The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If a woman conceives and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days. As at the time of her menstruation, she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. Then she shall continue for thirty-three days in the blood of her purifying. She shall not touch anything holy, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed. But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her menstruation. And she shall continue in the blood of her purifying for sixty-six days. (Leviticus 12:1-5)
This idea of postpartum infant care makes sense to me. Conventional wisdom says you don’t expose your newborn child to too many of the world’s germs until they’ve got some immunity from breast feeding and a first round of vaccinations. So too in the ancient world, some weeks of seclusion gives the baby a better chance of survival.
This law provided a reminder that we are born into this world spiritually unclean. God graciously provides for purification through those rituals and sacrifices that pointed to his own Son, who would “purify us from all unrighteousness.” That is a gift you never want to take for granted. This time of separation reminds each parent and the community of that truth.
But then what a wonderful day when the family reenters the worship community! What a wonderful reminder that our uncleanness does not keep us away from God forever. Instead he has made a way for us to worship him forever, here in time and then in eternity. I believe God is just as anxious for that time to pass, to welcome a mother and child back to the sanctuary, back to worship and back to their church family.
There will be days when all of us will have to stay home from church, recovering from illness. It’s better not to share our germs with the body of Christ. How good to know that our Lord misses your presence there as much as you miss being with your brothers and sisters in Christ!
Thank you, Lord, for making a way for me to be there with you – forever. Amen.