The Ritual of Cleansing - RR172N25

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Lesson[edit]

Professor: Rushdoony, Dr. R. J.
Title: The Ritual of Cleansing
Course: Course - Leviticus; The Law of Holiness and Grace
Subject: Subject:Pentateuch
Lesson#: 25
Length: 0:31:33
TapeCode: RR172N25
Audio: Chalcedon Archive
Transcript: .docx Format
Leviticus The Law of Holiness and Grace.jpg

This transcript is unedited. It was:
Archived by the Mt. Olive Tape Library
Digitized, transcribed, and published by Christ Rules
Posted by with permission.


Let us worship God. This is the confidence that we have in Him that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us. Having these promises, let us draw near to the Throne of Grace with true hearts in full assurance of faith. My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning, oh Lord, in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee and look up. Let us pray.

Oh Lord, God of hosts, unto whom all honor belongeth, who art the Lord and maker of all things. We come unto Thee, Thy creatures, knowing, oh Lord how great is our need of Thy mercy and Thy blessing. Thou hast made us for Thy purpose and all too often we have sought our purpose and our meaning in life, not Thine. Direct our ways, oh Lord, by Thy mercy. Make us strong in Thy Word and zealous for Thy kingdom, that in Christ Jesus we may be more than conquerors. In His name we pray, amen.

Our scripture today is Leviticus 14, and our subject, “The Ritual of Cleansing.” “The Ritual of Cleansing.” We will read just the last four verses, beginning with the [sneeze] 54th verse.

54 This is the law for all manner of plague of leprosy, and scall,

55 And for the leprosy of a garment, and of a house,

56 And for a rising, and for a scab, and for a bright spot:

57 to teach when it is unclean, and when it is clean: this is the law of leprosy.”

As we have seen already, the word leprosy in the Bible represents a translation of the Greek term in the Septuagint, rather than the original Hebrew, so that it does not refer to Hanson’s Disease, or what we know to be Leprosy. It refers to a large variety of ailments unknown to us today, which were highly contagious. There were probably 60 or more that were discussed in the previous chapter.

Now, one of the problems we face as we approach Biblical Law is that we face centuries of error on the subject, as well as the fact of Humanism. Too often when people turn to such a chapter as Leviticus 14 their attitude is this is not important because it does not interest me—as though this is the criterion! Just as some people will say, “Well I’m not interested in politics, it doesn’t appeal to me.” Or, “I’m not interested in religion, it’s not my thing. I don’t need it.” Everything is assessed in terms of “How does it relate to me?” “Am I interested in it?” “Is it important to me?” And that’s the essence of sin—to make oneself God, to make oneself the criterion in terms of which all things are to be judged. Now, this chapter is here because God says it is important. Therefore, it is important to us. Whether it appeals to us or it does not. [00:04:34]

There are other problems...[edit]

There are other problems. First, when Paul attacked the Law, as Phariseeism had redefined it, he made clear his purpose was not to nullify the Law or to make God’s Law void. But as he said in Romans 3:21, “Rather to establish the Law,” God’s Law! As against Man’s law. But too many churchmen have seen fit to read Paul as eliminating God’s Law. Then second, in the late Medieval Era, Pietism undermined the law, as did Mysticism. A ladder of ascent to God began to govern popular thought and many saw the remedy to their problems as freedom from God’s Law and the Church’s Law. Then, with the Reformation came the Lutheran attack on the Penitential System which in time became an attack on God’s Law as Protestant Pietism, beginning in Germany, sought to rid itself of the Law. Then third, the rise of Dispensationalism and Modernism and Premillennial expectations of the end, have all worked to make the Law unimportant. If you believe in the any-moment return of Jesus, what use is the Law? What use is anything? You just sit around and wait to be raptured. Then fourth, whenever in any culture, the State is maximized, Biblical Law is minimized. The State becomes the Government, whereas in God’s Law, the government is the Christian man, the family, the church, the school, one’s vocation, society and all its various institutions and civil government is one government among many. Whenever the State grows in power, the meaning of Biblical Law is neglected. The two go hand-in-hand. If you deny the government of God, then you’re going to look to the government of Man, of the State. [00:07:09]

There a number of striking aspects in Leviticus ...[edit]

There a number of striking aspects in Leviticus 14. Most prominent is this: it is the ritual of cleansing—how a man who has been declared to be contagious and infectious, segregated from the rest of society is restored to society. And what we have in this chapter is both a health examination and a ritual. To pass from quarantine to freedom was thus more than a medical discharge. It was a ritual; a rite.

