The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Command the people of Israel that they put out of the camp everyone who is leprous or has a discharge and everyone who is unclean through contact with the dead. You shall put out both male and female, putting them outside the camp, that they may not defile their camp, in the midst of which I dwell.” And the people of Israel did so, and put them outside the camp; as the Lord said to Moses, so the people of Israel did. Numbers 5:1-4, ESV.
Israel’s camp has been organized. The priests and Levites have been set apart for their duties. The people of God have been made ritually clean, now they have to stay that way. This means that people who have an unclean condition, like those listed in Numbers 5:1-4, have to be moved outside the clean boundaries of the camp. Reading these verses today we might think that this is a health code. But it is something even more vital to Israel’s well-being: a purity or holiness code. In Leviticus and Numbers, the people of God remain symbolically pure and holy by remaining symbolically clean.
As New Testament Christians, we no longer follow Israel’s purity codes. Nonetheless, Peter appeals to these words of God from Leviticus, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14-16, referring to Leviticus 11:44). Just as the symbolic holy place, the symbolic priesthood, and the symbolic sacrifice were replaced when Christ entered the heavenly Holy of Holies and offered Himself for our sins, symbolic holiness through purity codes has been replaced by a call to genuine holiness. We who trust in Christ are reborn and indwelt by the Spirit of God. As transformed people, we are to live out the reality of our inward holiness in our outward conduct.
We can rejoice that we do not need to remove from fellowship the people of God who come down with sickness and disease or come into contact with something dead. However, we must remember that the call to holiness has not gone the way of the Old Testament purity codes. It has been replaced by a call to live out the reality of our conversion in Christ . . . to “be holy in all your conduct.”
I pray that you will know the joy that comes from living a life of holiness today and for many days to come.