B'Midbar/Numbers 5:2 and they shall send out from the camp anyone with tzara'at, with a discharge, or unclean from a body
TheRamban, Nachmonides, comments: "After Moshe had erected the Tabernacle, G-d commanded that the impure should be sent away from the camp in order that the camp should be holy and fit for the divine presence to rest therein, this being a commandment which was applicable immediately and in all subsequent generations." Rashi tells that, although out of sequence with the biblical narrative, this command was given to Moshe on the day the Tabernacle was erected - rather than a month later as the narrative would suggest - on the grounds that surely HaShem would not have allowed the impure to enter the sanctuary for even a day ( Mizrachi, Sifsei Chachamim).
From the moment that the Tabernacle was set up and the presence of G-d came down to dwell among our people, it was necessary for those who were impure to leave the camp - away from G-d's immediate presence - because the pure and the impure cannot mix; G-d is holy and cannot tolerate sin. Just as Rudolph Guiliani turned around the city of New York when he was mayor by his tough and uncompromising zero-tolerance policy against all forms of crime, from guns and shootings down to graffiti and even chewing-gum on the pavements; just as some teenagers have a zero tolerance policy towards spots and acne, the only way to combat impurity is to counter and reject it at every level. So the prophet says, "Depart, depart, go out from there; touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves, you who bear the vessels of the L-rd" (Isaiah 52:11, ESV). He is speaking to a people still to be in captivity, for when they are about to be released, ready to return from Babylon to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem; G-d would calling those who will carry the vessels and utensils from the temple sanctuary to purify themselves before they take up their loads for the journey.
This passage is quoted by Rav Sha'ul in 2 Corinthians 6 where he is speaking about the basic incompatibility between Messiah and the devil, between light and darkness, between believers and non-believers. Sha'ul is teaching the believers that they need to make a change in their lives, now that Messiah has taken up residence in their hearts. He writes, "For we also once we foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures ... But when the kindness of G-d our Saviour and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us" (Titus 3:3-5, NASB). He is firmer still with the Colossians: "Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desires and greed ... put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice ..." (Colossians 3:5,8, NASB). When Messiah is come, we cannot continue to live in the ways of the past, but like the Israelites in the desert, must send away all impurity out of the camp.
Further Study: Colossians 3:5-10; Philippians 4:12-13
Application: Do you still struggle with things of the past - old habits and behaviour that are not pleasing to G-d? Now is the time to make a clean break and rid yourself of these things which drag you down. Take a firm stand, renounce them today and put them behind you, for you were called to better things.
© Jonathan Allen, 2006
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