Can I come to God unclean?

Sometimes when I am starting to pray to God I feel so unclean, spiritually and physically, that I feel unworthy to approach the Lord. Maybe sometimes you feel the same way?

I once read a Rabbinic thought for the reason the Messiah hasn’t come to the Jewish people (remember “mainstream” Judaism doesn’t accept that Yeshua/Jesus is the Messiah God promised) is because we are unworthy, because we are too sinful to receive the Messiah. I tried to find this again, but couldn’t; however, if I am remembering it accurately, then it is such a shame that they just don’t “get it.” Our sinfulness is not what is keeping Messiah away- it is the very reason He has to come!

I mean, think about it- if we have to be sinless to deserve the Messiah, our sinless condition would disqualify His need to come at all.

Truth be told, only when we are unclean can we come to God for cleansing.

We read in Mark 5:25-34 about a woman who had an issuance (some form of bleeding or fluid loss) which made her ceremonially unclean, but was able to come to Yeshua and be healed.

In Matthew 8:3 a man who is unclean comes to Yeshua saying if Yeshua is willing He can cleanse him; Yeshua says He is willing and cleanses the man.

We also read about how Naaman was cleaned of leprosy by bathing in the Jordan because Elijah told him to do so (2 Kings, 5:10) and we read how God cleansed Miriam of leprosy after Moses prayed for Him to heal her (Numbers 12); of course, in this case it was God who caused the leprosy to come upon her as punishment for talking out against Moses, but the fact remains she was unclean and God cleansed her.

The reason Messiah has o come is because we are unclean; and when we are unclean, if we don’t come to God to ask for cleansing, how will we ever be made clean?

Yes, there are ceremonial practices where we wash our body and clothes in water and after sundown we are clean from certain uncleanlinesses (is that a word?), and for other forms of an unclean condition we may need to sacrifice animals, be sprinkled with blood, etc., but still in all, we have to come to the alter to sacrifice to be cleaned; we come to the Cohen (God’s representative) to be inspected and pronounced “clean” before God and the people; there is no other way to come to God for cleansing other than when we are in our state of uncleanliness.

When you see your child all muddy and soiled, you just have to throw that kid in the bath and burn the clothing!  God feels the same way about us when He sees into our hearts and sees the soiled, filthy desires of a sinful nature. He desires to clean us, He wants us to come to Him in any condition we are in. It’s a “Come-as-you-are” salvation that God offers to us, and when we come ready and willing to be cleaned, then God will clean us up. We will still get dirty, and through Messiah we can always be cleaned up again, but because we want to stay clean we will get a lot less dirty than before we did T’shuvah (turning from sin.) Eventually, from a spiritual viewpoint, we won’t look like “Pigpen” from the Charlie Brown comic strip anymore.

Isaiah knew all about our spiritual condition, and said so in no uncertain terms (Isaiah 64:6):

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;

King David, when he asked God to forgive him for his sin with Bat-Sheba, knew about God’s willingness and ability to clean us of our sins (Psalm 51:7-12):

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.  Let me hear joy and gladness;  let the bones you have crushed rejoice.  Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

David, who the bible calls a man after God’s own heart, knew that there is no state of unclean that God cannot make clean.

So if you feel, as I do sometimes, that you are too dirty to come before God, do as I do when I feel that way: remind yourself that God is always willing to clean you up. He has continually cleaned the uncleanable, saved the unsavable, healed the unhealable, and made the filthiest sinner so clean that they shine like silver and are as white as new fallen snow.

Brothers and Sisters, please- never feel you cannot come before God. There is no condition of spiritual or physical being He will reject if you come to Him humbly and honestly: He is always here, within reach, with His hand held out just waiting for you to grab hold of it.

Parashah B’Midbar (In the Desert) Numbers 1 – 4:20

We begin the 4th book of the Torah.

God commands that a census be taken so that we know how many we have that are able to serve, both in the military and for the service of the Tabernacle. We are also reminded that all the first born belong to God, both of people and of animals, because God took all the firstborn of the Egyptians as a ransom for His people, Israel.

The Levites are counted separately and their first born are ransom for the first born of the other tribes.

Here we can see, again, the consistency of God: everything belongs to God. Everything that grows, everything human, everything animal, everything- of the produce we give a tenth to God, and all the first born we give to God. From our tithe the Levite takes their portion, and as a sort of return, the Levites supply the first born to God from their tribe as a way of paying back the other tribes.

That’s a little convoluted, and it’s my own way of looking at that arrangement- I hope I explained it well enough so that (at least) some of you may understand what I mean.

Taking a census is OK, so long as it is in accordance with God’s commandment. This census was taken to identify who can serve doing what, and is needed now because the people are about to travel to the Promised Land. The Tabernacle needs to be moved and the people need to know who will be responsible for protecting them as they travel. God also identifies how, exactly, the camp is to be arranged and the order of travel.

