Dear Members in Christ,
Separation from Spiritual Uncleanness
Introduction: Understanding the modern practice of quarantine
During these days of the Covid-19 contagion, we hear much about the practice of quarantine. The word has its roots in the days of the sailing ships, when a ship comes to harbour, they are obligated to remain at anchor for forty days before permission is granted for any sailor to go ashore. The word quarantine is derived from the Italian word “quarantina” which means forty days. During these days of the pandemic, we see that a period of quarantine is required for anyone who has travelled overseas, or for anyone who is suspected to have symptoms of the disease. It is a measure to contain the spread of the infection, for the practice of quarantine isolates the source of the disease and prevents it from infecting the general population.
1. Quarantine for a suspected leper or a woman who is ritually unclean
The idea of isolating filth and disease by quarantine is also practised in ancient times. The Bible in Leviticus 13 teaches the Israelites about preventing the spread of leprosy and potentially contagious skin diseases amongst the people. The person whose condition is rendered suspicious by the appearance of a scab, a lesion or a rash is brought before a priest for a visual examination, and,
“If the bright spot be white in the skin of his flesh, and in sight be not deeper than the skin, and the hair thereof be not turned white; then the priest shall shut up him that hath the plague seven days.” (Leviticus 13:4)
The word translated as “shut up” means to close up or to inclose (Strong’s Dictionary). This phrase is repeated nine times in the same chapter, emphasizing the importance of the practice. Thus, the patient with a potentially contagious condition is kept apart, separated, isolated from the rest of the people. This is an enforced quarantine of seven days, until he is diagnosed to be clear of the disease. The Bible commentary of John Gill had this to say, “the person was to be shut up from all company and conversation for the space of seven days; by which time it might be supposed, as Ben Gersom observes, that the case and state of the leprosy (if it was one) would be altered; and Aben Ezra remarks, that most diseases change or alter on the seventh day.”
In Leviticus 15, the Bible refers to a menstruating woman as being ritually “unclean” and she too is subject to a period of temporary seclusion, a condition similar to being quarantined. The passage cited is Leviticus 15:19, which reads, “And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even.” The verses in Leviticus 15:20-24 declares that anything or anyone she touches is unclean. By implication, she is ritually unclean, and she should be “put apart” for seven days. The word translated as “put apart” conveys the idea of being removed, of being set apart, or to be separated from others. So, in both cases, firstly of a disease, secondly of ritual uncleanness, the practice of isolation, or quarantine is commanded.
2. The Levitical cleansing ritual and its spiritual significance
The first spiritual lesson in these chapters of Leviticus is the need for blood atonement and cleansing. In both instances, ritual cleansing is required once the person is deemed free from disease or uncleanness. In Leviticus 14:19,20 when a person is declared free from leprosy, “the priest shall offer the sin offering, and make an atonement for him that is to be cleansed from his uncleanness; and afterward he shall kill the burnt offering: And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the meat offering upon the altar: and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and he shall be clean.” Similarly, in Leviticus 15:30, in order to be cleansed of her ritual uncleanness, a woman is required to offer a sin offering and a burnt offering so that “the priest shall make an atonement for her before the LORD for the issue of her uncleanness.”
The Bible often describes sin metaphorically as an illness, a disease or sometimes as uncleanness or filth. The prophet Isaiah, in speaking of the sins of God’s people gives a clear imagery that sin is like an illness when he describes the condition of the people as, “the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Isaiah 1:5,6).
Also, when speaking of the need for the forgiveness of sin, the Lord Jesus said, “…They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:17). The prophet Isaiah associates sin with filthiness when he says, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isaiah 64:6).
The lesson is clear, sin is as uncleanness and filth before God. And the only way to deal with sin is to obtain the remission of sins by the atonement accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Dear readers, be very sure of your spiritual state before God. It is only by faith and trust in the Lord Jesus that we are made righteous before God. Make sure and secure of your salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ this very day!
3. Seclusion and separation to prevent the spread of sin and filth
There is another object lesson in this Levitical law. The practical implication is to separate, isolate the disease or uncleanness before it can infect others. The spiritual lesson it teaches is how we ought to view sin and filth. The Christian ought to view sin as a deadly contagious disease and ought to maintain separation from it. The message is clear, keep a wide berth from any sin or filth, even if it is a mere suspicion.
We must fear the influence of sin and worldliness as deadly contagion which we would do well to keep away from. Christians! Fear and dread sin and worldliness as if they are deadly diseases. View sin as a deadly source of contagion which can infect yourselves and your loved ones. Stay clear of any inclination towards a covetous heart, the pride of life, the lust of the flesh. Let the word of God sanctify us. As a renown missionary once said, “This book (the Bible) will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this book.” Continue to walk in the way of sanctification which the Lord has taught us in the scriptures. May God bless your effort to live and walk pleasing in His sight. Amen.
Dn. Lim Seh Beng