Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Many of the rules and regulations laid down by the Lord through Moses in Leviticus are designed in order to maintain holiness. For the Israelites there were a large number of things that could make them ceremonially unclean, from blemishes, to eating incorrect food, to even coming into contact with mold. Considering that the Lord is spotless and perfect, I guess it makes sense that anything beyond perfection would be considered incompatible with God, but sometimes it seems like a bit of overkill on the part of the Lord with these regulations. Today, we’re going to look at the regulations on mildew and see what we can learn from them in the modern-day.
The latter part of Leviticus 13 deals with mold, specifically mold getting on clothes, and how to deal with it. Now we’re not talking being totally covered in mold or anything, just spots here and there. In our times we really don’t need to worry about this problem because we have varied chemicals that can kill mildew and clean our clothes. So practically speaking, this particular set of regulations hold very little weight for us. I’m fairly sure that if you bring your moldy clothes to your pastor for him to examine and quarantine and determine if clean to, he’ll probably direct you to the nearest dry cleaner shop. However, Bible tells us,
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).
So, with that in mind, we need to figure out how a set of regulations that are clearly out of date can still be living and active. I prayed on this and the Holy Spirit explained how not only are the regulations concerning mildew still useful to us, but they are also something we can work on every day (it doesn’t get more alive than that). First we need to understand that the laws of Leviticus were set up so that the Israelites could appear before the Lord clean and therefore have a relationship with him. However, because of Jesus’ atoning death on a cross, we who have accepted him into our hearts are already made clean. However, if we are stuck in a pattern of sin, we can still damage our relationship with the Lord (not enough to lose our salvation). Therefore, for us, mildew relates to sin. It is not a difficult line to draw, mold is destructive and it can spread all over whatever it touches and even spread to other things. Likewise, sin is destructive and can permeate our whole lives if left unchecked.
The regulations on mildew give us a series of steps on how to deal with mold getting into our clothes and we can use these steps while trying to deal with the sin in our lives. So, let’s dive in and learn how to deal with mildew- er, sin! The Bible records,
If any clothing is contaminated with mildew- any woolen or linen clothing, any woven or knitted material of linen or wool, any leather or anything made of leather- and if the contamination in the clothing, or leather, or woven or knitted material, or anything leather article, is greenish or reddish, it is a spreading mildew and must be shown to the priest (Leviticus 13:47-49).
We wear our sins like we wear our clothes. That is to say, that when we are caught in sin, our actions betray us. First we may find ourselves acting a little differently than usual, but if we continue in sin, people can tell that something isn’t right (like when Samson told his stupid riddle). When things seem a little off, the first thing we should do is consult the great High Priest, Jesus Christ, through prayer and the Holy Spirit will tell us what needs to change. The next step is found n Leviticus 13:50, “The priest is to examine the mildew and isolate the affected article for seven days.” We need to confess our sin to the Lord and ask for his forgiveness (obviously), but then next we should see if we can avoid committing that sin again for a week. However, if you are unable to go a whole week without committing the same sin again, some changes will have to be made. For the Law says,
On the seventh day he is to examine it, and if the mildew has spread in the clothing, or the woven or knitted material, or the leather, whatever its use, it is a destructive mildew; the article is unclean. He must burn up the clothing, or the woven or knitted material of wool or linen, or any leather article that has the contamination in it, because the mildew is destructive; the article must be burned up (Leviticus 13:51-52).
That is to say: if you can’t go a week without sinning, you probably have some sort of addictive sin (or “stronghold” if you prefer). This means that by continuing on the path you’re currently on, it’ll be extremely hard to overcome the sin; therefore, you should make some changes to your life in order to get rid of the sin permanently. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 2:22 that we are to “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” So when I say to make a change, what I mean is to avoid your sin directly, run from it. I have heard many pastors recommend turning off the computer for a while to avoid pornography, but I think that it is becoming harder and harder to avoid using the internet every day. Therefore, try instead to change to a more kid-friendly browser or search engine, or put on parental controls (even if you can disable them, they’ll add an extra step to the sin that you might be too lazy to overcome). Of course a porn addict should delete any porn/bookmarks to porn sites on his or her computer if they’re serious about getting cleaned up. For a drinker, it might be taking another way home from work that doesn’t pass your frequent bar or choosing to not go out with friends when the intended meeting place is a bar. Of course, the drinker should also eliminate all alcohol in the house (even if others in the house don’t have a problem). There are many other practical examples that can be applied for different situations but the idea is still the same: adjust your lifestyle in order to cut out the sin that is corrupting your life. If, however, you are able to make it that first week without sinning, you’re ready for Leviticus 13:53-54,
But if, when the priest examines it, the mildew has not spread in the clothing, or the woven or knitted material, or the leather article, he shall order that the contaminated article be washed. Then he is to isolate it for another seven days.