We are also told that those who are unclean must be kept outside the camp because God is in the camp and nothing unclean may be near Him. OK- that sounds fine. If you are unclean you can’t be in the same place where God is, that makes sense….and then it hit me: inside the camp there is protection, but outside the camp you are exposed to the world without protection. And if attacked, you can’t go into the camp- you are unclean. You have enemies all around you; not that your own people are your enemy, but as long as you are unclean, they are not allowed to help or protect you.

When we sin or disobey God, we are unclean. As such, we are no longer under His protection- we are “outside of the camp”, aren’t we? God tells us of all that He will do to bless us when we are “clean”, i.e., obeying Him. And He also tells us all the terrible things that will happen to us when we ignore and disobey Him. We read this in Leviticus and we are told this, over and over, throughout the Torah. The best place to get this listing of blessings and curses will come later, in Deuteronomy (Chapter 28.)

Sin not only separates us from God, but since we are outside the camp when we are unclean, it separates us from each other, as well. We may be physically close, but we are spiritually separated, and eventually that spiritual uncleanliness will show itself in our actions. Then we will be physically forced away from other Believers, because our actions will show we are no longer clean enough to be in the camp, spiritually or physically.

Sin excommunicates us, one way or another.

Does that mean if I do wrong I am no longer a child of God? Heavens no! We all sin, and there is a BIG difference between sinning without care and sinning without meaning to. When we sin, thanks to Yeshua, we can be cleansed then and there. And when we do T’shuvah in our hearts, the uncleanness that sin causes can be washed away ASAP when we ask for forgiveness. We can be back in the camp in a heartbeat, or (more accurately) in a prayer.

Those who were physically unclean had to wait until sundown, but we can be cleansed immediately. We can remain in the camp, where God walks with us, and that is all thanks to Yeshua and to God, who keeps His promises, especially the ones made through Yeshua ha Maschiach.

We all will sin now and then- we can’t help it, really, but we can regret it. Regretting it will lead to T’shuvah, which will lead to confession, which will lead to requesting forgiveness in Yeshua’s name, which will cleanse us and we will be able to re-enter the camp.

Outside the camp is a dangerous and scary place- you do not want to be there.

Parashah Acarey Mot (After the death) Leviticus 16 – 18

After the death, as in, after the death of Aaron’s two sons, who came before the Lord with unknown fire, drunk and ambitious. They learned the hard way you shouldn’t “Drink and Daven!”

Chapter 16 deals with the preparation and ceremonies for Yom Kippur, specifically regarding the preparations and duties of the High Priest (Cohen HaGadol.) The other chapters deal with slaying of animals and improper relationships, specifically improper sexual relationships.

From Chapter 18 to the end of Leviticus must be read to understand the origins of all that Yeshua taught us. These chapters deal with relationships between each other, which (ultimately) affect our relationship with God, and cover both familial and social relationships.

Chapter 16 teaches us that we must prepare ourselves before coming to God by cleansing our own sin, and the sin within our household. Many, if not most, Believing families aren’t composed of generations of Believers on both sides, so (in reality) I feel safe in saying that we all have close family members and friends that do not share our beliefs. Maybe they go to church or synagogue every week, and observe their holidays, but they haven’t really accepted Yeshua as their Messiah or really done T’shuvah. Although we must clean ourselves of sin, we can’t just destroy every relationship we have with an unbelieving person; in fact, we should not disown them because they are living in darkness and we are supposed to be the light for them.

We can ‘clean our house’ by not condoning or enabling sin. If we have a child that rejects God, when in your house he or she must not blaspheme or insult God, and the rules you live by as a God-fearing person must be obeyed by everyone in your house. What someone does on their own, outside of your home, is their business; but, if they live in your house, while they are there they will honor your beliefs and not sin.

You want to do drugs, fornicate, drink to excess?  Go somewhere else to do it, and I refuse to help. If you get stuck somewhere, find your own way home. When you are in this house I will treat you well, but if you leave it to sin then find your own way back or sleep on the street.

This isn’t mamby-pampy love; if you are the type of parent who says about your child, “Not my Baby! My Baby is a good boy/girl” as the cops drag them away, you need to clean your house! Actually, you need to wake up and clean the sin out of your own heart!

Yeshua tells us, clearly, that family can get in the way of having a clean heart and house:

Luke 9:62-“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.

Luke 14:26- “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”

Matthew 10:34-37- Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—36   a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ 37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

These are tough lessons for us, but necessary ones.

