into Genesis 9, you’ll see that after the flood, some time goes by, Noah plants a vineyard, gets drunk, then loses his clothes and falls asleep naked in his tent.  His son Ham sees him, and tells his brothers, probably mockingly, that dad was drunk and naked.   Ham would probably be the type of son that today, would have taken a selfie with naked drunk dad and put it on instagram.

ABRAHAM

We won’t go through the entirety of Abraham’s life, that would be a fascinating study though because there’s a lot we can learn from him, but we’re going to focus on one instance in his life, and actually not even his, but his nephew Lot.  Everyone knows the story of Sodom and Gomorroh, but to really understand how this relates to the topic of purity we need to take a couple of steps back from the actual “event” of the destruction and look at everything that led up to it.  If you know the story of Abraham, you know that GOD called him out of UR and into the land of Canaan, where HE promised Abraham the land and that his children would be a great nation.  There’s also the part of going to Egypt during a famine and lying to the Pharaoh, but that’s a story for another day.  After Abraham and Lot left Egypt to go back to Canaan, when they arrived they experienced what any to large families/businessmen experience and that was competition between members/employees.  In Genesis 13 we see that Abraham made the decision that they should separate:

 1So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.

So, notice two things here.  1.  Lot chose to live “near” Sodom and 2. the people were wicked.   This chapter doesn’t identify what the “wickedness” actually was, but generally speaking when you say something is wicked, it usually pretty awful.  Which sets us up for our second observation of Abraham’s life which is found in Genesis 14:12

1They also carried off Abram’s nephew Lot and his possessions, since he was living in Sodom.

So, a bit of a change here.  In this instance, Sodom is raided by a group of opposing kings and Lot is taking captive.   The change from chapter 13?  He went from living near Sodom to living in Sodom.  Abraham went and rescued him and the rest of the hostages, but when the king of Sodom attempted to reward him he rejected any reward because he did not want to be associated with them or have it ever said that his wealth was in any way connected with Sodom.  That’s a little extreme, but I believe that Abraham knew what type of people Sodom was and wanted nothing to be tied to him.  He wasn’t judging them, because they had already proven that  they were wicked.  He was actually protecting himself and his name.  To me, his integrity was more important than accepting the “appreciation” of the King of Sodom.   Could we say the same?  Is my integrity more important than material gain/appreciation?  I hope so, but I’m not in the same situation Abraham was, so for me, I think it’s exceptional that Abraham took the stand that he did.

The last moment in Abraham’s life is the Sodom moment.   This is found in Genesis 18-19, and for the sake of space, I’ll just summarize.  In a nutshell, GOD comes to Abraham for, well, a chat.  He tells him He’s going to have a child in his old age, make of his line a great nation, and then GOD made a covenant with him, and, oh yeah, HE’s going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because they’re so evil.   Abraham, being the righteous man that he is, attempts to bargain with GOD, he starts off with asking if GOD could find just 50 righteous people and eventually bargains GOD down to 10 people.  If GOD could find a minimum of 10 righteous people HE would spare both cities.   GOD agrees, and sends his angels to check it out.   The Angels go down to the city and get there in the evening and who do they find sitting in the GATE (note:  In ancient times, this was a place of honor where men appointed by the leaders of the town helped to make judgments)?  Lot, Abraham’s nephew, so, in essence, Lot had gone from living near Sodom, to living in Sodom, and was on the city council.   Now, knowing what he knew of his city, he insisted on having the visitors come and stay with him at his house.   No sooner does he get them home, but soon a welcoming committee shows up and demands he bring out the visitors so that they can have sex with them…..and I doubt if they were too concerned if it was willing or not.   This is how far Sodom had gone down the path of wickedness.   Not only was homosexuality rampant and accepted, but rape would have been accepted as well. In addition to that, it is widely believed that infant sacrifice, temple prostitution, and a host of other things were prevalent in Sodom and Gomorrah and they were commonly recognized as evil places.  Let’s assume and hope that Lot, by living in Sodom and hoped to make a difference and change the culture, however, it seems that somewhere along the way he lost his moral compass because in trying to bargain with the men, he offered his two virgin daughters.  Well, let’s take a look at that conversation in Genesis 19: 4-10:

Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.

Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.

“Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.

