Leviticus 12:1-2a & 4b
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. … She shall not touch anything holy, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying are completed.”
So high is the standard in this divine commonwealth for ceremonial cleanliness that a woman who has just sacrificed nine months of health, comfort, and mobility to carry a child to term, and who then endures the anguish of a multiple-day labor to deliver that precious child from her womb to the world, is not permitted to enter the tent of meeting by virtue of the very blood and bodily excise that marks her heroism.
Dwell on this for a while today, friend. What a woman undergoes through all the stages of childbirth is an act of uncompromising obedience. God earlier commissioned Eve with these words: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.” Psalm 127 says that children are a blessing from the LORD. And God promised Abraham that He would bring an immeasurable host from Sarah’s womb. So don’t misread this Leviticus 12 command as if God is punishing the very women who are contributing their best, most divine work. That isn’t the point at all. In the New Testament, when Paul likens our sins to ‘menstrual rags,’ he does so not to demean the physical toll of womanhood, but rather to paint a graphic picture of the way our most self-sacrificing and heroic acts of righteousness, even our bloodiest labors of love, are stained by the marks of our fallen nature and still fall short of the glory of Almighty God.
Remember: ceremonial distinctions between the ‘clean’ and the ‘unclean’ that we’ll continue to address throughout Leviticus are practicable reminders both of the holiness of God and of the way we as fallen pilgrims cannot enter into that holiness on our own merits. Even in our greatest acts of divine imitation we fall short of the required perfection. To put it differently, our own physical blood, sweat, and tears, no matter how heroically they fall, cannot cover over our spiritual uncleanness and usher us into the holy of holies.
We need God’s blood for that.