Today you should read: Numbers 19
In the mid-1800’s Ignaz Semmelweis was appointed as an assistant at the obstetric clinic in Vienna. Perhaps you know the story, but Semmelweis quickly began considering the problem of puerperal infection that killed up to 25–30% of all women delivering babies in the hospitals of his day. Based on his observations, Semmelweis suggested a revolutionary technique that when practiced took the infection rate from almost 20% to less than 2%. That revolutionary technique was called hand-washing.
Despite his success, Semmelweis was rejected and despised for suggesting that washing hands with a solution of chlorinated lime could minimize an infection that was accepted as having no known origin or cure. He wrote and taught and proclaimed that handwashing worked, but died in disgrace. Only years later were his ideas accepted by the medical community at large and the truth of invisible germs became commonly known.
As we open Numbers 19, learning about purification and uncleanness, God never stated the purpose of safety and sanitization as a factor in the Law given to Moses. However, by following all the practices prescribed by the Law including what was clean and unclean, we can see clearly how Israel was spared from infections and disease.
God’s version of the chlorinated lime solution for which Semmelweis was ridiculed was the ashes of a red heifer mixed with water. Israel was given several commands about touching or even being around dead bodies. As such, they were to purify themselves in specific ways including the use of sprinkling the purification water and ash.
You might ask, “What does this have to do with me?” Jesus summarized the whole Law in the Great Commandment, essentially, “Love God and love people” (Matthew 22:36–40). Today’s passage fulfills both ideas. One, as with most of the Law, obeying these commands made Israel unique. Two, stopping the spread of germs and disease is a tangible way to love our neighbor.
It’s interesting to write regarding uncleanness and purification amid a global pandemic. Humanity has not always understood germs and how they spread—today we do. The heart behind the purification Laws, as I have said, was to love God and love people.
In the new, and hopefully temporary, Covid world, it does not matter if you aren’t worried about this disease, if you think the mortality rate is low, or if wearing a mask is uncomfortable. What is most important is loving the Lord and loving people! People may not feel “loved” when I wash my hands or wear a mask, but they won’t feel loved if I don’t. Many of the people we are trying to reach for the Gospel feel strongly that all recommendations be followed. How do we represent the love of Christ to those people by stringently disregarding those recommendations?
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate
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