White Hairs and Mildew

Leviticus 14:14 “The priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.”

Observation: Leviticus 13 and 14 are unusually long chapters of minutely detailed instruction regarding skin diseases and mildew, how such problems were to be assessed, and what must be done about them. A priest was to examine individual hairs within a skin sore to determine whether a disease might spread (white hair) or heal on its own (black hair). Different kinds of mildew were treated different ways. Each priestly examination carried with it specific instruction as to how something once unclean could be made ceremonially clean again, down to such detail as which ear lobe, which thumb, which toe were to be sprinkled with the blood of a sacrifice or with oil or both.

Application: To the modern mind, the minutia in these chapters is mind numbing. Focused discipline is required to do more than skim these passages, but it might not have been so for a people who were impressed with the need to hear and obey God precisely. After all, these chapters follow chapter 10 in which Aaron’s two oldest priestly sons were incinerated by fire from God for not getting some details exactly right. So aside from the health benefits of this instruction, there may have been more going on here than a casual reading reveals.

Think of the sheer scope of this activity. Instruction is couched in language addressing individuals: this hair, that article of clothing, the mildewed rock in the northwest corner of Steinmetz’s TV room. But there were literally millions of Jews. Imagine the scale and scope of priestly responsibility. One senses that God intended His people not to live their lives casually before Him. The unending sacrifices of doves and pigeons, of fine flour and oil surely taught them the need for atonement for such external afflictions as boils and mildew.

In their small daily sacrifices, the Hebrews were being groomed to one day recognize Calvary’s ultimate sacrifice. I, living on this side of Calvary, am too often guilty of treating it casually, as though I can take it or leave it without consequences. Given the busyness of life, Calvary can easily become one of a long list of things I briefly consider each week, on a par with tomorrow’s menu or the planned weekend test drive. How might I be transformed if I considered His sacrifice as seriously as a Jew considered white hairs and mildew?

Prayer: Lord, there are patterns everywhere in Your Book, patterns meant to inform and govern my lifestyle today. Cause me to keep the first commandment first all the rest of my days.

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