Week 27: Skin-deep

by Issy Davies

At the start of this week’s Leviticus readings, we’re treated to some rather graphic laws concerning unpleasant skin diseases and mouldy houses. Situations that we can probably all identify with at least on some level – who hasn’t periodically struggled with a ‘shiny spot’ or the kind of mould that dominates student house bathrooms?

Notice the parallel in these two sets of instructions: priests are warned to look out for diseases that go ‘more than skin deep’ (13v3), and similarly houses whose mould appears ‘deeper than the surface of the wall’ (14v37).

Chapter 15 makes me wonder if God occasionally used ‘ceremonial cleanliness’ as a cover for implementing good hygiene habits rather than guidance for holiness. However, these laws weren’t just practical; each instruction gave the Israelites a choice of obedience or disobedience. The Day of Atonement (ch.16) shows that even with the law, God knows his people are never going to get it all perfectly right, so he builds into the law a structure for atonement, for right reverence to God.

Luke this week tells everyone’s favourite trio of lost-and-found stories: the sheep, the coin, the son. You might know that prodigal means lavish, even ‘wastefully extravagant’. The younger son was certainly thoughtless and damaging in his actions. His sin was extreme, extravagant.

But how much more lavish was the weight of his father’s love when he returned home? Wasn’t it the depth of anguish he felt for his actions that made the relief of his homecoming all the sweeter? The older son’s understanding of his father’s love was only skin-deep: he followed the rules, but he didn’t understand the passion of his father’s love for him.

Now, I’m not recommending deliberate disobedience to God. But ultimately, we struggle to keep every rule, or make every right decision. Sometimes remembering our tendency to mess things up allows us to feel afresh the weight of our father’s affection for us. Like a mouldy house or a spotty face, as humans we’ve got rubbish running all the way through us. But God doesn’t give up on our mouldy walls: he cleans us with his blood, then throws us a party.

 

  • Is your understanding of God’s love skin-deep? How far does it really sink in?
  • Have you ever had a ‘lost’ period with God? Have you felt the warmth of homecoming?
  • Are there details of your life that you’re reluctant to let God’s holiness influence?