It is What Comes Out of a Man that Makes Him ‘Unclean’

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LEVITICUS 15:1-16:28 | MARK 7:1-23 | PSALM 40:11-17 | PROVERBS 10:13-14

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The rules on personal hygiene for both men and women had been clearly outlined in Moses’ Law, and were evidently observed religiously.  You did this, you did that, you cleaned yourself in a certain manner, you avoided doing this, that, or the other; you offered the prescribed offering for atonement, you did what was expected at all times, and you hoped that you were doing it right.  Such was the law, and you followed it if you wished to be considered a circumspect Jewish man or woman.

In addition to the various differences in the types of offerings for atonement, we are introduced today to yet another type of atonement that was conducted every so often:  the scapegoat that carried upon itself all the sins of the people.  This is the origin and meaning of the word ‘scapegoat’ which was the ancient Judaic practice as commissioned to Aaron and the priesthood by God via Moses. 

The goat was the animal that symbolically bore all the many sins of the community, and alongside with another goat that was a live sacrifice, it was this scapegoat that was released into the desert with the hope that the corporate guilt and sin of the people would be transferred onto this animal, and it would perhaps be forever lost in the wilderness.

Consider all this now in context to Jesus’ ways and the manner in which he chose to conduct himself.  A new definition of clean and unclean is what he most boldly offered.  What is this you speak of—you mean Moses’ laws on the washing of hands, of eating this and avoiding that were not relevant anymore?  Well, it was time to rethink and relearn some truths, is what Jesus said. 

In fact, these are his very words which need no further explanation, as recorded by Mark.  Jesus said:  15 Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’”   

And while this might have been quite straightforward, it was still not sufficiently clear to all.  So, when questioned about it, Jesus says to his disciples:  “Are you so dull?  Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? 19 For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.  What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ 21 For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’”   

Is that sufficiently clear, gentle reader?

Turning now to our Psalm of the day, David’s plaintive cry is a source of comfort.  Who among us has not felt as overwhelmed as David, but who among us has had the wisdom to turn to the Almighty in this manner.  David says:

11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, LORD;
may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
12 For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.
13 Be pleased to save me, LORD;
come quickly, LORD, to help me.

Finally, a couple of verses concerning wisdom as offered to us by Solomon, wise king of Israel in the Book of Proverbs:

13 Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,
but a rod is for the back of one who has no sense.

14 The wise store up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.  Amen.

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