WOW!  Ok, that is just a little out of hand.  The Genesis account states that the men were struck with blindness and Lot was rescued.   A further tragic footnote to this story is that before he fled the city, Lot tried to save his future sons in law, young men who were pledged to wed his daughters, they, well, here’s what happened:

14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry[f]his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

They thought he was joking.   Lot had so lost his moral compass that his sons-in-law thought he was joking.  Also, don’t overlook the fact that all Lot had to do was step outside to speak to them, so they were with the other men of the city.  That’s a tragedy in and of itself in that Lot was planning to marry his daughters to men of that kind of moral character.  So Lot fled, the city was destroyed, his wife looked back and was turned to Salt.   The tragic epilogue to this story is that because of Lot’s shame, he fled to a mountain cave with his two daughters and hid from the world.   The result of this is that his daughters, in a desire to have children, got their father drunk and slept with him and got pregnant and had sons.   The End.   Well, there’s more to Abraham’s life then this moment, and I highly suggest reading about it, but let’s wrap up this section on Abraham with a couple of observations:

  • When you flirt with corruption, you end up corrupted
  • Guard your integrity like Abraham, because if you lose your moral compass like Lot did, it’s nearly impossible to recover
  • Keep high standards for yourself and for your family and never compromise in that respect.  It is more important to be respected then approved of.   In this case, Abraham rejected a gift, yet Lot entertained the corrupt.

Joseph

I’ll be brief with Joseph, since his story is the most commonly told of Old Testament purity.   Joseph’s story can be found beginning in Genesis 30,I highly recommend reading through it because it’s fascinating.   We all know the story of Joseph.  Favorite son of Jacob, hated by his brothers, sold off to slavery in Egypt by his brothers, and bought by an official in The Pharaoh (king) of Egypt’s administration.   Now, it would be very easy for someone to get lost in bitterness and lose all hope and just give up and feel they’d been abandoned by GOD.   Joseph, well, he was made of different material then most.  Let’s take a look at what Genesis 39:2-6 says about him:

 The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household,and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.

Amazing.   That shows a high degree of integrity for a young man.   We’re not told how old he is at this point, but he was sold into slavery at the age of 17 or 18.  If you look at Joseph’s family tree, I kind of doubt that he learned it from his family.  After all, if you look at his father Jacob, well, Jacob was a bit of of a schemer and and a scammer.  His brothers, well, other than they fact that they sold him into slavery they weren’t the paragons of virtue either.  So, somewhere along the way, Joseph realized that his integrity was important, and was really the only thing that he could value.   He made a choice to be a man of integrity, and was blessed tremendously for it and not only was he blessed, but his employer/master was blessed as well.  That’s not to say that it was always easy or simple.   You see, it also brought him attention….unwanted attention in the form of his masters wife.   She noticed what a stud he was and she wanted him, and skipped over the jokes and innuendo and went straight to the point.  She wanted him to “sleep” with her….well, I kind of doubt sleeping would actually be involved in this transaction.   These days that would be considered sexual harassment.  What was his response to this?  Let’s take a look at Genesis 39:8-10:

But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. 

THAT TOOK A LOT OF GUTS!!!   It would be so easy to compromise.  So easy to secretly meet the boss’s wife for a tumble in the sack.  But at what cost really?   What was the result.  Long story short, she frames him, he ends up being thrown in jail.   So, he goes from being slave to prisoner.  Again, it would be easy to give up, but he doesn’t he maintains his integrity and soon, he’s practically running the day to day business of the prison.  It doesn’t happen immediately, but he has to prove himself and show that he’s trustworthy and honest.  To make a long story short, through a series of events and networking, Joseph finds himself second in command of Egypt, where he eventually is able to reunite with his family and heal the wound that had been open for 21 years.  Joseph had been in Egypt for 21 years and never lost sight of who he was and who it was that had gotten him to that point.   He stayed faithful even in the darkest times when it seemed he would be forgotten in a dark dungeon.  He believed that GOD would see him through and realized it was just a moment of his life.

The takeaway’s for Joseph’s life:

  • Value your integrity/purity, because sometimes that’s all you have
  • Be true to yourself and to GOD and never lose sight of the passion of your heart
  • Integrity/purity will make you shine even in the darkest of places.
  • Always be open to reconciliation for the hurts that life brings, Joseph wasn’t prepared for the ambush of seeing his brothers so unexpectedly, and you could probably say he played games with them, but he didn’t force reconciliation and let GOD set the timing for it.

OK, so there was a lot there.   It’s been a fascinating look at the historical perspective of Purity.   Next week we’ll dive into the Law of Moses, because it’s a bit more than the 10 commandments.   There’s two more sections in the Old Testament that we;re going to look at before we dive into the New Testament definition of purity.  The last two will be The Kings of Israel, and then the expulsion/return of Israel, but for now, I think we’ve reached an end point.  I know there was a lot covered and I hope it makes sense to you.  I’d welcome all/any comments and observations.

ll

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