Look, I’m not telling you to divorce your spouse and kick your child out into the streets, then quit your job, tell all your non-Believing friends to hit the road and ask the Pastor if you can sleep in the sanctuary from now on. What I am saying is that you need to recognize the sin in yourself and your “house”, meaning the relationships in your life, whether they are intimate, familial or public and keep them as clean as you can. Do not sin, hate the sin but love the sinner, and make sure that everyone you know knows where you stand, which is on God’s side.

Joshua told the Israelites that he and his family will serve the Lord. Can you say the same thing? Maybe you can’t because not all of your family are saved, but you can keep your house clean by being the example that God wants you to be and not enabling or condoning sinfulness.

I lost my children to their mother’s unforgiveness, hatred and spite because I refused to allow my children (whether I was visiting them or they were visiting me) to do what was wrong, to be disrespectful to adults or God, and to act sinfully. Their mother didn’t care, and that didn’t make it any easier for me. I lost my children because of what she has done, and also because of what I did. But I know that what I did was right in God’s eyes, and although it hurts today (and always will) I can suffer with the loss because I want to be what God says we should be. I pray that one day God will send angels to show my children the truth and we will be reconciled, to each other and to God, so that we can be Mishpocha (family) centered on Adonai.

Being right is never easy and, since the world is wrong, being right also means being separated from the world.

You know what? Being holy also means to be separated from the world, so although it is tough, often lonely, usually persecuted one way or another, being holy is what we are supposed to be, and these chapters in Leviticus, from 18 to the end, tell us how to be holy.

If you think that the Old Covenant is not needed anymore because Yeshua is all we need, think again- these next chapters are, essentially, the main lessons that Yeshua taught.

John said that the Word became flesh- the only “word” was Torah, and the flesh it became is Yeshua. So, if Yeshua, being the Living Torah, is still alive then Torah is still alive.

Think about that the next time someone says the Old Covenant is only for Jews.


Parashah Vayyakhel (and he assembled) Exodus 35 – 38:20

Moses calls all the people to him and asks that they offer up, each according to his or her own desire, the materials needed to build the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. Everything from wood to precious metals, base metals and gemstones were required, as well as cloth and people to do the work. God names Bezalel and Oholiab, from the tribes of Judah and Dan (respectively) to oversee the work because of their skills, and to teach others how to do the work needed. They were to be both the skilled craftsmen and skilled instructors.

The rest of this parashah, in fact, most of the rest of the book of Exodus,  is a very detailed and exacting narration about the construction of the Tabernacle and the Ark, and of the other items associated with the Tabernacle.

There is always a message, even in what seems to be a simple description of constructing the Tabernacle. The contributions came from the old, from the young, from men, from women, from the common people and from the nobles. In chapter 35 we read about how every man who had wood brought it, every woman who could spin spun the linen, and the rulers brought the stones needed for the ephod.  Both common and ruler, men and women, any and all who had what was needed brought their possessions (much of which they received when they left Egypt) and didn’t just hand them over, but gave them to the workers, gladly and eagerly. Shaul tells us in 2 Corinthians, 9:7 (which he is quoting from the Septuagint) that God loves a cheerful giver, and all the people gave cheerfully. So much so, in fact, that in 36:5 the workers ask Moshe to tell the people to stop bringing stuff- they already have way too much!

Yet, what? Only a month or so before this these same people who are happily and faithfully obeying the Lord, were dancing and reveling before a Golden Calf! Can they really be as faithful as they appear, given their proclivity to change faith and belief with the changing of the wind?

Yes, they can. Yes, they do, and yes, they did. I am not a “people person”- I have been in customer service in one form or another most of my career, and I have been (and am, now) in a position of leadership at the place where I worship, yet I am not really all that interested in “people.” A friend once told me that humanity is a wonderful thing: it’s the people that screw it all up! I couldn’t agree more.

And after having confessed my lack of compassion for and trust in people, I am still happy to say that I believe the message (at least, for me) in this parashah is not so much about the building of the Tabernacle as it is about the people giving so cheerfully and selflessly so soon after such a terrible sin. The difference between then and now is only one thing: they repented. They repented and God forgave them, and now they are cleansed.

Ever get so dirty that you can’t remember what clean felt like? I have, many times. Not just working around the house for a day, but when I was in the Marine Corps and we did training in the field. I was in woods, in desert, covered with dirt, sweat, and camouflage paint. You get used to it, and when you get back home you spend a good amount of time in the shower, cleaning everything two or three times. Then, when you come out all squeaky clean and neat, you feel GREAT!!

I imagine that is how the people felt, after they did T’Shuvah (turning from sin) and Moshe told them that God had forgiven them and would maintain His presence among them.

