Bamidbar (Numbers) 4:21-7:89
This week’s reading introduces us to a sometimes-difficult concept to understand in the Tanakh (Hebrew scriptures), which is “clean versus unclean”. The Lord instructs the Children of Israel to send away those who were unclean from the camp:
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Command the sons of Israel that they send away from the camp every leper and everyone having a discharge and everyone who is unclean because of a contact with a dead person. “You shall send away both male and female; you shall send them outside the camp so that they will not defile their camp where I dwell in their midst.”” Numbers 5:1-3
There are a few key points that we can learn from the above verses. The first one is that God alone defines what is clean and what is unclean. Why is this an important concept to understand and accept? Well, we live in a day and age where people (including many who follow the One and only true God) are willing to compromise on what God has defined as unclean. They claim that it is “in the name of love,” yet my friends, true love often requires us to speak things that are difficult for others to hear. We must always speak the truth in love, and without judgment, but we cannot ever compromise on the truth itself. Yeshua was our perfect example of this! He was so tender and compassionate in His way with the “lost sheep”, but He never compromised the truth of His message.
This leads me to my second point. In His great compassion, Yeshua actually healed many who were considered “unclean.” He did not indulge them, but rather offered them healing and freedom from their torment, and He did it with so much love! He alone heals the outcast – the sinner – and cleanses them so that they can have entrance to the Kingdom.
In Matthew 8:1-4 we read of the healing of the men who had leprosy:
“And when He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came to Him, and bowed down to Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” And He stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus *said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and present the offering that Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.”” Matt 8:1-4
Please do not miss the significance in the fact that Yeshua physically touched the leper! Jewish laws of cleanliness forbid this, but He proved His power and might in putting healing above the rules.
And in Luke 8:43-48, we read of the healing of the woman who was bleeding:
“And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years, and could not be healed by anyone, came up behind Him, and touched the fringe of His cloak; and immediately her hemorrhage stopped. And Yeshua said, “Who is the one who touched Me?” And while they were all denying it, Peter said, “Master, the multitudes are crowding and pressing upon You.” But Yeshua said, “Someone did touch Me, for I was aware that power had gone out of Me.” And when the woman saw that she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed. And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”” 8:43-48
Yeshua could have become very angry that this “unclean” woman touched Him, thereby potentially making Him unclean as well. And she knew this, which is why she came to Him trembling. But instead He answers her with so much compassion, even to the point of calling her “daughter.”
I want to briefly touch on the statute forbidding someone to touch a dead person. The Hebrew is very interesting, in that it is actually referring to a person’s soul as well as body. In the verses from Numbers 5 that I quote above, “dead body” is a translation of the Hebrew term, “Tame Nefesh” – “Tame” meaning “unclean” and “nefesh” meaning soul. Weren’t we all unclean souls before Yeshua touched us and made us clean?
While we cannot compromise on God’s statutes, and we would be wise to not call “clean” that which God has called “unclean”, we can all adopt Yeshua’s compassion and love in bringing His healing into the lives of those around us.
“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
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