Sunday, February 25, 2007

Women Unclean?

From time to time, I'm lucky enough to be emailed Bible questions. The following is a question from a young lady in medical school who used to be a part of the college aged ministry at our church. She never had any easy questions. Ever. She asked me about Leviticus and uncleaness.

"Why are women on their cycles not allowed to enter the sanctuary?"

Leviticus, huh? This really trips people up. Especially the part about women being unclean during their cycles. I mean, statistically speaking, a full 25% of all women, as they read that passage, are feeling a little crampy, bloated, and irritable. And then when they read that, it seems to send them right over the edge. Usually when a girl asks me this question, I make a grab at my chest, fall down, and fake a heart-attack. This helps change the subject.

So here’s the deal with Leviticus…
Main theme: How can sinful man approach a holy God? The word “holy” occurs over eighty times in this book.
Key words: Access and holiness.
Key verse: 19:2 (Analysis of Leviticus, Thompson Chain Bible, p. 2057)

Here’s the bottom line: God is holy and unapproachable by sinful man. But God, throughout the whole Bible has been on a mission to bring man back into fellowship with Him. God worked though Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob, of course, is Israel. Once the children of Israel became a nation, God began to, through Moses and Aaron, establish a way for sinful man to approach Him while teaching man how absolutely apart from sin and holy God is.

The Tabernacle of Moses and later, Solomon’s Temple was an object lesson for humanity, if you will. The temple was divided in many sections. Everybody, that is all humanity, did not have access to all areas of the temple. Some areas were only allowed to be entered by priests. And priests could only come from one tribe; Levi. And you can’t believe the ceremonial ritual these guys had to go through to be “clean.” There was one area of the temple called the holy of holies that could only be entered once a year. The priest the went in there had to do all kinds of rituals, including sacrificing an animal for his sin. Then he was ready to bring in the sin offering for the whole nation. This was done once a year for all of Israel. But there were also little sacrifices and offerings made all year long. Every year.

There was a more common part of the Temple that was for Hebrews. All Hebrews were welcome in the main part of the Temple as long as they were “clean.” What does it take to be “clean”? Check out Leviticus and also Deuteronomy. There are some serious details there.

Why do women get hung up on that ONE detail about the monthly cycle? You know, I read Leviticus 13 where they list the process of determining whether a guy losing his hair was clean or not. That means a guy like me, when he was in his early twenties and started noticing the ol’ hair line starting to recede, had to have a priest check it out. A baldness examination. That had to be real good for Jewish bald-man self-esteem. Lev. 13:43 has become a life verse for me: “As for the man whose hair has fallen from his head, he is bald, but he is clean.” Other things that made you “unclean”: having sex, having a wet dream, various sores, touching something dead, having a baby, etc.

And being a Gentile.

Yep. You couldn’t even GO INTO the temple if you were a non-Jew. The Gentile could worship God, and God even had a process for accepting a God-seeking Gentile’s sacrifice. But the Gentile could never go into the Temple. He would never be clean enough. A woman on her cycle, as difficult as you might imagine it was to be sanitary in a time before running water, indoor plumbing, toilets, hand-sanitizer, and feminine hygiene products, was always able to get clean enough to enter the Temple. But a Gentile never could.

But there was a place on Temple grounds that the Gentile could come and worship. Except in Jesus’ day, that area, the court of the Gentiles, was turned into a “den of thieves”. That was the area the money changers gathered to profit from people coming to God. And Jesus over-turned their tables and drove them out.

And Jesus made a way for ALL who to become clean. Not ceremonially clean, but completely clean. Sinless. Any serious God-seeker can now approach God through the blood of Jesus. And according to Acts 10, Jesus told Jewish Peter who had a problem with Gentiles not to call what He has cleansed, unclean.

Isn’t that Good News?

I know that’s a long answer. There is no quick answer to the question you asked. I hope it makes sense.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good answer.