Sin is like a crust of foul smelling and filthy dirt that covers us, and when we are in it long enough we don’t smell it anymore. It’s only after being cleansed that we remember how good it feels to be clean. So, even after a terrible sin such as the one with the Golden Calf, being cleansed can make us more joyful and faithful than we thought possible.

The more we live in dirt the less we remember what it feels like to be clean. The more we allow sin to rule our lives, the dirtier we get, and the further from the joy and peacefulness we can feel only when in God’s presence. We may not smell the sin, but God does. He will not associate with sin and will not allow sinfulness in His presence, so when we stink from sin we can’t get close to God.

The Grace He provided through Yeshua is what cleans us so that we can come into His presence, and allows us to experience the joy and peace His “touch” brings.

We all sin, we are sinners from our birth, but we can also be cleansed. Yes, this is a job for Clorox- spiritual Clorox, that is. And that Clorox of the spirit is called Grace, and it is delivered by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). This Clorox isn’t bleach- it is the blood of the Messiah, Yeshua. And whereas bleach cleans your clothes, the blood of Yeshua cleans your soul. Whiter than Clorox could ever get it, too!

We will sin, we will fall, but we can also get up. That is what happened at Mt. Sinai. They learned the temporary nice feeling we get from sinning is nothing compared to the complete and overflowing joy we get from obeying the Lord.

Sin feels nice for a little while, but the joy of the Lord feels great all the time. Which would you prefer?

Parashah Emor (Speak) Leviticus 21 – 24

We have now gone past the middle of Leviticus, the central book of the Torah, which means we are on the “downside” of the Torah, getting closer to the end than we are from the beginning. That doesn’t mean what is coming is less important, it just means that we can start to build up the joy of knowing that as we get closer to the end, we get closer to starting all over again at Simchat Torah in the fall.

As such, let’s take a moment and remind ourselves that Leviticus is all about being holy- how to know clean from unclean, the different types of sacrifices and how to perform them, the many duties and obligations of the Priests, and generally that being holy means being separated. Not better than, not worse than, just different from.

In Judaism we are told that Torah should be a mirror- when we look in it, we are to see ourselves reflected back. It is not so when the world looks at us: when the world looks at us, we are not to reflect the world back to them but they should see Torah. Yeshua said that when we see Him, we see the Father, and if we know Him we will know the Father, too. Yeshua is the living Torah, and the Torah is the Word of God which (really) tells us who God is.

To be holy, or as the prayers say, to be sanctified, we need to be separated from the world. Our family life, our relationships, our diet (yes, our diet!) and our speech…even how we treat our pets and property, personal hygiene, EVERYTHING we do should be done as God tells us we should do. You can’t be a light to the darkness when you don’t shine. Remember what Yeshua said about lamps?

When we read Leviticus, we see the Jewish people (which really should be all those who worship God) separated from the world and sanctified by these commandments….actually, not by the commandments but by following the commandments…and within the separated peoples, the Levites are separated to maintain the Sanctuary and teach the people, as well as judge for them. Then within the separated Levites, the Kohanim (Priests) are further separated to service the Lord, directly, by offering the sacrifices on behalf of the people.

This reminds me of those cute Russian dolls- you  know, a doll inside a doll inside a doll inside a doll.  The world is sinful, and the followers of God are separated, and within them the Levites, then the Kohanim. And even within the Kohanim there is only one Kohen HaGadol.

What this represents to me is that as we get further and further away from the world, we get closer and closer to God.

This parashah includes a very important chapter, Chapter 23. That is the place where God defines the festivals He commands us to celebrate unto Him. These are Holy Days, not holidays. I define holidays as created by religion, and Holy Days as commanded by God. Nothing wrong with holidays (well, some do have questionable origins) so long as they do not overtake or replace when God says we should worship Him, and they should never change what God says. And if the celebration to the Lord is not one that totally honors Him, then I would say don’t partake in it.

My book has an entire chapter devoted to this, so if you are interested in knowing what I think the important differences are, please buy the book (or the downloadable version) and see if you agree with me. There are links to different places you can get it in the right margin.

Being separated means, by it’s very nature, not being equal. The Supreme Court of the United States recognized that axiomatic truth in the case of Brown vs. The Board of Education (of Topeka, Kansas) back in 1954. That decision was based on race, but it holds true for spirituality as well (not religion…spirituality. God has no religion: He is spirit.) We are to be separate, and thereby not equal. But that, as I said above, doesn’t mean better or worse, it just means different. Never “hold it over” someone else because you think you are more holy than they are. In truth, if you are more holy than someone else, you should follow Yeshua’s example and be a servant to that person.

Be separate, be an example, let everything you do and say bring honor to the Lord. Torah should be a mirror for the Believer, and the Believer should be a kind of one-way mirror to the world: we should see the world clearly as it is, but when the world looks at us all they should see is God looking back at them.