If you were introduced to Numbers 19, and had no background understanding of the text, you would think this was a mix of religious instruction and hygiene manual. There is so much about being clean, cleansing, washing, purity, uncleanness, specifics about what defiles etc. Some parts even sound like a plug for Tupperware (“and every open container without a lid fastened on it will be unclean.” V15)

As I thought this through, I wondered about God’s obsession with cleanliness. Why is it so important to God that his people be clean? These are my brief conclusions:

  1. They must be clean because they are set apart. They are to be distinctively different from those around them. They should not look like every other tribe and nation in the area. They should be noticeable by their practices.
  1. They must be clean because of the purpose God has for them. They are to be the city on a hill, the shining example of a people in a right relationship with God. Their purpose is incredibly important. We treat tools in the same way. When life and death are on the line, during an operation for example, the tools (scalpel etc.) must be absolutely clean and germ free. If we are digging a hole with a shovel, it’s not so important that the shovel is perfectly clean. It seems that the more important the purpose, the more critical the result, the greater cleanness is required. In fact we even have organizations like the FDA to ensure that the food supply is clean.

When we consider our role as Christians, we should certainly be “set apart” – in fact, that’s what “holy” means, set apart for God’s service. And we should be aware that as people watch our lives, they will look to see if we are clean or dirty, true to our faith or hypocrites. 

And when we consider that (eternal) life and death are on the line, there is a responsibility to make sure that we are indeed clean, fit for the holy purpose God has called us to. A watching world deserves nothing less.

So my question for you and me this morning, is this: when we examine our lives, are they clean? Or are there areas that are not, that are in need of some scrubbing, some washing, some cleansing?

As the Holy Spirit makes us aware, we know that He is also willing to clean us up and move us to obedience, that we might be fit and clean instruments in the hands of the Savior.

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