It’s been two weeks since I last posted, man, I’ve been slacking. Not really though, life has all of a sudden gotten really busy for me. I’ve gone from having too much time on my hands to practically having no time. I’ve started my EMT-Basic class finally, and that meets on Monday and Thursday and every other Saturday, I have a Wednesday night Bible study with friends from Lifepoint Church Culpeper, Friday nights I’ll be starting a life group with my church (Mt VIew Community Church), and then every other Wednesday I have counseling, as well as work every other weekend. I think I may also be starting to help with my church’s youth ministry small groups on Tuesday nights, and if things work out possibly helping with Mt View’s youth group on Sunday nights. MAN!!! That’s a lot going on….I’ve had to cut back on a couple of things as well, so we’ll see if I need to cut some other things out. Additionally, yesterday was the 1 year anniversary of me starting my ministry hiatus. I had planned on doing a big blog commemorating it and doing a “what-I’ve-learned-this-year” type thing, and then I realized it was unnecessary and irrelevant. I say that because what happened doesn’t define me and should not be celebrated. I made a mistake, there were consequences, life moves forward, and I think it would be a case of celebrating the failure. Anyway, it’s irrelevant in that I also don’t have contact with the old church (which, by the way is a good church with good people and good youth program, I just had a bad experience) and that’s kind of by choice of everyone involved I think, at least that’s my perception. I’m still facebook friends with a lot of people, but actual friends that say, “hey, let’s hang out”, there’s one, but for the most part, like anyone that changes church’s the friendships in the old church are left at the wayside. Anyway, my goal is to move forward with life and make this next year better and be more involved in my new church and involved in my community. Now, let’s see what we can learn about Purity.
The last blog dealt with how GOD defined purity in the lives of 4 old testament characters, Cain, Noah, Abraham, and Joseph, and how GOD laid the groundwork for the concept of purity in the lives of believers. This blog will take a look at THE LAW and how GOD used it as the defining standard for PURITY in the life of the Children of Israel. Let’s dig in.
The 10 Commandments are considered the gold standard when it comes to the formation of basic law practices, but they’re not the full Jewish Law. The 10 Commandments are the base of the Law, but THE LAW encompassed so much for Israel. When you look at Exodus 19-40, as well as the book of Numbers, you’ll see that GOD laid out exactly what HIS standards were and they were exhaustive in the breadth of the life of Israel. The Jewish law code dealt with everything from adultery to zero tolerance for rape (get it: A-Z). GOD even planned out what it meant for purity within the camp as the Children of Israel traveled from Egypt to The Promised Land. So the question of the day is: How does this relate to GOD’s definition of Purity? Well, that can be found in GOD’s conversation with Moses in Exodus 19:
3 Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you[a] will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
There, do you see it, (I mean the bold, italicized, underlined portion)? “If you obey me fully….” and then “…you will be my treasured possession”. The Common Jewish BIBLE translates it as: “5 Now if you will pay careful attention to what I say and keep my covenant, then you will be my own treasure from among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine;“. I like that translation better for some reason. Purity is about obedience, not because GOD is going to punish us and bring the hurt down on us if we disobey, it’s about obedience because HE treasures us. I don’t think Israel truly grasped what that meant, for that I matter I don’t think we quite grasp what that means…heck, I can’t grasp what that means. To be treasured is to be valued far above normal currency, it is your deep deepest desire. That’s how GOD feels about us, HE treasures us, so because HE treasures us, HE want’s what’s best for us. A life of Purity is not about limiting us or shackling us to some human idea of puritanical virtue, or a set of unrealistic BIBLICAL expectations, it’s about giving us freedom from the things that would shackle us to a lifetime of regret and virtual slavery. Exodus 19 even gives us an example of man shackling us to unrealistic expectations. In vs.’s 10-13, God gives Moses specific instructions on what to tell the people and how they should prepare to meet GOD when HE comes to Mt Sinai. Moses goes to the people, relays the instructions, and then adds a little something. What did he add, you may wonder. Well, it’s found in vs.15: “15 Then he said to the people, “Prepare yourselves for the third day. Abstain from sexual relations.”. Ummm…..I really don’t think GOD said anything about abstaining from sexual relations, so Moses threw in a little extra requirement, probably with good intentions, but still GOD didn’t make that requirement, a human did. I’m going to jump on a bit of a rabbit trail and also jump ahead for a moment, but I think we need to put sex and purity into context. GOD made sex. God made sexual relations between men and women, that was the point of Adam and Eve. Man and woman. One man one woman, preferably for a lifetime. Monogamy….marriage….sex….do you see the connection? GOD instituted sex for two people for a lifetime. Sorry to break it to you kids, but GOD’s ideal is sex for marriage, not sex for hook ups or for that “special person”. But we’ll get to that in time.
So how did this covenant with the people go from a promise to cherish, to some monolithic “obey-the-rules-or-GOD-will-hate-and-punish-you” outlook? Well, simply, we did it. We, as in man/human beings started interpreting it from their own points of view and started “adding” little conditions to it. What were the conditions of the covenant in Exodus 19: Obey and treasure. They obey, GOD treasures. To treasure means to protect, along with protect comes provide, that’s a written in stone promise…..literally. We can sit here centuries past and criticize the Jews for complicating it, but we do the same with our relationships with GOD. We choose religion over promise and seek to control the parameters of our relationship with GOD, and that includes what PURITY means as a Christian. Christ pointed this out in Matthew 23, the whole chapter deals with 7 woes to the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees. The whole chapter is a condemnation of Religion without relationship with the creator. There are two key verses (at least for me, to be honest, the whole chapter can be a key verse, but I’m only going to focus on two) in this chapter that I want to look at:
15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
Ok, that’s three verses. Religion without relationship focuses on the outside, not the inside and that’s what happens when man seeks to dictate the parameters of purity. Purity, according to man looks vastly different then purity according to GOD. Purity from GOD’s point of view is freedom within the relationship because of a desire to be treasured by the ONE who will protect and provide, purity from man’s point of view is restriction because of a fear of retribution and guilt. Somehow, what GOD intended to bring us freedom has been warped into a belief that purity is about rules, restrictions, and guilt. Islam does this by requiring women to wear the hijab, and they say it gives them freedom. The freedom that GOD wants is freedom of the heart, not an enforced, restrictive, conditional, requirement loaded religion that seeks to control people through guilt and fear. Christianity has a tendency to do the same thing. Westboro Baptist is a big example of this. The GOD that they portray when they stand outside of veterans funerals, or anyplace they picket, isn’t the GOD of the Bible. Man’s idea of purity is restriction through guilt, GOD’s idea of purity is obedience out of love. It’s about saying to ourselves: “Ok, I see why you say don’t because it’s for my own souls protection”. GOD wants what’s best for us because HE treasures us, not because HE wants to control us.
I’ve got one more OT perspective before we dig into what New Testament Covenant purity is. I hope this made sense to you and maybe even stepped on your toes a little. I promise I won’t take two and half weeks before I post again.