BIBLE READING: Numbers 5-6
Throughout most of history, scientists have had no understanding whatsoever about infection. In the late 1800s, Louis Pasteur’s revolutionary discoveries in microbiology disproved the long-accepted theory of spontaneous generation, an idea that life or even disease could spring from nonliving matter. (Ironically, some evolutionary scientists still cling to a similar theory.) His work proved for the first time that diseases were caused by tiny living organisms and could be transmitted from person to person.
God knew something that scientists took thousands of years to figure out: a diseased person could contaminate an entire camp. But His command in Numbers 5.1-4 isn’t strictly practical medicine. It was a symbolic reminder of spiritual purity as well. The dwelling place of the Lord was not to be defiled. This command showed Israel that impurities have no place in God’s presence or among His people.
The Israelites weren’t perfect apart from the impurities described in these verses, but it was important for them to observe a proper respect for the Lord’s presence—the land was different because He lived there, and these people were to be different because they were His. Notice that the Israelites obeyed. That’s a key fact in a book categorized by failure. Israel’s main weakness at this point was not a failure to obey the letter of the law—although those instances would come. Instead, the critical flaw in the nation of Israel would later prove to be a lack of faith and a lack of appreciation for what God had done for them. It was good that Israel followed the instructions God gave through Moses but obeying a series of commands is not enough to please God. Every unclean thing must be removed from His presence and from the dwelling place of His people to prevent the spread of both physical infection and spiritual impurity.
Sin spreads in our lives and among people like an infection. If God is absolutely pure, we should honor His presence within us by addressing any impurity in our own hearts and encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same. Avoid the tendency to let the behavior of others to set the tone for our own conduct. Instead, employ God’s zero-tolerance policy on your own sin.