Now the word ‘rite’ is a very, very interesting word. It comes from a Greek original, and we have it in a very common word that we all use: arithmetic. The ‘r-i-t’ in arithmetic is the key to that word. And a rite, or the origin of it in the Greek word, meant a number—a precise calculation. Well, that’s arithmetic. In arithmetic, there’s one way. You cannot say that two and two will equal anything but four, unless you’re indulging in theoretical and preposterous math. Well, a rite says, this is the precise way to accomplish something; to approach God. So a ritual is the means of worship; how we worship. What is correct? What is precise in worship? The word ‘worship’ by the way, is also a very interesting word, it is purely an English word made up of two roots: “worth” (worthy) and “ship”. So, worship means, “the proper vessel to get one to one’s destination.” So our English word echoes the meaning of a rite. Thus, a rite of worship is a correct means of approaching God. In scripture, inward faithfulness with outward fidelity of forms constitutes a true rite; true worship. [00:10:10]

Now the rite set forth in Leviticus ...[edit]

Now the rite set forth in Leviticus 14 is the rite of readmission to covenant fellowship. One again becomes a member of the worshipping community, a member of the covenant people. There are four mandatory sacrifices prior to admission.

  • The Purification Offering
  • The Burnt Offering

  • The Reparation Offering

  • The Cereal Offering

Before discharge and the rite of discharge, there were seven days of segregation. On the eighth day the sacrifices were made.

In verses 33-53, we have the requirements with regard to infected houses. If a house were infected, it was quarantined. If need be, after a period of time and careful examination, the diseased portion was destroyed, if it could not gain clearance. Holiness involved wholeness. This is a goal of the Law, and the summary in verses 54-57 makes this clear. Maimonides, the great Medieval Jewish scholar, in his Book of Cleanness, spoke of an infected man as the father of uncleanness, and the same term, ‘father of uncleanness,’ was applied to an infected house. There was a reason for this: because a father is a progenitor. From him come children. So too an infected man, or an infected house, is the progenitor, or father, of uncleanness. This law of Leviticus 14 is the most minute and detailed of all the forms of purification. Only the form for the purification from contact with a dead body in Numbers 19, and for the cleansing for a defiled Nazarite in Numbers 6 is even comparable. [00:12:40]

But there is much more to this ritual than I have thus...[edit]

But there is much more to this ritual than I have thus far indicated. And what it says is best summarized by Meyrick, “The whole nation was in a sense a priestly nation and the restoration of the last member to his rites was therefore quasi-consecration.” After seven days’ sojourn in the camp but not in his own tent, a leper was allowed to approach the tabernacle with two he-lambs without blemish, one ewe lamb without blemish of the first year, and three tenth {?} of fine flour mingled with oil, and one log of oil. These were to be used as a trespass offering, a sin offering and a burnt offering. These suggest respectively a sense of unprofitableness or shortcoming, atonement and personal consecration. The blood of the trespass offering is to be applied to the right ear, thumb, or the right hand, and the great toe of the right foot; and the oil of consecration to be added thereto. This corresponds exactly to the consecration of the priests in chapter eight. This suggests that it is out of a sense of past unprofitableness that future consecration comes. Thus we have here something that all of scripture teaches.

