Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
The laws for cleansing in the Bible seem strange at best. When someone is made unclean, they’re supposed to go outside the camp; for we read,
The Lord said to Moses, “Command the Israelites to send away from the camp anyone who has an infectious skin disease or a discharge of any kind, or who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body. Send away male and female alike; send them outside the camp so they will not defile their camp, where I dwell among them” (Numbers 5:1-3).
Not only that, but a person sent outside the camp is to remain out there for seven days: “Whoever touches the dead body of anyone will be unclean for seven days” (Numbers 19:11). And such people have to purify themselves with water. What is all this about? One night the Holy Spirit told me that what all this is might be something you may want in your life: a Spiritual Detox.
Alright, let’s unpack this a little. The Law tells us,
Anyone out in the open who touches someone who has been killed with a sword or someone who has died a natural death, or anyone who touches a human bone or a grave, will be unclean for seven days (Numbers 19:16).
One of the main causes of being unclean is touching death. “Touching death” can be analogous to sin though as well. Paul explains, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). When you sin, you are touching yourself with your own mortality, as sin brings death (hence why we all die physically; because we all sin). So when you touch death (sin), maybe it’s time to take a break. The Law states,
This is the law that applies when a person dies in a tent: Anyone who enters the tent and anyone who is in it will be unclean for seven days, and every open container without a lid fastened on it will be unclean (Numbers 19:14-15).
From this we can see that not only do you need to take a break from whatever caused you to sin, but the things involved in your sin probably need a break too. Jude backs this up when he writes, “Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear- hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh” (Jude 1:22-23). The language he uses is pretty clear, all parties involved (even inanimate) are part of the sin and therefore they all need to be cleansed (as per the Law’s requirements).
Are we dirty when we sin? No, those who follow Christ are already clean; for Jesus told his disciples (and future followers), “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” (John 15:3). And when Peter tries to argue about Jesus washing his feet we read, “Jesus answered, ‘A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you’” (John 13:10). Those who have accepted Christ Jesus as their Lord and Savior have already been washed over by God’s forgiveness and need not think that they’re next sin will doom them back to hell. Actually, not only are believers made clean through their faith, they’re also raised up by the Lord to a higher level. The Bible speaks of Christ-followers,
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9).
Even though we who follow the Lord Jesus are a royal priesthood, the Bible tells us that even priests need to keep clean, and to cleanse themselves after they touch death,
A priest must not defile himself by going near a dead person; however, if the dead person was his father or mother, son or daughter, brother or unmarried sister, he may defile himself. After he is cleansed, he must wait seven days (Ezekiel 44:25-26).
Apparently, this cleansing thing is really important.
When we sin, especially frequent problematic sin (such as bad habits or addictions), it might be time to ask God for help with a Spiritual Detox. So how do we go about doing a Spiritual Detox? Leviticus 15:13 tells us, “When a man is cleansed from his discharge, he is to count off seven days for his ceremonial cleansing; he must wash his clothes and bathe himself with fresh water, and he will be clean.” The priority is to take time off and get washed up. Actually, since we’re on the subject, water is very important to all of this. The Law states,
He must purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the third and seventh days, he will not be clean. Whoever touches the dead body of anyone and fails to purify himself defiles the Lord’s tabernacle. That person must be cut off from Israel. Because the water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on him, he is unclean; his uncleanness remains on him (Numbers 19:12-13).
We’re supposed to be sprinkled with the water of cleansing. “What is the water of cleansing?” you ask. Well, rather than hunt down the verses of what the Law explains it as (it involves a bird, some string, and -if I recall- a dead cow), then explain what all that means (spoiler: it’s symbolic of Christ) I’ll jump to the New Testament where Jesus totally claims to be dispensing water:
Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14).
Now, unless our Lord has turned into a vending machine, it seems unlikely he’ll produce any liquids you really want to drink. Then what in the world is he talking about? Much later, Jesus explains to his disciples that what he will be dispensing is the Holy Spirit,
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you (John 14:16-17).
This becomes important because Jesus also says, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:38). What is in the believer? According to Christ, it is the Holy Spirit, flowing within him. What all this tells us in terms of Spiritual Detox is that without Jesus being involved, the whole thing isn’t gonna work- you can’t just get away from you sin and hope it’ll magically stop being a problem.
Ok, so let’s break this down a bit more practically. When engaging in a Spiritual Detox take a break; step back and get away from what is associated with your sin/habit. The Bible tells us to go “outside the camp.” This means that we should do our best to get away from whatever is giving us trouble. Those who are pronounced unclean are to stay outside for seven days. What we can take from this is that we should change our lifestyle for a while (like a week) while getting cleaned up. And the Bible tells us to use the water of cleansing. What we can take from this is that we need to keep Jesus involved. A great way to do so is to read from the Bible. Even Paul recommended this for cleansing when he wrote,
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).
“But I can do all of that; getting away, changing my life, finding time for the Bible and whatnot!” That’s actually probably true. You can’t, but God can. If you’re having trouble, pray to God to help you detox. After all, Jesus said, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14). And Paul reminds us, “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one” (1 Thessalonians 3:3). Don’t worry about how God will do it, if you want to get rid of sin and bad habits he’ll help you. The Lord tends to bless his children out of trouble. So maybe after asking God for help you’ll be called to take a vacation away from your normal life (or even a business trip), or get involved in an exciting project that captures your interest or something like that. So if you wanna get cleaned up, trust in Christ and then ask for some help setup up some time outside the camp. That way you can get detoxed a bit to help in your fight against whatever might be pulling you down.