February 4, 2008

Clean houses? Or clean hearts?

The old saying, “Cleanliness is next to godliness” may have some merit. Most godly people I know keep themselves clean and presentable. Does that extend to their homes? I’ve wondered, and the text I read this morning in Leviticus makes me wonder even more.
“When you have come into the land of Canaan, which I give you as a possession, and I put the leprous plague in a house in the land of your possession, and he who owns the house comes and tells the priest, saying, ‘It seems to me that there is some plague in the house,’ then the priest shall command that they empty the house, before the priest goes into it to examine the plague, that all that is in the house may not be made unclean; and afterward the priest shall go in to examine the house” (Leviticus 14:34-36).
The phrase that caught my attention is: “when . . . I put the leprous plague in a house . . .” God told His people (at that time living in tents) that a day would come when their houses could be infected by some sort of leprous-like mold that could bring that structure to total ruin, and He would be responsible for putting it there.

My questions are obvious. Why would God inflict their houses? And since most of the instructions in this part of the Bible point to the spiritual condition of His people, what did this plague in their houses represent?

After a few minutes of digging, I found that this passage has been linked to God’s curses on people who do not love and obey Him. A couple of examples are Zechariah 5:4, “The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the just” and Proverbs 3:33, “I will send out the curse,” says the Lord of hosts; “It shall enter the house of the thief and the house of the one who swears falsely by My name. It shall remain in the midst of his house and consume it, with its timber and stones.

Is it possible that God would inflict my house if there is sin in it? I know He could inflict my body, not just from experience, but from Exodus 15:26. “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.

One commentary says, “The leprosy of sin ruins families and churches. Thus sin is so interwoven with the human body, that it must be taken down by death.” I’m also reading a medical book about the connection between emotions and illness, and how the mind and body are interwoven. I see more and more that sin affects my physical body as well as my mental state. However, the passage in Leviticus says God puts the leprosy in the house. Certainly He does not put sin in my life or in families, or the Body of Christ, or in the places we live? If not sin, what then does this plague represent?

The answer (at least I think so) is from an online sermon that says that the leprosy in this passage is not sin, but more like pain or guilt. Pain is a sign that points to the fact that something is not working the way it should or that I have been injured. I would not know I was sick without symptoms of some kind. Guilt is the same. It signals me that I’ve done something to violate God’s will and need to take care of it. Both are gifts from God to help me live well.

The person who wrote the sermon said that leprosy put in a house by God was like pain and guilt in that God did this to show the owner of the home that something needed to be more closely examined and taken to the priest. Unless this was done, that plague could spread and ruin the entire structure.

If the plague represents a warning from God, then why He inflicts a house is easy—He does it because He loves the person who lives there and wants their lives clean and holy. He sends a sign or a warning that things are not as they should be and gives direction in how to deal with it.

How is this practical? I cannot speak for every Christian, but for myself I notice that the state of my home is often a reflection of my state of mind or the condition of my life. If not these, it certainly reveals the condition of my to-do list. When I am too busy, and do not have a handle on all the things I’ve committed myself to do, then my space has piles of paper and stacks of stuff. I try to keep the stacks organized, but doing so is a continual battle that often keeps me from getting anything done. I’m too busy trying to put it in order to actually tackle any of the projects, a procrastination of sorts, but also poor stewardship of the time and abilities God has given me.

My granddaughter says I’m the “cleanest person” she knows. Part of this is to protect my husband’s immune system (he has CLL), and part of it is to keep my scattered mind a bit more ordered (I have ADD), but before these things came into the picture, I’ve noticed that whenever I am out of fellowship with God, I don’t care as much about what my house looks like or if it is clean. This chaos warns me that I need to take something in my life to my Priest, Jesus Christ, and let Him examine and cleanse it.

I’ve looked at Leviticus as a not very interesting read about rules for people who lived a long time ago. Today God used a short phrase to show me that I need to pay closer attention; this part of His Word is also for me.

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