I’ve been reading Leviticus, and I can’t help but reflect on the rules differently since I read Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar.
(Yes, I know. Just reading the Bible right now. I read this in July. Hang in there with me!)
The book is a retelling of the story of Rahab and surmising what might have happened to her in between the glimpse we see of her as a prostitute who aids the Israelite spies in the Book of Joshua and our knowledge that she was the mother of Boaz and in the line of Christ.
(I know I’m assuming a lot of biblical knowledge here. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please ask in the comments and I’ll be happy to respond. For now, it doesn’t really matter that much, just background.)
Afshar’s book imagines Rahab and her family assimilating into the Israelite culture. One scene particularly jumped out at me. Rahab’s sister was praised for a garment she wore, just to find out that it was two fabrics woven together. Their “tutor” to the Israelite Law had to tell her she would have to throw it away, because they couldn’t wear clothes of multiple fabrics.
It seems like an odd rule, but the woman explains that it’s simply a sign – a reminder of how the Israelites are set apart from all the other cultures they encounter.
At this point, the Israelite armies are taking over cities and about to possess Canaan. God knew how simple it would be for them to assimilate to the Canaanites, instead of the other way around. (And oh, they would. Have you read Judges? It’s a trainwreck.)
But all of the Law was specific to the Israelites. All of it to show them they were different. As Peter writes later in the New Testament, “Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you” (1 Pet. 2:11, HCSB).
Strangers. You know, sometimes I feel a little strange in this world, and I bet a lot of people think I am. If they don’t, I’m probably doing something wrong.
Recently I read 7 by Jen Hatmaker and one thing that really hit me was her description of first-century Christians. In some primary source, it said the Romans were truly befuddled, because the Christians not only took care of their own people but also all of the Romans and Gentiles, too.
I think the thread that goes from Leviticus to the New Testament to today is just that: we should be set apart by our joyful obedience and passion for people. So much so that we seem a bit strange to a casual onlooker.