We are told very definitely when Israel is called that they are called to be a nation of priests unto the Lord. When a man is segregated and quarantined, he loses his priesthood, because a priest must be a whole man. As a result, he is reconsecrated as a priest as part of the ritual of readmission to the covenant people. Thus, the Bible from beginning to end tells us that all believers are called to be priests. They must all have the integrity and character of a priest. They must all, whatever their line of work, see themselves as in a priestly vocation. Whatever they are: carpenters, clerks, salesmen, lawyers, doctors, whatever their calling—farmers—they are in their sphere priests of God. The priesthood of all believers is a basic Biblical Doctrine which is too seldom taken seriously. [00:15:42]

Many have seen a leprosy as described in Leviticus...[edit]

Many have seen a leprosy as described in Leviticus 13 and 14, or rather the diseases called leprosy as types of sin. And there are books written about leprosy as a type of sin. But the Bible never sees it as a type of sin. It is a disease. It is simply presented as a disease, and as a consequence of a fallen world. There is quarantine, the separation of disease, and there is the necessity of moral quarantine of sinful men from society. We do not flee from disease and sin, but rather separate and segregate sin and contagious disease from a community. This tells us what the biblical doctrine of holiness is about. Too often in the modern versions of the Doctrine of Holiness, it is the people who are trying to be holy, who quarantine themselves off from everybody else. They segregate themselves and leave the whole of the world to evil. But the Bible says it is disease and contagious men and sinful criminal men who are to be quarantined, who are to be segregated and separated—not the godly. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein; therefore we are not the ones to be quarantined. The Biblical Doctrine of Holiness is a doctrine of separation but it is not for the isolation of the godly. It is for them better to exercise dominion over the earth. Our Lord prays, not that we should be taken out of the world, but that God should keep us from the Evil One. Modern separation quarantines the healthy and the moral, not the diseased and the criminal. Now the leper (so-called) or the diseased and contagious peoples of Leviticus 13 and 14, are described as unclean, not as immoral, and there is a difference. [00:18:42]

The observance of these laws helped eliminate many...[edit]

The observance of these laws helped eliminate many diseases from Christendom. It is interesting that this was applied also to what is known as Leprosy, or Hanson’s Disease. This was once one of the most common diseases the world over. It was quite prevalent in Europe. But what did the Christians do about it? In the Middle Ages, they established hospitals for lepers. In Medieval Europe, there were at least 9,000 hospitals that we know of for actual leprosy alone. These were maintained by Christian charity. It is a significant fact that Louis VII of France left legacies to more than 2,000 hospitals for lepers in France alone. That should make us stop and think. The Medieval Era had many faults. But can you find any ruler in modern times who’s shown comparable charity? Or any king in the modern age who’s been as generous with his money?

These laws were taken seriously until fairly recently and have only been junked since World War II. They were very strictly applied in the Medieval Era. For example, the Normans, when they became Christians, recognized the validity of these laws and applied them most strictly. One instance of this was a very wealthy powerful and influential knight, Amalune, who was expelled from his castle when he was unwilling to leave and became a beggar when he contracted Leprosy. But this was not all that the Medieval Era did for contagious diseases, and for Leprosy. The Lateran Council of 1172 required that special churches be built for lepers, and in time both hospitals and churches were available for lepers. This kind of thing was continued with the Reformation and hospitals by Catholics and Protestants were the hospitals of Europe and the Americas until the last century. [00:21:41]

And now, Christians have largely withdrawn from this...[edit]

And now, Christians have largely withdrawn from this area with unhappy results. One of the most unhappy results is the destruction of quarantine laws, of a sense of ministry to these peoples, of any real concern for health from a biblical perspective.

In looking at the modern application of this law, we must recognize first, that the sacrificial rites are no longer valid since Christ’s sacrifice replaces them all. This however, does not eliminate the necessity of a Christian ministry to the sick and a ritual of restoration to health is certainly in order. Then second, the fact of quarantine is of biblical origin and it rests on a biblical doctrine of order. As the biblical world and life view is undermined, so too is the concept of quarantine. The refusal to apply quarantine to AIDS patients is symptomatic of a disregard for biblical order. It goes hand in hand with a disregard for moral order. The consequences of such a disregard can only be deadly.