If you can make it through that first week without sinning, the Bible tells you to wash yourself. When it says that, the only logical meaning we can draw is to come in contact with the Word of God. For we’re told in the Bible,
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:25-27).
So the Bible has cleansing properties, and therefore when we’re trying to rid ourselves of sin, we should be coming into contact with the Word of God at least weekly (though I recommend daily even if you’re not sinning a lot). So make sure you go to church or crack open your Bible. Anyway, those who make it through the first week without sin should be washed in the Word and then wait another seven days.
Well what if you made the lifestyle adjustment but it didn’t work and you still couldn’t even go seven days without falling into the same sin? The Bible tells us,
After the affected article has been washed, the priest is to examine it, and if the mildew has not changed its appearance, even though it has not spread, it is unclean. Burn it with fire, whether the mildew has affected one side or the other (Leviticus 13:55).
If you find that your sin life is unchanged by small adjustments or patience, then it’s time to make a big change. What I mean by that is that instead of adjusting how you conduct your day-to-day affairs, you should change how you live in the first place. Paul tells us in Romans 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Therefore, if you find yourself being overcome by a particular sin or destructive habit, try replacement therapy. If you can’t control yourself on the computer when you’re at home- don’t use the computer at home, instead watch TV or read or go for a walk or sleep. If you are tempted to drink after work or on the weekends, use that time to help others by volunteering; for the Bible says, “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done” (Proverbs 19:17). If you find yourself at a loss to do when not smoking during your usual times, fill in the time with quick exercises. If you have anger issues, every time you feel provoked, start singing something out-loud; you’ll likely forget why you were angry (because you’re embarrassed about singing) and you will learn not to take things so seriously. If any of the ways have helped you, move on to Leviticus 13:56,
If, when the priest examines it, the mildew has faded after the article has been washed, he is to tear the contaminated part out of the clothing, or the leather, or the woven or knitted material.
So if you can stay out of sin for two weeks after getting in touch with the Bible and making any needed changes, great, you’re probably in the clear (unless the sin crops up again later). Leviticus suggest tearing out the contaminated part, this means that even though you’re not sinning, it is best to avoid what caused you to sin in the first place (so if you made changes, keep them; if you got through the first two weeks without a problem, figure out what caused you to sin and stay away from it).
“Ok…but what if none of that stuff worked and I’m still sinning?” You’re in luck (well, sort of), for you have Leviticus 13:57, “But if it reappears in the clothing, or in the woven or knitted material, or in the leather article, it is spreading, and whatever has the mildew must be burned with the fire.” As you may have guessed from the fiery instruction, more big changes are required. If you’re really stuck in sin or a destructive habit and you haven’t been able to overcome it through any of the methods listed already, then it’s time to get some help. For we’re told in Proverbs 11:14, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisors make victory sure.” Seek help, professional help if available. And don’t whine about it being expensive or embarrassing, because the cost of getting help is far less than the humiliation that can come with a sin problem getting out of hand. For the chemical addicts there are meetings and programs aplenty, usually involving a buddy system and organized meetings, give them a try. For the porn addict, there is software available so that when you look up pornography on your computer, a friend or advisor will be alerted so they can help you to better deal with the situation (and hold you accountable). For the emotional addict, get into counseling (preferably with a Christian if possible)- actually any destructive habit can be helped with counseling added to the mix.
And so we reach Leviticus 13:58, “The clothing, or the woven or knitted material, or any leather article that has been washed and is rid of the mildew, must be washed again, and it will be clean.” If you can shake that sin (no matter if through endurance, adjustments, changes, or help): congratulations! Not only have you likely improved your health and lifestyle, you’ve also become more sanctified in the eyes of our Lord- and that’s pretty impressive since Jesus has already declared you clean. Hold your head up high that you’ve been able to overcome something that has been holding back your life and thank the Lord for his help. Now that you’re in the clear, keep it that way. Stay in the Word of God (I recommend daily) and avoid all those things that cause you to sin; for the Bible tells us, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). And that is how you deal with sin.
These are the regulations concerning contamination by mildew in woolen or linen clothing, woven or knitted material, or any leather article, for pronouncing them clean or unclean (Leviticus 13:59).
Rock on God!