Friday, October 13, 2023

2023.10.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Leviticus 12:1–8

Read Leviticus 12:1–8

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom does YHWH speak in Leviticus 12:1? To whom is Moses to speak (Leviticus 12:2)? What situation is this addressing for a woman? What is her condition? For how long? What happens on the eighth day (Leviticus 12:3)? How many days does she continue unclean? How long is her uncleanness if the child is a female (Leviticus 12:5)? What couldn’t be done on the 8th day if the child is female? How long after that would she continue unclean? For which sex of child does Leviticus 12:6 apply? What is she to bring to whom for an ascension (“burnt offering”)? And what for a sin offering? Before Whom does the priest offer it (Leviticus 12:7)? What does he make for her? What does this do for her? What may she substitute for the ascension if she can’t bring a lamb (Leviticus 12:8)? What will the priest do for her? What will this do for her?

Why did a woman who gave birth need atonement? Leviticus 12:1–8 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eight verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that while specific sins need to be forgiven, sinfulness itself also needs to be cleansed. 

Sin is dirtier than death. The uncleanness of touching the carcass of an unclean animal could be cleansed by washings (Leviticus 12:25Leviticus 12:28Leviticus 12:32Leviticus 12:36Leviticus 12:40). But now a woman who gives birth is unclean with an uncleanness that requires atonement to cleanse. This is because animals, though disordered by the fallenness of the creation, are not sinners. The corruption and decay of the created order is not as filthy as the corruption of the sinful heart. 

Though these regulations have passed, let fathers have compassion upon their wife, whom they have brought into the condition of bearing sinful children—the true sorrow of conception and pain of bringing forth from Genesis 3:16b–c. The Lord now gives His people a requirement for cleansing at birth that reminds us that we are sinners, and our children are sinners—children of Adam in a world under curse. We must bring the atonement of Christ, and apply the truth of the gospel in all of our family interactions. How grievous for children of parents (and for parents themselves!) who are outside of Christ. Neither are they clean/holy, covenantally, before God (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:14); nor, are they able to apply the gospel to their parenting and family interactions.

Cleansing by signs that point to Christ. It would be a mistake to see the difference in durations of uncleanness, from Leviticus 12:2-4 to Leviticus 12:5, as an indicator that female babies are more polluted by sin than males. Rather, it is circumcision that “cuts” (pun intended) the time of uncleanness in half. It was a bloody ritual that looked forward to the shed blood of Christ. It was a sign of what the Lord does when He gives a new heart (cf. Deuteronomy 10:16, Deuteronomy 30:6; Romans 2:28–29; cp. baptism in Ezekiel 36:25–26; Matthew 3:8–11; Colossians 2:11–13). So the Lord honors the sacrament that signified regeneration by its halving the duration of uncleanness for bearing children that need it.

Sinfulness itself, not just sins, needs atonement. In chapters 4–5, the priest would make atonement for the worshiper, and his sins would be forgiven him. When considering it, we noted that the priest does not do the forgiving; God alone forgives. So the return of that language teaches us something about cleansing and something about sin. About cleansing, it teaches us that only God can cleanse; the priest administers the sacrifice that makes atonement, but God cleanses. 

And the fact that the atonement is needed for the cleansing teaches us something about sin. It teaches us that not only do particular sins need forgiveness as in chapters 4–5, but that sinfulness itself needs cleansing. We learn here with the purification ritual (an ascension and a sin offering), sinfulness itself pollutes. The sinfulness of the child both pollutes the mother and brings to mind her own sinfulness. But God has provided the ritual to take away the pollution of sinfulness. 

For the Christian, we know that Christ’s offering of Himself, once for all, is both ascension and sin offering. We receive complete forgiveness in the moment that we are united to Christ, but we keep coming back whenever our consciences are guilty, receiving the clearing of our conscience as with the sin offering. So also, whenever we remember our sinfulness and feel or see our ongoing need of sanctification, we must plead the once-offering of Christ for our purification. And let us, whenever we remember our children’s sinfulness, plead Christ for them—looking forward to the day when they will plead Him for themselves. 

New covenant children (and parents) have advantages! The girls, not just the boys, receive the sacrament that signifies regeneration. No one has to wait until the 8th day to receive it. Their parents can be laying hold of the sacrifice of Christ for them even before they are born. Neither baby nor mother are made unclean and kept from the holy assembly. There are those who would turn this all on its head and view them as covenantally/ecclesiastically unholy until the Lord has done the regenerating work in the heart, but this turns the progression of the covenant of grace upon its head and creates the problem of judging the secret work in the heart. No, Christian parents and their children do have genuine advantages. So, let them apply Leviticus 12 by looking to Him Who, once for all, has purified us from our sin. And as we continue to have those moments when we realize and feel our need to be cleansed, let us keep looking to Him for that.

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:6–9.

What challenges must all Christian parents and children overcome? When are you most aware of that? Who is the Priest Who has made atonement for you? How are you looking to Him to purify you?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You that You have promised to be God to us and to our children. For, our sin has not only polluted ourselves, but has resulted in our children’s sinfulness. Apart from Christ we would be unclean. So, we thank You for the clean status that comes by being part of His church. And we thank You for the cleansing of our consciences that comes from laying hold of His sacrifice. And we thank You for the sacrament that You have given us to direct our hearts and minds always to Him as the One through Whom we are in covenant with God. Grant that by His Spirit’s almighty work, we would continue to be cleansed from all actual sinning in our hearts and lives, we ask in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or TPH274 “Jesus, My Great High Priest”

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