There is another fact we need to note. When we refuse to take the fact of contagious disease seriously and deal with it in a biblical manner, it means we have lost respect for God’s order. One of the aspects of that loss of respect is that we’ve reduced everything to the marketplace. I hear many people who are Christians say, “Well, if a thing can’t make its way without subsidies, it has no right to exist.” That may be true of certain things, but does that mean that everything should operate in terms of profit and loss? In the business world—yes; but not everything is geared to the marketplace. These hospitals existed by subsidies throughout the Medieval and well through the modern era. During that era, too, other things were supported by charitable giving: the arts and sciences; and a wide variety of Christian ministries. When you say that only that which exists in terms of the marketplace—in these spheres—can survive, you are saying that because man’s a sinner, only that which is sinful is going to survive. And so, rock and roll does very well on the marketplace, because it caters to the sin of man. But the legitimate musician or artist has an uphill struggle. Why? Because we have replaced God’s concept of order with a marketplace concept of order, and the results are devastating for society. It means that the lowest common denominator is going to prevail because it is going to be the best supported. We need to pay attention to biblical doctrines and to God’s laws of order. Let us pray. [00:25:56]

Thy Word is truth, oh Lord and Thy Word is important...[edit]

Thy Word is truth, oh Lord and Thy Word is important whether men acknowledge it or not, whether it interests them or not, their lives hang in the balances of Thy Word. Oh Lord our God, we thank Thee that Thou hast given us Thy Word. Make us zealous in the study thereof and in obedience to Thee, that in Christ Jesus we may be more than conquerors. In His name we pray, amen.

Are there any questions now about our lesson?

[Audience] Just a comment; amazing, it seems like in the last two to three years, the nature of history has dramatically changed in so far as which events are becoming dominant in the news and elsewhere. It’s, and, all of these events seem to be based, have one common factor to them in that every single one is, ah, an event that is a demonstration of what you do—what happens when you don’t follow God’s Law. It’s almost in accord with ‘every knee shall bow and every tongue confess’ and it’s like in the last two or three years, history has shifted to the point of where man is being forced to acknowledge God’s Law whether he likes it or not. Ah, you see that in virtually every, in virtually every are of life you can name: from medicine, ah, um, in government, ah, in all the various fads and movements that have taken place in the last ten or fifteen years, that are all losing gas, that are all {?}, and, and all the programs that they’ve promised that, that, the great, everything from ultra-liberalism through feminism, all the programs they’ve promised are now failing and backfiring on them, and it’s as if we’re going to go through a phase now in which, in which enormous number of these enlightened programs from the Left, ah, produce an enormous amount of failure. I think it’s going to dominate the news for many years to come yet, and the only question is, I know what effect it’s going to have on non-believers and most of those in the middle, who are involved in the {?} camp, uh, but I’m, why, what do you think, ah, does {?} lead to captivity before the majority of {?} body wakes up? [00:28:46]

[Rushdoony] That’s in the providence of God...[edit]

[Rushdoony] That’s in the providence of God. It is proceeding to judgment. We are in the early stages of God’s judgment upon the earth; whether it will lead to captivity, only God knows. One of the things that has marked the modern era is that it has emphasized natural order instead of supernatural order. If you emphasize natural order, you’re saying that there is an order that a fallen world can institute. And this has meant the triumph of evil. Because by ruling out supernatural order, men have ruled out the only source of true order. If you look to natural order, you’re going to look to the tempter’s program and to the Fall of Man, and say that The Fall ushered in true order. And because we’ve looked to things naturalistically, we have the triumph of evil all around us, and it’s not going to be reversed, until men look to supernatural order, to supernatural law.

Any other questions or comments? Well if not, let us bow our heads in prayer.

Lord, conform our hearts and our lives to Thy order, to Thy will, to Thy Word, and make us strong therein. Make again of Thy Church a beacon light of grace unto a dark and evil world. Arouse Thy Church, oh Lord and make Thy Church great and mighty in Thee. And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost bless you and keep you, guide and protect you this day and always. Amen. [00:31:09]