In this article on Leviticus 12:1-8, the author shows that we are born dead in sin, but God makes us alive through grace.

Source: Clarion, 2004. 2 pages.

Leviticus 12:1-8 – Water Is Thicker Than Blood

Read Leviticus 12:1-8

While we know that Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable, it is safe to say that Leviticus is one of the least studied books in the Bible. Leviticus seems to abound in obscure details that seem irrelevant to our lives as Christians. The laws of sacrifice may shed light on the death of Christ, but the clean and unclean laws make our eyes glaze over. Consider Leviticus 12:1-8: a woman is unclean for forty days after the birth of a boy and eighty days after the birth of a girl. The woman goes through a cleansing ritual at the end of a week for a boy and at the end of two weeks for a girl. Then at the end of the forty days, or eighty days, she is to bring a sacrifice to make atonement for her. There is no explanation of why this is to be done. Israel is simply told to do it.

To understand this, we have to remember that Leviticus follows Exodus. In Exodus, God gathers his people to Himself, gives his name to them, and begins to dwell in their midst. Exodus ends with the tabernacle being built and Yahweh’s glory filling it, but no one, not even Moses, could enter in. God is much closer, but how can Israel enter in? God in her midst means Israel has a whole new batch of responsibilities. If her sins offend Yahweh, He may leave, or He may break out against her. A number of new factors come into the picture. Now we have the purification and reparation offerings, which deal with defiling the sanctuary and holy things, and which Israel had not had before. Now people can become unclean and have to be kept from the sanctuary. The clean and unclean laws have nothing to do with hygiene. They deal with access to the tabernacle and are related to the curses in Genesis 3. To be unclean is to be, in various ways, ceremonially dead.

As Israel meditated on Leviticus 12, she would see that the background was the judgment announced to the woman in Genesis 3. To the physical distress in childbearing, there is also ceremonial distress. The blood from the innermost parts associated with the childbearing makes the woman unclean. The baby born in blood is unclean and shows the passing along of the death nature in Adam. The child is born dead in sin. The child starts out dead and God makes him alive. That is why it is forty days for a boy; a boy is circumcised and blood is shed. The time of testing is doubled for a girl, because there is no blood of circumcision. Leviticus 12 taught Israel that birth defiled God’s dwelling; it is a picture of birth under the curse. The God-provided blood of sacrifice covers the defiled blood of birth. God is in Israel’s midst and the blood of birth calls up before Him the judgment of death and has to be dealt with.

The Old Testament shows the failure of the bloodline family. Certainly, the family was central to it. Just think of all the genealogies in the Old Testament – and also remember how they all ended in failure. The Old Testament is the failure of the family to provide salvation. All children get from their earthly parents is death. Leviticus 12 is clear: procreation could not provide salvation; only Yahweh’s grace saves. Christ fulfills the sacrifices of Leviticus; He fulfills circumcision. He established the true form of the family, the church. The blood family depends on the redemptive work of Christ as applied by the church, which has the power of the keys of the kingdom.

We have nothing by blood descent, no salvation, no knowledge, and no true inheritance. What we and our children have, we have by the grace and promise of God. The family is decentralized and brought under the church of Jesus Christ.

As the relationship of Christ and the church is the first form of the family, so, too, the church is the first form of the family, with God as Father and Jesus Christ as brother. One of the things baptism says is that we, by nature, are not fit to be parents. Our children need God as their Father. From Him, they receive life; from us, they receive death.

Today, the family is under assault.

Unfortunately, the response in many Christian circles has been to make an idol out of the bloodline family. “Family” becomes more important than anything else. Too often, we live like Germanic tribes, with the patriarchs, or matriarchs, gathering even adult children around themselves, as though the family can make it without the church, without the Word and the sacraments. This is the religion of fallen man – “Blood is thicker than water.” But salvation does not come by procreation; it does not come in clannish behaviour. Salvation is by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, signed and sealed in baptism in the midst of Christ’s church. The water of baptism is thicker than blood.

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