The Reason for the Rule

“The person with such an infectious disease must wear torn clothes, let his hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of his face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as he has the infection he remains unclean. He must live alone; he must live outside the camp.

Leviticus 13:45-46

When we’re growing up, life seems to be full of rules that we don’t fully understand.  I had an R.E. teacher at my primary school who was obsessed with handkerchiefs.  He insisted that we always had one on our person, and if anyone sneezed without using a hankie, there would be hell to pay – usually in the form of running around the school’s large playing field.  For us at the time, though, at the age of eight, the reason for the hankie was not made clear.  It wasn’t explained to us that we needed to use it to catch germs and prevent infections from spreading; it simply became one of those rules that we adhered to simply to avoid punishment.

Today’s verses may seem strange ones to have for a Daily Reading, but they contrast directly with the attitude of Christ we see highlighted in our current article, which focuses on Mark 1:35-45.  In Mark’s gospel, Jesus reaches out and touches a man with leprosy, and he is instantly healed.  We will consider these verses tomorrow.

For today, though, it is worth considering just why this apparently harsh rule is given to the Jews.  As with many laws in the Old Testament, it was no doubt important at the time; the Jewish people were trekking across the desert, and needed to stay fit and healthy.  The last thing they needed was for someone with a contagious disease to spread his illness amongst all the other people living in the camp.  For this reason, God commands that lepers must remain outside the camp, clearly showing that they have leprosy, until they have been healed.  Far from being an overtly harsh measure, then, this is an act of love; God is asking for the lepers to act in the best interests of all his people, in order to keep them fit, well and safe.

From this, it becomes clear that God is always working for the best of his people.  It might not always seem that way at the time, but our God is an all-knowing God who knows what is in our bests interests, even if we ourselves do not.  Perhaps, then, we should be more trusting of God; rather than questioning what is happening to us, perhaps we should accept that he is in control, and is working for the benefit of all his people.

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